Group travel tours are becoming increasingly more popular but despite it being an incredibly affordable way to travel, it’s definitely something that can bring a lot of dread and anxiety to a plus size traveller.
In some cases, I’ve known friends who have even cancelled the group travel trips they have booked due to the worry it has caused them in the run-up to their travels.
From keeping up with your group to finding an accessible tour, there are SO MANY important things for a plus size traveller to think about both before and during their trip.
Having had ALL of these worries and more, I know how daunting it can be to step off the plane knowing you’re about to join a group of people you don’t know for a couple of weeks of travelling. I worried whether I would be singled out for being fat, whether I would fall behind when we were on group tours and whether I would have to miss out on a lot of the activities due to weight limits and restrictions. I spent MONTHS worrying about whether or not my experience would be ruined and at times, I even thought about cancelling and travelling alone instead. At least then I couldn’t hold anyone back, right?
What I learned, however, is that group travel is a great way to open yourself up to see a range of incredible places at once - regardless of my size.
If you’re considered a group trip as a plus size traveller, this guide is designed to show you how you can make the most out of group travel before, during and after your trip.
A Plus Size Guide To Group Travel Tours
Make Sure You’re Doing As Much Research As You Possibly Can
One of the best things you can do before you book your group travel tour is to ensure you’re doing as much research as you possibly can. There are so many different aspects to a tour that ultimately, you need to decide whether or not it’s for you.
From watching travel blogger vlogs to researching example itineraries, the more research you’re doing the better.
Questions you might want to think about answering include:
- What tour provider will you be using?
- Where do you want to travel to? Is it a plus-size friendly destination?
- What kind of activities will you be doing?
- How long are you looking to go for?
- What are the sleeping arrangements like?
Choose A Provider That Has Your Best Interests At Heart
Although there are lots of group tour providers to choose from, not all of them are plus size friendly.
It might take some time when it comes to finding the right tour company for you but once you do, it will definitely help eliminate some of the worries you have.
Things to look out for include plus size people on their social media channels, advice for plus size travellers online and affiliations with plus size influencers. In some cases, you may find specialist plus size tour operators.
If You Have Any Concerns, Reach Out To Your Provider
If you do have concerns when it comes to being plus size on a group tour, reaching out to your provider is a great place to start.
They will be well-experienced and be able to answer any questions you have, especially when it comes to your biggest concerns.
Whether this means asking about the sleeping arrangements or finding out the weight limitations for the included activities, they will definitely be able to put your mind at ease. Although they may not be able to answer everything, it’s always worth calling them for an open and honest chat.
Think About The Itinerary And If It Is Suited To You
When you’re looking at the various different tours that are available you need to be sure you’re looking at the itinerary in great detail. Although I would have loved to try some of the more active tours, I chose one that I knew would be much easier for me to manage in terms of fitness.
Considering your own limitations is the best possible way to ensure you’re picking a tour you enjoy. If you want to be on the go and hiking mountains every day, 100% go for it.
Most tour operators will have a full itinerary and daily descriptions, giving you an idea of what to expect. If you’re looking for further information, you might want to consider searching for blog posts and YouTube videos too. You can’t always guarantee you’ll find one but if you do it can be a great resource.
Consider EVERYTHING That You Need To Pack In Order To Have A Comfortable Trip
Once you have booked your tour and started your travel arrangements, thinking about what you need to pack should be a priority. You want to ensure your trip is as comfortable as it can possibly be and if that means buying some plus size travel essentials, make sure you’re stocking up as soon as you can.
For me, my essentials for a group travel tour definitely include comfortable clothes and a portable fan.
Don’t Forget To Look Into The Sleeping Arrangements (You Can Book A Private Room If You Want)
One of my biggest worries when it comes to my group travel tour was the sleeping arrangements. As I had booked budget accommodation to save money I knew I was spending two weeks camping and as I hadn’t camped as a plus size person, I definitely had concerns. For my guide to camping whilst plus size, you can visit this site here.
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to pay for a single tent, I know a lot of group tours will give you the opportunity to pay extra and stay in a separate room. Whilst it isn’t essential, I know a lot of people prefer to have their own space whilst travelling, especially if they haven’t met the people they’re travelling with before.
Personally, I loved the shared experience and felt it helped us bond instantly. My size didn’t ever come into it.
Explore Ways To Get To Know Your Group Before You Leave
Another great way to put your worries at ease is to try and find a way to get to know your group before you leave. Most group tour operators will have a system that allows you to connect before your tour and if you’re worried, I strongly recommend giving it a go.
Most of the people on my tour joined a Facebook group a couple of months before we were due to travel and because of this, I didn’t feel like I was flying across the pond to meet absolute strangers. I was able to stalk their profiles and more importantly, they were able to stalk mine.
I don’t know why, but I felt much better knowing that most members of my group were able to see that I was plus size BEFORE our first meet in the hotel.
On Your Trip
Remember To Go At Your Own Pace
Once you’ve met your group and started your trip, your adventure will start pretty much straight away. For me, the first stop was Philidelphia for a walking tour of the city.
Almost instantly I noticed I was much further behind the rest of the group but thankfully, they noticed and were soon walking at my pace instead of their own. I’ve read a rule somewhere that you should never walk faster than the slowest member of your group and I honestly think this is perfect when it comes to group travel.
There was one instance that I remember in New Orleans where I had to let my tour guide know that everyone was walking too fast and because of that, she slowed down to walk with me. The important part was that I spoke up and let people know I was struggling.
In most cases, people were walking in groups and getting to know each other, so the pace you walked at wasn’t important.
Know Your Limits And Don’t Push Yourself
Another important thing to bear in mind when on a group travel tour is that you HAVE to know your limits. I found myself reaching my limits on several occasions and when I did, I would take a short break.
Whether that meant staying behind at the campsite or sitting down in a nearby park for an hour or so, I didn’t want to push myself to do more than I could manage.
One of my favourite stories (and simultaneously my least favourite) from my trip with Trek America was from the second day. We had a bike tour of Washington DC included in the price of our tour and knowing that I am *okay* when it comes to cycling I was looking forward to a morning of riding through the city.
The first few stops were okay and with stops in between, I thought it would be a breeze. How wrong was I?
After we had seen the monument and the Capitol building we had to cycle down a road that was made up of gravel. It was difficult to cycle at a slow space so I was going as fast as I could to avoid falling over. Whilst doing this, I pushed myself too hard and my knee decided to lock into place.
I had to stop and once they realised, my tour leader came back to check if I was okay. I said I couldn’t go any further and after admitting defeat, I started to walk back to the rental shop.
As we came to a crossroads I was starting to feel a little better and I knew that turning left would mean going back to the rental shop but if I was to turn right, I could meet the rest of the group at the Lincoln Memorial. Feeling up for the challenge, I decided to turn right and meet everyone at the final stop. After all, I couldn’t go all the way to DC and not see Lincoln, right?
It was a good 20 minutes before they arrived and because of my determination, I was able to finish the tour with everyone else.
I missed a couple of spots and DEFINITELY struggled on the journey back but honestly, I’m proud of myself for carrying on.
Take Advantage Of Long Travel Days
Depending on where you’re travelling you might find that you have a few long travel days ahead of you. Our longest was 8 hours and to be honest, it went super quick.
One of the best things about travel days, of course, is that it is a chance to rest. With just a couple of stops along the way, travel days are actually pretty chilled out. You can catch up on sleep, read a book or spend your time staring out of the window as you pass through incredible places. If I had just one tip to give you, it would definitely be to make the most out of the time you have to chill.
Make Sure You’re Taking Time For Yourself
Being with the same group of people for long periods of time can be incredibly difficult and if you like time to yourself, you need to be sure you’re taking it whenever you get the chance. Whether that means exploring one of the destinations on your own or spending an evening in your room, you gotta do whatever it takes to keep yourself sane. Seriously.
If You’re Travelling Long Distance, Find A Seat That You Find Comfortable (People WILL Understand)
Another small detail that I worried about when booking my trip was whether or not I would be able to find a place in the van that I found comfortable. Knowing that our tour was fully booked meant that each and every seat would need to be filled.
Thankfully, there were two seats that were positioned on their own and both of them were pretty comfortable for me to sit in without feeling like I was squashing everyone else.
Although I didn’t sit there every time, I did speak to those in the group to ask if I could sit there for long journeys, as these were the ones I knew I would struggle with. Obviously, they were all incredibly understanding, making the journeys so much more comfortable than I imagined they would be.
If Something Is Making You Uncomfortable, Speak To Your Tour Leader As Soon As You Can
If you come across something that is making you feel uncomfortable, you need to ensure you’re speaking to your tour leader as soon as you possibly can. If they don’t know that you’re struggling, chances are they’re not going to be able to fix your issue.
Whether you’re struggling with the long journeys or you can’t keep up with the walking pace, the sooner you speak up the better.
Be Yourself & Make Incredible Memories
Finally, in terms of being on your trip, you need to be yourself and make incredible memories.
Although I should never feel this way I often feel as though people will disregard me because of my size but the only thing you can do is be true to yourself. If people don’t like you, that’s their problem.
I loved every single person on my group and by being myself I found that I had the best possible time I could.
After Your Trip
If You Had Any Concerns, Make Sure You’re Voicing Them
Plus size travel still has a long way to go and in most cases, it’s because companies just don’t understand the changes they have to make. If you notice something on your trip or you felt you had lots of concerns when it came to accessibility, you need to be sure you’re following up with them afterwards.
We were given the chance to fill out a survey and if given the chance to do so, you should definitely have your say. You never know, you could help shape the future of the travel industry.
Have you ever been on a group trip? What are your top tips for a plus size traveller looking to book their first trip?