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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.

modern male clothes on hangers in closet
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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.
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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

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Notes on Planning and Packing

Back To Travel: Notes On Packing

I am in a travel funk! I have no mojo because I have nowhere to go!! You too? I have GOT to find something to get myself back into a travel state of mind! As we all start thinking about getting out and about again, right now may be a really good time to start looking at what is really needed when we pack. And in the age of travel products, there are so many choices. You could literally pack your entire suitcase with travel gear this and travel gear that! We work so hard to plan for every emergency and contingency while trying to keep our suitcase below the check in weight or within the carry on limits that we sometimes wind up not prioritizing at all. So, dear travelers, what ARE the things that are worth taking with you as we get back to travel?

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Notes on packing wants you to know that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Now Boarding!

What kind of carry on do you use? A carry on can be a tragic mistake or a brilliant time saver. Truth be told, I have all kinds of bags that I’ve test driven and I’ve narrowed down to my favorite: the under the seat roller that fits my purse, iPad, scarf, papers, medications, and other essentials. I am the traveler that does anything possible to avoid the overhead bin wars.

I have all of my essentials including these 4 last pieces of travel gear for the plane: my own headphones, sea bands, zip ties, and travel clippers. There is a method to my madness, I promise! I use sea bands so I don’t need to remember to take Dramamine. They work just as well. I use the zip ties to “lock” my suitcase up before I check it. String it right through the two zippers before you wave goodbye to it on the conveyor belt. The clippers are to cut the tie open on the other end. And, I am addicted to my earbuds and always download content to keep me entertained.

Pandemic Paraphernalia

Let’s face it, if we want to be traveling, we’ve got to take precautions while we are out there. Gone are the days where we simply board a plane and sit down. Now, we need to be vigilant about sanitizing our hands and wiping down our assigned areas on planes and trains. (Truth be told, I was a wiper downer before all of this… you too?) So, what’s new on my list? Well, I do take a lot more of those wipes but I’ve also got some new things, too.

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Those required Covid tests to get back in the country is a start. Check, double check, and then go back and check again. You need to be sure that you have all of the up to date information on travel procedures. This means you need to meet the airline expectations, ensure you can clear customs, and meet the requirements of the State Department coming and going.

I also take my UV light surface sanitizer that takes on bedding as well as hard surfaces. This one is great for hotel rooms and cruise cabins as well as AirBandB’s.

I also take along a mask bag with my vaccine card in it. Have mask will travel and if you plan on going overseas at all, that vaccination card is your true ticket to enjoy.

Clothes Horse

This is the moment when I get on the struggle bus! As a plus sized traveler, I’m so nervous that if I need something, I truly won’t find it, so I pack things that are my size! You too? I need to quit and I do try to make better choices. Here are some successes.

black and green luggage bag on brown carpet
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Shoes: I’ve given up any sort of fancy shoes and stick to three tried and tested choices. First up are my walking shoes, I need them, it’s not a choice and I usually wear these on the plane to wherever I’m going. Next is a pair of comfy sandals in warm weather. Lastly, I rely on washable Rothy’s flats instead of any sort of dress shoe. So far so good on these choices!

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No matter the weather, it’s helpful to bring along the ever useful scarf. Chilly? Wrap your arms. Need a skirt to visit a church? Tie it around your waist. Raining? Wrap it around your head for cover. You can’t go wrong with an all purpose scarf. More importantly, you can’t go wrong when you pick one up as you travel. Don’t get me wrong, I use a very specific one while I’m on a plane, my trusty black and white one. But, one of my favorite travel purchases is a scarf from wherever in the world I am.

My Next Challenge? I’m working hard to stick to three colors so my clothes mix and match well. For me, black, white, and blue will do the trick. I know that if I pack two shirts for every one pair of pants, I’ll extend my choices just a bit. Fingers crossed that this actually works!!

Electronics

Here’s the deal, if you bring any sort of electronics with you on any trip domestic or foreign, you need to protect them. It’s that simple. I invest in a reasonable cube that takes care of surges, conversions, plugs and USB ports. So, I don’t leave home without it.

I use it when there are not a lot of free plugs in the airport or I can’t get a seat near a charging station, I use it in a restaurant when I’m having lunch, I use it in a hotel room. Have charged phone, will travel. Which leads me to say that I also always carry a portable cell charger with me as well.

The Miscellaneous Mania

Oh Mother Earth! I promise I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint and be responsible! I have two ways I do this when packing my travel bag. First I try to only buy environmental beauty products. We all try and here at TGC we test drive tons of them to give you a little insight.

On the other hand, I also find myself taking regular sized products with not too much left in the bottle. I trash those bottles before I return home (and that makes room for my souvenirs!) I was going to have to finish these standard size products anyway.

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I bring a medium sized nylon bag with me and use it all the time. I buy morning groceries, hold souvenirs, store my water bottle, and keep a map or travel guide among other things. When I’m not using it, I simply roll it up and put it in my purse. The more I take it, the more I use it.

Is laundry detergent on your packing list? It may be and that’s great but perhaps the more important thing that needs to be on your packing list: the name and address of a local laundry mat. This idyllic laundry mat called Frania Cafe is located in downtown Krakow, Poland.

P.S. If you happen to have one, don’t forget your handicap parking tag. Your tag will work in Europe and can afford you easy parking and overnight city center parking.

suitcase with straw hat in corridor
Babcia and Yia Yia!, Notes on Planning and Packing

Travel Gear Test Drive

It may happen soon! We may actually be able to plan a carefree vacation so we can enjoy everything the world has to offer. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how to make my travel wardrobe strategy work better. How could I ensure that I got the most out of the clothes and accessories that I pack in my suitcase? It’s time for a travel wardrobe test drive!

Let’s Start at the very beginning…

A very good place to start! One of the first things I need to look at is how fit my plus size stuff in my suitcase. Which suitcase works best for me? I’ve been through quite a few and I’ve narrowed down my choice to one that makes me happy in looks and function. Drum roll please! My favorite suitcase is the Samantha Brown’s 26″ spinner. (It’s on sale right now over at HSN!) I find the wheels are spot on and my packing cubes work like a dream in this bag. I know, I know, 26 inches means it’s a check only bag but perhaps her smaller spinner is for you.

Here’s what makes me happy about this particular bag: the bag weighs next to nothing, it has a perfectly designed lining, and its companion under the seat bag fits perfectly on top and the wheels are a dream. I’ll leave it to Samantha to explain the rest. Comment below with your favorite bag and I’ll check that one out too!

Game Changers: Packing Cubes

I bet you are on board with packing cubes. They are the biggest change to packing strategy since wheels were added to the bottoms of bags. In short, there are two kinds that exist: cubes with sides that work like building blocks or compression cubes that start like blocks but zip down on the sides to compress what you’ve put inside. I’m a fan of both and use a mix in my bag. I like a few different ones including the Rick Steves’ standard cube but my favorite affordable set is this one easily found on Amazon. 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!

Fill ’em up!

Okay, I’ve got my gear and I’m ready to test drive my wardrobe. I start with a few basic rules. Maybe you consider these things too:

  • Everything is iron free. Everything.
  • Everything does double duty. Everything.
  • Everything works in layers. Everything.
  • The very best shoes that I can find. Well worn and nothing new.

I know I need a few basics to make this pack successful. Things like one dressy outfit, work out gear to combat all the good food, and washable undergarments to stretch my wash week. Again, since I’m pus sized, my packing is a bit more than others but basically, I pack with the part lightweight-part comfort goal in mind.

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Will it work?

My plan is to be in Europe for one month. I’m spending three days in Amsterdam, 14 days on a Rhine River Cruise, a few days traveling north by train, and the remainder of my time at an Air B and B in Krakow, Poland. I’m out to test drive the clothes I’d like to pack to check them out for wear, wash, photogenic quality, and longevity.

  • A jumpsuit from Lane Bryant made out of comfy cotton with the feel of sweats and the look of a put together evening look. But will it look nice enough and wear well enough to be my sole evening option?
  • Two sets of workout gear including tanks, leggings, socks, and bra. I try to get a run or walk in as much as I can. Will two sets get me through each workout? Can I wash and air dry these garments and have them ready to go in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Underwear that is comfortable and can be hand washed in the sink. Will I feel like these items are clean after handwashing?
  • Capris and tops for touring and relaxing. Will they look good after a few hours of touring a borg or berg in hot weather? Will I be able to wear it again?
  • Shoes that are comfortable and lightweight. Will they make my feet feel good after a couple of cathedrals? How about a multitude of art museums?
  • Will it all fit correctly and work the way I hope it will?

The Challenge

I have a few errands to run in South Florida and I plan to take my test items along for the ride. Why South Florida? It’s hot, humid, and will be the most like those hot Summer days in Europe that I will be enjoying. So, I have 9 days to see if my travel choices are winners or losers. Ready?

  • Bombas Socks: Part of my workout gear, Bombas are my go to socks for everyday use. I love the support and the comfort. They did the workout job but did not feel “clean” after my soap and water treatment in the shower. I’m going to need to circle back for a better choice or pack more socks.
  • Bamboo Underwear. Winner! These lightweight underwear did a great job during the day and washed super easily in the shower at night. They were dry in the morning and felt super clean and ready to use.
  • Leggings and tanks. Winner! I purchased my leggings through Dia.com but my tanks came right off of Amazon and they washed and dried perfectly. Check them out below.
  • Running shoes. I ordered the seaglass blue Under Armour HOVR Infinite 2 running shoes and I love them. But could they travel? Yes they can! Stylish enough to wear while touring but sturdy enough to run on cobblestones, these shoes took the pounding and kept on going.

The Game Plan continues…

Next on my list were some outfits. I needed to see what mixed and matched and what “wore” well. What lasted more than one wear and what looked good at the end of the day. Here we go!

  • That Lane Bryant Jumpsuit… LOVE! Super comfy and dressed up with jewelry and cute sandals, it’s an easy breezy look that’s a dream to wear. I may wear it on the plane home.
  • Capris to wear two times each. Some winners and some losers. By far the best pants were from the Livi line courtesy of Lane Bryant. They weren’t wrinkly at the end of the day and felt great during the second wear. A definite must in black to wear with any printed top.
  • Tops that need to last the whole day. I test drove quite a few and, again, had a few hits and misses. All in all, I definitely had some that made the cut and enough to choose from as I gear up for fun days ahead.

Yay! I feel so much better about how my clothes and gear will work. I don’t think I’m overpacked and I definitely was able to figure out what was missing. Here’s how you can do the same…

How can you test drive your travel wardrobe?

Check out these easy steps to test drive your gear.

  • Pack. Yes, that’s right, pack your bag the exact way that you think it will work. Use all those cubes and all those folding tricks. (Even if you use an old curling iron as a stand in or use other items just to check in on suitcase fit that’s okay. Just use your actual clothes.)
  • Wait a week. Let that suitcase sit packed for a week so that you can see exactly how those clothes come out of all those packing cubes. Is everything nice and neat? Is it a wrinkly mess?
  • Wear just these clothes for the week and see if you are comfy for the week. Can you use everything more than once? Do things wash in the shower? Are your shoes doing the job you have selected?
  • Make your final picks and decide how long you will use your clothes before needing a proper laundry service. (Be sure to track that down!)
  • Leave your travel clothes alone now. You want them looking great and you want to be excited to use them!

Happy travels!!!!