1 in 648 Americans is 6’6″ or taller. That’s less than 0.15% of the population! Being so tall seems like a great advantage to many shorter (read: normal sized) people. They think of the advantages such as reaching objects on a high shelf, dominating in a game of basketball, being able to touch on your tiptoes in the deep end, and of course, always being able to see over people in a crowd.
Have you ever picked a fight with someone only to have them stand up from behind their table and tower over you by a full foot? Gentle giant or not, intimidation factor is a huge asset to being tall!
Seems great, right? Well, most of the time, sure. But there is one major disadvantage to being 6’6″ or taller: virtually nothing was made with you in mind.
Cars were meant for normal sized people. Amusement park rides were meant for normal sized people. Clothes were meant for normal sized people. Airplane seats, sleeping bags, prepackaged meals, doorways, stadium seats, and beds were meant for normal sized people. Your whole life you’re constantly being crammed into places that you simply don’t fit. It’s downright discriminatory!
Of all the nuisances very tall people must experience, the one that is most difficult to get around is traveling. When traveling–short or tall–you’re kinda stuck in a seat or a room or a car without many options. If you don’t fit, it becomes a miserable experience.
Very tall people are at the distinct disadvantage of always having to pay extra for specially sized things on the road. Extra fees for the exit row seat on an airplane. Higher prices for the spacious rental cars whose steering wheels you can actually fit behind. Hotel rooms where your head can actually fit under the shower head and your feet don’t hang off the bed.
This is where I switch to writing in the first-person. I–yes, yours truly, the author of all the How To Do That blog posts–am one of those very tall individuals, and I know what it’s like. I am a fairly frequent flyer, and have never once asked if special accommodations could be made for me. Until now.
What better way to learn the truths of travel than our old friend Twitter!
I polled four of America’s best-known airlines: Delta, Southwest, American, and United, and asked them if they make special accommodations for the very tall. I knew what they were going to say: you can pay extra for a special seat. But I want an airline that will bend over backwards for me and realize that I may not be able to fit in a regular seat. Well, predictably, here were their responses, in order they were received (bonus points to Southwest for having by far the quickest reply of just 30 seconds! Delta took several hours.).
- Southwest: “While bulkhead seats are not always available, you can purchase Upgraded Boarding in hopes that you get one.”
- American: “We have Main Cabin Extra seats that provide more room or seats in the exit row.”
- United: “Hey Ryan, we would recommend checking out our Economy Plus seats for your next travel: bit.ly/1LT1Ozd.”
- Delta: “If traveling in the Main Cabin, you may want to look into purchasing a Delta Comfort + seat. Delta Comfort + offers up to 3 more inches of legroom on domestic flights and up to 4 inches on int’l flights.”
An existing article by the Huffington Post goes into detail and mentions that JetBlue, with 33″ per seat, is the best default option for the tall passenger. That’s one more very valuable inch than you’ll get anywhere else! Second place was Virgin America and Southwest, tying at 32″. So, I guess if you can’t buy your way into feeling in your extremities, you can just fly those airlines, if available.
Likewise, I polled four of America’s most common/popular hotel chains and asked them if special room accommodations were available for the unusually tall guest. Those chains (the first four to come to mind) were Holiday Inn, Omni, Best Western, and Four Seasons. I received quite the array of expected responses.
- Holiday Inn (IHG): “Please call the hotel directly on your query. Let us know the location (city and state) of the hotel you’re looking at so we may provide you with their contact information. Thanks.”
- Omni Hotels: “Could you please DM us where you’re interested in staying? We’d be happy to help!” I told them Minneapolis, to which they replied “We don’t have any Omni properties there. Best of luck to you.”
- Best Western: “Each Best Western branded hotel is independently owned and operated so accommodations vary per location.”
- Four Seasons: Did not respond within 12 hours! The nerve.
So, not much help there either. It sounds like I’d have to contact an individual hotel, not the corporate chain.
Furthermore, I reached out to Amtrak, Greyhound, and Hertz regarding train, bus, and car travel for the Big Bird sized men of the world. I even reached out to Trunk Club to ask about business clothing, because that frequently goes hand-in-hand with travel. I thought about asking Dollar Shave Club about razors for tall men, but didn’t want to dilute the credibility of this post.
- Hertz: “You may want to book for a Mid-size SUV class then work with the local team to ensure it is comfortable for you.”
- TrunkClub: “Yes we do! You can find our sizes at bit.ly/2xnIuKL under “#4. What sizes do you carry?””
- Amtrak and Greyound: Did not respond in the time limit I imposed. Good riddance to them!
OK, so all of that legwork and really no special insight from anyone. I was hoping one of them would say “Yes! If you’re over 6’10” we have a special room with extra high ceilings and a 12-foot bed!” Some light research showed that the Kimpton hotel chain, as well as the W Dallas, have extra long beds. Theoretically, though, anyone can book them.
The flip side to seeking out special accommodations is you’ve now lost the ‘pity’ card. Before, if you just went with the flow and crammed into a tiny seat, people might feel sorry for you and be extra nice. But if you give up that nicety and demand special treatment for what other people probably view as a great asset, people will now sneer at you. “That son of a bitch gets special treatment for being tall? Boo-hoo, book first class next time, a-hole,” you will undoubtedly hear.
I guess the only foolproof way to travel as a tall person is to just drive and take your own car, and camp out the whole time. That’s not very realistic, of course. Here are a few other hacks to consider when traveling to get the most out of every square inch.
- Push two bed together in a hotel room and sprawl out across both.
- The best way to fit your legs into a standard main cabin airplane seat is to cross your legs and then put your feet as far under your own seat as possible.
- Purposely take up even more space than necessary to entice the person next to you to move, if you spot an open seat somewhere else on the plane.
- Openly complain about how cramped you are. Maybe someone will scoot over just a pinch.
- Bang your head getting on a plane, or duck extra far down walking down the aisle to over-exaggerate your height problem in hopes someone will notice.
- Stick your long legs out in the aisle of the plane at every opportunity to show how uncomfortable you are. Maybe you’ll get lucky and the flight attendants will take note and bring you a drink or something.
Sorry. There just aren’t very many loopholes. Airplanes may have some seats with a tiny bit more room for hundreds of extra dollars, but the fact remains that your average domestic carrier, standard hotel, and most automobiles simply were not built for you.
Products a Tall Person May Appreciate
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My Hot Take:
I personally had a great experience flying in the first row of Allegiant recently. With no First Class, there was nothing in front of me for at least five feet! I generally will make a point to tell everyone who wants to listen that I’m 6’6″ and “it’s a squeeze, but I’m sure I’ll be fine” and then really do my best to look super cramped.
Tall people will have little luck finding special accommodations while traveling.