What to wear on a flight (and feel comfortable and stylish)

What to wear on a flight (and feel comfortable and stylish)

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, Travel 16 Comments

One of the most searched for topics on this blog is: what to wear on a flight. I’ve written about this before – as well as in my Confessions of a Reformed Packer e-book – but I thought it was time for an update. Read on for my tips. I’d love to hear yours too.

I’m a child of the ’70s and as a kid I found anything to do with flying just about the most glamorous thing in the whole wide world. Sure, part of the glamour was the destination. For me, those destinations were first implanted in my very imaginative mind through my late Nan’s silver charm bracelet. Nan had a charm on that bracelet to match every destination she and Pop had travelled to. They’d both be dressed up for every flight and would regale us with tales of what it was like on board after each adventure. I wanted in.

Does being a TAA Junior Flyer and earning my golden wings count? I say yes. And if you’re of my vintage, you’d agree. It was a time when you did pull out your fanciest clothes, even if the glamour of flying was mostly on a small Fokker Friendship plane from Maryborough to Brisbane. I was always in awe of the hair and makeup on the “hosties”.

NOTHING was out of place. NOTHING.

At the age of 12, I did get to go on my first international flight. How lucky was I? My Dad and Step-mum took us to the UK and Europe for five months. Apart from missing five months of school (HUZZAH!), the flight over on Singapore Airlines was seriously up there with visiting the Eiffel Tower for the first time. We were very much at the tail-end of the plane (with the smokers!) but I still remember the graciousness of the flight crew, the attention to detail and the way the passengers took what they wore seriously – and made it an occasion.

I still like to think that flying is an occasion. The perceived glamour of flying was not lost on me and is still with me today. These are my tips for what to wear on a flight so that you feel comfortable and stylish on board and in the arrivals lounge.

What to wear on a flight (and feel comfortable and stylish)

Wearing: Styling You The Label jacket, scarf, shirt and leggings; FRANKiE4 Footwear LUCY sneakers; Article cross-body bag and tote

Tips for what to wear on a flight

1. What 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 this 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. You really cannot go past the sneaker range at FRANKiE4 Footwear for the ultimate in foot-health sneakers and active shoes.

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.)

4. Compression socks are your friends. 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 air conditioning 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.

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 you. 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 complete opposite of that awaiting you at your balmy destination. Lightweight pants, a tee and a cashmere wrap will work here.

8. Take on board a cabin bag that easily carries all your essentials. I like a big overnight-style bag or backpack. You might prefer a suitcase-style cabin bag. See below for more ideas.

9. Always carry an extra wrap or a scarf in a colour that can hide all manner of spills. I’m a klutz 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!

10. Take a collapsible water bottle on board. These can be found at sports’ retailers and don’t take up much room in your carry-on. Ask for them to be filled when on board. Alternatively, some airports (once through security) have water outlets where you can fill your bottle.

What to wear on a flight (and feel comfortable and stylish)

What combination of carry-on luggage is right for you?

I’m always on the search for MY holy grail in the carry-on luggage department. And in road testing various carry-on luggage options, I’ve come to realise that having different kinds of bags for different kinds of travel is a good idea.

For overnight business travel: tote bag + regulation cabin suitcase

For short-haul flying: tote bag + cross-body bag. One wheelie bag checked in.

For long-haul flying (as a family): soft overnight bag/tote or backpack + cross-body bag (me); backpack + cross-body bag (Mr SY); cross-body satchel + regulation cabin wheelie suitcase (Master SY). We pack change of clothes and first day clothes for all of us in the cabin suitcase. One wheelie bag checked in for each of us.

For more ideas read HERE.

What to wear on a flight (and feel comfortable and stylish)

In-flight beauty essentials 

It’s the little things that can add up to a whole lot of comfort when you fly. I am a beauty product tragic, so yes, I tend to carry more products on board than the average person. We’re among friends here, so I’m sharing with you what makes the cut for long-haul flight where I know my skin will be screaming at me by the time I arrive 24 hours-plus at a destination.

My in-flight beauty prep actually starts before I get on board. I get a salon blow dry the day of the flight – or the day before if flying early morning. Okay, so this is an indulgence but I’ve tested this and it works for me. I am lucky that with age has come a non-oily scalp. My pre-flight blow dry usually lasts the flight and a few days on the ground at my first destination.

I’ll wear makeup to board the plane (note many previous mentions about my vanity) but, once on board, it all comes off and I start my facial-on-a-plane routine.

When on board, I take off all my makeup and cleanse my face using cleansing face wipes. I’ll spritz with a toner and moisturise with a hydrating moisturiser, applying lip balm regularly throughout the flight. An eye mask is great for reviving tired eyes just before landing. One of my secret on-board weapons is Twenty8 Immune Boost essential oil blend. I pop a couple of drops behind my neck like an invisible shield against the potential bugs on board.

On arrival at my destination, I apply a tinted moisturiser, bronzer and lip gloss in an attempt to look semi awake and slightly fresh. I know at this point of the proceedings, it’s going to take a lot more than three products to make me look human but, in my head, they do.

MY HOT TIP: Look for samples or travel sizes of your favourite products. This means you easily come under the regulation 100ml for each product but that you also fit more into the regulation-size clear plastic bag for carry-on. Dermalogica has travel size products of most of its range so I don’t need to deviate from my regular skincare routine when travelling. 

What to pack: inflight beauty

Face wipes

Lip balm

Hand and body lotion

Hydrating night face cream

Eye mask

Toothbrush and toothpaste


Essential oil blends

Tinted moisturiser/lip gloss/bronzer

So, tell me, are you a frequent long-haul flyer? What tips do you have for what to wear on a flight?

My 10-step packing guide for any destination

Confessions of a Reformed Over-Packer | 10-step packing guide for any destination | Styling You | Nikki ParkinsonFor me, the holiday planning is all part of the excitement and anticipation of being on that escape. I love nothing more than going down the rabbit hole that is the internet looking for inspiration and ideas for what to do at the chosen destination but also for the types of clothes and accessories that will best suit that destination at the time that I’m travelling.

The formula I use for packing is one that can be adapted and applied to every destination and type of holiday. It’s not complicated. If you follow all the steps it’s quite liberating. I can’t ever imagine returning to my bad old days of throwing everything into a suitcase, sitting on said suitcase to get it closed, and hoping that I’d packed what I needed.

Want to get that formula? It’s all in my e-book.

Buy my e-book HERE

Comments 16

  1. Love your cross body bag. Can you share the information about it?
    Name of bag? And where it’s from? Is it leather?

    Thank You,


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  2. My best tip is to take the slippers from hotels to slip on, over warm socks for inflight trips to the loo. The floor is always disgusting!!
    Loving my Maria Pants Rachael Cami as travel basics.

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  3. I always take moisturising face mask, mostly the sheet mask they have everywhere now.as soon as my makeup goes off I put on the mask and stay hydrated inside out

  4. Great tips, Nikki. I also do the blow dry beforehand and it’s terrific not to worry about your hair for the first few days. I like to wear a bit of breathable mineral makeup and have the Sabe Masson roll on perfume in my cabin bag to smell fresh. Always wear my Frankie 4 Silver Ellie’s on flights and pack a cardigan for warmth.

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  5. Great tips, I also love the excitement of flying, can’t imagine ever feeling jaded about it. I take lots of wipes, lip balm, rosewater spray and moisturiser. I try to keep an onboard toiletry bag packed – living in hope ha! X

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  6. A great summary Nikki. I also take disinfectant hand wipes and hand sanitizer to wipe down remote, TV screen etc and to keep my hands clean.
    I also wore Frankie4 sneakers – the best. Thanks.

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  7. A great tip is to wear a panty liner on a long haul flight and change or remove when you do your toilet routine before you disembark. It’s a small thing, but a really good way to freshen up.

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