I go through, what I assume to be, the typical planning phases; track flights, research hostels, scour travel blogs and trip advisor for places to see and things to do. I continue to try to be a more “in the moment” traveler by not planning down to the hour, but I always find that I am more comfortable when I at least know what to expect – especially in terms of weather, activity level, transportation, and gear.
Regardless of how “off the cuff” I try to be as plus size traveler, I have a list of things I always do to prepare for a trip. In this post, I outline this list…as well as the mistakes I’ve made that spawned the need for this list. I’m 100% certain that I will continue to make mistakes and come across better ways to travel and ultimately make it more enjoyable for myself. But, for now, these three phases seem to work. Take a look!
Phase 1. Research
Research! Research! Research!
I cannot recommend this enough. The weather, the customs, transportation, currency and prices..all things you should know before going anywhere you haven’t been before whether you’re plus sized or not.
I actually really enjoy learning about the places I’m going. I love being able to confidently locate towns and cities and be able to pull up a geographical map in my head. (Mom: “I wish your geography and social studies teachers could hear this.) However, there are other things that benefit from this research, especially as a plus size traveler.
Benefit #1: Knowing the transportation situation
Benefit #2: Having a list of do-able activities/excursions
In another post, I outlined the importance of being aware of the types of transportation and activities available in your chosen location. As being unaware can seriously impact your travel, I highly suggest you take a look at 3 Tips for Adventuring Plus Sized!
Benefit #3: Clothing and Shoes
Clothing and shoes have a major impact on your travels, especially being plus sized. You may already find it difficult to find everyday clothes you’re comfortable in without pulling at them or constantly adjusting your pants (anyone else’s phone weigh down their pants?) Imagine that difficulty and now add lots of walking, sweat, rain, and being photographed in them EVERY DAY. It can be a nightmare. For your sanity, make sure you do your research and find clothes that you are comfortable and confident in. It may take some time, but you’ll be so much happier in the end.
My mistake: When I went to Iceland, I knew that I needed boots because we were traveling during Winter. However, being a naive and young traveler, I was more focused on the look of the boots rather than the function. I managed to pull enough logic together to get waterproof boots, but they were the slightest bit too small (and wayyyy too expensive.) My feet hurt during the entire trip, and it didn’t help a foot injury I sustained before leaving.
If you do anything from this list, make it research!
(P.S. I’m currently in the works of compiling links and lists of the clothing items I’ve found to be perfect for my picky tastes of practical, budget friendly, and fashionable. I’ll be posting that soon!)
Phase 2: Exercise
There is a reason I haven’t purchased my tickets to Peru to see Machu Pichu. It isn’t the low, round trip fares or the ease of visiting a tourist friendly attraction. It’s because that mother has a lot of stairs. Plus, if I’m going to M.P. I want to do the 4 day hike and earn it. However, I can’t do this at my current weight. So for now, I use it as motivation.
Travel is exhausting. You’re up every day at 8am and out all day exploring, only to stop for meals or snacks. You get to bed by midnight and you’re up and at it again the next day. The adrenaline and pure, unfiltered excitement will only last you the first 3-4 days. You need to prepare for the physical requirements of travel.
I like to start a couple months before departure and work with cardio and weights. It doesn’t have to be crazy intensive every time. But, building up stamina and strength should be key goals. Try to focus on your legs (thighs and glutes) and your lower back. You’ll thank me after you’ve scaled the rocky side of a mountain in Ireland.
Tip: What I find to be the most helpful in staying motivated is thinking of the incredible things I’ll be able to do on the trip. This is made even easier if you get on one of those fancy treadmills that have video tracks where you can watch the scenery go by as you’re walking/running. For my UK trip, I used the glacier paths of New Zealand and the cityscapes of Germany to keep me interested and invested. Or, if you’re not about to spend a handful of benjamins on a treadmill, there are plenty of videos online for trails and walks from destinations all over the world. Search for your favorite, and get to steppin!
My mistake: Right before that same UK trip, I found out I had lost my job. Being a normal human being, I basically became a hermit. I barely left the couch when I was home and I ate like crap. All this after months of working out didn’t make my trip impossible, but it did make it harder than it could have been.
Phase 3: Deal with Health Issues/See the Doctor
There are two kinds of people. Those that see a doctor for a splinter, and those that wait two years to diagnose and treat spinal arthritis and a herniated disk. I’m the latter.
Being plus sized, I’m used to having aches and pains. But now that I’m traveling more, I take them seriously because they could ruin a trip within one afternoon of walking.
If you’re plus sized and traveling for the first time, I suggest you let your doctor know what your plans are and if they have any suggestions for you. Being overweight can come with other health concerns that can include high blood pressure, severe acid reflux, loss of mobility, swollen limbs and more. All of these can ruin your trip if you don’t care for them. Stay on the safe side and see a doctor for anything you think might bother you while traveling. Chances are, you won’t be able to deal with it until you return.
My mistake: Before going to Iceland, I mysteriously injured my foot. I’ve had foot pain in the past that was attributed to poor fitting shoes. I thought this pain was the same thing and I would be able to deal with it.
I was mistaken.
I had somehow torn the main ligament in my foot and with every step, I was stretching the tear that was trying to heal. Again, being young and naive (and stubborn) I did nothing about it and spent a decent amount of time trying to swallow the pain in my foot as I ventured around the snowy terrain of southern Iceland.
However, I did learn from this and dealt with my back pain before going to the UK. I was aware of my herniated disk and arthritis for a few years and have had results with pain management injections in the past, so I made an appointment to get my 2nd round of injections about a week before I left. Unfortunately, without invasive surgery, a herniated disk isn’t easily or permanently treated. The shots didn’t take and I spent many hours in pain while driving in a small car, sleeping on cheap hostel beds, and painfully walking around Dublin. This is where that whole ” I plan to continue to learn” thing comes in. If you know of anything that vastly improves sciatic pain, let me know!
Whether you’re like me, and enjoy the planning stages of the trip almost as much as the actual trip… or if you want to claw your eyes out after looking at hostel prices in central London, part of being a responsible traveler is being responsible for yourself. You may not need all that was mentioned above or you may need more. The point is, while you like to follow where the world leads you, it’s up to you to be prepared for wherever that may be.
Do you prefer to travel on a whim, or do you feel more comfortable with a plan? Have you made any of the same mistakes? What did you learn from them? Comment below!