Fat Travel Woes (or “Woah’s”)

Hola from Miami!

I’m traveling for work this week, and was reminded that every time I travel, I want to write a post about traveling while overweight.

I used to have tons of anxiety before flights. My ass did not, and does not, still fit in the airplane seats. I’ve written about it at least three times (here, here and here), and it has generated a very popular email that I get from people about to take their first flights in a while.

The whole Kevin Smith debacle, the Southwest policy on having to buy 2 seats, etc, is enough to scare any pleasantly plump traveler away. I seriously used to have near panic attacks when thinking about flying. What if they kicked me off? I’m not going to ask work to pay for a second ticket! What if the person next to me complains or says something hurtful?

While I won’t ever say those things don’t ever happen, I will tell you that none have ever happened to me. I typically fly Delta due to my home airport. They don’t have a clear oversize passenger policy, so I consider them a more “safe” route to go, although I think the same is true for US Airways.

I’ve stopped panicking so much before flights now because I’m used to it and have a procedure. I wanted to share it. Take it for what it’s worth, but it works for me!

  1. When you book your flight, make sure to go through the seat selection process. I typically go to the middle of the plane as it’s at its widest part. Be advised though that if you need a seatbelt extender, you will not be allowed to sit in an exit row, so avoid those.
  2. Before you get to the airport, check in online and check your seat assignments. Sometimes you can find a sacred empty few seats on the plane and switch seats. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll be empty by the time you get on the plane though. Last minute bookings, rescheduled passengers and standby passengers often fill up the seats.
  3. I tend to book a window seat for my flights because I somehow in my head feel I can better squish myself up against the window and “suck in” the other side of me to stay in a tight little ball during the flight. Some may prefer the aisle though, so it’s all personal preference.
  4. If you know you need a seatbelt extender, you can ask for it when you board. When the flight attendant welcomes you onto the plane, you can quietly ask them for one. They’re usually very discreet about it. Many times they’ll give it to you right there, as it’s usually accessible up at the front of the plane with the safety demonstration equipment. Sometimes, like today, they simply ask for your seat number, and then someone will discreetly drop it off to you. Sometimes, if you get to your seat and forget to ask upon boarding, it can get a little embarrassing as the passengers in your row have to see you fumble with getting the seatbelt from the flight attendant and put it on.
  5. Along those lines, I try to board near the front of the line. So if they call Zones 1 and 2 to board and I’m in Zone 3, you better believe I’m lined up and ready to hop when they call Zone 3. This simply gives me a better chance of making it into my seat and situated before my row-mate does. No crawling over the other passengers or struggling to get the seatbelt extender on.
  6. When you’re done with the flight and have reached your destination, drink lots of water. I get major water retention any time I travel, so keeping hydrated is key for my legs not swelling up like balloons.

I was kind of bummed that I still need a seatbelt extender. It’s kind of funny, but I have started to forget how really big I am until I’m put in these uncomfortable situations. Yes, I can breeze through the airport quicker and without sweating like a pig, but no one knows where I’ve come from in my fitness journey. No one knows me from anyone else. I’m still super obese. I need to remember to keep my head high and just keep trucking. People are too busy to notice you- just do what you do.

Here’s me and my seatbelt extender today. Still a ways to go:

So that’s my flying advice for the plus princesses out there who might need some help.

Also learned today:

  • Swanky hotel robes laid out on your turndown service are just like any other robes- they don’t fit. The luxury is lost if the damn thing hangs halfway open on you.
  • I wish hotels had low carb chocolates to put on your pillow instead of these:

Anyone have some more travel advice to share?

  • Maia

    I totally do a lot of the same stuff you do. For me its the double discomfort of being insanely tall plus pleasantly plump… :) I wish I could afford to fly first class all the time. That would solve a lot of my problems, but alas until I find myself a sugar daddy I’m in for the joys of travelling! :)

  • Maia

    I totally do a lot of the same stuff you do. For me its the double discomfort of being insanely tall plus pleasantly plump… :) I wish I could afford to fly first class all the time. That would solve a lot of my problems, but alas until I find myself a sugar daddy I’m in for the joys of travelling! :)

  • http://www.phatgirlinalittlecoat.blogspot.com Sarah

    I totally agree with the water statement. I no longer drink on flights and I have started to limit my carbonated beverages on flights as well.

    When I was at my heaviest I always felt more comfortable in the window seat as well.

    You won’t be needing that seatbelt extender much longer!

  • http://www.phatgirlinalittlecoat.blogspot.com Sarah

    I totally agree with the water statement. I no longer drink on flights and I have started to limit my carbonated beverages on flights as well.

    When I was at my heaviest I always felt more comfortable in the window seat as well.

    You won’t be needing that seatbelt extender much longer!

  • http://chrispugh.me/ Chris Pugh

    Thanks for the tips, I don’t travel because of my weight and it really sucks. I keep telling myself that once I get to around 300lbs I’ll be able to travel. I’d love nothing more than to get over this fear and just deal with it. Maybe I should just book a flight and go somewhere…

  • http://chrispugh.com/ Chris Pugh

    Thanks for the tips, I don’t travel because of my weight and it really sucks. I keep telling myself that once I get to around 300lbs I’ll be able to travel. I’d love nothing more than to get over this fear and just deal with it. Maybe I should just book a flight and go somewhere…

  • lilly

    I flew earlier this year and due to the discomfort I have sworn I won’t do it again until I’m a lot thinner; at the time of flying I was 285, but I carry a lot in my midsection.

    I had a carryon, and the act of bending over while buckled to get to it was a workout.
    I always asked for a seat belt extender, and the last flight home (from ATL to my airports were the small 3-across planes) I was in an exit row and there was no problem w a seat belt extender.

    On my flight out, I got bumped to first class and expected tons more comfort……..no. I was on a delta plane, not the largest one but a pretty big one, and I didn’t really think that first class was any better. I had a window seat and my seatmate got there before me, and i knocked over most of the stuff sitting on the shared armrest as i tried to get to my seat =/

    I was always conscious that I was wider than the seat and tried my best to “sit small” which made me sore after the long flights.

    In short, I hated every minute of being seated in an airplane,but i’ve known people who seem to be bigger than me say that they fly and have no issues.
    I don’t think I’ll do Delta again honestly. The first planes were just too small. I couldn’t get the tray tables quite flat bc of my gut.

  • lilly

    I flew earlier this year and due to the discomfort I have sworn I won’t do it again until I’m a lot thinner; at the time of flying I was 285, but I carry a lot in my midsection.

    I had a carryon, and the act of bending over while buckled to get to it was a workout.
    I always asked for a seat belt extender, and the last flight home (from ATL to my airports were the small 3-across planes) I was in an exit row and there was no problem w a seat belt extender.

    On my flight out, I got bumped to first class and expected tons more comfort……..no. I was on a delta plane, not the largest one but a pretty big one, and I didn’t really think that first class was any better. I had a window seat and my seatmate got there before me, and i knocked over most of the stuff sitting on the shared armrest as i tried to get to my seat =/

    I was always conscious that I was wider than the seat and tried my best to “sit small” which made me sore after the long flights.

    In short, I hated every minute of being seated in an airplane,but i’ve known people who seem to be bigger than me say that they fly and have no issues.
    I don’t think I’ll do Delta again honestly. The first planes were just too small. I couldn’t get the tray tables quite flat bc of my gut.

  • http://www.unveilingthediva.blogspot.com/ Stephnms

    I’ve never flown before and this fear is what has kept me from it. When I do though, I’ll definitely be taking your advice. :)

  • http://www.unveilingthediva.blogspot.com/ Stephnms

    I’ve never flown before and this fear is what has kept me from it. When I do though, I’ll definitely be taking your advice. :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AIM63DZX7ZLPPRF6VPZIQURDZY Heather Roebuck

    My tips for booking a flight: Check the plane model. The Airbus A319, A320, and A321 have the widest seats (18-20inches instead of 17) and a pretty long seatbelt. You can always check the seat width on http://www.seatguru.com.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AIM63DZX7ZLPPRF6VPZIQURDZY Heather Roebuck

    My tips for booking a flight: Check the plane model. The Airbus A319, A320, and A321 have the widest seats (18-20inches instead of 17) and a pretty long seatbelt. You can always check the seat width on http://www.seatguru.com.

  • http://www.mayorofthebux.com Danielle

    I haven’t flown in ages because of the belt. as lame as that is, it mortifies me to think of having a kevin smith experience. ugh. I use flying and trips as one of my motivations in this whole process, I want to go to london next year and want to enjoy it and have the flying be the least of my worries.

  • http://www.mayorofthebux.com Danielle

    I haven’t flown in ages because of the belt. as lame as that is, it mortifies me to think of having a kevin smith experience. ugh. I use flying and trips as one of my motivations in this whole process, I want to go to london next year and want to enjoy it and have the flying be the least of my worries.

  • http://www.hello-gorgeous.me/ Karen (Hello Gorgeous)

    I am overweight but not to a point where I have any problems fitting into seats but thanks for sharing this. I never really spent much thought on all this stuff that obese people have to consider when traveling.

  • http://www.hello-gorgeous.me/ Karen (Hello Gorgeous)

    I am overweight but not to a point where I have any problems fitting into seats but thanks for sharing this. I never really spent much thought on all this stuff that obese people have to consider when traveling.

  • Jen S.

    I completely feel you. I have this nagging fear of not fitting into a seat. I tell my office I prefer to drive, am blame it on enjoying to see the sites when driving (I always wonder if they believe that!) One of the things I did was buy a seat belt extender. In my mind if I don’t ask for one then I am less likely to be told you should really have two seats :) On a side note, I really want to say how much I have enjoyed your blog. I am on a very simular journey myself (20 pounds down and at 378 pounds) and I really have found great joy of seeing someone else going through the same struggles. So cuddos and know there is a reader cheering you on big time.

  • Jen S.

    I completely feel you. I have this nagging fear of not fitting into a seat. I tell my office I prefer to drive, am blame it on enjoying to see the sites when driving (I always wonder if they believe that!) One of the things I did was buy a seat belt extender. In my mind if I don’t ask for one then I am less likely to be told you should really have two seats :) On a side note, I really want to say how much I have enjoyed your blog. I am on a very simular journey myself (20 pounds down and at 378 pounds) and I really have found great joy of seeing someone else going through the same struggles. So cuddos and know there is a reader cheering you on big time.

  • http://abetterlesserme.blogspot.com/ D…

    Thanks for this post, it helped me a lot. I’ve gone ahead and booked myself on a very short flight in december as a ‘test flight’. It can only be a motivating factor!!! If only I could spot reduce my hips it would be a much more comfortable ride!

  • http://abetterlesserme.blogspot.com/ D…

    Thanks for this post, it helped me a lot. I’ve gone ahead and booked myself on a very short flight in december as a ‘test flight’. It can only be a motivating factor!!! If only I could spot reduce my hips it would be a much more comfortable ride!

  • http://LowStressWeightLoss.com Sarah@LowStressWeightLoss

    My period of needing seatbelt extenders was gratefully rather short lived (but terrible). I still sometimes find myself totally squished if it’s a flight with particularly narrow seats or if I’m seated next to another big person.

    Other travel tips? I really should write a post about travel tips, I’m in a job thats at least 50% travel, so I have a ton.

    I always carry snacks with me, I eat the same breakfast on the road as at home (thereby cutting out a ton of temptations & choices).

    And chocolate on the pillows? I have that one whipped too :

    http://lowstressweightloss.com/blog/i-travel-with-chocolate-2/1171

  • http://LowStressWeightLoss.com Sarah@LowStressWeightLoss

    My period of needing seatbelt extenders was gratefully rather short lived (but terrible). I still sometimes find myself totally squished if it’s a flight with particularly narrow seats or if I’m seated next to another big person.

    Other travel tips? I really should write a post about travel tips, I’m in a job thats at least 50% travel, so I have a ton.

    I always carry snacks with me, I eat the same breakfast on the road as at home (thereby cutting out a ton of temptations & choices).

    And chocolate on the pillows? I have that one whipped too :

    http://lowstressweightloss.com/blog/i-travel-with-chocolate-2/1171

  • Pingback: A Word from the US Surgeon General — Skinny Emmie Weight Loss Blog()

  • Tanya

    Thank you so much.  I have avoided travel since my recent weight gain (I’m well over 300, but I haven’t had the courage to weigh myself).  The last time I traveled, I was about 280 and 5’10” and I fit okay but it was tight – did not need an extender.  I am scheduled to fly tomorrow in a 17″ width seat, and I am terrified.  I have my toddler in the seat next to me, so I know I can spill over, but I’m afraid that the airline will still make me purchase another seat or boot me off.  I am so scared about facing my size tomorrow, I just can’t sleep.  I SO appreciate you putting your experience out there, because I feel that maybe I can make it.  I wish we lived close by so that we could work out and diet together — right now I feel so alone in my journey.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.kaeble Joshua Kaeble

    Damn You Burger King!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • MelDrop

    I am traveling for the first time in 5 years and I’m nervous. The last time I travelled, I did not need a seat belt extender, and I think I was a bit larger than I am now, but I honestly do not know. I’m traveling on AirTran and will be with someone else from my company so I don’t want to ask for an extender, but really don’t want the embarrassment of it not fitting either. I am a skirt size 20 and jeans a 20W. I would love to know if you think I’ll be okay. Thank you!!!

    • Fatman

      my wife is a 26 and barely needs an extender. You should be good.

    • Madeleina

      I’m a size 20-22 and though it’s snug it always does up. I wouldn’t stress <3

  • Ann Kelly

    Let me just tell you …I’m 5 9 and wear. Size 20 260 lbs! I just flew Delta to Cancun for my honeymoon and after I sat down on the flight I had my carryon bag in my lap as I turned off my phone when the flightattendent came over to me asking me I I needed a seatbelt extender very loud! I have never even ears if an extender much less thought about the fear of a seatbelt not fitting! She startled me I said no, I’m fine! I buckled my seat an the. Became so angry some strange woma. Would ask someone that so loudly! Then I thought I’m going to google this! This is bs! I’m calling Delta tomorrow! That is descrimination at its finest! I’ve never experienced anything like that before! I’m an attractive white 38 year old girl that takes are if myself! My heart was just so heavy! Now I believe that may have pushed me over the edge to do gastric bipass! How embarrassing and what a way to begin your honeymoon! ;(

  • Funbutfluffy

    I travel about 70% of my time for work, I ride on planes of all sizes from the teeny tiny regional jets to the larger 6 seats-abroad jetliners. I am 5’7″ and currently 343lbs. (down 7lbs. after my first week on WW, yay) and suffer from the I-had-a-baby-many-years-ago-and-replaced-her-with-fat mommy pooch at the bottom of my abdomen which makes fitting in seatbelts of any kind more of a challenge. I can honestly say, the worst experience I have ever had was in my friend’s Jeep, not on a plane. One trick that may be helpful is to recline the seat as far back as it will go to attach the belt. The seat belts are attached to the frame, not the seat itself so this can move you back that extra inch or two you may need to get the clasp to connect. Then put your seat back up all the way for takeoff. Realize, this method with help you get the glorious metallic click to connect your seat belt parts together but, once you sit up, you will feel the pinch in your tummy from a seat belt that is a little small. It shouldn’t be unbearable. If this doesn’t work or it is too uncomfortable once you bring the seat back fully upright, ask for an extender, there’s no shame in that.
    I own my own seat belt extender in two styles and bring them with me on every trip. I do look up the style based on the plane I will be in but bring both because we all know, stuff happens, and mechanical failure or delays may require a last minute plane change. In rare instances I haven’t needed it but seat belt length varies drastically from plane to plane. At times, I only need an inch or two and on others, I need 6-7 inches or more. The good news is, if you do ask for one, by and large (for lack of a better phrase), the flight attendants are discreet and respectful when asked. To ensure this, make sure to ask as soon as you know you need one. If they have to interrupt their pre-flight checks or while they are in the middle of helping someone else stow bags, they may end up being unpleasant, even if they don’t intend to do so. If you aren’t sure, don’t be embarrassed, ask for one right away and give it back if you don’t need it. Above all, remember that you are entitled to travel just as everyone else and should be as comfortable as you can be.
    The smallest planes will be the smaller regional jets, typically used on very short trips to less frequented destinations. Do your research if you are concerned. With both small seats and short seat belts, they are also usually the oldest planes in the fleet. When choosing seats, the front couple of seats will usually be offered as “premium”. This is a total fallacy. The second row is okay but the very front row will be cramped and even smaller for anyone with a large rear end as there is no seat in front of you to stretch out under, just a wall. Our butt fat shifts forward where our knees, backs, and legs sit in relation to our seat and the seat or wall in front of us. In the front row of these smaller planes, you will not have much leg room to stretch out your legs and feet; a short 60 minute flight then becomes an hour in hell.
    Others have discussed bringing snacks and water, these are wonderful tips, though be cautious about filling up with liquids. If you’re on a long flight, fit or fat alike, the bathrooms in planes are cramped at best, if you’re large, they can be nightmares. I am not advocating to dehydrate yourself and stop drinking liquids altogether, but my trick to ensure I can avoid the plane bathroom is to stop drinking an hour before the flight and use the restroom as close to boarding time as possible. Then as soon as I deplane, I drink a bottle of water. I too get bad water retention when I travel and seem to dehydrate quicker, but this trick has helped me avoid unbuckling and rebuckling, walking over my row mates, and having to squeeze into an already semi-gross (public restroom facilities are inherently not pleasant) doll-house sized bathroom.
    I usually pick the window, I like to be able to rest on the side of the plane and feel like this squeezes me in enough that my row mate might now care much if I spill over a little. On an aisle, or sitting in a one-seat section so you’re both a window and an aisle simultaneously, pay attention to which side of the plane you are on. The one seaters are usually on the left, looking towards the cockpit, and you should wait to buckle until most of the plane has boarded. If you are buckling tight and/or have hip that squishes out into the aisle at all, your seatbelt is going to get knocked into as everyone passes by and come undone. Buckle it later, when the flight crew remind you. On the other side of the aisle, same thing but for different reasons, wait to buckle for good until you have to. It’s fine to check the fit but keep it loose because you may have to get up several times before takeoff. People are funny and forget something in the bag they put in the overhead bin, need to put something away, and various other things. If you struggle with the belt at all, the buckling and rebuckling gets problematic.
    Join the airline’s frequent flier rewards program, even if you aren’t going to fly very much. This is something I learned rather quickly when I started to travel for work but wished someone else had told me earlier. They are free and can in many cases, help you get onto the plane before your actual zone is called allowing extra time to get situated whether you need an extender, extra time putting things away, or simply more time to get down the jet way. I travel American, Delta, and US Air most frequently but all airlines have some form of this reward program. When the boarding process starts, they let first class passengers and uniformed military personnel on board first and then typically open up boarding to their “preferred” club members before they start calling regular seating.
    For those who travel frequently, through American Airlines you can also purchase upgrades for $30 a piece, they are valid for 500 miles of travel each. I am unsure of programs on other airlines. I purchase them separately from my company’s purchase of my ticket and request an upgrade every time I get a ticket and upgrades are an option. These upgrades then can put you into the first-class cabin if seats are available or from coach to business class if your plane has three seat types. You are only charged an upgrade if you get the seat. The seats in first class are not only larger, I have noticed a remarkable difference in how I am treated by flight attendants when having to make special requests and for only $30 extra dollars in most cases, it is totally worth the extra money. First-class also gets to board first so anyone needing extra time or help to get settled can do well here.
    I hope these help, I wish I’d found something like this prior to my travel schedule getting busy. I learned a lot of things by trial and error.