Vacation! (Photo: Thinkstock)
Life is too short to hate your body.
Travel might be universally appealing, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. For the millions of women who are over a U.S.-size 12 that love the treat of travel — a.k.a. every last one of them, me included — life’s plus-size problems can make a vacation less than relaxing.
But you shouldn’t have to spend an ounce of worry on a summer trip. It’s your time off and your hard-earned money. Here are some rules of the road that will have you sitting pretty in every situation, from hot summer days to time at the spa and finding the perfect swimsuit.
Hello my nemesis, so we meet again… (Photo: Thinkstock)
Don’t feel bad — no one is comfortable in the middle seat.
If it’s a too-tight seat belt that’s also giving you trouble, don’t feel embarrassed (or put up with it cutting off your circulation). Requesting an extender may feel awkward, so make your life easier by bringing your own onboard. Many retailers sell them online so you can have added comfort in a discreet way.
NOTE: FAA regulations technically only allow seat belt extenders to be used that are provided by the airline, but often flight attendants will look the other way. Preparation never hurts in any event, especially as airlines have been known to run out.
Yes, you can shop till you drop. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Strolling the streets looking for local trends is one of the best parts of traveling. As a plus-sized shopaholic myself, I get tired of being relegated to the accessories section while my size-8 friends are trying on fab, foreign fashions. If shopping is on the top of your walking-tour wish list, be sure to research stores that carry 12+ before you arrive.
The United Kingdom and Ireland are by far the best for 12+ shopping, with almost all clothing chains carrying up to a size U.K.22/U.S.18 or a full plus range. Hit the High Streets knowing that size-acceptance is even more prevalent than in the U.S., despite the average American woman being a size 14. (I’ve shopped so much in London that three times I had to buy an extra suitcase to get all the goodies home — now I just travel there with a half-empty bag.)
Plus-size fashion is possible in London, like this striped dress from Monsoon. (Photo: Renee Cafaro)
Don’t assume the rest of Europe is just for stick figures either: In 2011, I was in Rome en route to shop the designer boutiques of Elena Mirò and Marina Rinaldi, when Vogue Italia caught my eye, or rather, the three gorgeous plus-size models in lingerie on the cover did — without any underhanded compliments to go along with it. I realized that curves are embedded in the culture of many European countries. From Sophia Loren to Adele, voluptuous women are revered as hot, enviable celebrities. I had found curvy girl heaven in Rome: high-end shops to check out, local food to try, attractive foreigners to flirt with, and a whole lot of body-pride in the pages of the Vogue I just bought.
Spa time should be the furthest thing from stressful. (Photo: Thinkstock)
I am a spa-junkie and most of the time I have a welcoming experience. Once, I did receive giggles from the waifish spa staff when I requested a larger robe, or at least a men’s robe. They insisted that they only had one size for both genders, which I found impossible as I was holding what felt like a tween-sized wrap. I am not one to back down from a body-shamer, so I grabbed two towels to wrap around me, filed a complaint and never returned.
Rest assured that this was a very rare case. I have had body treatments all over the world and most spas put you at ease. One masseuse even taught me the trick of putting a rolled towel at the collarbone, so you don’t feel constricted by your bust when lying on your stomach.
If you’re hampered by scary thoughts — “this robe looks too small” — don’t fret. Most spas have a variety of robe sizes. Even luxurious spas like La Vie Zen in Manhattan prides itself on carrying up to a 4X. Call ahead to request larger towels and wraps if you are really concerned about your options.
There is never a reason to feel ashamed of your shape, even when down to your skivvies for a spa treatment. Massage professionals are just that, professional. Bodies come in all sizes and they are not judging you.
Drink up! 3 liters a day. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Sightseeing on Hot Summer Days
You’ve got your sexy sundress and squishy sandals on. What are some other good plus-sized practices?
Lane Bryant has come out with a genius new bra for well-endowed travelers: The Cooling Bra. It provides full coverage in addition to an air-conditioning effect through breathable mesh sections. They also have rare bra types like racer-backs and deep-V plunge to keep you supported under all the hottest styles.
Keep stickiness and blisters at bay by tossing these in your tote: no-mess baby-powder spray, hair ties, blister block/BodyGlide, and a beautiful hand fan.
Also, pack water! Many larger ladies don’t realize that we need to hydrate more. The International Sports Medicine Institute recommends that we should drink .5 oz. per pound of body weight, which is almost 3 liters of water for a woman who is 200 lbs.
Everybody has a beach bod — even you! (Photo: Thinkstock)
Much like the spa scenario, don’t be shy about showing skin at the pool.
Tip: shop for swimwear when you’re feeling not so hot. That may sound counterintuitive, but if you can fall in love with it then, you will really adore it the rest of the time. A good supportive suit like the one-pieces from Miraclesuit, perfect shades, and a glam caftan will make you the biggest stunner under the sun.
The author on a cruise rockin’ a Diane von Furstenberg caftan (Photo: Renee Cafaro)
Remember: Everyone has insecurities but there are always traits that they love about themselves. Pick a suit that flaunts your assets, grab that margarita, and strut over to the pool. Remember that confidence is the best accessory. Life is one big show, baby… and you’re a star!
In her day job, Renee Cafaro is a political consultant, philanthropist, and fundraiser. By night she is the woman behind the lifestyle and fashion blog FoxyRoxyFashion and the lead singer of a bad-ass rock band.