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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Notes on Planning and Packing, Study Hall: Essays On Travel

Plus Size Travel 2.0

It’s us! We’re back! Yep! We are back for another look at how the plus size traveler can conquer any challenge that comes her way. Whether it’s trying to find the best spot to sit on a plane or the challenge of streamlining your suitcase, we are here to make plus size travel just a bit easier for anyone who carries just a little more with them than the clothes in their suitcase.

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Plus Size Travel Writers That Are Keeping It Real!

Mary Fran is a plus sized woman who keeps the humor in day to day life as well as travel. She’s become so popular on TicTok that Good Morning America featured her in one of their human interest segments. Meet Mary Fran by clicking here to the original GMA article.

In A Letter To My Thin Friend by Lacie-Jade Christie, the author takes some time to give her friend her perspective on how a plus sized traveler feels dealing with big moments like hiking and little moments like sitting in an airplane seat. Read A Letter To My Thin Friend and link to more stories in this series by clicking here.

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Looking at our clothes

What are you self conscious about when you travel? For us, we are constantly striving to fit in and not impose on others. For us, embracing our size not only means caring for ourselves but also blending into the group we are with or the place that we are spending time. This balance may start with our mindset but always, always, finds its way to our wardrobe.

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Taking our clothes on a test drive.

Recently, we’ve been working really hard to make sure every single thing we put into our bags has a good reason for being there. To test out our ideas, we’ve been giving our travel wardrobe a test drive. Here are some of the results! Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

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  • The jumpsuit solution: jumpsuits are in style right now and plus size women can seize upon this great wardrobe choice to make going out comfortable whether its day or night! Jumpsuits can look sporty or give just the right glam vibe no matter where you travel.
  • Raincoat regrets: There’s always one item that makes its way to the top of the should or shouldn’t I list and that’s our raincoat. It can be a waste of space or the best thing in our bag. I went to Victoria Falls and never pulled it out even though it was recommended and was in the sunniest part of Germany wishing I had one! Take it or leave it, it’s awfully hard to find one in a plus size when you are out and about.
  • Leggings: Whether you use them to work out or to keep warm or comfy, leggings pack small and find so many ways to be part of any capsule wardrobe. We confess! We fell into the rabbit hole of LuLaRoe and we apologize for even thinking this was a good idea. These days, you can find leggings in our wardrobe that don’t include tacos or palm trees. Some of our favorite leggings include great finds from LuLuLemon and Lane Bryant.     

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The classic V-neck: Plus size tops can be so very difficult. They stretch across our boobs, hang too low or act like an unsightly crop top or simply make us look far larger than we are! We are always on the search for V-necks that compliments our neck line so we don’t look like we are strangling ourselves and are just the right length to cover without shortening our legs so we look like oompaloompas. Call us when you find them.   

Bra Basics: The girls always need a lot of attention when you are plus size. Traveling brings a whole new set of challenges to lift, separate, and flatter. Bras need to be super supportive as well as washing and drying easily. It’s not an easy task! We love these super cheap strapless bras (with no clasp to break) as well as our Third Love bras. TL does a great job of fitting you correctly. Not always something that is done well.  We are hoping that plus size bras become more readily available but we don’t expect this to be something that  to be any time soon.    

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  • Scarves or pashminas: One way that we can save room in our luggage is to forego a jacket during fair weather travels. I mean, in the end, we barely use it especially when we’re ducking in and out of shops and museums. And when we do commit to the whole jacket thing we wind up in a sweat juggling a jacket with packages while my mother looks on in disdain. Can we say overheated?! Lately, our jacket alternative is a pashmina and a light scarf that both have a multitude of uses. It’s a blanket on the plane and a jacket that easily wraps around the handle of our handbag. A lighter scarf is a great accessory and a great way to add a little variety to a capsule wardrobe. Both pack small and both do a better job than a jacket.
  • Plus size swimsuits: Ugh. Can we just say this is one of our least favorite topics? We have, however, over the years picked up a few ideas that help. First, no matter what size you are, there is a two piece swimsuit for you. Two piece swimsuits offer plenty of coverage while being far easier to get on and get off whether you are dry or wet. Trust us! We’ve both been dealing with the swimsuit wriggle for far too long, we know what we’re talking about! The next thing that we highly suggest is to have a dedicated packing cube just for your suit. It will always be ready to go and it will take up hardly any space at all! Our cube is small enough to even fit in our bag.
  • Compression socks: This may be our favorite trip saver! Compression socks are known to help with swelling but did you know it also helps with fatigue which could aid in jet lag!? We’ll take it! Unfortunately, not all socks fit plus sized legs! Check out some of our picks below.

How Do You Streamline Your Luggage?

Pop quiz! If you raise your hand if your suitcase is always bigger than everyone else’s even though you have the same amount of stuff. We’ve come up with a few ways to help streamline the amount of stuff we pack up and here are just a few of those thoughts.

  • Staying Make up free is a great choice we’ve made to keep our skin fresh and our bags just a little lighter. Between both of us, we carry one gloss, a brow pencil and mascara. We are done.
  • Compression cubes shrink things down and can be a life saver when trying to stay organized. We use them for everything especially the “just in case” items like swim suits and rain jackets.  
  • Laundry options including where the laundromats are where you are going and Tide sticks is a huge piece of the puzzle for the “my boobs catch a little of everything I eat” crowd. A few dryer sheets in our shoes are not such a bad idea either.
a woman looking at a map
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What technology do you truly use when you travel?

Let’s face it: travelers need their technology to do double duty. We need items that earn their keep in our bags. In fact, even though we podcast and we have definitely committed to leaving the big camera and computer at home. Instead we focus on making our iPhone earn its keep!           

Stay Inspired

Amazing Race Couple Challenges Eliminated

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Study Hall: Essays On Travel, Travel U for Kids

Maps 101: Strategies and Explorations

As a modern traveler, I am constantly working at paring my luggage down to the minimum without losing the comforts of home. It’s true that no one ever says that they wished they had brought more from home! The past few years have given us quite a lot of technological solutions and I readily take advantage of them! From go pros to travel apps, the choices seem endless these days! There is one app that has me taking a step back though- digital maps.

I know, I know! How could THAT be the app I have issues with? Well, it’s not because they’ve gotten me lost. Digital maps have gotten me from point A to point B all over the world. I just miss the art of opening a map and exploring. Imagine finding your hotel on a well drawn map and tracing your fingers through the old town streets of some famous capitol discovering shops and restaurants along the way. I’ve discovered secret churches with priceless art or smaller museums that no one has mentioned in years. I miss that.

Brain Food.

More importantly, my brain misses that. Believe it or not, our brains are the very first virtual map! Each time you look at an unfolded map, it builds more geographical knowledge which, in turn, helps you have a better sense of direction and space. Unfortunately, digital map apps don’t provide this service because it’s almost impossible to see any detail of a larger area on your screen. Research has shown that digital directions actually prevent you from fully immersing yourself into a culture that you’ve just spent time, money, and effort arranging to see. I know what you’re thinking! It sounds like I’m saying, “drop the phone open the map on the Royal Mile and make sure everyone knows you are the new kid in town screaming please pick pocket me!”

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Way back when…

When we think of maps, I guess a lot of us remember those big rollaway maps in our elementary school classrooms. You know the kind, they made a whizzing sound coming down which always signaled either immense boredom or intense curiosity. It was a roll of the dice. There was something about the colors and shapes that seemed to make a young mind wonder- or maybe wander, which was certainly my case!

My love for maps extended well beyond the classroom. I loved any kind of map I could get my hands on. Globes, atlases, the tricky fold out ones, theme park maps, museum maps, the Great Adventure Safari map, the New York City mass transit map; it truly didn’t matter. And I always learned something from those maps. For example, I remember discovering that American highways actually have a grid system that helps you know where you are, the lower the highway number, I 10, for example, the further south or west you were.

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Another young discovery of mine is that all of the light posts in Central Park have a location marker on them that you can follow or use a map to plan with. I spent countless hours in the car with a Rand McNally atlas learning exits and town names and tracing red, blue and black roadways with my fingers. I admit it, I’m a map junkie.

As a teacher, my absolute favorite activity that I ever got to do was rent one of the world’s largest maps of Europe from National Geographic. My first graders and I kicked off our shoes and went exploring. We measured countries we had literature circles around England, we plotted a road trip from Germany to Italy using robots. We matched landmarks with countries. It was so much fun! Maps create a serious sense of logic out of what can seem like total chaos. They give order to our place on earth and help young minds start to see geographic connections as never before. Maps cater to both the linguist’s and mathematician’s mind set. They speak to current events and history. They restore order to nature as man interferes. Maps are the total package.

As a mom, I always seemed to be stuffing a map into my kids’ hands. Whether it was Disney or the Tokyo train system they go a map. Lead the way! My mother loves to tell a story about how my daughter, who was about 8 at the time, was able to take her to the Big Buddha while we were living in Japan. It took about 3 train transfers and you had to know how to walk through a department store to catch one of those transfers. My daughter had no problem. She totally had it down thanks to maps.

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So, take out some maps! Have a treasure hunt, plot a trip using public transportation (which is completely underused in our country) and fall in love with maps! There is no doubt that maps contribute to being globally literate.

Recently, I was walking with my mom in old town Brussels. We were just taking in the scene and window shopping. Walking along, I saw a store window that I fell in love with. And if you’ve been following our page, it might look familiar. So, are you a map junkie like me? I hope so…

What’s a map explorer to do?

I actually think that there is a better (and safer) compromise. Build your brain’s map by exploring all of those maps at home before you take off to your destination. Get a sense of where everything is, how long it takes to get from place to place? What landmarks are along the way, which neighborhoods are worth a look (and which to avoid!) Throw an atlas in the back seat of your car for your road trip.

Krakow from the air! Maps can be the key to any travel success.

Let the kids figure out the national highway numbering system. How do the exits tell you how much further it is to the state line? Take the time to get your bearings and build your map. Then, grab that phone and use it when you need to. I bet it won’t be as often as you think! And if you are not tethered to your screen in directional nervousness, you might look up. You’ll experience more of what you came looking for. A small park, a good falafel stand, a pretty lane, a talented street busker…. the small moments that turn any trip from good to great.

The Verdict.

I can’t say that I will trade in my google maps for a paper map while I’m out and about but I do think that those old school maps have a place in the travel process. Looking at maps laid out on a table does evoke a certain sense of nostalgia doesn’t it? I mean there really is an anticipated delight in finding something new as you connect your list of travel plans to their location. So, invest in the time to explore, it worked for hundreds of years and it still does today. Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

a kid protesting against the war in ukraine
Study Hall: Essays On Travel, Travel With Alex: Europe 101

The State of Travel 2022

The news has been so upsetting over the last few days. Russia’s unwarranted aggression and stinging invasion over the borders of the Ukraine is an unspeakable act. As the crippled travel industry continues to pull itself back together, Russia’s act of evil compounds Europe’s economy and future.

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We here at TGC, are committed to showing our support for the Ukraine as we boycott any Russian supported services and products. Further, we would like to point out and show our appreciation for others in the travel industry who are showing solidarity for the Ukraine.

  • Rick Steves Europe has pulled all of their trips that include a Russian port of call.
  • Poland, Great Britain and Czechia are among several nations that have banned all flights from Russia at any of its airports.
  • The Vienna Philharmonic has pulled a Russian virtuoso from its company.
  • The Wanderful Network is currently compiling a list of Ukrainian bloggers so that they can gain following and get their story out to the rest of the world.
  • Delta Airlines has severed its ties with Aeroflat.
  • Major sporting events like the World Cup FIFA organization have cut Russia out of future matches and tournaments.
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The Ukraine deserves our support and love right now and its neighbors like Poland are trying hard to lend them a hand. TGC wants to help too. We stand with Ukraine and we stand with Europe as the endure Russian invasion. Our plan is to continue to promote travel in Europe and beyond in the hopes that safe travel to Ukraine and the rest of Europe is in our future. Here’s why: our travel dollars support small businesses and local families. We want that to never go away.

What can you do?

Follow bloggers, buy from European small businesses, support companies that show solidarity to Ukraine and its supportive neighbors. Like and appreciate Ukrainian treasures like Easter Egg Art and St. Andrew’s Church. Lastly, most importantly, pray. Pray for Ukraine.

Dateline: Spring 2019 CoronaVirus

Right now, there are so very many articles on how Coronavirus is affecting the travel industry are overwhelming. But, fellow travelers, I will jump in the pool and do my best to report to you the state of travel. Ready?

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The Overall Picture

To really understand the staggering numbers of COVID-19, check out the World-O-Meter Coronavirus Count. While the numbers are self-reporting, it gives you a look at the big picture country by country and state by state.

As for looking at a classic two week vacation now, consider this: most countries, including the U.S. are requiring 2 weeks of quarantine upon arrival. So lets put that together. Two weeks of quarantine upon arrival plus two weeks of limited touring (depending on what’s open and available) then two weeks quarantine upon arrival back in the States. Basically, you’re looking at a six week commitment. Ouch. In other words, yes, you can go to Ireland but do you have the time and will the locals be welcoming?

The State Status

If you do want to get a stamp in your passport, your first stop is the State Department. According to them, most travel advisories are at a level 3 meaning “reconsider travel”. Get that? It does NOT say “no travel”. Check out the full list of State Department Travel Advisories.

Interestingly enough, two countries had a Level 1 advisory meaning “travel as normal” : Macau and Taiwan! Who knew? Similarly, New Zealand, New Caldonia, and Thailand all found themselves with a travel Level 2 “exercise increased caution”.

Regardless of how The State Department feels, you’ll also need to check to see if American passports are allowed at your destination. So, who is welcoming American? Not the Mexicans or Canadians. Our neighbors are so concerned about virus spread that they’ve pretty much closed down their borders. However, tons of islands in the Carribean like Aruba and Barbados as well as countries like Belize are open with screening and/or negative testing results. A few others are Croatia, the UAE, French Polynesia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Sinai tourist area of Egypt. It’s certainly an interesting mix!

No matter where you land, expect required testing (or handing over of results) and temperature checks.

Cruise Crisis

Here’s an easy one- you can’t. Ports of call are not accepting ships so they can’t schedule anything. The American government (along with most others) is literally enforcing no sail ban.The cruise industry has their eyes on the future and is working on booking the 2021 season. River cruising seems to be taking the lead in this race as booking have almost doubled. Perhaps consumers feel comfortable with a small, floating home base.

It’s All Up In The Air

Since March, the airline industry has probably shown the most ebb and flow. From sanitizing aircraft to reducing the flight load, airlines have been experimenting with what is going to work.

For example, most airlines are doing away with the empty middle seat policy with Southwest looking to bow out on September 30th. And while airplanes have never sparked so much, I still recommend bringing your own wipes to wipe down your immediate area.

With shrunk down fight loads comes unexpected delays and lots of rescheduling. With airlines working with a fraction of the normal schedule, domestic planes seem packed to the brim as travelers look for options closer to home. Meanwhile, international flights seem to have plenty of room due to the aforementioned government restrictions. For more on individual airlines check out this Travel and Leisure Coronavirus Airline Update.

With so much chaos, some travelers are looking at out of the box options like JSX Hop On Charters which lets you tag on to a private charter for a reasonable cost at the last minute. A very cool option.

Predicting The Future

So, with everything topsy-turvey, what’s a traveler supposed to expect? My reliable Magic Eight Ball is ready to wow you with scientific precision. Here are my five travel predictions as we climb out of the Coronavirus abyss.

  • National Parks Will Be Packed! Travel junkies are going to get out somehow and the park system is waiting. In fact, the National Park System has not seen the drastic drop in numbers that most other areas of the industry have dealt with. Expect prices to stay at retail and reservations to be at a premium.
  • Cleanliness will be important currency. Expect marketing campaigns to let you know that they value cleanliness more than anything. Airplanes will continue to sparkle and hotel rooms will be break the seal ready for your arrival.
  • Slow travel is king. The days of 21 European countries in 10 days are gone. Instead, look for trends that drop you in a singular destination for an extended amount of time. Slow travel also seems to benefit the environment by cutting into that carbon footprint just a bit.
  • River cruising will continue to power over ocean liners. River cruising is already feeling the love and that will continue. Huge ocean craft have gotten a bad rap lately while little known river long boats are just starting to find their place. The smaller boats have a cozier feel and are more welcome in ports like Amsterdam and Venice.
  • The age of the American road trip is back. With a feel of semi-isolation, road tripping is a comfort zone for many. In fact, RV sales are up and people are on the road already. As Americans continue to dip theirs toes back in the travel pool, road trips will, at a minimum, be the first step back to their travel mojo.

Dateline January 2019: Paris Riots

My sister-in-law and I were recently chatting about her upcoming trip to Europe. They are excited to spend some time in London and Paris. A great idea to enjoy in January to my mind! She, however, is now a bit concerned with the Paris leg of her trip due to the recent events that have shut down icons such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. A very real concern for any traveler.

So what do you do when your perfect plans are flung into the chaos of current events? Well, first thing’s first: check on your travel insurance options. Does the inconvenient payment you made when you booked cover a refund? Probably not however it is possible that it could cover a reservation change. Additionally, if you used travel services through your credit card, like American Express, check in with them to see if their services can assist you in any changes you need to make.

Pivot

Many times, however, we are locked into our plans because of time and money. So, how do you make the most of what you do have? It’s time to think out of the box. Can’t get to Rome? Swing on down to Sorrento. Athens is all caught up at Syntagma Square? Hydrofoil to Hydra. Paris in Protests? Check out stunning Strasbourg or romantic Reimes. A quick shift to a second city like this allows you to keep on track, enjoy, but stay clear of whatever issues are going on.

Clever and careful planning will always be the cornerstone to good travel but just as important is the ability to be resilient and keep our eye on the prize: good, educational travel experience. For now, I hope that the people of Paris can work out their differences and my sister-in-law gets to enjoy a little shopping on the Champs Elysees.

When things change during your planning or while you're traveling, what are your options?
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