Making space: how the travel community can be more inclusive towards plus-size travellers

written by Chantel Loura November 9, 2022
A young woman in exercise gear standing on a hiking trail with one arm pointing into the air

Whether you are a plus-size traveller yourself, a travel business or someone looking to help create a more inclusive travel space, here are some insights into how to advocate for the plus-size community.

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

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

Whether you are a plus-size traveller yourself or simply looking to help create a more inclusive travel space, these suggestions will offer insight into how to advocate for the plus-size community.

I’m Chantel Loura, the loudly laughing, snack-loving creator behind plus-size travel blog, Voyaging Vagabond. I have been sharing my experiences since 2015 and have worked alongside some of the top brands in travel, offering diversity and inclusion consulting to make the industry inclusive for all sizes.

Five happy women in brightly coloured clothing standing next to a Subway sign

Support plus-size travel creators

There has been a welcome wave of plus-size travel creators taking the travel industry by storm! Their efforts are fuelled by the need for inclusion and they are fierce advocates for the community. They share impressive, informative and thoughtful travel itineraries alongside some much-needed representation.

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

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

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 travel world. There needs to be a shift away from the outdated model of the standard, straight-sized traveller. This concept even goes beyond size. Diversity is what truly enriches a travel experience, and we should be celebrating that in all marketing.

This comes down to brands, tourism boards, organisations, conferences and media prioritising inclusion; not just for the sake of meeting industry standards, but out of a passion to want to be inclusive so that all kinds of people can experience the joys of travel.

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

Let us travel in comfort

Flying can be a struggle for plus-size travellers and is a concern I see voiced often. Plane seats seem to get smaller and smaller each year, and comfort is severely lacking. Airlines like Southwest have been stepping up to accommodate travellers of all sizes, and last month the Federal Aviation Administration asked for feedback about the size of seats on planes.

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

A young woman in a black top and floral skirt

Keep information updated

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

From a consumer perspective, it’s helpful to be able to find weight limits or accessibility information readily available. Whether it’s a surf lesson, bungee jumping, a picturesque swing, a hike, or going in a hot air balloon, knowing the limitations gives us the tools we need 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 of the plus-size community is that we’ve spent most of our lives avoiding advocating for ourselves out of fear of ridicule or judgement; minimising ourselves and sacrificing our comfort to appease unrealistic societal standards. Yet, it feels like a shift has come and people are finding their voices to speak up for what they need. To have those needs honoured and respected in a judgement-free space is empowering.

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

Six smiling woman in swimsuits at a waterpark

The enriching experience of travel should not be reserved for a specific group of people. People of all sizes and abilities deserve to travel comfortably; the world is big enough for all of us and the travel community is full of unique individuals from different backgrounds. Real success lies in recognising the power of inclusion, the benefit of a community, and building an industry that is more reflective of that. These actions can empower and embrace both future and seasoned travellers.

If you’re looking for some helpful plus-size travel tips and tricks, check out my other article ‘Comfy and confident: 6 easy hacks for plus-size travel.

If you want to follow Chantel’s adventures, you can check out her website, Voyaging Vagabond, or follow her on Instagram.

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