What to Wear on a Long Flight

Posted on May 31, 2018 By

Okay, so unless you only ever fly business or first class, you know that there’s very little that’s comfortable about a long distance flight.

Flying in the economy class section (formerly known as “coach” which somehow sounds a little more miserable) is really physical feat. We simply weren’t met to sit, knees glued together and legs permanently bent for 10, 15, or 20 hours at a time. It sounds like a recipe for a blood clot, but at the very least, it’s just not comfortable.

That’s why making the most out of your selection of airplane attire is key to maximizing what little comfort you have. What to wear on a long distance flight? Everyone has different preferences, needs, and priorities, so I’m going to do my best to balance those by giving you some tips that should apply to everyone in all sorts of situations.

First, your choice of shoes

If you’re flying anywhere, you’re going to be doing a fair amount of walking. So it’s key to come prepared with a comfortable pair of shoes that making standing in lines and walking at a brisk pace somewhat comfortable.

It’s also a huge advantage to have shoes that you can slide off and on with ease. With all the security checkpoints you’ll be going through (especially for international flights), you’re probably going to be asked to take your shoes off more than once. And quickly.

Another great part about having easy-on/easy-off shoes is on the airplane itself. If you’re on a flight that lasts 10 hours or more, you may deal with foot/leg swelling, so you’ll probably want to be shoeless as much as possible. But with the highly limited space in front of you, it’s going to take some kind of Houdini maneuver to unlace, unbuckle, or unstrap a complicated pair of dressy shoes.

Stick to something you can easily slip your feet out of. My personal preference are shoes with bungee laces, and while they sometimes look dorky, styles are starting to improve.

Don’t assume you know what the temperature will be on the plane or in the airport

This is key. There’s no universally agreed upon temperature for airports, airplanes, shuttle buses, etc. While they all do a pretty good job of setting the temperature at an acceptable level, they ALL err on the side of being too cold.

Without a doubt, be sure to wear socks and tuck a sweatshirt or warm jacket into your carry-on so that you can put it on if things get a little chilly. Long pants aren’t a bad idea either, although shorts can usually be remedied by a complimentary blanket.

I wear my sunglasses on planes

True! A comfortable, lightweight pair of sunglasses is great to have, even inside the airplane. For one thing, it’s a great way to “pull the shades down” so to speak and make your environment a little darker if you need to snooze. But wearing sunglasses on a plane is also the human equivalent of a hotel’s “Do Not Disturb” sign. If you don’t want to be bothered about drink orders and free peanuts, throw your shades on and try to sleep your way to your destination.

Yes, you can accomplish almost the same thing with a sleep mask, although I find them a bit pretentious and disorienting on a long flight. Your call.

Business comfortable

There’s any number of ways to dress comfortably if you’re in the “I don’t have a care in the world” slob mode. Sweatpants, bunny slippers, and a hooded sweatshirt should do the trick. But there are also those occasions when we have to or want to dress a bit more formal for an important business trip or just out of a good old-fashioned sense of decorum.

If you’re looking to stay comfortable while looking professional, here are a few tips:

  • Breathable polos – From Under Armour, Nike, and plenty of other brands. They’re cool, lightweight, silky smooth, and almost never wrinkle.
  • Lightweight pants – These are a little more difficult because they’ll usually still wrinkle, but a breathable pair of lightweight dress pants. My personal favorites are J. Crew’s 100% cotton lightweight khakis.
  • Small carry-on size toiletries – Many of the more modern airports offer places where you can get a hot shower at a reasonable price. It’s pretty much impossible to step off a 15 hour flight and not feel a little grimy. If you can find a travel version of your favorite body wash, shampoo, hair styling product, and whatever else, it might be a lifesaver if you’re in need of a quick freshen up upon arrival.