Travelling by plane is the quickest way to get to your destination, whether you are on a business trip or a well-earned vacation. That’s probably the reason why over six million people fly somewhere on a daily basis. However, flying isn’t always comfortable, especially if you’re flying in economy class or with a budget airline (or both).
It’s essential that you spend your journey as snug as a bug in a rug, so you won’t end up with sore feet after a restless flight. Here’s a list of pieces that'll keep you warm, comfy, and worry-free while in the air, based on advice from seasoned frequent flyers and flight attendants.
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First, we’ll take a look at essential air travel clothes for all occasions, with an eye toward long-haul flights where comfort is the highest priority. Then, we’ll also talk about case-specific clothing for travelling business people and holidayers.
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The number one quality to look for when choosing your top is breathability. Flying isn’t just about sitting in the air-conditioned cabin of the plane. It’s also about the long waits during check-in, the dreadful delays, and when you arrive at your destination. That’s why you should wear something that’s soft, stretchy, absorbent, and keeps your skin happy.
These features often come from natural fibres like silk, cotton, linen, or synthetic materials (including moisture-wicking fabrics that are becoming increasingly popular). However, don’t run out to buy a brand-new top right away. Any shirt that you’ve loved wearing daily or around the house would do just fine.
You’ll want to take your arrival conditions into account as well. Hot summer months will likely call for a T-shirt or a loose short-sleeved shirt. “Sweater weather” means you can take a cardigan or, well, a sweater.
Pockets can come in handy when handling a bunch of paperwork and there’s no surface to put your phone and wallet on. Colours matter, too, since darker colours and patterns won’t show stains as much while also retaining heat from the sun better.
A tip for frequent fliers: plane travel is one of the situations where layering is most helpful. Put on an undershirt to keep your sweat in check, a light blouse or shirt to cover it up, then throw on a trench coat or a heavy jacket that you can’t fit in your luggage, and maybe a scarf to top it all off.
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Similar to your tops, you want to find gentle, absorbent, skin-friendly trousers. Loose-fitting trousers usually work best, but if you can find leggings that don’t fit too tight, they might give you more style. Avoid belts at all costs, and instead, go for an elastic waistband or, as a second option, trousers with drawstrings.
Jeans are a no-go, even skinny ones, since sitting for long periods can limit your blood flow and cause your legs and feet to swell. We don’t really recommend shorts, as feeling the seat or the touch of other people’s bare skin isn’t a great experience. This is also why skirts aren’t very common. If you still want to rock a skirt or dress you haven’t worn in a while, add stockings for some security.
Joggers and track pants are very popular with those going for a casual look, mainly because they’re essential sports clothes and wrinkle-free. Nowadays, however, there are plenty of alternatives that are hybrids between a formal look and personal comforts, such as stretchy chinos, khakis and tech trousers. Again, you should always go for those with pockets to minimise any fumbling around with all the small stuff in your hands.
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This is a piece often overlooked by travellers, mainly because they only think about where they’re going and not about the plane ride to get there. Flip-flops are commonly seen on holidayers heading to the tropics or the beach. However, many flying veterans advise against wearing any open-toe footwear. That includes flip-flops, slides, high heels, and most sandals.
Getting on and off the plane usually means getting up close and personal with other passengers, so closed toes are the way to go if you want to avoid toe-stepping and painful stubs.
Slip-on shoes are a fantastic mix of comfort, flexibility, and style. Make sure they’re flat, so you can tread and stand around without feeling tired and constrained. Being breathable is also important, you don’t want to faint at your own odour when you take your shoes off. Bonus points if the shoes are lightweight and don’t take up too much space in your baggage.
Socks are, of course, a crucial accessory as well. Usually, most socks would do just fine. Still, frequent fliers often turn to compression socks for the most comfort, especially for long cramped flights. They tighten up your feet slightly to improve your blood flow and keep all those pins and needles (also known as paresthesia) away.
For those booked for long-haul flights (about 6 hours and above), taking your shoes off while on the plane can do wonders for your feet. As mentioned, they’ll often swell and become uncomfortable after sitting in one place for too long. In addition, one tip always mentioned by flight attendants is to avoid stumbling around the cabin barefoot at all costs, therefore you should keep your socks on. To prevent your socks from getting wet going to the toilet, packing some travel-friendly slippers can be the solution. You might find them useful around the hotel room, too.
On the other hand, if you know you’re not gonna spend that much time at the airport and in the air, wearing your biggest and heaviest pair of shoes (like tall boots) also helps. Your baggage will be lighter to lug around the airport and during security check-in.
Accessories & others
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As we mentioned before, layering can save you a lot of hassle when flying. A common example is when there’s a long, cold air-conditioned flight between your hot, humid departure and arrival. A scarf or travel blanket, then, is an easy solution: it keeps you cosy while in the air and you can chuck it in your carry-on right after.
All kinds of scarves will do, including wraps, shawls, and pashminas. Cashmere and wool come to mind as the most comfortable and accessible materials you can get. Here’s a tip: if you don’t want the flight attendants to wake you up for a seatbelt check, make sure they can see your seatbelt by keeping it uncovered and visible.
As for women’s items, bras can be inherently uncomfortable as you toss and turn in your seat. Alternatively, a wireless bra with wide straps can keep all your worries to a minimum.
This type of bra doesn’t prick your chest or squeeze your shoulder, allowing for some much-needed comfort. Some people would be fine with regular sports bras, but others might not prefer them because of the tighter fit.
Travelling for Work
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Business trips can get pretty hectic, and you don’t want to look scruffy meeting with a partner or client right after landing. Try to make the most of your time by freshening up in the toilet before landing or use your layover time to get a change of clothes.
Below are things to wear for a professional look that is also comfortable and relaxed at the same time.
“Smart casual” clothes
Once again, layering is your friend. A cardigan or blazer over a plain T-shirt means you can be versatile: easily switch between settling into your seat with a replaceable layer and looking sleek strutting to a meeting.
Trousers are a little trickier. You might have to turn to travel-specialised clothing that can hold its form well and keep you cool and dry throughout the flight. Once you’ve invested in a good pair, you can wear them for several flights for a long while.
If you’re a busy person who’s always pushed for time, you should try to find some comfortable travel attire that can resist wrinkles. Non-iron suits, jackets and trousers can be found in almost any online store like Marks & Spencer or Charles Tyrwhitt.
You’ll likely not mess up your footwear selection if you read our coverage above, since most of them are already formal enough for the meeting room. Some work-specific shoes you can wear for plane trips include wedge heels, lace-ups with soft leather, or breathable suede.
>> May be you also like: Business Trip Packing List
Travelling for Vacation
For some people, boarding a plane for a well-earned vacation is a time to dress up. On the contrary, we think that comfort should come first when choosing what to wear for your flight: It should be comfortable enough that you can move around freely (especially without having to loosen or taking off a layer) for a few hours, yet presentable at the same time so people won’t think you went straight to the airport in your pyjamas.
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Thankfully, loungewear is now available in so many styles and levels of decency. Loungewear can keep you feeling your best whether you're in the air, on a train, on a bus or even driving. These outfits will definitely be perfect for relaxing vacations, when you don’t want to do anything but laze around in your hotel or resort.
For example, long-sleeved hoodies and trousers are great for temperate or cooler weather, while shorts and T-shirts make a great outfit for the tropics. Choosing your loungewear set should be based on where you’re headed, although there are also one-size-fits-all types. Think light sweaters, sweatpants, or tracksuits.
Usually, if you’ve decided to go casual for your vacation flight, you probably already have in mind what shoes to wear. Your favourite pair of sneakers, whether they’re flats or trainers, will do just fine. You won’t go wrong with anything you enjoy wearing day to day.
>> Check out: The Essential Travel Packing List
What are the best tops to wear when travelling by plane?
Depending on your destination, you can choose a T-shirt or short-sleeved shirt for warmer weather, or a cardigan or sweater for cooler climates. Just make sure that they’re breathable and absorbent.
What are the best bottoms for travelling by plane?
Here are a few recommendations for travel trousers: joggers, track pants or other loose-fitting options. Leggings or skirts are occasionally fine as well. Stay away from jeans or tight dress pants.
What kind of accessories should I bring on a plane?
An essential item for many frequent fliers is a scarf or travel blanket (including similar pieces like wraps, shawls, or pashminas). A pair of socks would be ideal to keep yourself warm, too.