Plus-size travel: Tips for a more comfortable trip from a “passenger of size”

Jan 19, 2020

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It’s no secret that some airlines pack passengers in to increase profits. This means that seats can be smaller and narrower. For a plus-size or big-and-tall passenger like myself, this makes for an uncomfortable experience. As a person whose weight has yo-yo-ed over the years, I have still been able to travel happily and I want you to enjoy it as well.

 I don’t want to waste vacation time and money traveling to an area that doesn’t or can’t make (safe) accommodations for my body. This is especially important when traveling with a group of people whose physiques may be different. Because your friends may not view you as plus-size, they may be unaware of the adjustments you make to participate in group activities.

Here are some tips for navigating travels as a plus-size traveler.

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Do your ​research first

Are you going to a place that is​ ​plus-size-friendly in the accessibility of its attractions and public transportation? Will you need clothing and/or footwear that makes you uncomfortable? For some, wearing a swimsuit in the presence of smaller bodies can be overwhelming. Work with a travel agent who specializes in plus-size travel.

Snoop through Facebook and Instagram and scout the tagged photos for the events/venues you plan to visit. This allows you to gauge if the places on your itineraries can accommodate plus-size visitors. For me, this also includes looking at the type of chairs (and layout) provided at restaurants, so I can know where I’d like to sit to avoid embarrassment. You can also download the AllGo app, which is basically Trip Advisor for plus-size folks.

Bathing hacks are important before a vacation because all tubs are not created equal. When booking your hotel, choose a room with a walk-in shower or one with a Jacuzzi or garden tub. If your favorite hotel doesn’t offer these options, ask about hand-held showers or shower benches. Aboard cruise ships, bathroom showers in the cabin are small. Try using the showers in the gym or spa areas instead.

Go for the ​upgrade

If you’re taking the train or a car service to your destination, choose an option that gives you extra leg and seat room. This goes for renting cars, too. Although we all love a good deal, compact cars aren’t spacious enough for me to drive comfortably, being above average in height and weight. When selecting your car type, check out the specs to see the spaces will be OK for you as a driver and passenger.

The Critical Points: Five steps to a perfect car rental

On buses or streetcars, I try to get as close to the handicap- or exit-row seating as possible because those spaces are typically roomier.

Pack properly

Pack proper shoes​. Sure, the $10 flats from Target are cute, but are they practical for a day of sightseeing and exploring? We’re not telling you to wear the dad tennis shoes, but consider comfortable options, like ​Skechers​’ cute ballet flats that have memory foam, just like their slip-on sneakers.

Comfortable clothing​ is imperative for a day of exploring. Buy light or moisture-wicking materials for hot weather. Wear ​Bandelettes​ (anti-chafing thigh bands) or biker shorts under your dress​. Have a mini-fan to keep you cool. Throw some wipes or hydrating facial spray in your bag to keep you feeling fresh all day.

Read more: How to travel during a heat wave

Advocate for yourself

Speak up to let your tour guide or travel partner(s) know when you need a break or ask about the safety hazards or restrictions of an activity. Speaking up can seem daunting, but having someone automatically offer you something just because you’re larger, is worse. Don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you need to enjoy your vacation.

Above all, remember that your vacation will be as fun as you make it.

For more, check out our article on Plus-size flying: Tips for a more comfortable flight from a “passenger of size.”

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