A new guide to traveling — and traveling to eat — while fat

Travelers of all sizes deserve adventure and comfort. Here are some of my favorite places to find both

By Chaya Milchtein

Published April 22, 2022 5:00PM (EDT)

Empty airplane seats in the cabin in sunset light (Getty Images / Anton Petrus)
Empty airplane seats in the cabin in sunset light (Getty Images / Anton Petrus)

"A Fatty's Guide to Traveling and Eating the World" is a monthly travel and food column here at Salon that’s dedicated to helping travelers of all sizes find adventure

Have you ever walked into a restaurant and realized that the chairs were just too small for you? Ever asked for a seat belt extender the moment you walked onto an airplane, because you just knew that the seat belt wouldn't fit? 

Me too.

I'm Chaya Milchtein. I am a fat, queer woman, an automotive educator, a journalist covering cars and travel, and an influencer who takes up space. 

Related: From Iceland to Italy, a Wisconsinite cheesehead's guide to European cheese

Like most fat people, traveling and adventuring comes with its own unique challenges and considerations (and a whole heck of a lot of planning), like digging for weight limits and having to call when aren't listed on typical and nontraditional vacation activities, like helicopter rides, scuba diving, Segways tours and even ATV rentals. 

As an aside, I find it interesting that helicopters are used in emergency situations to carry tons of equipment, medical staff and numerous patients — but somehow can't be used to carry my wife and I. Also, why can't hotels have large plush towels, instead of the tiniest little pieces of fabric I've ever seen? 

I'm not alone. 

Approximately, 67% of women in the United States are above a size 14 — though, it should be noted that statistic comes from an over ten-year-old study, so that number is likely higher and larger. 

Nobody said that traveling while fat is easy, but goddamn, I'm making it happen, and I want to help you do it too. That's why I'm compiling "A Fatty's Guide to Traveling and Eating the World,"  a travel and food column here at Salon that's dedicated to helping travelers of all sizes find adventure

After all, the market is there. Plus size women's apparel is a $24 billion enterprise in the United States alone. However, just as we remain an underserved market in fashion, we certainly are nearly invisible in the realm of mainstream travel media — something I'm looking to change. 

While there is much travel ahead, for a moment, let's look back at some of my very best hotels, restaurants, and experiences around the world to add to your bucket list. 

***

Hotels

The St. Regis - Rome, Italy

You should have seen the grin on my face when I discovered that the plush, glorious towels in this gorgeous hotel could wrap all the way around my body. That feeling is gold! But that wasn't the only reason to love this luxurious hotel in the heart of Rome. Our bed was unbelievably soft, like laying on a cloud — yet still somehow firm — making it easily among the top five hotel beds I've slept on in the world. The staff were top-notch, leaving us feeling like royalty in a hotel that boasts the first ballroom that was open to the public in Rome. 

Hotel De Sers - Paris, France

A massive tub for two in the center of the largest bathroom I've ever seen? Yes, please. Hotel De Sers isn't just a home base while visiting Paris; it's an experience in itself. We were greeted with wine and French pastries and our two-room suite had a kitchenette and a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower. There were two bathrooms in the room, and while one made for a little "too squishy" an experience, the water closet in the main bathroom was plenty big enough for me as it was on the larger side according to European standards. 

Marival Armony - Punta De Mita, Mexico

I just recently got back from Mexico where I stayed in four different hotels. Of the bunch the Marivel Armony was in a category all of its own. Sure, there were the seemingly countless pools and jacuzzis — but the spa was truly next level.

For the first time in my life, I experienced a full-body scrub and mask, which was followed by an unbelievably relaxing massage. There wasn't a word or glace that made me even remotely uncomfortable and, despite my initial hesitation, I allowed the masseuse to even scrub, mask and massage my stomach, which was actually a really pleasant experience. 

***

Food

The Super Expensive Food Tour - Paris, France

The Super Expensive Food Tour (for what it's worth, it comes in at a little over $325) was the very first traditional food tour my wife and I took, and it transformed the way we travel. I was worried that the walking might be too much, but the stops at a variety of local restaurants were well-timed. We had a blind caviar tasting — complete with a thorough education on all the varieties and intricacies — drank delicious cocktails and champagne, and ended an impeccable evening with a delicately fluffy souffle.  

Bruna - Guadalajara, México

First of all, make sure to order a cocktail if you drink. It's a spectacular tableside experience, complete with spun sugar, smoke and other intricate details that leave you mesmerized. The food certainly doesn't play second fiddle. The mole sampler is incredible, but there wasn't a single bite of the entire meal that didn't delight the senses. The chairs were too small, but I grabbed a different one that worked perfectly without issue. 

Mole sampler (Jodyann Morgan)

Mezzanotte - Seattle, Washington

I have to admit, I'm picky. Especially when it comes to pasta. The texture has to be right, the sauce just right, and the balance of flavors should be sinfully good. Mezzanotte nails every single kind of pasta I had the pleasure of trying there. Add in the chewy focaccia, rich burrata, and dessert and you'll leave after a meal that you'll be talking about for a long time. 

Weinkeller - Niagara Falls, Canada 

Five years ago, on a visit to Niagara Falls, my wife and I stumbled onto a restaurant that I can still remember like yesterday. 

We were inexperienced travelers, and this was our first big trip. Our entire trip was a bust as far as food was concerned. Every meal fell short until we stumbled across Weinkeller. Not only is the food locally-sourced, Weinkeller makes their own wine and it's available on tap. The menu is available in a three- or five-course format, and each dish is scratch-made daily. Pure heaven! 

Ardent - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I love food in all kinds of different presentations, but there's just something really special about chef's choice tasting menus. There's no stress about picking the perfect dishes, and the multitude of small-format courses mean that even if something isn't quite up to your taste, there's more coming. And Ardent, in my hometown, truly nails the tasting menu, with finesse and next-level skill going into every bite.

***

Experiences 

Blue Lagoon - Grindavík, Iceland 

They say that the Blue Lagoon is one of the wonders of the world — and while I wouldn't quite describe it that way, it's a magnificent spa with killer views and in-water massages that transport you into another universe. The Blue Lagoon has two hotels, multiple restaurants, and lava fields as far as the eye can see. Bring your own robe though if you are over a size 20/22, as the largest robe was a bit too small on me. 

Borola Café Coffee Tasting - Mexico City, Mexico

This coffee-tasting experience at a locally owned cafe in Mexico City taught me to really understand coffee, from picking up the notes in different types of coffee to learning the best way to do a pour over. I came in having never really enjoyed the taste of a regular cup of coffee, and left having thoroughly enjoyed the first black coffee to ever pass my lips. And the fresh-from-the-oven Mexican pastries were just the icing on the cake.

Hot Tub Boats - Seattle, Washington

Heaven must feel like a soak in a Hot Tub Boat — which is exactly what it sounds like — leisurely floating on Lake Union. Maneuvered by a joystick, the boat can easily be navigated and doesn't exceed 5 miles per hour. The company provides a wireless speaker so you can set the mood, and a dry storage area so you don't soak anything that… should not be soaked. Bring a cooler and snacks, and enjoy! 

Oh, and this is important. When I visited, Hot Tub Boats only offered relatively small towels. After seeing my post on social media, they immediately sought to remedy this, because plus size people deserve towels too!

Vintage Car Ride - Paris, France

Okay, the vintage car ride from Viator I took with three other people was definitely a bit smooshy, but I'm not telling you to cram everyone in. This is the perfect Paris experience for lovebirds. Not only do you get to see the city while riding around in the back of a top-down vintage beauty, but you get a tour, a fantastic view from an observation point, and photos to keep the memory alive. Worth every penny. 

Follow along next month for a deep-dive into my next adventure. We're going to Las Vegas, baby!

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Chaya Milchtein

Chaya Milchtein is an automotive educator and journalist who writes about cars, plus size fashion, queer life and love, and sometimes, food and travel. Her work has in Real Simple, Parents Magazine, Xtra Magazine, Al Jazeera, Shondaland and others.

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