Traveling to Europe As a Plus-Size Woman
My incredible experience and tips for other plus-size travelers. (Hint: don't let anything stop you from seeing the world!)
by Lauren Carlsen
EF Ultimate Break traveler
Since I was as young as six years old, I’ve been flying by myself to visit friends and family members all around the United States. At 28 now, my passion for travel has only grown. But as much as I've always loved traveling, I’ve also always been plus-size. My weight stopped me from traveling abroad for a very long time because I was afraid of the extra accommodations I might need and possible judgments. But in 2019, I finally made the jump with my best friend and booked EF Ultimate Break's trip to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague—and it made me realize that it’s really no different than traveling in the States! EFUB helped make my experience so incredible (especially our amazing Tour Director, it can't be understated how great he was). If you're a plus-size traveler hesitant about going abroad, I'm here to tell you, DO IT.
Top tips for plus-size travelers
Spoiler alert: once you’re actually on the trip, there really isn’t a difference in the way that you would normally travel with friends! But I do have some go-to tips for packing, flying, and when you're in your destination.
- If you’re someone who needs a seat belt extender but are shy or nervous to ask a flight attendant, purchase one online ahead of time. Just check with the airline you’re flying with to make sure they allow third party seatbelt extenders.
- Baby powder for chaffing. They make travel sized bottles. I just throw it out at the end to make room for souvenirs.
- Don’t skimp on the shoes! Your feet are carrying some extra weight and that’s okay, but you gotta make sure you take care of those bad boys so you can make it through all of the walking you’ll be doing in the most magical places!
- Don't be afraid to ask for accommodations, the worst someone can say is no. In Prague, our waiter tried to seat the group in the middle of a dining area, but there just wasn’t going to be room for me to sit at the table comfortably and still allow people to walk behind me. I asked for a seat on the outside where there was more room and the waiter was more than happy to accommodate me and our group, instead of me having to try and enjoy the meal while uncomfortable.
If I could offer one piece of advice to another plus-size traveler, it would be to not let ANYTHING, especially your weight, stop you from doing whatever you want to do. Put on the swimsuit, go to the party, and have a blast!
My trip to Budapest, Vienna & Prague
I was honestly amazed that I didn’t need many extra accommodations for being a plus-size traveler. I was traveling with my friend who is also plus-size, so we chose to upgrade our rooming experience to just the two of us. This was a piece of cake: all I did was talk to EFUB after booking and they put us together in our own room for the duration of the trip. However, if I had done the trip solo, I wouldn’t have upgraded my room.
We met SO many amazing people on our trip—people that we still chat with to this day! I was really worried about feeling judged by the locals as well as the others in our tour group, but this turned out to not be the case. Sure, there were a couple of stares that I felt were judgmental, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I would likely never interact or see any of the locals again, so it really didn’t matter what they thought. As far as the people traveling with us, we definitely didn’t feel judged for our size. We had a great time with everyone and quickly found some friends that we enjoyed exploring and dining with.
My one regret from the trip was that I allowed my size to stop me from going to a party with a bunch of other people from the group at one of the thermal baths in Budapest. I was too nervous to be in my bathing suit in front of people that I didn’t know, and I let that stop me from having what could have been an amazing night. If I could offer one piece of advice to another plus size traveler, it would be to not let ANYTHING, especially your weight, stop you from doing whatever you want to do. Put on the swimsuit, go to the party, and have a blast!
An incredible tour group of all shapes and sizes
Aside from myself and my best friend, there were a couple of other plus-size travelers, but none of us let that stop us from having the trip of a lifetime. We saw the sights, we ate the food, we drank the beer and wine, and we did whatever our hearts desired. The group as a whole was incredibly inclusive.
One day we did an "Underground Prague" tour that involved a ton of walking up and down stairs. The entire group encouraged and supported me, letting me take breaks when I needed to. We all celebrated getting to the top of the Astronomical Clock because it was a hard walk, even for those that were in shape!
Our amazing Tour Director
I can’t express how amazing our Tour Director, Bogdan, was. We chose to fly in a day early and he met up with us for dinner and gave us some recommendations—we ended up taking a night cruise on the Danube in Budapest which was one of the BEST experiences from the trip! On our final day of the trip in Prague, I was feeling too exhausted to try and do a walking tour, so I asked Bogdan if I could sit this one out. He gave me recommendations for easier activities that didn’t involve as much walking. I wanted to make sure that I had the best experience possible which meant stepping out of my comfort zone and just asking the questions I needed to ask to accommodate my needs. It was hard at first, but I never felt judgment or annoyance from anyone, especially Bogdan. I was really appreciative that he understood that I was not able to do 100% of the walking that we were doing.
Bogdan always had alternative ideas for me when there was something that I couldn’t do and he never once told me to just sit and wait for the group. At one point, my friend injured her ankle and couldn’t do much walking in Český Krumlov, so he showed us some areas where we could handle the walking and even told us where to meet the bus so that we wouldn’t have to do additional walking.
Travel is for everyone
For many years I allowed my weight to stop me from traveling. I heard the stories of people in other countries being judgmental of plus-size travelers, especially Americans, and I didn’t want to be “that” person. What I learned on the trip was that this was completely the opposite of the experience that I had. Everyone from the locals to my fellow tour group were accepting and encouraging. There were very few circumstances where I felt like my weight had any impact on what we were doing. I learned a lot about myself and my insecurities on this trip and I grew from it.
I travel as much as I can now and have another EFUB trip planned! Ultimately, EFUB is one of the best companies for plus-size travelers: they accommodated everything that I needed (which turned out to not be much!) and it was a very safe and fun way to see the world. Plus-size or not, travel is for EVERYONE. You don't have to change some aspect of yourself to travel comfortably. Don’t let anything stop you from making your dreams come true and checking destinations off your bucket list!
by Lauren Carlsen
Lauren is a trainer for a major online university and currently resides in the Phoenix metro area. Music, reading, and adventures are at the top of her list of hobbies, behind traveling of course! Her bucket list destinations include Ireland, Scotland, Greece, and to return to Salzburg as many times as she can to live out her Sound of Music dreams!
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