What to Wear on Long Haul Flights
A real packing challenge
Can there be anything less glamorous and more uncomfortable than spending 14 hours in an airline economy seat? Maybe 20 hours on the world's worst train! Long haul travel, especially overnight trips, can be a challenge to dress and pack for and readers have been asking what I wear on my most tiring flights.
With a dozen flights and an equal number of bus, boat, and train rides, our round the world trip meant packing clothing that was heavy on comfort and versatility and light on haute couture and accessories. Everything we wore and carried had to do double, if not triple, duty as we circled the globe, dashed through different climate zones, and tried to look reasonably pulled together. And I think nothing challenged my packing skills more than trying to figure out what to wear on all those extensive overnight flights.
What (not?) to wear
I had to be comfortable to slouch and sleep in an economy seat. I had to be polished enough to whiz through customs and head to our next engagement without changing. I had to be warm in the middle of the night, when airplanes are freezing cold, yet cool when I was boarding the flight (which always seems to be a sweaty job). I had to be sporty enough to run through terminals and comfortable while sitting for hours on end.
Good for those girls who glide through the airport in stiletto heels and skirts, toting just a tiny purse and a large duty free bag, but that isn't me - or most other travelers I know. After much experimentation, here’s what worked for me on our round the world flights.
I brought only two pairs of trousers with me on our round the world trip - thankfully they were both perfect airplane attire!
1.) Travel Jeans by Tilley Endurables. As comfortable as regular jeans and fitting just the same, but with half the weight and bulk. The dark blue denim kept things on the dressy side and cheerfully camouflaged stains.
2.) Travel Jersey In Flight Pants by Tilley Endurables: Move over yoga pants, it’s time you met your match! These soft draping pants with an elastic waist felt as comfortable as pajama but the smooth black fabric always looked fresh and wrinkle free.
Other ideas include leggings under a tunic top (but not on their own!), cords for cooler climates, or flowing capri pants for warmer climate. Beware yoga pants - they are ridiculously comfortable but they are threatening to become the new "tourist uniform", along with white sneakers and fanny packs.
Top it all off!
I try to always layer two light-to-medium tops for maximum temperature control. I also usually have a backup shirt as I inevitably spill something and it's nice to wear something clean and crisp when you disembark.
1.) Black Sleeveless Jersey Shirt by Tilley Endurables. This sleeveless shirt offers more coverage and structure than a tank top but is just as comfortable. It's perfect as a base layer or to wear on its own when warm. For a full review, click here.
2.) David Cline Patterned Shirt: It's nice to wear something other than basic black once in a while! This shirt works on its own or over a tank. The pattern proves very helpful for finding your travel partner when you get lost in the crowd! For a full review, click here.
3.) "Dry Inside" Knits Cardigan by Tilley Endurables: One of the favorite things in my pack! I’m not a big “pink” girl but the flattering rose tone compliments all skin tones and brightens up tired, jet lag skin. Long enough to cozily wrap around myself and snuggle in for the overnight flight, it’s light enough that I don’t get overheated.
Other ideas include tunic tops (with leggings), boat neck t-shirts, an oxford shirt under a cashmere pullover for cool climates, and a sheer, loose cotton t-shirt over a moisture wicking camisole in warm climates. Avoid white and light colors - spills are inevitable!
1.) Warm, fluffy socks (not cotton!) Odds are that you’ll take your shoes off at some point on the flight and warm socks will keep you comfortable. A non-cotton blend will keep things from getting to sweaty and smelly.
2.) Wool-silk scarf. I have dozens of cotton blend faux pashminas but it was worth investing in a wool and silk blend pashmina. I bought mine at Luton airport for 25 GBP (cotton ones were just 7 GBP) but it’s a fraction of the weight and the wool fibers keep you just as warm.
Other ideas include compression socks for those with medical concerns and those prone to swelling, a jaunty hat to hide tired locks, or a silk tie in lieu of a belt (TSA friendly!) Shoes are always a very personal choice but I always travel with sneakers or a similar sturdy flat shoe. You never know when you'll need to dash through the terminal!
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. What's your favourite thing to wear on a long flight?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
The Perfect Little Black Travel Dress
Is Your Bag Really Carry-On?
Feeling First Class While Wallowing in Coach
Tilley Endurables were our wardrobe partners for our round the world trip. This did not affect my review and all opinions remain my own.