A packed car, medication bag, phone, passport, baggage claim, airplane, and an airport working pushing an empty wheelchair

Travel Tips for People With Obesity

Traveling can be exciting. But for people with obesity, it can present unique challenges. This guide will explore some common problems travelers with obesity face. You will also find practical tips to make your journey safe and comfortable.

Weight discrimination

Sadly, those who are overweight or obese often face weight bias. Prejudice about body size when traveling can leave you feeling isolated. But you are not alone. Over 93 million Americans live with obesity.1

Dealing with the negative attitudes of others can be painful. But you are not responsible for the biases of others. Focus on self-care, and advocate for your needs. Your comfort is just as important as that of a person of lower weight.1

Airline tips for travelers with obesity

Tiny airline seats can be a source of frustration and embarrassment. Here are some tips to make your travel more pleasant:

Contact your airline directly

Ask about their “customer of size policy.” If you cannot sit comfortably in a single seat with the armrests lowered, airlines may require you to book 2 adjacent seats. Some airlines will refund or discount the extra seat.2,3

Find the best seat

SeatGuru provides details about seat size on specific routes and planes.4

Arrive early

Give yourself enough time at the airport to move comfortably:5

  • From check-in
  • Through security
  • To your departure gate

Seating arrangements

Confirm your seating arrangement at the ticket counter. If you need extra time or help boarding the plane, ask the gate agent about pre-boarding.5

Seat belt extender

Ask your flight attendant for a seat belt extender if your seat belt does not fit comfortably.2

If you face discrimination during air travel, you can ask to speak with the airline’s Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). You can also file a complaint with the Department of Transportation (DOT). The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) forbids airlines from discriminating against passengers because of disability.6,7

Addressing mobility limitations

Some travelers with obesity may have mobility limitations. Planning ahead using the steps below can help ensure ease of access and comfort:8,9

Request mobility assistance

To ensure your accessibility needs are met, contact your airline at least 48 hours before your travel date. Let them know of your exact needs, such as wheelchair assistance or priority boarding.8,9

Research public transit and tour accessibility

Before your trip, research the accessibility features of your destination's public transport system and available tour options. This can help you plan activities that suit your needs.9

Check hotel accessibility

Contact your hotel before your visit to ensure a comfortable stay. Ask about accessible rooms and bathrooms. This step is crucial when traveling out of the country, as accessibility standards can vary.10

Weight and size limits for adventure travel

Some adventure activities like bungee jumping or theme park rides enforce weight or size limits. This is done to maintain safety standards and reduce the risk of injury or accidents. To prepare for these, you can:11

  • Review policies in advance: Before you leave home, review the policies of your tour operators or theme parks.
  • Understand seat and restraint setup: Some activities may have limits because of their seat or restraint design.
  • Contact customer service: Contact your adventure provider with specific questions.

Cruise tips for travelers with obesity

The ease of access of cruise ships varies. A little extra planning will help you ensure smooth sailing for your next cruise:12

Booking your cruise

Contact guest services to book. Ask about the accessibility of:12

  • Staterooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Dining areas
  • Theaters
  • Shore excursions

Expert advice

Check out Royal Caribbean’s tips on accessible cruising.12

Port accessibility

Some ports may have limited access for those with mobility limitations. Consider cruise operators and destinations that best fit your needs.13

Personal mobility devices

Let your cruise operator know if you are traveling with a wheelchair or scooter. This will help ensure your room will meet your needs.12

Tips to stay healthy for travelers with obesity

Traveling is more fun when you take steps to ensure your well-being. Here are some key tips to help you make the most of your journey:

Wear comfortable shoes

Well-cushioned shoes are a must for any traveler.14

Plan rest breaks

Allow time to relax and recharge.

Stay hydrated

Drink a lot of water. When traveling out of the country, drink bottled water with no ice cubes to reduce your risk of illness from contaminated water.15

Prevent blood clots

Long periods of sitting can lead to blood pooling in the legs. This can increase the risk of blood clots. These clots are called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). To prevent DVT, every 2 to 3 hours, you should:16

  • Stand up
  • Stretch
  • Take short walks

For more tips on how to prevent DVT, consult the DVT page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).16

Travel health/medical insurance

Consider buying travel medical insurance. Providers like those below offer a range of plans:17-19

  • Travel Guard
  • Allianz Travel Insurance
  • GeoBlue

The world is ready for you to explore. Do not let worries about your weight hold you back. Take charge of your travel experience by planning ahead. Travel safely!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Have you taken our In America Survey yet?