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Is there anything more exciting than getting an invitation for a trip of a lifetime? Probably, if you’re fat. When you are plus size, the first thing you’re googling isn’t destinations for the best frozen margaritas or wonderful sunset beach selfies. Instead, you may well be wondering, am I too fat to fly?
As an adult I have lived in a slim and a plus size body. I know too well the additional anxieties and pressures that come with a body that doesn’t fit societal norms, that takes up a bit more space. Flying is a ball ache but add in the worries about whether Barry the businessman is going to huff and puff and blow his aortic artery because he got sat next to a fat girl and you’ve created a mind meltdown and you’re cancelling that ticket and getting a ferry to Calais instead.
I always feared travelling as a fat girl but could never find the resources to help quell any of my anxieties, other than to be told just to suck it up and get over it. But being ‘brave,’ learning not care; those aren’t things that just happen, especially when the world wants to keep telling you it’s not ok to be big. So, whether you are putting off that next trip or have an 8-hour flight planned this week, lets break down some of our biggest worries and get your arse on that plane.
Getting past the bouncers:
You’ve found the dream destination, filled your ASOS basket with all your holiday bargains and parted with a small fortune in flight prices, and now it’s time to get yourself to the airport. Before you’ve even got on the plane, getting through security can be anxiety ridden.
There is nothing that brings me out in a cold sweat more than having to partially undress whilst ten men in uniform give me the eye (despite what my Pornhub recommendations may lead you to believe). There are two things I can guarantee will happen when I go through security:
1) I will almost always set the alarm off. I am not sure if it just the amount of metal in my bra’s underwire or that someone secretly inserted a 2-metre
pipe in my spine, but if I am walking through a metal detector it is certainly buzzing.
2) I will either be drug swabbed or body scanned. I will be dragged aside by Stuart the security man, where I spend ten minutes convicting him my pot belly is due to a 5am Wetherspoon’s Full English and cider rather than 30kg of swallowed heroin.
If you’re fat, security can be a nightmare, but it can also be a nightmare for a lot of people, for a number of reasons, and you are not alone. Just before I went on holiday recently I saw a post by Laila at tapeparade which detailed ‘5 issues for Brown people traveling’ and all the different ways people of colour are oppressed just by going on holiday. It dawned on me, that my own worries, as a fat, white woman were minimal to what someone from differing race and ethnic backgrounds may be experiencing. Essentially, being fat may be uncomfortable, but it was unlikely to get you detained for hours. For the most part, airport security is a sweaty, smelly, uncomfortable mess for everyone, although I have a couple of tricks that I found made life easier for a fat girl.
- Make sure your plan outfit is buckle/metal free as much as possible and that if you have to remove items, you will still be fully dressed as Stuart swabs your sweaty palms. I am a fan of the legging and t-shirt combo (it’s basically socially acceptable PJ’s), with a camo jacket that I can pop on and off as required.
- Ensure you have all your liquids in a single pouch that you can pop in and out of your bag. Sure, this is a basic for everyone, but the less hassle the better. You don’t want to have to extend your discomfort by scrabbling around with flimsy free plastic bags.
- Take your time. If you are worrying about getting all the clothes off, having to disrobe whilst 100 people behind you are pushing ahead eagerly in search of the departure lounge and are generally a bit flustered, then step aside. Get everything you need together and ready before tackling security. There are often areas before you enter the queues where you can stop, get your shit together and then move on. You will be fine.
Room for a little one?
Once you’ve got past the bouncers, then it’s time to make yourself comfy, strap yourself in and prepare to jet off to lands unknown. Unless of course the fear about fitting in that seat is unbearable then, ‘Houston, we have a problem”. Like airport security, airplane travel can be uncomfortable for lots of people, for lots of differing reasons, Whether, you’re fat, tall, differently abled or you’ve got your toddler in tow, we just aren’t meant to spend 12 hours in a metal box with strangers. But being fat, can come with practical issues as well as mental ones.
Firstly the seat. We are getting bigger, and airplane companies are aware of this, but they are also aware of their profit margins, and the phrase sardines in a tin can still be used to describe most flights, especially short haul travel. There is little we can do right now to alter the seat sizes, but what we can be is prepared. Like us, not all airlines are built the same, and finding the right airline for you will require some research. Luckily there is a website for that. Seat Guru lists all the airlines, their seat sizes in economy, business and first class. With a bit of measurement, you can find the right seat for you and who will offer the most comfortable journey. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to choose where you sit.
I checked with some of my favourite trolley dollys, and their advice was never to book ‘extra leg room’ seats. These are the ‘thinnest’ seats on the plane and sure you can stretch your toesy’s but circulation to your fanny will be cut off due to having watch the TV through that weird arm rest/tray thingy. My seat preference is always the window seat. I tend to book flights that don’t offer the meals and all that malarkey, as wrestling with that tray table, my gut and searing hot coffee is not my idea of a fun time. I gather my snacks, blankets and create a little den in my window and pull on my ‘Do Not Fucking Disturb” eye mask for the rest of the journey. Bliss. Alongside this, I always keep my seat belt on, because having to pull the clasp from under my own arse mid-flight requires the flexibility of a circus performer. Most long-haul flights offer longer seat belts for comfort or you can ask for one from the cabin crew before you sit down. If this is all a bit intimidating, you can buy a relatively cheap extender (although be aware that some airlines won’t allow you to use them) to sort yourself out. When talking to cabin crew, the resounding feedback I got was that they want you to be comfortable and it’s their job to make that possible. Most ‘good’ crew would be happy to have a discreet word if you ask and you can always call customer service prior to flying to check what their ‘fat’ policies are. You will not be the first fat person flying with them and you won’t be the last, so don’t be afraid to ask for what makes you more comfortable and safe. That plane ticket isn’t cheap.
One drink or fly?
I love a drink. If you follow me on any of my social media, you will be aware I am not afraid to sip a tipple or two. The one place I don’t tend to do this is on a plane. Not because I don’t want to be arrested for being drunk and disorderly mid-air (what a post that would be), but because flying makes me super dehydrated and consequently bloated. I suffer from fluid retention when flying. I could be one metre in the air and my ankles start resembling Dwayne Johnson’s neck. When I was younger, I used to down a dozen water retention tablets and hope for the best. This is an terrible idea, do not do it.
The best thing I have found for water retention during flying is sipping water regularly (I try and drink 3 litres within a 24-hour period, so one 12 hour flight would be a litre and a half of water) and flight socks. I order ones in black and wear these under my leggings as soon as I leave my house. I don’t take them off until I am comfy and in my hotel bedroom. I did this throughout my flights and travel (on bus) through South East Asia and it massively helped to reduce any swelling.
And breathe, you’ve arrived:
Ding Dong, you have now arrived at your destination. You made it, you might have stale dribble down your front, and neck cramp from that u-shaped pillow nightmare, but you have got through it. I know that traveling when bigger can be fraught with fears and practical nightmares but remember, there are worst things you can be than being fat. You could be obnoxious, ignorant, even rude. If anyone treats you differently because of your size, they are exactly that. They are a lesser person than you and you deserve to exist, to have fun and you bloody deserve this holiday, so what are waiting for…”googles cheap flights to paradise”.