Traveling as a plus size person can be a challenge. Whether it’s being stared and pointed at in the streets by the locals, people making whale jokes round the pool or the thought of not being able to fit into the teeny-tiny plane seats keeping you up at night; traveling can be a ‘unique experience’ for us. So today, we're sharing some confidence-boosting travel tips for curvy girls so that your next vacation can be worry-free.
From the airport to the beach and exploring the resort, we've got some great advice to share with you. After all, traveling is a time to relax, so we’re here to take the anxiety out of your vacay.
Featured Image: Tallulah Moon
Before You Travel
Choosing plus-size friendly airlines.
Most flights ask that you lower both armrests and securely fasten your seatbelt (using a seatbelt extender if you need to) for at least take-off and landing. But sometimes seats are just so tight and it's either physically impossible or really ridiculously uncomfortable to squeeze into the airline seat.
If you use a site like Seat Guru to book your ticket, you can find out more about the seating arrangements of your flight. Don't be afraid to speak to the airline before you travel as they may have helpful policies in place for plus size travellers.
FYI, the standard width for an airplane seat used to 18.5 inches but this has been shrinking over the past few years, as well as shrinking leg room! Some airlines are worse than others for small seats.
Here are some US airline policies for Fat Flyers:
Southwest Airlines. Southwest offers fully refundable second seats that, unlike other airlines, may be booked online, without calling customer service to make special arrangements. If you don’t purchase a refundable second seat, an additional seat will be provided at no charge.
Alaska Airlines. Alaska and its smaller carrier, Horizon, both require the purchase of a second seat for any customer who cannot “comfortably fit” in a seat with the armrests down. Refunds may be requested after travel is completed, and will only be granted if the flight was not otherwise sold out.
Spirit Airlines. Spirit requires the purchase of a second seat for fat passengers and passengers with disabilities. Second seats may be purchased online.
Delta Airlines. Delta does not require purchase of a second seat, but will move passengers if complaints are lodged. Second seats may be purchased online.
American Airlines. No policy currently published online. As of 2017, SkyScanner reported a convoluted policy ultimately requiring purchase of a second seat, which could only be completed by phone, not online.
Frontier Airlines. Frontier requires purchase of two seats prior to travel if they “are unable to lower both armrests and/or […] compromise any portion of adjacent seat or aisle.” Frontier does not mention whether seats may be refunded, whether passengers may be denied boarding, or what constitutes “compromising” additional space.
United Airlines. United (and its recently acquired subsidiary, Continental) may require that fat passengers buy a second seat and, if not purchased in advance, that passenger will be charged the day-of fare. If they decline to purchase an additional seat, United will refuse to board.
Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian says it will “try to find a suitable alternative” for passengers who are “unable to sit comfortably in [their] seat with the armrests lowered.” If they cannot find a “suitable alternative,” Hawaiian will decline to board & transport ticketed fat passengers. They do not mention refunds or alternate travel planning support.
JetBlue. Jet Blue does not currently publish a policy, though it does allow passengers to purchase a second seat online. JetBlue does not have a good reputation for its treatment of fat passengers.
Allegiant Air. (Customer of size policy listed at the very bottom of the page.)Allegiant requires the purchase of a second seat for passengers “who are unable to lower the armrest and/or compromise any portion of adjacent seat(s).” If a second seat isn’t purchased in advance, and an adjacent second seat isn’t available, Allegiant will deny boarding & transport for ticketed passengers.
Window vs. Aisle Seats
Luckily you are now able to pre-select a seat before you fly and for us curvy girls, paying a bit extra to secure the best seats can sometimes make all the difference for the comfort of your journey.
This way you can GUARANTEE you won't be squeezed into the middle seat!
But which is best for plus size travellers? Window or Aisle seats?
The window seat on a plane can mean extra shoulder room for you but the downside is that you have to climb over everyone (or get them to move) if you want to go to the toilet or just to stretch your legs. Not ideal for long haul.
If you have an overactive bladder then the aisle seat might be the best choice for you AND it can also mean extra legroom as you can stretch your legs into the aisle and not feel as claustrophobic.
Keep an eye out on the trolley and everyone who walks past to avoid annoying bumps!
Look after your health: get some deep vein thrombosis stockings
One of our top travel tips for curvy girls (and to people of all sizes) is to always put your health first. This starts with the moment you get on the plane if you are traveling by plane of course. We’re talking about deep vein thrombosis stockings, that you wear on flights. Totally not necessary for domestic or super short flights.
If your flight is going to be longer 5 or 6 hours then DVT stockings can stop your legs from swelling up and then some. People who are plus size are apparently 6 times more likely to get deep vein thrombosis so whilst they might not look all that pretty (mine are bright blue with flowers on) DVT stockings can help stop you from developing deep vein thrombosis.
Even if you are wearing DVT stockings, make sure that you pair this with getting up every 2-3 hours, like every time a film finishes, staying hydrated and doing little foot exercises like flexing your toes and circling your ankles.
Buy DVT stockings for your trip here.
Travel with a plus friendly travel company.
Group travel can be loads of fun and is a great way to meet new people and try out new things, like going on a themed trip, trek or cruise. The problem is that you don’t always know who you’re going to be traveling with. Always a bit awkward when you have literally nothing in common with your travel companions.
A lot of group travel companies offer holidays for people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, etc even themed holidays, so that you can vacation with like-minded people. Did you know that there are also companies that are just for the curvy tribe: Check out Abundant Travel, who specialize in trips around North America, BBW Travel if you love traveling around the Caribbean or if cruises are your thing, check out No Body Shame At Sea which sails around the Caribbean this November.
At The Airport / In Flight
Arrive early and board the plane as soon as you can
To avoid panic and missing your flight, you should always try to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight. This gives you loads of time to check in, (if you haven’t already checked-in online) go through security and shop duty-free.
You don’t want to be the one running through the airport to catch the last call. Not the best start to your break!
To avoid the rush to get onto the plane, make sure that you board early or as soon as. This will let you find your seat, get settled in and ask for a seat belt extender, if you need one before everyone else gets on. It also means that you can snag the overhead locker space for your carry on without having to cross over to the other side of the plane to grab your book etc. out of your bag mid flight.
Take your own seat belt extender
There is zero shame in having to ask for a seatbelt extender on a flight if you need one. Safety first right?
Yet we now that this can always be a bit awkward, especially if you are on a busy plane, so you could either get on the plane early or bring your own!
This seatbelt extender fits ALL airlines except Southwest.
Pay for the extra legroom
You can pay extra to sit an emergency row to give you extra legroom. A total must for long haul flights. But, just so you know, you can’t raise the armrests in these seats. For other extra legroom options, you can upgrade to ‘premium economy,’ business or first-class.
Keep your cool
It can be super hot on planes and can be a tough place for us to stay comfortable and fresh. Keep cool by packing some face wipes or face mist. Just make sure that you don’t try and flush your face wipes.
At The Resort / Destination
Check the weight restrictions on activities
Some of the activities on your vacation will come with a weight restriction, whether that’s riding a rollercoaster, water activities, skydiving or maybe riding a camel. These restrictions are for your safety and/or the safety of others so don’t ignore them or play coy and pretend that you weigh less than you do because if that parachute or life jacket doesn’t hold up then you might be spending your break in a hospital.
Prepare for the stare
In any country, people will stare at things that they aren’t familiar with, including you. Call it human nature or just plain rudeness, people staring at you is pretty common, especially in the Mediterranean or some Asian countries where being plus size is pretty rare.
Our top tip is to get used to the idea that your going to attract attention, and practice your best poses so that the stares don’t phase you once you get to your destination. Just smile and wave.
Be prepared that shops, especially souvenir shops won’t stock your size
Ditto our point on being stared at. If plus size is a rarity in the country/countries that you are traveling to then the chances that the local shops will stock your size is pretty slim.
Be sure to pack smart so that you don’t have to rely on those last minute purchases.
Chub rub is inevitable so be prepared.
Unless you are off to colder climes, then thigh chafing is going to happen. Pack a glide stick in your handbag to take with you during the day or if you’re heading out sightseeing but really want to wear that cute dress, wear a pair of anti-chafing shorts like ones from Big Bloomers or Snag Tights. Bike or cycling shorts are also great for this.
For more tips on how to stop thigh chafing check out our ultimate guides here and here.
Invest in some good shoes
You may not be hiking up Everest but packing a good pair of shoes should still be top of your checklist. This is great advice for women of any size but is especially true for us curvy girls; having blisters after a day of sight-seeing is not ideal, even if your hotel does have a pool where you can soak your feet.
When you are packing for your vacation, try to avoid shoes that are going to be tight, especially as our feet swell when it gets hot. And choose pairs that have good soles, you don’t want them to wear out before you do!
Check out this post for some comfy shoe inspo.
Bring your own towel
Especially true if you are staying in a hotel or hostel where there’s a shared bathroom or if you are using the towels provided to go to the pool or beach.
Have you ever been to a hotel/hostel and the towel that they provide is just too small to fit around you? And then you have to try and make it back to your room/changing cubicle without flashing anyone? Because I have and it's mortifying.
So avoid this embarrassment and pack your own full-size towel.
On The Beach
Wear whatever you want
Look, you're on vacation now and there are ZERO rules about what you can and can't wear on your trip.
It doesn't matter what size or weight you are, you are here to relax and have fun so don't for one second tell yourself that you can't wear a bikini or enjoy playing in the pool!
Whether it’s a one-piece, two-piece, three-piece, kimono or no kimono. You can wear whatever you want on the beach. For some inspo, take a look at our post on the best swimwear for plus size.
Stay protected against the sun
Most importantly, you need to protect your beautiful skin from the sun's harmful rays and premature ageing. We recommend getting a high factor for your face (e.g. Factor 50) and then applying sun screen regularly to your body too.
Wearing a hat also helps to keep you cool and protect your face from the sun.
Haters to the left
We’ve already talked about how people are going to stare at you, for being so incredibly gorgeous. Yet this only going double on the beach and you might get a few catcalls or hecklers too.
Our advice? Ignore them. Don’t let a few locals or other tourists spoil your day out.
What are your top travel tips for curvy girls? Share your advice and travel regrets with us and don’t forget to use the hashtag #insyzestyle in your travel shots. Check out more helpful guides from Insyze including the ultimate guide to thigh chafing, and our fabric guide.