In Tulum Sfer Ik, the self-described “chubby boy” nervously looks at the straps that are supposed to hold his plus-size body. He finally gathers enough courage to sit on the net, stand up and take a few cautious but victorious steps.
“My mission is not to promote obesity,” Jenkins, 37, said from his home in Austin. “My mission is to help people live life now, no matter their size.”
He chubby diaries The creator is part of a community of larger-bodied travelers who are showing the world (and themselves) that they can do anything. They are overcoming physical and mental obstacles in the name of exploration, adventure, and inclusion.
“I think plus-size people are leading the way,” said Alex Stewart, 38, co-host of the show.slide fat”podcast that has traveled on a snowmobile along a glacier in Iceland, I bungee jumped in New Zealand and skydived in Chicago. “Following them helps because you can say, ‘Oh, this place works with bigger bodies.’ “Now it’s easier to find those places because we have those tools and resources that we didn’t have before.”
Experts admit it’s not always easy, because the travel industry has been slow to adapt to its needs. But their extra efforts are paying off as they discover how to travel with comfort and confidence.
Second plane seats and belt extenders.
Jae’lynn Chaney, a plus-size travel blogger and TikTok personality, remembers the second flight she took, when she was a 12-year-old unaccompanied minor. Once seated, she looked for the seat belt, but it didn’t fit. She tucked the loose end under her stomach and spent the entire flight petrified of being discovered.
“That was the first time I realized airplanes weren’t built for me and I didn’t know what a seat belt extender was,” he said. “My experience was really stressful. I thought they were going to kick me off the plane. “I would be lying if I said that feeling ever went away.”
Chaney, now 27 and an experienced traveler, prepares for each flight by researching the type of plane. He prefers wide-body planes, which often have a wheelchair-accessible bathroom. He seeks more spacious seats with movable armrests SeatGuru.
““There’s a lot that goes into traveling as a plus-size person,” said Chaney, who lives in Vancouver, Washington. “My mission is to try to change the travel space for plus-size people.”
Earlier this year, she wrote a petition which he plans to present to the Federal Aviation Administration once he reaches his goal of 35,000 signatures (he’s very close, with more than 34,916). In his “Demand that the FAA Protect Plus-Size Travelers” campaign, he suggests several ways the agency can improve the flight experience for larger passengers. He proposes “a comprehensive policy for size customers that prioritizes the comfort and well-being of ALL passengers” that includes a free second seat on the plane or a refund for passengers who had to purchase additional space.
“A lot of plus-size people have a financial burden because they have to buy a second seat, or they’re afraid of having to buy a second seat,” she said. “That’s stopping a lot of people from traveling now.”
When asked about the issues facing plus-size passengers, the FAA shared a link to a 90-day public comment period from last year that addresses minimum seat dimensions and passenger safety. The agency said it is reviewing thousands of comments on this issue.
He Department of Transportation recently announced a rule that improves accessibility to bathrooms on single-aisle aircraft. According to the law, there must be enough space for a disabled passenger and an attendant to “approach, enter and maneuver as necessary to use the airplane bathroom.”
South west is one of the few airlines to offer plus-size passengers a complimentary second seat, a policy it implemented decades ago. To ensure additional space, Southwest recommends booking both seats in advance and then requesting a refund. On the day of departure, travelers can also speak to a gate agent to obtain a reserved seating document, assuming space is available.
Likewise, passengers on flights operated by Alaska Airlines and its subsidiary, Horizon Air, can request a refund for a second seat as long as the plane is not sold out.
In Canada, airlines must comply with “One passenger, one fare”on national routes. The law defines obesity as a disability and airlines such as Air Canada and WestJet must cover the second seat for medically qualified passengers.
“It’s great that more airlines are making it possible to buy a second seat or get a second seat for free,” said Tigress Osborn, president of the National Association to Promote Fat Acceptance. “But you still have to deal with how all the other customers look at you as you get off the plane – the emotional stuff.”
Many airlines use armrests to determine if a passenger needs more space. Southwest, for example, states: “The armrest is the definitive measurement for a Customer’s size. It serves as a boundary between the seats. If you can’t lower both armrests and/or encroach on any part of the seat next to you, you need a second seat.”
Even if your frame fits between the lowered arms, you may still need a seat belt extender. Airlines provide this accessory for free and you can request it at the time of boarding.
“Ask right when you get on, so you don’t have to sit down and try it and then tell someone,” said “Swipe Fat” co-host Nicci Nunez, who lives in Chicago. “They give it to you directly, or if they don’t have it, they take it to your line.”
Nunez, 33, said travelers should not be ashamed of needing an extender, noting that a variety of passengers use them, such as pregnant people.
Find size-inclusive tours
For Natalie Robinson, ziplining in Costa Rica dominated her bucket list.
“Literally, for the last 10 years, that’s all I talked about,” said the co-owner of Fat girls travel too a travel group. “But ziplining usually has a weight limit, so I couldn’t do it.”
Her luck changed on a trip to Costa Rica in August, when a friend found a provider with no weight restrictions. The guide said Robinson could swoop through the rainforest as long as he could reach the starting point high in the treetops.
“Sure enough, I went up there and did 10 zip lines,” said the 35-year-old attorney from Fairfax, Virginia. “It was just an amazing experience.”
Annette Richmond, 38, creator of Fat Girls Traveling and editor-in-chief of the Fat girls guideHe said many attractions and activities are not the same for everyone, such as kayaking, helicopter tours, horseback riding and swings.
After walking to the top of a rice terrace in Ubud, he settled on a swing, only to discover that the harness was too small. Filled with disappointment, she told the swing operator that he would attract more customers if he invested in a variety of harness sizes.
“There’s nothing worse than showing up for an experience and being turned away because of your size,” said Richmond, who located an affordable outfitter on a subsequent trip to Bali.
When looking for a tour, ask about weight restrictions and the availability of equipment that fits your size. If in doubt, bring your own equipment.
Cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa in 2018, Jenkins was concerned that the outfitter wouldn’t carry a wetsuit in his size. So he bought one online and flew it to the other side of the world.
“If it’s something I really want to do,” said Jenkins, whose wetsuit appears in the Mexico episode, “I’m going to take matters into my own hands.”
Plus-size travelers stress the importance of being self-sufficient. Finding special clothing and accessories can be difficult in unfamiliar destinations.
Chaney carries a seat belt extender for car trips to new destinations. On a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, she realized he had left his belt at home. She used the plane’s WiFi to search for the item and found a store where a belt was still in stock.
“If they didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have been able to use the vehicle we rented because I couldn’t fasten my seat belt,” he said. “I would be putting my safety at risk.”
Richmond, who lives in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, is always preparing for a wardrobe disaster. He packs all the clothes he will need for a trip and keeps a couple of clothes in his carry-on luggage in case the airline loses his luggage.
His strategy paid off on a trip to London last month, when his luggage arrived several days late. The local stores did not sell his size 20 clothing. Fortunately, he only needed to pick up some common goods.
“My biggest fear was going from shop to shop in London looking for underwear in my size,” she said, “but the only thing I needed to buy was some toiletries.”
Find travel groups and support trips
Plus-size travelers share their challenges and successes with the community at large. In some ways, they are pioneers opening new lands for others.
Jenkins, Chaney and Richmond post travel tips on their multiple social media platforms. On his YouTube channel, “Fat-tested trips”, Jason Vaughn shows off rides at amusement parks across the country. A private Facebook group called Disney plus size riders and more It has 14,000 members. (Some theme parks will set up a test seat outside the attraction, so you can see if you fit before you get in line.) Kirsty Leanne TravelBased in the UK, he covers the entire travel spectrum, from anxiety to getting a tattoo abroad.
Travel companies that cater to larger groups offer an even greater level of comfort and ease. The hosts of “Swipe Fat” and TrovaTrip organize two international trips a year; Next month, they head to Spain. This year, Fat Girls Traveling has led fat-positive trips to upstate New York, England, and Cuba. Fat Girls Travel Too has a calendar full of trips to Morocco, New Orleans, Egypt, Colombia and Cuba.
“We want to give you the same experience without having to worry about any limitations,” said Fat Girls Travel Too founder and co-owner Ashley Wall-Webb, 31, who lives in Emporia, Virginia.
For a trip to Cuba in 2019, he planned an alternative to horseback riding in Viñales, a popular excursion in the valley. Instead of horses, the group toured the tobacco farmlands in a fleet of classic cars.