Overweight, Over Fifty – Travelling Light

The days when I could shove a couple of tee shirts and a pair of jeans with some clean socks and underwear into a rucksack and take off for a month are long gone. So are the days when I could travel with an almost empty suitcase and buy a new wardrobe on the spot when I reached my destination.

This website has some useful tips and I go along whole-heartedly with these basic principles. My slender, long-legged friend who at 70 has kept the same shape and size she was at 17, can still get away with a carry-on bag filled with sun tops, shorts and a fine cotton wrap that acts as scarf, sarong, skirt or stole. So she would have no quarrel with the Travel Fashion Girl’s selection.

But the older, plumper woman has to be careful in her choice of garments, and needs to be aware that bat wings and blancmange thighs with roadmap veins are better concealed.  Coverage for upper arms means sleeves: tops and dresses for larger ladies contain quite a lot more material, as do longer skirts and trousers, because minis and shorts are usually out unless you want to look like mutton dressed as lamb. So clothes also take up more room in your luggage.

What should you actually take, then? Not only should your outfits be flattering, you want to feel comfortable, too. The Travel Fashion Girl lists 10, 9 and 6 basic mix ‘n’ match items in the categories:

  • Top
  • Skirt
  • Dress
  • Trousers

Her travels seem to be to warm summery climes, as she has no sweaters, jackets or rain coats in her luggage, but maybe she wears those to travel in or carries them over her arm. She also recommends layering.

That reminds me of my trips home from University at the end of each academic year, when I always seemed to be bringing back more than I had taken, and even after selling off half my books and getting three friends to sit on my trunk so it could be fastened and strapped up, I would still travel home on the train on a sweltering hot day in late June wearing three sets of underwear, two skirts and tops and maybe a dress and trousers underneath. With a coat on top of it all.

Obviously, it isn’t easy to fit ten items, plus underwear and toiletries, into a carry-on bag if you are a size 18 rather than an 8. My cousin sometimes solves the volume problem by vacuum packing, but that isn’t always an option.

The essential criteria for your travel wardrobe are style, colour, quality, and above all versatility. Oprah has some excellent advice on what not to wear, plus some convincing makeovers, having personally experienced almost every size and shape in her dieting adventures but that goes beyond my brief here.

First, stick to a basic colour scheme that allows every single item to be worn with everything else – possibly several at a time. Black and white (with grey) or beige and cream (with brown) are the classics, depending on your hair colour, and you can brighten them up with accessories like scarves, handbags, shoes and jewellery. Choose simple styles that can be dressed up or down.

Good quality textiles travel better than cheap ones and a fat woman looks better in a stronger fabric than in a flimsy one that clings to her spare tyre and emphasises every unwanted bulge. Make sure everything is washable and will pack without creasing; Skinny Lizzie can get away with the crumpled look but it will make a plump older woman look like a bag lady rather than merely casual. A blazer will probably prove more versatile than a cardigan and looks smarter than a parka.

The purpose of your trip will also impact on what you need to take with you. Older women are not always travelling on holiday or for pleasure. Many are off on business trips or visiting family, as this is the sandwich generation, meaning they may have to nip off to look after grandchildren or elderly relatives, and practicality is essential.

So how can you squeeze everything into a case that you can manage by yourself, and preferably one that is small enough to carry on? My solution is to put everything out on my bed and weed out whatever doesn’t meet the above criteria. Then I select again and again, often eliminating things I’d really like to take but that simply aren’t suitable or versatile enough. And then I pack. And find, on arriving, that I have forgotten something important – but usually I can manage without it.

Here are some more travelling tips:

  • A nightie takes up less room than pyjamas and weighs less, too.
  • Wear your bulkiest clothes to travel in, including your heaviest shoes.
  • Roll sweaters and cardigans to prevent fold marks and lay them along the sides of your case.
  • Lay trousers flat with the ends of the legs overlapping the end of the case, place other items on top then turn the ends of the trousers over. This avoids creases across the legs.
  • Use pretty, distinctive plastic bags: knickers in one, bras in another, tee shirts together, woollies together, and one bag for dirty laundry. This is not only very handy if you are staying in a different place every night, but helps to keep things lying flat when you have been rummaging about in your suitcase.
  • I also put all toiletries and makeup together with my sponge bag into a waterproof plastic bag just in case something leaks.
  • Take drip-dry garments: you might have to wash them. Also, if your dresses, tops or trousers are creased when you unpack them, hang them in the shower, spray with warm water, and then leave them overnight to dry. This saves taking a travel iron.
  • Fold your dirty clothes flat rather than screwing them into a ball! They’ll take up less space.
  • Leave room for the extra stuff you will inevitably bring back.
  • You may have to carry your case yourself even if it has wheels, so make sure it isn’t too heavy for you. There isn’t always a gallant gentleman handy who’s prepared to help you with it, as there might have been twenty years ago.

There – off you go! Fat-bottomed girls – you make the world go round. Bon voyage!

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11 thoughts on “Overweight, Over Fifty – Travelling Light

  1. I was quite pleased with my limited selection on all my travels last autumn – and managed my bags ok (well, the big one when I took things – like blankets! – back with me was a bit excessive!), but I do usually manage to get a decent little capsule wardrobe into my little orange wheeled case, and I managed a week in the US with a carry-on, too, so I hope you give me a good grade ;)…

  2. bat wings ? Please tell me what they are. And what do you mean by vacuum packing? Yes, when travelling you usually have to give a lot of thought into what you’re packing. At my age (78) I still haven’t come to grips with what to take and what to leave home. I usually take a few things that I end up not needing or wearing during my travels. Then I think instead of this and that I could have taken something else that would have been more useful.
    Some of your tips might come in very handy one day . Yes, would you believe, even oldies like me do keep on travelling!

    • As far as vacuum packing is concerned, I think I know now what you mean. You probably fold the things in such a way that the most possible items fit into a small space. I actually do this quite a lot. My brother, who used to be a seaman in his younger days, taught me this. When you roll trousers and shirts, it’s amazing how much more fits in. And things that you roll tightly don’t crease!
      I see in your travelling tips you mention something similar. I reckon these tips are great! Thank you for reminding me that I should take great care in selecting things that I really need on my travels.

    • Bat wings are the sagging muscles (triceps I think) on the underpart of the top of the arm as you get older and less toned. Vacuum packing is packing your things in an airtight plastic bag and then, with a vacuum cleaner, sucking all the air out so it all goes very flat and takes up less room.

      • Ah, bat wings. For sure I know all about them! I just didn’t have a name for them. As far a vacuum packing is concerned, now this is really something. Thanks for explaining how this is done. Have a lovely weekend, Cath.

  3. Great post! This October, all my “girl cousins” (ages 63-74) are meeting for a reunion, and your suggestions are great. One cousin sent an email saying we should all just take all the dress up clothes and outfits we want, and ship them in boxes ahead of time to whatever hotel where we’ll be staying. Now THAT makes me nervous on so many levels. Not the least is that my box would be the one that got lost or didn’t arrive on time, and I’d be washing out jeans and a sweater every night! I’ll go with your suggestions!

    • Ooh, I’d never risk that!! Your best tiara and Jimmy Choo shoes :-D? I once spent the 4 days of a long weekend conference in the clothes I had travelled in because my case didn’t arrive until I was about to leave. Since then, I’ve always taken at least once change of underwear and a basic outfit with me.

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