Traveling as a plus sized woman for more than 20 years has taught me a few life lessons. Truth? While I should feel comfortable no matter where I travel, the truth is that I don’t. Then again, should is a dangerous word. My years of travel have provided me with a few practicalities that make travel easier and more comfortable for me. So, let’s get real, ladies. It’s time to talk plus sized travel.
Join us for the conversation! Our podcast features our plus sized episode where we talk about this very topic. Join us and listen in by clicking here!
I took an incredible trip with five other women to Greece. It was amazing! We rented a catamaran and island hopped through the Cyclades. I loved it. But boats and water mean bathing suits and shorts. Uggghhh. I found the best bathing suit I could but there was no way to deny that 5 blondes who can wear bikinis were the same as me. Uncomfortable to say the least.
Then it happened. The thing that no plus sized woman wants to happen. We needed to take the boat’s dinghy to shore in order to climb to Poseidon’s Temple in Sounion. “Ehm, could you sit in the middle?” Yes I could so we wouldn’t list toward one side. Uncomfortable, for everyone. I’ve learned to deal with moments like this as I get out and active. It still sucks.
Getting comfortable with your curves and creases can be a difficult thing. It’s a come to Jesus moment that takes a different path for every plus sized woman out there. I get it. But, finding people who do what you do with a similar challenge can be very helpful. So, my first pick is to see what traveling looks like as a plus sized person. Check out Instagrammer The Curvy Globetrotter for a little sisterly love, travel style.
You Go, Girl!
If I plan on more active experiences, I have to be ready to handle my athletic gear. For example, is my exercise bra -with far more stitching and material- going to rinse, ring, and air dry overnight like someone else’s? If it doesn’t, that means I’m going to have to bring more than one or two. I should probably test that out in the shower so that I choose the right things to take.
Let’s be honest. Whether it’s winter or summer, I’m going to be hot! It comes with the territory. And while I try to ensure that my clothes will help me, I still need to deal with being hot more than others. Probably the biggest fallout of constant heat is chaffing. Yep. Right there between the thighs. And, if you’ve ever experienced it you know it’s a nightmare! Chaffing powder is a help but for a full on solution my next plus size pick is Hibaclens. Soft Bamboo Underwear is also a good choice to avoid redness and pain. I know, I know, but I’m just being honest!
The Accidental Tourist
Sure as the sun rises, some sort of food is going to wind up on me. I can have the best manners in the world and I can still put money on the fact that food will land on me. The reality is my boobs will always be in the way. And that reality leads me to rethink how I approach my clothes- especially laundry. My next plus size tip is to scout out a few laundry options at your destination. Whether it’s finding a laundromat or knowing that your Air BandB has a machine, laundry options are a plus sized must.
On the flip side, I’m not a huge fan of laundry sticks or wipes. I’ve brought them with me but have never used them. I’ve simply asked for a little seltzer to dab until I get a better chance to attend to my current spill. My last accidental tourist tip is to think in layers. Whether it’s a scarf or a jacket, simply having a bit of a cover for your spills can make your day.
Reality. I am not carrying my suitcase on a plane. I am checking my bag. I know, I know! You must think I’m some sort of travel freak. And to most travel bloggers, I am. But I’m plus sized. Even if I could fit my clothes into a carry on sized bag, I can’t imagine anything more taxing than dragging my suitcase through TSA pre-check and to the last gate. Let me then battle the overhead bin. Are you kidding me?! Here’s what that means: I will be a sweaty disheveled mess that will sit down next to you. I don’t want that and you don’t want that.
Another air travel consideration is whether or not the seat belt will fit. So my next plus size tip is to check in with the limits to the standard seat belt and get a seat belt extender if you know you will need it. Additionally, think about compression cubes especially if you need to deal with fluffy, cold weather clothing. Lastly, if you are concerned that towels in your lodgings will feel more like washcloths, you may want to bring your own towels. But beware, and circle back to my tips about laundry so that this option is a not a failure but rather the comfort that you are looking for.
Might as well!
Plus size travelers are notorious for over packing. And while Rick Steves is famous for saying “no one ever said they wished their suitcase was heavier”, being plus size makes me hesitate on packing the bare minimum. Here’s why. If I don’t bring what I need, chances are I won’t be able to find it in my size. I’m not going to be able to waltz in a shop and get an outfit like someone who is under a size 12.
If you can’t wrap your mind around that, check out this Facebook series, The Empty Suitcase Show. Join Kristin, a plus size social media personality as she travels with an empty suitcase to cities around the country and in Europe. It’s enlightening for me as a plus size woman to see what my options are but it is also an important concept for partners of plus size travelers to totally understand that there is a huge difference between my needs and theirs.
I Feel Pretty!
Having a wardrobe that packs well, looks nice, and makes you feel confident is a plus for any traveler. I’ve had to learn how to approach every day clothes buying with an eye toward travel. It’s taken several years but I now have a wardrobe that I can pull from that creates a quality capsule wardrobe.
But what does a plus sized capsule wardrobe consist of? Naturally, a mix and match set of clothes that works together like any other along with a few things to make things stress free. I love tank tops to layer with. They make my clothes (which I only buy iron free) lay better. I’m a fan of Rothy’s shoes because they are washable and cute. Recently, I’ve been skipping the skirts and dresses (read “comfy” above) but if I do I add a pair of bike shorts or Spanx to prevent issues.
So where do I find all of these clothes that travel so well? I’ve tried shopping in brick and mortar stores and I wind up getting very frustrated with the very limited choices in my isolated area. I’ve since turned to subscription boxes and have been totally delighted with the choices I have made. Whichever choice you make (one or both), stick to a color palette that makes you feel happy in the pictures you will inevitably take.
Regrets, I’ve Had A Few
Look, I can’t lie. I’ve made my share of packing mistakes and I can’t say that I will ever be able to pack the perfect plus sized suitcase. If you don’t believe me, just check out The Great Unpacking List. But I do know this: thoughtfully choosing each piece of clothing that I put in my suitcase is of the utmost importance.
I can’t double up on tons of kitchy clothes. Instead I’ve got to create a simple uniform that will handle the activities of the day. Lots of solids, shoes that are serviceable (even ones I can ditch toward the end of my trip), and practical intimates that help me keep up with my plans. So….
Here they are! My 10 tips to the best possible trip for a plus sized traveler. I hope your trip is everything you wished for and I hope that these tips help you sail smoothly!
- Keep it real with comfortable, well wearing clothes that perform more than one job. Choose iron free outfits that keep to a simple color palette that makes you happy.
- Don’t bring anything new! If you haven’t broken it in, don’t bring it with you. You need to know how things wash and wear.
- Choose travel gear such as packing cubes that work for you and don’t fall for items that look great but wind up taking up room.
- Pare down your toiletries to what you truly need to feel comfortable. Extras weigh you down. Consider eco-friendly non liquids like Ethique bars.
- Strategic shoe choice is imperative. One pair of sandals (or cold weather choice) that works for days and nights, walkable flats, and athletic shoes if needed. No new shoes!
- Bring one washcloth for under your boobs especially if there’s heat!
- Plan on checking your bags! Don’t try to skimp at the beginning or end of your trip when that shortcut will wind up being far more of an issue than a budget help.
- Choose your seats wisely, centers work sometimes while end seats make things easier for everyone. In the air, think about a foot sling and compression socks that you’ve tried out for long haul flights.
- Research your laundry options along your route so that you can plan your needs.
- Know your strengths and your weaknesses. If you can hike and enjoy it, do it! If you can’t paddle well, maybe rafting isn’t for you. Don’t underestimate yourself! You can do more than you think!