Finding that perfect outfit for flying on an airplane is practically an art. Not only do you have to think about comfort and environmental factors (like maxed out air conditioner on airplanes), but if you’re a light packer, like us, you also want to wear items that don’t pack down well in your bag.
At the end of the day though, it all comes down to personal style — and this is certainly true for each of us here at Tortuga Backpacks. Even among our little group of travelers, each of us have different things we want in an airplane outfit.
So in this article, we don’t want to tell you how you should dress while traveling. Instead, we’ll show you the airplane outfits we wear while flying to give you some inspiration on what to wear on your next flight.
1. Simple, Comfy, and Put-Together
Shannon, a travel blogger and writer for the Packsmith blog doesn’t have a specific go-to outfit, but she likes to keep things simple, comfy, and classic. She chooses items she already has in her wardrobe and tends to wear some variation of:
- Jeans, usually jeggings (she’s definitely on the jeans side of our jeans versus travel pants debate!)
- T-shirt or sweater
- Coat if it’s winter; cardigan if it’s summer
For shoes, her go-tos are sneakers or boots. She tries to wear shoes with socks that slip on and off easily and she avoids bare feet through TSA at all costs!
For longer flights Shannon usually wears leggings, a stretchy dress, and an extra sweatshirt — after all, long flights always seem to feel a little chillier, right?
Fred, a founder of Tortuga Backpacks, understands that as a traveler, you sometimes need special features in your gear. At the same time, you don’t want to board an airplane looking like you just hopped off the Appalachian trail, which is why Fred usually keeps it simple and wears:
For shoes, Fred wears either his Nike sneakers or Sperry Top Sider boat shoes, depending on the trip.
2. Multi-Purpose but Made for Travel
Jeremy, one of Tortuga Backpack’s two founders, knows well that many of the features in athletic clothes also work well for travel. They pack down well, dry quickly, and can take a beating in the elements.
Even so, they’re still designed for outdoors wear (which in fact, was also one of the problems Tortuga sought to solve by creating a travel backpack in a marketplace full of backpacking packs), so he prefers to opt for the most normal-looking versions.
For his airplane outfit, Jeremy goes for technical travel clothes — but those that blend in well as normal street wear:
- Outlier Slim Dungarees in dark indigo.
- Patagonia R1 Fleece — The best, most normal-looking performance top he’s found. “It fits in just about anywhere,” he says.
- Uniqlo Airism underwear and undershirt. For both of these, Jeremy has found that Uniqlo has the best bang for the buck, but he’s also a big proponent of Lululemon’s 5-Year Tee.
For shoes, Jeremy’s go-tos are Sperry boat shoes. However, he’s a big proponent of slipping into TOMS when he has to wear heavy boots onto a plane, since TOMS are much easier to slip into your luggage.
Jenn, our travel-savvy editor for Packsmith, has a practical, comfortable airplane outfit — but adds in a couple of her favorite travel souvenirs to mix things up, keep her warm, and remind her why she travels.
You can spot Jenn Miller milling around the airport in:
- Athleta black yoga pants
- Athleta tank top with built in bra (so that nothing is binding or pinching)
- Lululemon zip front pull over (a men’s one on purpose, it’s like wearing a hug from a friend)
- A pair of Quechua socks She says, “I acquired on the Camino de Santiago. They remind me that long journeys, even if they’re uncomfortable, are worth it!”
- A tie dye scarf her friend Chris got for her in Thailand
3. Stylish and Trip-Specific
Tortuga writer Shawn also goes for comfy and simple, without sacrificing style. Whether he’s navigating planes, trains, or tuk-tuks, he almost always rocks:
- J Crew tank top or a soft t-shirt
- Blue Uniqlo jeggings (yes, jeggings for men!)
- Sweet Uniqlo’s “travel” underwear
- Uniqlo’s stretch tape belt
- His alpaca wool knit cap, which he got in Peru.
If the ride is going to be cold or Shawn’s afraid of AC, he’ll also wear Nau’s “Cranky Jacket”. “It’s the best seam-sealed lightweight jacket I’ve ever owned,” he says.
For shoes, Shawn wears the Sperry Top Siders boat shoes (a favorite among our male travel experts here!) and NO SOCKS. Totally a sock rebel, this one.
Like Shannon, Lauren, our concierge at Tortuga, doesn’t have one standard airplane outfit, but likes to change up her outfit depending on weather, where she’s going, and, “How early I have to be at the airport,” she says.
No matter what though, Lauren tries to wear things that won’t set off the metal detectors at the airport. “Typically, when I travel, I tend to be the person who gets felt up in airport security,” says Lauren. Hence her TSA friendly outfit:
- A long, comfy skirt/maxi dress, or leggings
- Mossimo shelf-bra cami from Target — they’re amazing layering tanks that don’t set off the metal detector when going through security. Plus, you can get one in every color.
- A comfy, light boutique top or cardigan.
For shoes, Lauren goes for TOMS canvas shoes (unsurprisingly, we’ve got a lot of TOMS love on this list) if she wants to be comfortable. Or, if she’s taking boots on her trip and doesn’t want to pack them, she’ll opt to wear those while she’s traveling.
4. Layers, Layers, Layers
What Packsmith writer Laura wears when flying has got to be comfortable and adaptable to hot/cold environments in a second’s notice — as her inner temperature can switch rapidly. Because of that, she likes to dress in layers and straps a jacket on to the outside of her carry on, so it’s easy to grab. When she flies, she loves to wear:
- Lucky Brand boot-cut jeans in a slightly stretchy fit
- Flowery scarf from Old Navy or Target
- Three-quarter sleeve length shirt from Victoria’s Secret or J.Crew
- Grey cardigan from Target
- FlyLow Gear Vixen jacket in mahogany
- Her St. Christopher’s necklace — as the patron saint of travelers, he watches her six on her journeys.
For shoes, she usually sports the Softwalk Taylor Too shoes. If she’s planning on going for morning jogs during her trip though, she’ll opt for her New Balance shoes, rather than letting them take up precious space in her luggage.
Like Laura, I also plan my airplane outfit knowing that I’ll probably get super hot running around the airport, then freeze my butt off as soon as I board — no matter what time of year. I always keep a pair of Smartwool socks and my cardigan at the top of my carry on, and wear:
- Black stretchy pants from Necessary Clothing, or my jeans on shorter trips.
- Black Infinity scarf from Forever 21.
- Whichever basic top I’m most in love with at the moment.
- Lululemon in flux jacket in grey (I love to hide in hoods while sleeping on planes or busses!)
We may all have our personal preferences, but the travel experts have spoken. The best airplane outfits depend on your personality, but almost all of us are looking for comfort, style, and easy to slip off shoes.
Our favorite products are TOMS, Outlier Slim Dungarees, boat shoes, and Lululemon athletic wear. We always choose pants or leggings with a little stretch, and add a layer (or two!) to keep ourselves warm while snuggling up in our plane seat.
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