A person waves from a middle seat on a plane.

Buckle Up, Buttercup

Let’s talk about air travel. You know, that magical experience where you’re crammed into a metal tube hurtling through the sky, surrounded by strangers, and praying that the person next to you is not going to give you the death stare. If you are unable to purchase 2 tickets or are not flying Southwest Airlines under their Customer of Size policy, here are some lighthearted, but useful tips to help you.

Seatmates and armrests

Picture this: You’re settling into your seat, and the armrest becomes the battleground. It’s like a game of musical chairs, but instead of music, there’s tension in the air. As a plus-size traveler, I’ve become an expert in the dreaded armrest tango. Sometimes, I win and the armrest is mine, and I claim it with a triumphant People's Elbow drop. Other times, I lose. The armrest is already occupied by a territorial neighbor who shoots me a look that says, "This is my turf. You lose."

Tip #1: When boarding, stake your claim early. Plant those elbows firmly and let your seatmate know you mean business. If they resist, channel your inner wrestler and go for the pin.

Seat belt extenders

Ah, the seat belt — the ultimate litmus test for plus-size travelers. Will it click? Or will it mock you with its stubborn refusal? Airlines have rules: If you can’t comfortably fit in one seat with the armrests down, you might need to book 2 adjacent seats. But fear not! Seat belt extenders are your secret weapon. They’re like the superhero capes of the aviation world—except they don’t make you fly faster (bummer).

Tip #2: Befriend the Extender: If you feel uncomfortable just asking for one outright, you can do so discreetly, like a spy exchanging secret codes. Buckle up, and voilà! You’re ready for takeoff. Do not trade safety for your pride. If your seat belt does not buckle for real, the flight attendant will give you one anyway.

Middle seats

The middle seat is a vortex of awkwardness, where you are sandwiched between 2 strangers, both of whom are likely to be unhappy to have an obese person sitting next to them. This is the unvarnished truth. As a fat flyer, this is my Bermuda Triangle. How do I survive?

Tip #3: Own your space. You have every right to be flying to your destination to handle your own business. It is a mighty hard lift, but this is the time to hold your head up high and remain contented. Do not give into the temptation to ask for forgiveness for your size by acting as anything other than yourself. You should not apologize for existing in your body.

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Glances and side-eyes

People stare. It’s a fact. Some glance discreetly, while others gawk like they’ve stumbled upon a mythical creature. As a plus-size traveler, I have tried to perfect the art of ignoring judgmental looks. It takes work to focus on my own tasks when you feel the heat of eyes staring you down. But here’s the secret: Most people are too busy worrying about their own lives to care about yours.

Tip #4: Be one of those people. I am certain that you have something going on in your life that is worthy of your immediate attention. That is what a cellphone, a book, or a magazine are for! Put your full attention into those and soon you will not worry about the people who are worried about you.

In-flight snacks

Let’s talk about in-flight snacks. The real mile-high club. Those tiny bags of pretzels? Child’s play. I’ve upgraded my snack game. I pack a survival kit: almonds, chocolate, and backup granola bars. Anything that I consider a favorite. Why? Because when turbulence hits, I need sustenance. And nothing soothes the soul like a settled stomach.

Tip #5: Unleash your inner snack boss. When the beverage cart rolls by, you do not have to only settle for what is offered. Politely request extra snack. Most flight attendants will respond kindly and ask what you would like. And if the noisy stranger next to you raises an eyebrow, just wink and say, "I’m building my own mile-high club."

Embrace the adventure

Traveling as a fat person has its challenges, but it can also be a grand adventure. So, pack your confidence, your favorite snacks, and that oversized garment you love. Remember, the sky belongs to everyone, no matter their size. And as you soar above the clouds, know that you’re defying gravity, stereotypes, and the occasional grumpy seatmate. Bon voyage, fellow wanderer. May your journey be as fabulous as your carry-on luggage.

*Note: This article is not sponsored by any airline, but I will take extra snacks and beverages and a seat in an empty row.

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