What to wear on a plane - long haul flight

11 tips for what to wear on a plane

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, Life, Travel 45 Comments

This post has been updated: head here to read the 2023 version.

Read on for my 11 tips on how to combine comfort, style and a sense of occasion in what you wear on a flight.

What to wear on a plane - 11 tips for your next flight

I can’t guarantee you’ll look like those celebrities papped at the airport looking like they’ve been at a day spa, not on a long-haul flight, but you will hopefully feel a little prepared for your next escape.

11 tips for what to wear on a plane

1. What you choose to wear on a flight – long or short haul – should have comfort as a priority. There is nothing worse than being seated for any period of time and feeling like your clothes are leaving permanent creases and indentations on your body.

2. Long or short haul, your shoes should be easy to take on and off (my daughter learned the hard way when recently travelling to Japan in her Doc Martens) if needed to do so through security. Typically there is a lot of walking involved at terminals, so keep this in mind for your footwear too.

3. If taking your shoes off on board a flight, take a pair of fold-up flats for getting around the cabin. (This was a great tip from a reader last year)

4. Compression socks are your friend. Well they are mine. My dodgy thyroid means I swell up under the best of conditions. Put me in a pressurised cabin and my cankles are comical at best, painful at worst.

5. The longer the flight, the more layers you’ll need. Cabin airconditioning is icy. Conversely, I’ve been in situations on a plane on the tarmac where the heating has been ramped up and I’ve needed to take off layers to suit. Base your outfit around jeggings, leggings, ponte pants or super stretch jeans and add light tops and outer layers as required.

What to wear on a plane - long haul flight

1. Betty Basics top $29.95 @ Birdsnest | 2. Bird Keepers poncho $69.95 | 3. Witchery scarf $59.95 | 4. Uniqlo ultra down light jacket (it rolls into a tiny package) $109.00 | 5. Country Road bag $129 | 6. Karen Walker sunglasses $295 | 7. FRANKiE4 Footwear sneakers $229.95 | 8. Mon Purse personalised passport holder $69 | 9. Sussan ponte legging $59.95

6. Pack a change of clothes if doing a long-haul flight. You may not be able to shower but adding on fresh clothes will give you a bit of a lift at the end of your journey. This extra set of clothes is also an insurance policy against getting to the other end and finding your luggage hasn’t been on the same plane as yours. I include a packing cell in my overnight/cabin bag with the change of clothes so it’s all kept together and ready for that freshen up at the other end.

7. Heading to a tropical destination? Still take an extra layer on board with you as conditions in the air can be the the complete opposite of that awaiting you at your balmy destination. Lightweight pants, a tee and a cashmere wrap will work here.

8. Get a blow dry the day of your flight. Ok, so this is an indulgence and technically you don’t wear your hair but I did this as a little test last year. I am lucky that with age has come a non-oily scalp but I can tell you that that blow dry lasted me not only the flight but the first few days in London … until I found a blow dry bar just near our hotel. #lazygirlbeauty

9. Take off your makeup as soon as you get on board a long flight. I know many wouldn’t wear any at all but, you know, I’m vain. What I do then wear is a heavy duty moisturiser and lip balm. These get slathered on frequently during the flight. At the other end, I apply my minimal makeup routine (see Beauty travel essentials below) and sunnies on arrival and this makes me feel psychologically a little better even though inside I’m completely shattered and zombie like.

10. Take on board cabin bag that easily carries all your essentials. I like a big overnight-style bag, with compartments on the outside. You might prefer a suitcase-style cabin bag.

11. Always carry an extra wrap or a scarf in a colour that can hide all manner of spills. I’m a clutzo in the food-spilling-on-oneself department at the best of times. Put me in a confined space when the slightest bump could send your chicken or beef flying into your lap, and I’m bound to “wear” my airline food and drink. I’ve now learned to put my scarf in place around my neck to catch any spills. Yes, as a baby would wear a bib.

What to wear on a plane - short haul - summer | 11 tips for what to wear on a plane

1. Bohemian Traders tee $59 | 2. Karen Walker sunglasses $329 | 3. Mon Purse personalised passport holder $69 | 4. Oroton tote bag $198 (on sale) | 5. FRANKiE4 Footwear sandals $199.95 | 6. Surafina pants $89 | 7. Everyday Cashmere supersoft scarf $359

So tell me, when you fly, what do you wear and what are your essentials?


You may also be interested in this post:

30 ideas for carry-on luggage you may not have thought of

30 ideas for carry-on luggage | Styling You


Comments 45

  1. Wait, I never thought of getting a blow out the day of my flight! My hair would look great during the flight and when I arrived. What a great idea!!!

  2. Thank you, perfect timing. I’m heading to Italy in September. (and thanks to your info from your Italian adventure, we are booked for a day with Luma Charter!!!). Do you think compression tights would work as well on a long haul flight as compression stockings?

    1. I’d go compression tights with flight socks. I also have issues with swelling and fat feet. I have found that gym type compression leggings are cool (cold) as they are moisture wicking, so you may want an extra layer again.

  3. The wardrobe is quite similar to what I just used on recent trips to the UK and Japan. The first one was the more crucial one as we were going from summer to winter and with two long flights, you need to pack well!

  4. Love all the comments and ideas Nikki. I have been looking for a stylish carry on bag for ages without luck. Probably one more like an oversize tote, maybe in leather. Can you or your readers offer any suggestions?

  5. Hi Nikki, As you know at Soul Diva Boutique we love our Wyse lifestyle pieces. The best travel pant ever, and one we recommend time after time as the pant that crosses the ‘multiple use test’ (on the plane and then very wearable at any destination, for any occasion) is the Wyse Pleated pant. Perfect with sneakers or glam heels and in a breathable, unshrinkable, non-pilling Modal. Test drove them to New York again late last year. What a winner!!

  6. Hi Nikki, Great post with some really useful tips. Also I love the look of your Frankie sneakers in the photo. Possibly stupid question but can I ask what you wear inside the sneakers in the absence of socks i.e.. to stop them being sweaty?

  7. Thanks Nikki, your posts that help me put outfits together – and for specific purposes such at his one – are the best. And I do take your advice about “going shopping” in my own wardrobe first ! Which then makes the inevitable shopping experience more focused. Ohh look there’s the Focus word! My word for the year is Simplify. Which requires focus too. Lots of S T U F F will be going to Bloomhill Cancer Charity in Buderim, or to Hello Wheelie Bin in 2016.

  8. i used to do a lot of day (LONG day) flights for work – up to regional QLD for meetings early in the morning and return same day. I always went with Intimo black pants because I liked the waistband flexibility for uh… body pressure changes? 🙂 And also because catered food seems to have a similar effect on me.

  9. I also love planning a holiday and deciding what to wear on the plane.
    I pack into a packing cell in my carry-on extra warm socks, a change of underwear and a clean top to change before landing, as well as some PJ’s in case my luggage doesn’t arrive at the same time as me.
    love the tip about hotel slippers to wear on the plane!

  10. Great tips Nikki,I can’t agree more with the easy to get off shoes,I found that out the hard way because I have had a knee replacement and have metal in my leg I beep very loudly and now I will even more with metal in my neck as well,I had on buckle up sandals and they were very hard to get off and back on without sitting down!The scarf is a must too.
    I have always thought that flight attendants were the height of glamour too,as a child I had a game,don’t quote me on the name but I think it was “what do you want to be when you grow up” it was a girls game and the jobs were air hostess,hairdresser and teacher and I cant remember what else but I ALWAYS chose air hostess but in those days I was way too short.
    Great post Nikki thank you Xx

  11. Oh to be planning a holiday! I love deciding on an outfit for the plane, always take socks, scarf and a comfortable top layer. Great idea about the hotel slippers. I love wating the flight attendants, we usually fly with Singapore or Thai, their makeup is always so flawless. My granddaughter told me once that she wanted to be a waitress when she leaves school, upon further questioning she said ‘They get to push the little trolley with Pringles in it) haha! Yes, a flight attendant. 🙂

  12. these are all great thanks nikki!
    I am always chilly on a flight and I need sox too!
    when traveling to warmer climes from cold wet ones, layering is essential!
    enjoy your day hun! love m:)X

  13. As an expat I travel an awful lot. Upfront and upback, depending on the trip purpose.

    My best tips are to hoard the slippers from every hotel you stay at and keep them for economy flights. That way you can use them during the flight and toss them at the end. I learnt the hard way about not wearing socks into the loo. Especially towards the end of the flight. Ewwww.

    Secondly, because I too am vain, I use mineral make up pre flight. Then I can leave it on, guilt free.

    I only do this upfront where I can hide. But I have been exposed to Korean cosmetics – ahmazing and ahfordable – so I put a full face gel mask on and relax. Results in super moist skin!

    1. I’m also an expat Perthite and find myself on a plane several times a month. What Korean masks are you using? Any particular brand?

      Also – at what stage do you wear a mask? If it’s a Long haul flight (say 14 hours) would do usually pop one on after 4 hours or much later?

    2. Ooh, I would like to know what products you are referring? I have very dry skin so these moisturizing masks would be great.

  14. All great advice Nikki. I would just add that if you think a change of clothes for a long haul flight is overkill, at least take a change of underwear.

    Also if you’re closer to the pointy end of the plane say,” Yes, please” to the proffered pyjamas, change into those for the flight and then back into your own clothes when you’re about to land.

  15. I love these posts – I’m not the only one with holidays on the brain! If I’m wearing summer shoes or going someplace hot, I always take some socks in my handbag because cold feet are not cool! I also never wear ear rings because I’ve lost so many in flight and I always pack some deodrant and roll on perfume too, so if I don’t look the business when I arrive at my destination, at least I’ll smell fresh as a daisy!

  16. Oh I wanted to be an air hostess (as they called them!) so bad as a kid. Flying everywhere, looking beautiful… kind of didn’t want to have to ask tea or coffee? 278 times though. But it felt like it was the only way I was going to afford to see the world back then when I was a poor kid. Anyway, I came here for leggings. To Sussan I go! Thanks mate xx

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