There is always a lot of anxiety and discussion surrounding travel when you’re plus size. The uncertainty of if you will need to purchase two seats on your flight, if your luggage will get lost and you’ll be unclothed because you won’t be able to buy items in-store at your destination, if you’ll be able to participate in fun activities once you arrive. Traveling can be really stressful and emotionally draining for fat folks.
If you haven’t traveled in a long time or if you haven’t yet traveled in a fat body, here are some pro tips for you!
Travel In Confidence with these Fat Travel Tips
Seats have shrunk as much as 4 inches over the last 20 years, making it even harder for plus size folks to be comfortable on flights.
SeatGuru is a website that compiles airline information so you can research the width and pitch of airplane seats. Pitch is the distance from one seat to the same point behind it. This isn’t exactly a “legroom” measurement, but gives you an approximate idea.
Seat width can vary from plane to plane within the same airline. You can use SeatGuru to compare seat sizing to see which flight may allow you to maximize the most space. SeatGuru used to be available in app form. But once it was purchased by TripAdvisor, it is now only available on their website.
The site also allows you to see which armrests are movable so you could potentially lift them up for more comfort. This is definitely a top recommendation for travel because it gives you a real idea of how much room you will have and you can choose your flight accordingly.
Secure Yourself a Seatbelt Extender
Even when choosing the most roomy seats on a flight, there is no guarantee the seatbelt will fit. Seatbelts can vary from seat to seat on the same flight and that lack of consistency could cause you to need an extender on one flight but not another. Seatbelt extenders are available on all flights simply by asking a flight attendant.
You can purchase your own from retailers like Amazon, but there is a possibility you will not be allowed to use them during the flight.
A lot of people opt for purchasing their own because they find it uncomfortable to ask for one. However, the FAA has stated that these commercially available extenders are not FAA-tested and flight attendants can ask passengers not to use them.
Don’t Book The Exit Row!
Something you may not realize is that if you’re a passenger who needs a seatbelt extender, you will not be allowed to sit in the exit row. A lot of people book the exit row thinking it will give them more legroom. While they typically do offer a little more room, a flight attendant will boot you from the row if you need an extender.
The reason for this as cited by airlines, is that extenders can get tangled or the extra fabric can obstruct the exit if it was needed in an emergency. The other cited reason is much more fatphobic- that someone who needs an extender is “likely to have mobility issues and therefore can’t sufficiently help others in an emergency.”
If you’re lucky enough to have access to Southwest as an option for your flight, they have a great customer of size policy. This policy allows passengers to either get reimbursed post-flight for a second seat or if the flight is not full, request a second free seat at the gate.
The first method of buying an extra seat and and getting refunded is typically the preferred method. That is because if the flight is already full when you ask to utilize the customer of size policy at the gate, you can be refused, booked on another flight, or someone else could be booted from the flight.
Take advantage of Pre-Boarding
If you feel more comfortable getting situated on a flight without a large crowd of people around you, you always have the option to pre-board a flight. Simply ask the gate attendant if you can pre-board because you’ll need extra time. You also may be able to request a seat belt extender be placed at your seat before you get there.
Pack Smarter, Not Harder
Depending on the carry-on requirements of the airline you’re using, you may be able to pack a few necessary clothing items just in case your checked bags go missing. It is always recommended to pack medication, anything you might need immediately when you land, and a few whole changes of clothes in case you have to wait for your luggage to find its way back to you.
If you’re worried about packing as much as you can into a carry-on, space-saving options can help. For example, compression packing cubes can keep you organized and condense your luggage.
Follow Plus Size Travel Influencers!
There are some great people on social media who post about fat travel! They provide extremely valuable personal accounts of their adventures. For example, @fattestedtravel posts about fat-testing rides at Disney and Universal Theme Parks. He discusses his own challenges while at amusement parks, tips, and recommendations.
@kirstyleannetravels posts about traveling internationally and different excursions. She also plans group holidays for plus size folks so they can travel together without fear.
There are Facebook groups with helpful information as well. “Flying While Fat” offers a lot of first-hand accounts of different travel options, airlines, amusement parks, etc. Any question you have, someone will have an answer for you!
Remember, It Will Be Ok
Relax! That’s the best advice you should take from this list. Fat people deserve to have adventures and travel. The emotional and mental labor beforehand is something that is unique to living in a larger body.
But remember that you are allowed to take up space!
You deserve to have a great vacation! You deserve everything!