Let’s deep dive into one outfit every avid traveller thinks about at some point: the airport look.

Your travel-day outfit can be guided by so many factors, from comfort on a long plane ride, to the items that didn’t fit into your suitcase, and can even be influenced by where you’re going straight after you land. I’ll be going through all the elements to think about, share some inspiration, and walk you through how I make decisions on my airplane outfit.

How long is your flight and what cabin: Economy, Business, or First Class?

First off, the biggest influence on how I approach my travel-day outfit is the length of the flight. Under 3 hours, I don’t view it as differently as sitting at my desk on a normal workday. If I can do that in tight jeans, I can probably do a plane ride in tight jeans.

Longer than that, I do take into consideration my comfort and my tolerance for tight clothes. Recently I got to fly business class, and ugh, it was such a treat. I won’t make a habit of it, but something that I noticed was that I didn’t have to bring as many extra things with me to be comfortable. Let me elaborate. In economy, I bring snacks, a water bottle, a large shawl to use as a blanket, my travel pillow, eye mask. Lots of things to make a long-haul flight tolerable.

In Business class, and I can only imagine first class, all of that is provided for you. You also have more room for your things and a more private bathroom. So, there’s less pressure to select the perfect, comfortable, optimized travel day outfit in my experience.

Where are you going after you land?

The second factor for me is where I’m going when I land. If I’m sleepily hopping in a cab and going straight home, I do not care about vanity quite as much as if I’m being picked up by a colleague and taken to a meeting. I also take into consideration the weather upon landing. If it’s rainy, I do like to have a raincoat on me, ready to go, or if I’m landing during the daytime, having sunglasses readily available too. It might be weird to pack sunglasses at night when getting on a red eye, so I would recommend something that packs small.

The other element I consider is if I’m taking public transportation after I land. I may not want to be in socks and sandals, or sweatpants if I’m hopping onto the London tube, the San Francisco Bart, or a shuttle bus to downtown wherever. I will want to have a look that’s half-decent for life outside the bubble that is airport life.

Maximize or Specialize: Are you expecting to use these items beyond travel days?

I’ve talked a lot about feeling appropriately dressed for when you land and you’re probably asking yourself: can’t I just change? Yes, absolutely. I did this recently on a red eye and it’s a great option.

There are a few factors to consider when planning an outfit switch for a flight. 1. Are you trying to maximize the items you’ve packed or are you ok having a dedicated plane outfit? For example, if you are travelling with one carry-on for three weeks, your plane outfit should be items you plan to wear in other combinations throughout your trip. If not, in my opinion, it’s a bit of a waste of space. But, if that’s not a concern, you can wear a sweatsuit and have it be your dedicated plane outfit.

The second factor is room in your personal item. My personal item was pretty full for my last red eye: headphones, water bottle, laptop, chargers, and travel pillow. So I went to the airport in my plane outfit but packed what I would change into upon landing. I brought some nylon cargos, a fresh pair of underwear and a tank top and these folded up into a super small space in my bag.

You can also go the route of wearing something nice to the airport, changing into something more comfortable on the plane, and changing back. It’s up to you. In general though, I would recommend making sure your plane outfit also lends itself to the rest of your packing capsule for optimal mixing and matching.

Wear the bulkiest items

The other element that has a huge impact on my plane outfit, on short and long flights, is what are my bulkiest items. If it’s boots, a coat, or a chunky sweater, chances are I’ll wear those on the plane so I have as much room in my suitcase as possible. Admittedly, that does make for some strange combinations at times, but you do what you must.

Do you run hot or cold? Do you have medical considerations?

Truly, this tip should be at the top, but one major category of concerns to consider for a plane outfit is any medical or special needs. Do you have an ostomy bag, are you breastfeeding, did you just have surgery and some clothes painfully rub your fresh scar? Also, your comfort like if you run hot, are having hot flashes or if you’re often cold and have poor circulation matter. I also always recommend compression socks, for everyone, and have a whole post on why compression socks are great for plane rides and how to pick them.

What bottoms should I wear?

Alright, let’s get to some practical suggestions for plane outfits starting with bottoms.

Shorts and short skirts are not my favourite. I’ve worn shorts before on a 45-minute flight from Vancouver to Victoria in the summer and it was fine. But planes are cold and going back to the bulkiness tip before, I just feel like it’s a wasted chance to wear something that’s taking up space in my suitcase.

I have worn a long skirt before as well as a long warm dress a few times and it was awesome. I was comfortable, warm, 10/10 would do again.

Ok, jeans are also fine, but I wear my loose jeans, or the ones with a bit more ease in the waistband and legs. I would avoid white jeans, although I’ve done it before. I just think the risk of getting them dirty is too high.

Trousers are probably my favourite thing to wear on the plane. I like viscose loose ones, or in the winter, wool-blend ones. Especially if I’m going straight to a meeting, then a merino-blend trouser is awesome. I’ve also worn silk loose pants, which were extremely comfortable. But since silk does pack super flat, you might want to consider if they are best swapped for something bulkier in your suitcase. The same goes for those super trendy pleated pants. If space is not a concern, then these are great. The worst pants I could think of would be super rigid denim and leather pants. I would not recommend them.

Sweatpants? Yes, been there, recently actually. I wore some red track pants on my last red-eye and loved them. They were comfortable but also didn’t scream dirtbag. There is quite a range of pants in this category too. You can get sweatpants fabric but in a trouser shape with nice, smart clean lines which to the untrained eye, could pass for work trousers.

Would I wear leggings as pants? Yeah, sure. One thing I do though is make sure my butt is covered. Even when I was at my fittest, I didn’t love having my bum out so I’d recommend pairing it with a long sweatshirt, a maxi cardigan, or a long coat. Leggings are however a great option if you’re changing into something on your flight because they pack so small and, therefore are easy to throw into your bag and change into on the plane.

Travel day footwear

Shoes, for me, are mostly informed by what can fit in my suitcase and which shoes are the bulkiest. So, on most trips, I’m wearing the sneakers or the biggest boots I’m packing. But, I’ve also worn Birkenstocks and socks, because those happened to be the bulkiest shoes I was packing for that summer trip. Generally, I don’t wear sandals on travel days because I don’t like my feet being exposed like that. If you have to take off your shoes for security, I would hate walking barefoot even for just a minute. The same goes for slides. Would wear slides with socks, like the Birkenstock Bostons, but not barefoot, at least not until after security.

If space were no concern, sure, I’d consider wearing little shearling booties, but really, it goes back to wearing the shoes I’ve selected for my travel capsule. The ones that are complicated to remove, and that have a lot of buckles and laces can be a pain in the butt. But it’s a little bit of inconvenience at security and the price you pay for wearing the bulkiest shoes on travel day and leaving space in your suitcase for the rest. You might consider choosing boots that slide off or have a side zipper if that’s a concern.

What about heels? Well, I’ve done a low heel before, without issues. But it’s not my favourite and would avoid it. I know it looks so cool on celebrities who look so chic coming off the plane, but my reality is I’m often running to my next connecting flight and would just look silly or twist an ankle if I were trying to do that in heels.

Wearing a coat on your travel day

Coats are my favourite part of a travel outfit because it’s like a safety net, a security blanket, and an instant outfit changer. Going back to celebrity inspiration: the common denominator is so often a great coat. You can wear anything underneath and a chic coat will cover all ills. The other way to look at coats and jackets is to pick the ones that may get damaged in your suitcase. Leather coats or blazers can be hard to pack and really would be best cared for by being worn on travel days.

Once again, bulkiness is also a factor. When I travel in the winter, I usually pack one wool coat and one puffer and the puffer can squeeze down into a smaller space, so it’s the one I’m going to put in my suitcase.

In the summer, that typically translates to a denim jacket, a big sweatshirt, or a sweater. Whatever is my warmest, biggest item, is what I wear on the plane.


Your suitcase and personal item bag are totally part of your airport look, but to select those I’d recommend checking out my post about selecting your travel bags. Still, you can toss in a small purse to your travel outfit which I call my extra personal item. I keep my phone, passport, and small essentials in there, especially if my coat has open pockets where things can easily fall out. I don’t really get any flack for this as long as it’s small and lays pretty flat across my body.

If you are travelling somewhere warm and sunny and need a hat that might get damaged in a suitcase, you’ll have to either wear it or hold it. It’s the unfortunate issue with beautiful straw hats but luckily there are other types of sun hats you can pack.

I do like a big scarf in the winter, but one warning is not to have too many items to keep track of when travelling. It’s so easy to lose a hat, gloves, and other items when putting your coat in the overhead bin or even when having them in your seat.

I also would recommend minimizing metal accessories like belts and zippers because these can slow you down at security

In essence, choosing your plane outfit comes down to two factors: what will be comfortable for you, and what maximizes your suitcase space.

Leave a comment below and tell me your go-to travel day outfits.

Happy Travels xox