How the travel community can be more inclusive of plus-sized travelers

Whether you’re a plus-size traveler yourself, a travel company, or an individual who wants to help create a more inclusive travel space, here are some insights on how to advocate for the plus-size community.

Spend some time traveling and you’ll likely end up meeting many people from different backgrounds, different races and religions, and with a variety of characteristics that make their perspective unique.

But while a busy hostel kitchen can look as diverse as the United Nations, this is not always reflected in the travel industry. Especially for plus size travelers. This marginalized group is severely underrepresented but still deserves to feel confident and comfortable while travelling.

Whether you’re a plus-size traveler yourself or simply want to help create a more inclusive travel space, these suggestions will provide insight into how you can advocate for the plus-size community.

I’m Chantel Loura, the laugh-out-loud, snack-loving creator behind plus-size travel blog, Traveling Vagabond. Sharing my experiences since 2015, I have worked with some of the best brands in travel, offering diversity and inclusion advice to make the industry inclusive for all sizes.

Five happy women in brightly colored clothes standing next to a Subway sign

Support large-scale travel creators

There has been a welcome wave of large-scale travel creators that have taken the travel industry by storm! Their efforts are driven by the need for inclusion and they are fierce advocates for the community. They share impressive, informative and thoughtful itineraries along with much needed representation.

Delivering relatability to those who may have thought travel wasn’t for them, these vibrant plus-size creators inspire those who often feel held back from starting their own travel journey and making a true, positive impact.

How can you support them? Engage with their content, welcome their perspectives, learn from them, work with them and be their ally. If you want to start filling your feeds with some more travel joy, start following a few of my personal favorites:

A man wearing a blue sports coat standing in a field with mountains in the distance

Make marketing more inclusive

This is probably the easiest and most effective way to ensure that plus-size people are represented in the world of travel. There needs to be a shift away from the outdated model of the common, equal-sized traveler. This concept even goes beyond size. Diversity is what really enriches a travel experience, and we should celebrate that in all marketing.

This comes down to brands, tourism boards, organisations, conferences and media prioritizing inclusion; not only to meet industry standards, but out of a passion to want to be inclusive so that all kinds of people can experience the joy of travel.

These days, marketing materials can travel globally in an instant. That kind of representation can have a massive – and positive – impact on plus-size people everywhere.

Let us travel in comfort

Flying can be a struggle for plus size travelers and is a concern I often see expressed. Airplane seats seem to get smaller and smaller every year, and comfort is seriously lacking. Airlines like Southwest has stepped up to accommodate travelers of all sizes, and last month Federal Aviation Administration asked for feedback on the size of seats on airplanes.

So far, 20,000 responses have been posted to the FAA’s form, most of which urge the FAA to require airlines to make economy seats more spacious. We hope this outcry will leave the FAA interested in creating a minimum seat for people of all sizes.

A young woman in a black top and floral skirt

Keep information up to date

Many of the stresses and worries we have as plus-size travelers can be alleviated by clear and up-to-date information on websites. I often suggest that travelers do their research, as planning ahead can bring us ease and comfort.

From a consumer perspective, it is useful to be able to find weight limits or accessibility information readily available. Whether it’s a surf lesson, bungee jumping, a scenic swing, a hike, or going in a hot air balloon, knowing the limitations gives us the tools to choose if it’s right for us.

A happy woman wearing a tank top and shorts standing in front of a waterfall

Create a space for advocacy

The reality in the plus-size community is that we have spent most of our lives avoiding speaking up for ourselves for fear of ridicule or condemnation; to minimize ourselves and sacrifice our comfort to satisfy unrealistic societal standards. Still, it feels like a shift has come and people are finding their voices to speak up for what they need. Having these needs honored and respected in a non-judgmental space is empowering.

I saw a really thought provoking example of this on my latest Terrified trip through the Western Balkans. All the members in my group fell into different mobility categories. My tour guide, Bashkim (an absolute angel) was always attentive and would offer a trio of options based on our physical abilities. Each option was a slight adjustment, but none hindered our experience. Whether it was providing a different route to the hilltop castle, sitting out an activity or needing a rest, every concern was met with kindness and created a space to truly enjoy ourselves!

Six smiling women in swimwear in a water park

The enriching travel experience should not be reserved for a certain group of people. People of all sizes and abilities deserve to travel in comfort; the world is big enough for all of us, and the travel community is filled with unique individuals from diverse backgrounds. Real success lies in recognizing the power of inclusion, the benefit of community, and building an industry that more closely reflects that. These actions can empower and embrace both future and experienced travelers.

If you’re looking for some helpful plus size travel tips and tricks, check out my other articleComfortable and Confident: 6 Easy Hacks for Plus Size Travel.

If you want to follow Chantel’s adventures, check out her website, Traveling Vagabondor follow her further Instagram.

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