clothes for a long flight, be comfortable on a long flight, overnight flight clothes

What to Wear on a Long Flight & How to Stay Comfortable – My Advice

Deciding what to wear on a long flight can be a struggle.  It can be a bit of a conflict because you’ve planned this great trip and surely you are excited and are ready to enjoy yourself, but if it’s a long flight then you might have other considerations to keep in mind. You want to be comfortable, especially if you plan on sleeping…but you also don’t want to look like you are wearing your pajamas (well, some of us anyway)! Some fashionistas out there would argue that you don’t need to sacrifice style for comfort, and I agree with that – to a certain extent.  However, I’m a traveler first and foremost — and if you haven’t guessed, I’m obviously not a fashionista!

So while I don’t intend on looking like I just rolled out of bed at the airport (except for when I actually have to sleep at the airport for a flight…), I also have no intention on sacrificing comfort in the air just so I can look good walking through the airport.  From my experience of many long haul, red-eyes, and overseas flights – here are my recommendations for what to wear on a long flight.

view looking down the aisle of an airplane facing the front, all wearing different clothes
photo by StockSnap

“Are You Seriously Wearing That on a Red-Eye Flight?”

Unlike many people, I actually do love flying.  Ever since I was a kid, I was fascinated with airplanes and travel.  In fact, my mom would take us to the airport to watch the planes land and take off.  We would imagine where each plane was going and where it was coming from.  And even now, I love people watching at the airport.

So even to this day, every time I’m in an airport I can’t help but notice people at the airport.

How they walk, how they talk, how they must feel (by the look on their faces), and of course what they are wearing.  It’s not like I’m trying to be a part of the “Fashion Police” or anything, but sometimes I’m just in awe at the airplane outfits I see…things that look so incredibly uncomfortable!

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From insanely high heels that they obviously can’t walk in, pants that look like they’ve been painted on, to loads of accessories – likely jewelry, sunglasses and hats. Sometimes I just have to shake my head and think about how uncomfortable these outfits look. Especially if I’m going on a long flight, what I choose to wear is super important because it will impact my overall experience!

inside airport travelers stand at a window looking out at the planes with their luggage next to them
photo by Carisma-Training

I can’t imagine wearing any of these things on a long flight, especially overnight.  Over the years, I’ve learned that wearing comfortable travel clothes is critically important on any long flight, but especially on overnight (red-eye) flights.

My Advice: Comfort is Key in Choosing What to Wear on a Long Flight


Starting at the Bottom: Shoes for a Flight

Needless to say, stiletto heels are not on my list of comfortable shoes to wear on an airplane.  Not only are they uncomfortable when you are walking, they are not easy to maneuver in tight and crowded spaces — such as squeezing your way past people in your row or getting down the aisle.  They also aren’t comfortable to sit in either, so you will likely kick them off. But there’s also a safety issue when flying with the wrong shoes.

Heaven forbid there is an emergency…you could puncture the emergency slide with those things!

In general, dress shoes tend to be the least comfortable travel shoes.  Although some business travelers may not have a choice.  If you are traveling on business, I recommend wearing lower heels or wedges for more stability…or just bring an extra pair to change into!

Read also The Most Comfortable Walking Shoes for Women Who Travel

When it comes to sandals and flip flops, I personally don’t like to wear them on flights…mostly because my feet get cold!  But other travelers may not have this issue.

my solomon shoes for travel these comfortable shoes are great to wear on a long flight
LOVE my Solomon athletic shoes – which actually slip on an off!

Overall, I do think that some of the best shoes for an airplane include athletic or running shoes, just be sure they aren’t too tight.  For a long flight, your feet could start to feel uncomfortable if the shoes or lacing is too tight for a long period of time.

Slip-on shoes are great for a long flight, as long as they are secure on your feet and don’t fall off easily.  I like them because you can easily slip them off when you are sitting, and put them back on when you want to get up — without having to bend over to tie them (not easy in a narrow row).

For us, we both actually have Solomon athletic shoes that have a special QuickLace system that you don’t have to tie – so they are athletic shoes, but also slip-ons.  These shoes have been so convenient for traveling, plus they’re crazy comfortable when we are out walking around town or even hiking.

Comfort Item:  For me, thick, fuzzy socks are something I like to wear on a long flight.  After I get comfortable in the air, I will kick off my shoes and put on these socks to help me relax and sleep.

** Note:  DON’T be that traveler who kicks off their shoes if you have smelly feet and socks!  Seriously, not cool.

Compression Socks:  While on a long-haul flight, there is the chance of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis or blood clots in arms and legs, due to sitting for so long.  This is why it is important to stay well hydrated, and get up to walk around the plane…and stretch.  However, some people who are at a higher risk for these clots are advised to wear a special kind of compression socks.  There are conflicting reports if these socks are effective for everyone, and there are different kinds — some which could actually do more harm than good for some people.  The best thing to do is talk to your doctor if you are concerned, and considering wearing compression socks for a long flight.

Forget the Skinny Jeans on a Long Flight!

While you may love your skinny jeans, you may be cursing them 5 hours into your long-haul flight (or less)!  It won’t take long for those jeans to cut into your stomach or limit your blood flow and mobility.  Plus, some people’s legs can swell a bit on a long haul flight – so those pants are going to feel even tighter!

Comfortable pants are a must when choosing an airplane outfit.  As a female, I prefer yoga pants which are soft and a bit stretchy.  I find that these are the most soft, and least restrictive, making them very comfortable travel clothes.

Boarding an airplane to KL - josh walking on tarmac to board the plane with all his bags on 

They also have a loose-fitting and stretchy waistband that keeps them from cutting into your side while sitting for so long. I like the full length versions, but the cropped yoga pants are actually quite nice too – they can give a refreshing breeze to your ankles if it’s hot on the plane.  

For men, Josh prefers to wear his outdoor cargo pants.  Again, they are soft and have elastic waist bands that can be adjusted so that they don’t cut into his side either.

** PoP Travel Tip:  Be careful of wearing pants that have big buttons / pockets or other details on the sides and the butt.  Since you are sitting for so long, these accessories can start to press into you and hurt quite badly after some time.

Lastly, when deciding what to wear on a long flight you should choose pants that are flexible enough so that you can do some physical stretching too.  During a long overseas or red-eye flight, it is good to get up every few hours to take a walk around the plane and stretch your muscles.  You need to keep that blood flowing.  So the last thing you want is your pants restricting your leg movement — for fear of ripping them when you bend down into a nice squat or lunge stretch! Ripping the crotch of your pants during your flight is something I’m sure you’d rather avoid.

split pants when man is bending over to pick up something off the ground - that would be so bad on an airplane!
Creative Commons – Things that make you say…..OMG” by Simon Davison is licensed under CCBY 2.0

The Right Top + Layers are Great to Wear on a Long Flight

The temperature on an airplane is unpredictable, and it changes often.  It could be super hot and stuffy one minute, then freezing cold the next.  So my best recommendation for what to wear on a long flight includes an airplane outfit with a few layers.  Not too many, just enough to adjust easily from hot to cold and vice versa.

 This way you can add or remove as needed to maintain a comfortable temperature.

A light t-shirt or even a tank top is best for the base layer.  Personally, I prefer a loose-fitting shirt so that I can move my arms easily.  I’ve found that bulky, over-sized t-shirts are actually not comfortable on an airplane during a long flight.

Liz riding in a train car in thailand dressed in comfortable tank top, yoga pants and sneaker shoes
Liz wearing her comfy top while on long haul travel

From there, you should have some kind of thin longer-sleeved over shirt or sweater.  Something as simple as a long-sleeve t-shirt, cardigan, a fleece jacket, etc.  It should be fairly thin – so it isn’t too hot or bulky, but it should be warm, soft and comfortable.

These two layers should keep you comfortable weather it is hot or cold, and allow you to change it up easily if necessary.  But if you are still cold, then you can always add a blanket too.

Read also How to pack a Suitcase for Air Travel

Bring / Wear Clothing Items on a Flight that Do Double Duty!

Lastly, be creative and think about different ways to wear or use clothes that you bring on a plane. For example, a big scarf or pashmina that unfolds and can be used as an extra blanket if you are cold (also great for snuggling up to get comfortable for sleeping).  This is a popularflight essential recommended by other travelers too!  I also sometimes bring a thicker sweater that can also be rolled up and used as an extra pillow.

Hoodie sweatshirts can be good too, especially for covering your head and sleeping.  In fact, when taking long flights in the States I have a go-to travel hoodie that I use for red-eye flights because it is so soft, has a front pocket, and I bunch up the hood and use it like a pillow to lean on the window too!  It also allows me to put my earphones in and hide in a little sensory-deprivation cocoon — multi-functional indeed!

josh and liz pose in their seats on a fligth ready to take off wearing t-shirts and other comfy clothes for a long overnight flight to China
“People…take a chill pill & enjoy your flight!!!”

But it’s not only clothes.  Another item to think about is your carry-on bag that goes under the seat in front of you.  Sometimes you can arrange the bag in a way that allows you to use it as a footrest!  Really nice when you are on an overnight flight and you want to attempt a horizontal position for sleeping.

It’s amazing how these little things can really add up to a comfortable experience on the plane — and even help you to relax and get some sleep.

Fashion Accessories – Are They Really Necessary to Wear on a Long Flight?

I understand that some people want to look stylish when flying.  But if you really must wear a cute airplane outfit, I recommend keeping the fashion accessories small and to a minimum.  Personally, scarfs and wraps are great because they can easily add a lot to your ensemble, but they aren’t heavy and they don’t take up a lot of space (and they do double duty as a blanket, like I mentioned above).

But other items such as earrings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. just become annoying during a long flight.

Do you sleep wearing your watch, necklace and earrings?  Likely not.  On a long  flight, one of the ways you will pass the time is by sleeping.  So you don’t want to be wearing these items during the flight (plus, they are a real pain when going through security!).  Lastly, other people are trying to sleep too.  So don’t be that person wearing so much jewelry that you actually make noise when you move!

woman's hand with many bracelets and accessories that are loose

If you really want to bring these accessories so you look great when walking through the airport, it’s a good idea to keep them to a minimum and be sure that you can easily remove them for security, and perhaps to put them in your carry-on bag under the seat after you are on the plane.

This way you can feel stylish while walking through the airport, yet still be comfortable when it’s time to relax and go to sleep during the flight.

Choosing What to Wear on a Long Flight

At the end of the day, I realize that some people want that fashionable travel-chic look.  And I’m not saying to throw your style out the window.  But do realize that the choices you make in what to wear on a long flight is actually an important decision.  Don’t sacrifice comfort on an 8 hour flight just so that you can look trendy during for 1 hour at the airport.

But I’m certainly not the only one with an opinion on this issue.  Check out our related post “What to Wear on a Flight by Fellow Travel Nuts” to learn what their essentials are that they bring to stay comfortable during a long flight.

Following these recommendations for comfortable travel clothes will go a long way in helping you enjoy your flight, as well as helping you to feel rested and ready to seize the day when you arrive at your destination.   After all, that’s the real point of the trip.



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Photo Credit:  Photo fall under CC0StockSnap, Jermemie, Carisma-Training
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