What to Wear on a Long Flight

By Meg Jernigan; Updated August 11, 2017

Comfortable clothes to wear on the plane when you're in for the long haul

What to Wear on a Long Flight

Comfort, fabric and fit are the watchwords for long-distance air travel. Keep in mind that you’ll be wearing the same outfit while you shuttle to the terminal from your car, go through security and traipse to your gate. Leave the sweats at home. A fashion-forward ensemble that’s also comfortable lets you hit the ground running when you reach your destination.

Best choices for a long flight

Create a “comfy chic” outfit of loose, lightweight clothing that isn’t binding or constricting. No one will know you’re wearing slacks with an elastic waistband if you wear an untucked blouse or shirt over them.

Add a flowing cardigan or an oversized scarf for warmth. Lightweight fabrics like cashmere or jersey compact well for tucking into a carry-on. Consider a sweater or jacket with sleeves that can be pushed up so you don’t have to take it off and store it when the cabin gets warmer.

Choose comfortable slip-on shoes for getting through security more quickly at the airport, and pack slippers to wear on the plane. Wear socks under them so you’re never barefooted. Travelers who are at risk of deep vein thrombosis, a condition where blood clots form in the legs, should always wear compression socks on flights.

Things to leave at home (or pack in your luggage)

Take a look in the mirror before heading to the airport and ask yourself if any of your clothing could be deemed inappropriate. Flight attendants can ask you to leave the plane if they spot offensive attire. Low-cut blouses, T-shirts with expletives and even leggings have gotten passengers removed from flights. If in doubt, check the airline’s webpage for their dress code. Like it or not, they make the rules.

Heavy fragrances are a no-no on flights. Other passengers may be allergic, or they simply may not enjoy the same aromas. If you must apply cologne or perfume, keep a small bottle in a carry-on and apply it after landing.

Carry a small crossbody bag instead of a big purse or courier bag. It's tempting to squeeze extra stuff into a large bag in addition to your carry-on, but you’ll wind up struggling to find tickets, ID's and other items that make it to the bottom of the bag.

Other must-haves for a long flight

  • A small pillow can prevent a stiff neck or cramps.
  • Noise canceling headphones save you from noisy seatmates and the drone of the airplane.
  • An eye mask promotes more sound sleep, day or night.
  • A small toiletry kit packed in a carry-on lets you freshen up in the morning. Just don’t freshen up in your seat.

A few more tips

If you’re packing a simple carry-on or checking a couple of pieces of luggage through to your destination, choose wrinkle-resistant fabrics such as silk, microfiber or synthetic blends.

Instead of packing a big coat that takes up room in your suitcase and in the overhead bins on the plane, pack thermals and slacks and shirts to layer over them. Merino wool is a good choice for layering in cold climates.

Evening wear made from Lyocell, an eco-friendly form of rayon, is wrinkle-resistant and lightweight.

Layer your clothes so you can add or subtract as cabin temperature rises and lowers.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan