What to wear on a long plane flight: 7 tips for comfort

what to wear on a long plane flight Young woman with backpack, ready to travel, standing in city streetWhat is the best thing to wear to survive a long plane flight? My daughter and I have made eight trips back and forth between Tokyo and Los Angeles in the past ten months.  (If you wanna know why the heck we’re doing this, click here.)  As I type this at 30,000 feet, it occurs to me that we have learned a thing or two about surviving long flights.

This blog post is the first in a 3-part series on travel tips for how to survive a long plane flight. I’m talking about those trans-an-ocean ones where you are stuck on a plane with hundreds of other people (and all their bodily functions) for up to 12 hours. But even after hours in tight quarters with people you hope won’t talk to you so you can  just read a book and watch 3 movies, it IS possible to arrive feeling like a human, and looking and smelling fresh.

What to wear on a long plane flight : 7 tips for comfort

What you wear makes a huge difference when you travel on a plane. Your options to manage personal comfort are pretty limited once you’ve handed your luggage over to the airline. As much as I wish there was, there is no Target to pop into when you are somewhere over Greenland. There are so many things you and I cannot control when it comes to air travel.  But with these handy tips, you can control a few things in your environment. Except the fact that your seatmate doesn’t know how to share that teeny armrest, the jerk.

Here are my tips for how to survive 8-12 hours in the air: What to wear on a long flight

  1. Shower and change into fresh clothes as close to your flight time as possible. I haven’t used the showers available at some airports yet, but I do know that being as clean as possible before you travel makes a big difference in how you feel. I usually shower right before heading to the airport or change my clothes entirely at the airport. (Yes, I do mean down to my underwear.) It is so much better to begin a journey of five thousand miles as fresh as possible.
  2. To that end, I always travel with a lightly scented lotion or body balm (I like the balm better because it’s not a liquid I have to deal with at security).  A clean scent like mint or citrus is great to discreetly slather on my arms and neck in case the plane is smelly.  And/or my seatmate.Or when it gets to the point in the flight when everyone is farty.  I’m just saying.  Being able to breathe air near me that smells good goes a long way towards my ability to manage some of the ick of being in an enclosed space.With strangers.
    Who have varying degrees of hygiene.For hours.I tuck my nose into my collar and discreetly sniff my minty self. That way, the guy in front of me who clearly came straight from the gym to catch this flight, gets to live.

Best things to wear on a long plane flight

Some flights are hot and some are cold, and your starting and ending points may have very different climates. Most seasoned travelers find that lightweight, longish sleeves and long pants are the best thing to wear on a long plane flight. American’s tend to be pretty casual dressers. You know this if you’ve ever played ‘spot the American’ in foreign lands. So, I always feel like a slob when I wear shorts and a t-shirt.

Turns out, it’s way more comfy to travel with as little of my skin showing as possible, anyway. Not just for comfort, but because you touch a lot of things that other people have touched when you travel. It’s nice to have a layer of protection between me and all the things.

A note on leggings: And by long pants, I do not mean leggings

[Unless your top covers yer butt. I don’t mean to be everyone’s mother on this, but if you are on a long flight, I am going to assume you are travelling from one culture to another. And not all places in the world are bottom-friendly. You may not care about it at point A, but at point B, you will become very aware that you stand out in ways you may not want to. It’s good to be mindful about your impact, especially as a foreign guest. Get a gauge on the culture for a day or so first, and that will help you find the right balance.]

Tips on pants, tops, shoes and socks (and why you shouldn’t wear a belt)

  1. I have a pair of olive green jogger-style cotton pants that are awesome for travel. They have pockets, which are a must for managing a phone and passport so I have hands free to deal with luggage and kids and whatnot. I actually wore out my first pair because I used them so much to travel in.  I found a great pair of travel pants with a flowy pant leg to replace them. But the first time I used the airplane bathroom, the wider leg pant leg landed directly onto the floor when I sat down. Have you seen an airplane bathroom floor?? Shudder.  Thus, a tighter ankle-jogger style is still my go to.  Or leggings/jeggings if I have a longer top. I’d stay away from skirts or dresses unless you know for a fact they won’t hamper you as you yank luggage along. Or as you climb over your seatmates because you are stuck in the middle seat.
  2. In general, stay away from buttons or buckles or snaps or anything that could potentially gouge into you. And no belts, if you can avoid it. About 6 hours in when you are all bloaty and gassy, you’ll be dreaming of a stretchy waistband. And trying to find discreet ways to loosen your belt.
  3. In terms of tops, I have had the most comfort and overall travel success with a dark printed, loose cotton-weave blouse. It’s very forgiving and covers a multitude of stupid travel-related stains.
  4. I bring a fuzzy pair of socks, though some folks like compression socks. Once I am in my seat on the plane, I take off my shoes and tuck them under the seat in front of me. Fuzzy socks just make things a bit more pleasant and relaxed. On long flights, the airline usually provides slippers. I can slide those over my socked feet for bathroom trips to avoid the aforementioned ick.
  5. Low-profile, closed-toed shoes like TOMS or a slip-ons that cover the toes have been my pick ever since the INCIDENT where I dropped a booster seat directly onto my flip-flop wearing toes at the Denver airport and got to travel to LA with a preschooler AND a broken toe. Not only do you get toe safety, but easy-to-slip-on shoes help you move faster through security. And socks.
  6. Bring a lightweight, large scarf like a pashmina. They are indispensable.  They fold up small in your carry-on and you can use them as a blanket.  Or to cover your shoulders.  And to make a hood to block light and a little sound.  Or draped artfully to cover spills.  And tied around your waist so it doesn’t look like you peed yourself after a turbulence-and-drink-related accident.

    Next in this travel series:

    Part 2:  How to pack a carry-on for a long plane flight

    Part 3:  How to sleep on a plane: 5 must-do tips

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