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What to Wear on a Long Flight to Be Comfortable (2023)

There is nothing quite like loading yourself into a single, poorly padded, seat for multiple hours that can soon lead to some major discomfort. But don’t let that stop you from exploring! You can survive a long-haul flight if you pack some airplane essentials and know a few tips for what to wear on a long flight and what seat to pick!

girl looking out of airplane window

What to Wear For a Long Flight

My go-to long-haul flight outfit is pretty simple. This is one time when comfort is a priority, but that doesn’t mean you have to look frumpy. You can leave the pajama pants packed away and still survive a long flight in economy wearing comfortable clothes. Affiliate links are included in this post.

  • Comfortable Pants
  • Shirt with Cardigan or Hoodie
  • Blanket Scarf or Travel Blanket
  • Compression Socks
  • Slip-On Shoes

Best Pants for Long Flights

First, let’s talk about pants. I love to wear solid black leggings. They can be paired with some cute tops and/or cardigans and look fashionable while still staying comfortable. I buy simple ones on Amazon, but I also love prAna leggings. Lately, I’m wearing Aerie pocket leggings, which my daughter got me hooked on.

If you’re not a legging person, you can find some great travel pants that work well. Look for soft, quick-drying fabrics, and soft or elastic waistbands. I’ve really fallen in love with these Columbia pants. But lately, I’ve been hooked on wearing these Eddie Bauer Departure Joggers, and these pact Airplane pants (note, I’m 5’9″ and the pact pants do fit me like cropped pants).

I also love pants that have a stretch waist like the prAna Fernie Beach Pants (lightweight and loose), prAna Kanab Pant (a bit more stylish and slim silhouette), and Spanx AirEssentials Wide Leg pants. I have the AirEssentials jumpsuit and love the material but jumpsuits are definitely not travel-friendly!

I will mention that I’ve started to realize the appeal of fitted/gathered-leg pants versus wide-leg yoga pants for flights. When you wear pants that aren’t fitted at the ankles, you will likely have them touching the ground when you use the restroom. Which isn’t a good thing in an airplane bathroom!

Men (at least my husband) often like to wear jeans for long flights. I’m always recommending he wear athletic or travel pants as they typically are less restrictive and they can dry easier than denim in case of a spill.

pants to wear on a long flights

What Shirts to Wear on a Long Flight

I love to wear soft t-shirts when I fly. My favorites are from prAna and Target. But any soft comfortable tee will work. I also really like cute graphic tees and normally find great ones at Target and Old Navy. Graphic tees can look really cute with a cardigan and leggings.

I love to pair my black leggings with a white t-shirt, but keep in mind that white does show stains. If you’re prone to spills or traveling with little ones, you might want to wear dark tops or shirts with a print. I’ve recently started wearing tops that have built-in bras for more comfort, like these Duluth Trading Built-In Bra Tank Top.

Merino wool tops are also very popular with travelers and can often be worn multiple days without smelling. I’m very sensitive to the texture of tops and most merino wool doesn’t work for me. However, if you like merino wool the one I like is the SmartWool Active Ultralite, and my friends like Unbound Merino (especially for men’s shirts).

I often pair my leggings and t-shirt with a long cardigan that has pockets. Men might want to bring a hoodie for an added layer.

You might also want to wear a blanket scarf on the flight. A cute blanket scarf will make your outfit look more put together. Plus, it can serve as a good travel item to wear during your trip. You can even get a travel scarf that has a hidden pocket for your passport and such.

I often will use a travel blanket that packs up small. Often on long flights overseas, they’ll provide a blanket at your seat. However, I’m not always sure if those blankets are clean. Packing a blanket scarf or travel blanket is the best way to keep you warm and avoid germs. :)

three shirts that are great to wear on a long flight

Best Shoes to Wear on a Long Flight

Before we chat about shoes, consider packing a pair of compression socks, I love my Comrad socks. Compression socks are worn to help prevent blood clots and deep vein thrombosis. You might also pack a pair of cozy socks to keep your feet warm if you suffer from poor circulation. I’ll share below in this post how useful compression socks are for long flights!

You’ll want to think through what comfortable shoes to wear for your flight. I highly recommend slip-on shoes, like these Dr. Scholl’s shoes (run large) or my new favorite Vionic Pismo Sneakers. I recommend slip-on shoes because they’ll feel better if your feet swell on the flight (a common thing) and it’s also convenient for getting through airport security.

two pairs of shoes that are best to wear for a long flight

Of course, if you’re packing light you might be wearing your bulkiest shoes, like hiking boots. But if you’re going to be on a long flight, I highly recommend you wear slip-on shoes. I also never recommend wearing sandals or flip-flops for flying. Unless you really overheat while flying, these types of shoes don’t provide enough coverage for a flight in my opinion.

what to wear on a long flight
Best clothes to wear to stay comfortable on a long flight

Long Haul Flight Tips to Stay Comfortable

Here are a few of my best travel tips for long flights, including what I think are the best seats when you’ll be sitting for a long time.

Choosing the Right Seat for a Long Plane Ride

The first tip has to do with seat choice, and I have a few thoughts on that. First, if you have long legs, consider splurging for an extra legroom premium seat if available. Of course, if you’re playing the points game or flying on an airline that allows upgrading, one of the best things for comfort is to upgrade to first class. Check out my experience flying business class on TAP Portugal and JetBlue Mint.

view of leg room and back seat entertainment on tap portugal business class seat

Just be sure that the premium seat includes extra legroom, some premium seats do not have more room and only offer early boarding or forward seat location perks.

If you’re not splurging for premium seats, then check the seat map, and don’t be scared to pick a farther back row. People love to sit closer to the front, so those rows fill up faster. Sometimes on flights that aren’t full, you’ll find the back rows have a lot of empty middle seats, sometimes you’ll even see someone with an entirely empty row.

A few notes, keep in mind where bathrooms are located. Sometimes extra legroom seats are also near the lavatories and if you’re in an aisle seat on a big plane with middle plane lavatories you may have people next to you often, not to mention the smell and noise.

Also, note on large flights overseas, families with babies can often be seated at the front “bulkhead” rows in order to have access to a bassinet system for the baby to sleep. If you sit near a bassinet row be sure to pack some earplugs. A good idea actually for anyone flying as babies aren’t the only loud things on planes!

airplane seats

My final tip about seat choice is to choose a window seat if you like to sleep. I often choose aisle seats to prevent claustrophobic feelings, however, I never sleep well with people constantly bumping my shoulder or elbow or grabbing my seat back as they walk past. You’ll also have to get up to let any of your row-mates out to use the restroom, which could interrupt your sleep.

If you’re planning to sleep on the flight, check out my review for the best travel neck pillows for planes. If you’re traveling overnight, sleeping on the flight is a great way to help beat jet lag. The sooner you try to adjust to the new timezone, the better. Taking melatonin can be helpful to tell your body when you want to sleep.

Selecting a window seat allows you to lean against the wall/window and snooze away undisturbed. Window seats also have the perk of getting to look at and photograph any beautiful landscapes that you might fly over. However, aisle seats do have the advantage of easy access to the bathrooms and it allows you more freedom to move around for blood circulation.

Just be sure to use the restroom right when you board. After meal service can be a good time to use the lavatory too since people are often awake and tray tables aren’t full of meals and drinks.

Stay Hydrated

One thing you’ll notice on long flights is that the flight crew will often walk by with cups of water. There is a reason for that! The airplane cabin has very low humidity and you can quickly become dehydrated.

Dehydration can lead to skin discomfort, fatigue, muscle cramping, and headaches. So, when you see a flight attendant walk by with a tray or bottle of water, take a cup. Your body will thank you!

Another tip is to pack your own reusable water bottle and fill it up at the airport once you’ve cleared security. Liquid IV is a great option for adding flavor to water for those who don’t love drinking water. Many airports have water bottle filling stations near the drinking fountains. If you have lounge access, they often have chilled, flavored water in a dispenser.

striped water bottle with headphones on pink background

Get Up and Move

First and foremost, obey the seat belt light. But if the pilot has given the all-clear to move about the cabin, feel free to take a bit of a walk. I like to regularly head to the bathroom just to stretch my legs and wash my hands.

There are a lot of germs on airplanes, so keeping your hands washed is a good idea, plus you’ll stretch those legs and that’ll help you stay comfortable on a long flight.

Long Flight Essentials

The other major tip for surviving a long flight is to pack a few essential travel items that will help you stay comfortable. I always pack a little bag of go-to comfort items for the flight and then have them easily accessible at my feet.

You’re going to want to pack things like:

  • gum
  • hand sanitizer
  • lip balm
  • disinfecting wipes
  • eye drops
  • ibuprofen
  • headphones
  • charging cables
  • reading material
  • downloaded movies/shows
  • eye mask
  • + more listed on my packing list
checklist for carry-on long flight

I’ll soon have a whole post with tips for my carry-on packing list and product recommendations for what I pack for a long flight. But in the meantime, I’m giving you the chance to get my checklist to help you know what to pack on a long flight.

Sign up below to get the printable list delivered to your email.

Hopefully, now you’re ready to relax on your next flight. Picking the perfect long-haul flight outfit, packing a few travel essentials in your carry-on, and knowing a few of my favorite flight tips should help you survive your next long flight.

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Becki

Sunday 24th of December 2023

I disagree about wearing pants or leggings on long overseas flights. I prefer to wear a cotton tee shirt dress. Usually in a midi length with a cardigan with pockets and a scarf. It feels like your in your comfy nightgown in your seat and very easy to sleep in.

Penny Richardson

Tuesday 2nd of April 2024

@Becki, That is exactly how I feel! Question- I am traveling overseas for the first time. How do I style Compression socks with a T shirt dress? Thanks!

Kim Tate

Tuesday 2nd of January 2024

Nice to hear that works for you. I would be way too cold in a dress and I also sleep in pants not a gown, so perhaps I'm comfortable with my legs covered. I do love packing midi dresses for travel though as they're great to look like you're more put together when touring and they can be very comfortable!

Sue Johnson

Sunday 24th of September 2023

Very informative tips from you and your readers!

Linda

Sunday 25th of June 2023

It is key is to wear something to ease the use of the small toilet on the plane; long cardigan, flowy pants are not. Sincere suggestions to readers to wear non-inflammable cotton pants that are easy to pull down and up and won't make any water stain obvious and don't need a long cardigan.

Ava

Tuesday 21st of March 2023

Thanks for the tips I have a flight it’s not exactly long it’s two hours But I want to be comfortable and I have learned When I fly To always stay hydrated and to use the bathroom And you mentioned all that thanks

Jacy

Friday 10th of March 2023

I’m in healthcare and travel frequently both domestically and abroad. I agree with most everything, the exception being the window seat. The windows don’t get cleaned frequently and the shade has germs from passengers moving it up and down. You should Never lay your head against it. I alway choose an isle and bring a good pillow.

Kim

Monday 13th of March 2023

Planes are dirty for sure! Definitely one of the reasons I pack sanitizing wipes and wipe all those areas after boarding. And I use a travel pillow with a washable cover!