Caroline is an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Her work has appeared on USA Today, the Boston Globe, AOL.com, MSNBC.com, ABC News, TODAY Travel, and CruiseCritic.com, among other publications.
Dressing appropriately for air travel means knowing what will keep you comfortable on the plane—and given the cramped seats and various temperature changes on flights, this isn’t always easy.
Always Wear These Things on the Plane
The following seven items, which provide plenty of comfort plus a touch of style, are essential for any jet-setting flyer’s wardrobe. Be the best dressed in the cabin with our guide to in-flight apparel.
Layers, Layers, Layers
Air travel is often an assemblage of various disparate micro-climates, from the sweat-inducing sunny tarmac to the arctic air-conditioned cabin during flight. So fight discomfort with plenty of layers. I like to wear a washable cotton scarf that’s a large enough to double as a wrap when it’s particularly chilly. Pashminas, shawls, wraps, cardigans, sweatshirts, vests, and light jackets are perfect. You can even fold or roll soft items, like cotton jackets, and use them as makeshift pillows during flight. Plus, the more layers you pile on your body, the less you need to pack in your luggage. Roll items and stuff them in your carry-on bag or under the seat in front of you if you’re too warm. A foldable, reusable bag like Baggu, which takes up almost no suitcase space and can even be scrunched up and stuffed into a pocket, is useful for toting extra apparel that you’ve taken off.
Layers that help you regulate temperature while flying also come in very handy when traveling through various (actual) climates. And for travelers hitting the road during shoulder season, when the weather is particularly unpredictable, layers are key for optimal comfort.
Maintain in-flight comfort and cleanliness by wearing breathable fabrics – materials like cotton, silk, or linen. Fabrics that don’t allow air to circulate will hold sweat on the skin, likely making you feel dirtier faster and probably necessitating a good spin in the washing machine upon landing. Natural fabrics are great, but moisture-wicking manmade fabrics are suitable options as well.
Many doctors recommend that pregnant women wear support or compression stockings or socks in flight. But compression legwear is also a good choice for those with pre-existing medical conditions, travelers taking long-haul flights, and anyone who flies often. The socks or stockings, which promote blood circulation, help prevent swelling of the legs, and help guard against deep vein thrombosis (DVT), work by putting pressure on leg muscles and increasing blood flow. You can find them at many pharmacies and drug stores, and they’re often available from travel-supplies stores like Magellan’s. Comfortable, Simple Shoes It’s best to wear extremely comfortable, mostly flat shoes on the plane – think of your poor feet after hours or even days of sitting, standing, and walking en route to your destination. You’ll also want to select comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off when passing through airport security (as we advise in 10 Ways to Speed Through Airport Security.) My favorite shoes to wear on a plane are Keds Skimmers for women, which offer sneaker-grade comfort but look more like cute ballet flats. Additionally, I recommend Toms (for men and women) and higher end Tieks (for women). With all kinds of airline baggage fees dropping like hot bricks, clothes that do double duty as wearable carry-on bags are de rigueur.
And there are myriad other travel jackets out there that feature an explosion of pockets, like the Around the World Jacket from Orvis, which appears to be exactly the same as a fishing vest. But it gets the job done, if you can pull off the angler look.
Loose-Fitting Clothing is a must.
As we mentioned before, DVT is a danger on flights, where travelers stuck in cramped seats for long periods of time are at greater risk for developing blood clots. To reduce the risk of getting DVT, the University of Washington Medical Center recommends avoiding “tight clothing, nylons, or socks (especially the type that are too tight at the top and/or leave marks on your skin) that might restrict blood flow through veins.” So leave your skinny jeans at home and opt for less restrictive garments like A-line skirts, loose-fitting dresses, or more relaxed-or wide-leg pants.