By Emily Payne for MailOnline
Published: 27 February 2015
Travelling can be testing when you’re carrying extra weight.
Whether it’s squeezing into too small plane seats, discomfort in hotels or not being able to join more active tour groups, being a larger person comes with tribulations.
But thanks to a thoughtful travel company in the U.S overweight travellers needn’t be restricted in their travel plans.
Tony Harrell, CEO of Abundant Travel, and board member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, says people deserve their first choice of holiday ‘no matter what their size’.
Harrells’ main inspiration, was his wife, who is as he describes her ‘a larger person’.
‘While working in another area of the travel industry, I started to hear numerous stories from the plus-sized friends in my social circle about the challenges they faced in planning and enjoying their vacations,’ he said.
‘One of them happens to be the lady who would later become my wife.’
‘I was inspired by my experience getting to know friends of size across North America, especially my wife with whom I have taken numerous trips.
The average plane seat has shrunk to the point where many average or ‘typical-sized’ people feel cramped.
‘Having listened to their concerns, I have gained a rare understanding of the needs of the traveller of size. I saw an opportunity to fill a need for an understanding travel consultant for travelers of size,’ he says.
Harrell lists the concerns of the overweight traveller as worrying about whether hotels can cater for them; if staff will be friendly and whether locations are known for glamorous thin types, or regular people of every shape and size.
Using his travel expertise and contacts, Harrell books hotels, flights, holiday rentals and cruises for his customers, whom he treats with the utmost respect.
‘I offer access to my knowledge base and industry contacts in order to maximize the comfort level of my clients,’ he says.
TIPS FOR OVERWEIGHT TRAVELLERS
Book your flights early for the best airfare and seat selection
Many airlines will enforce the purchase of a second seat if you cannot lower both arm reset and fasten the seatbelt.
The average plane seat is 18 inches. A window seat gives more shoulder room, but the same hip room.
On many planes the seats in First are larger, but the arm rests do not necessarily go up between them.
Book your second ‘comfort seat’ directly with the airline rather than on-line to ensure your seat selection is correct.
Familiarise yourself with the airports you will be travelling to and from. Wheelchairs and electric buggies are often available if you need them.
Source: Association for Airline Passenger Rights
‘I might endeavour to confirm that clients who have acknowledged their limited mobility receive rooms that are close to the elevator.In some cases, I may request an accessible room, whether or not they have need of a wheelchair or scooter.
‘For those who want to sight-see, I might recommend a private car rental/hire with a personal driver.
‘For those who just want to relax at a resort, I might recommend a smaller boutique property rather than the larger hotels.
‘The most consistent challenge would be air travel,’ says Harrell, who says when he flies with his wife, the couple always book three seats.
‘The average plane seat has shrunk to the point where many average or “typical-sized” people feel cramped. The situation is even more amplified for passengers of size.
‘I help my clients determine whether it’s best to invest in additional or upgraded seating or, when available, choose the rare airlines that are willing to accommodate customers of size at little to no extra investment.’
Where does he recommend for larger travellers? ‘The destination I enjoy promoting the most is New Orleans, Louisiana right here in the States,’ he says. ‘I find the laid-back joie de vivre to be welcoming for most anyone. It doesn’t hurt that restaurants are usually rather generous with their portions.
‘I offer my clients the opportunity to be candid about their needs and concerns with someone who will be understanding and respectful.
‘As for the typical vacation investment, “the sky’s the limit” as the saying goes. It all depends on what kind of experience the client wants and how much they are willing to invest to make it happen.