Standing at the airport, waiting to board a flight, don't you often just wish you could skip that part and just say “Beam me up, Scotty!” to appear at your destination in a heartbeat?
Yeah, me too.
Long flights especially can suck the energy out of a person, but I assure you your trip will go much smoother with this list of long-haul flight essentials I put together for you!
Below, you can find my personal recommendations on what to wear when flying long distance and in-flight travel essentials to keep you entertained and relaxed until the plane touches the tarmac again.
Do note this article was written before Covid-19. For personalized assistance on travel during coronavirus, I highly recommend my friend Freddy's Corona Travel Concierge at Points Panda to make sure your travel is hassle-free.
Short on time? Check this summary video:
- What to wear when flying long distance
- Word of warning: maxi skirts and dresses
- Don't forget travel insurance
- Long haul flight essentials: carry-on checklist
- 1. Snacks
- 2. Travel pillow
- 3. Earplugs
- 4. Sleeping mask
- 5. (E-)book and iPod
- 6. Sleeping pills and other medication
- 7. Carry-on toiletry bag
- 8. Clean underwear
- 9. Pen
- 10. Lip balm
- 11. Wet wipes and paper tissues
- 12. Deodorant
- 13. Toothbrush and Toothie Tabs
- 14. Travel-size hairbrush
- 15. Big practical bag and small handbag
- Book that taxi
- Stay connected while traveling oversees
- Pin for later
What to wear when flying long distance
As you'll be sitting for hours in a confined space, it's crucial to wear something you're comfortable in. When the plane's aisle is the biggest space you have to move in for several hours at an end, it doesn't make sense to restrict yourself even more by wearing tight clothing, does it?
The best clothes for flying are clothes that allow you to curl up in your seat in any possible way and do some exercises without cutting off your bloodstream. So when you're putting together your long haul flight outfit, go for these items:
1. Long pullover or cardigan
As you'll be seated most of the time, it's important to wear a top layer that's a bit longer so that your back isn't exposed. Especially as the flight progresses and you slide down in your seat, it's nice to have something that still covers everything.
An additional benefit of wearing something longer is that it'll keep you warm. Flights can get chilly and we all know those airplane blankets aren't the warmest around.
When it's warm on board, you can fold up your comfi cardigan to serve as a pillow.
Worth checking out:
2. Scarf or pashmina
Speaking of blankets, if you wear a nice wide scarf, you can use it to keep your neck warm but also wrap it around you or use it as an extra blanket without having to bring an actual blanket on board. That's space saved right there!
Thick scarves can also be folded up to be used as a little pillow, or you can go ninja style and wrap your scarf around your head like a sleeping mask. Their multi-functionality make scarves one of the best travel accessories for long flights.
Worth checking out:
3. T-shirt or top
Because I'm quickly cold, I usually wear three layers: a top, a t-shirt and a cardigan or pullover. You can opt for just a top or a t-shirt, just make sure that it doesn't fit too tightly and still covers your lower back when you're seated.
Not only is more comfortable in terms of movement to wear something loose, but you'll also be happy you did when it gets hot on the plane and your armpits start to cry – believe me.
Worth checking out:
4. Loose pants
I know this will be a point of discussion. You can easily wear something loose on top and still wear classy, but achieving a stylish look with a loose top and bottom, that's a bit harder.
If you've worn skinny jeans to fly long haul before and you're comfortable in them, by all means, go ahead, but I'm pretty sure loose pants are a better option. Especially after you've eaten all the snacks you brought on board.
Besides, fashion has been kind to travelers lately as we've seen a rise of elegant loose pants come to the stores the past two years or so. Good options are:
The times when sweatpants were bag-like things you loved but wouldn't want to be caught dead in are long over. There's so much cool activewear out there nowadays and the pants can often easily be combined with “normal” tops. Combine with a cute sneaker and you're all set!
If you're not a big fan of activewear that looks like activewear, check out travel yoga pants. While I think yoga pants still look like activewear, there are some brands that have yoga pants styled to look like business wear.
Worth checking out:
I would go for a fashionable one that doesn't have the crotch between the knees, but that's just me. I always dress to be comfortable when I travel, but I do try to look a little nice as well.
Worth checking out:
Not everybody can pull off palazzo pants, but if you can, go for it! They're as comfi as activewear, especially when they're made from stretchy fabric, and often look a bit more classy. I never wear them as I'm too short and prefer pants that fit around my ankle so cold air can't come in from below :D
Worth checking out:
I know I told you to wear loose pants, but I also know some women love wearing leggings and the fact is they make great travel companions as they'll take up zero space in your luggage afterward. I personally prefer loose pants, but if you do want to wear leggings, just make sure they don't fit too tightly.
5. Sneakers or comfortable shoes
Personally, I always take my shoes off during long flights except when it's really cold, so I don't think that what you wear on your feet doesn't matter that much, as long as you bring socks against the cold.
That being said, you'll be tired and perhaps a bit sore when you land, so it might not be the best idea to wear high heels or tight-fitting shoes as you'll need to get to our hotel in them.
I practically always wear sneakers to fly. I'm a real sneakerhead so I take a pair on every trip and as they're usually the bulkiest shoes I pack, it makes sense to wear them for take-off.
Plus, they keep my feet warm and are comfortable no matter how tired my body is.
The only times I didn't wear them to fly, were when I traveled to Canada and Finland in winter as I needed to wear super bulky snowshoes then.
Worth checking out:
6. Compression socks
I already mentioned to always bring socks. Well, it doesn't really matter for short flights, but if you're wondering what socks to wear on long-haul flights, definitely go for compression socks. Deep Vein Thrombosis is a real threat when flying and compression socks help improve blood circulation and prevent DVT.
Worth checking out:
Word of warning: maxi skirts and dresses
I've put a lot of emphasis on wearing loose, comfortable clothes for long-haul flights, and yet I don't recommend wearing a maxi dress or skirt. The reason for that is that security might be more likely to give you a pat-down as they can't see whether you're hiding something underneath all that comfortable looseness.
Let's recap: what to wear on a long-haul flight?
1. Long cardigan or another top layer.
2. Long and loose top or t-shirt.
4. Loose pants.
5. Compression socks.
6. Sneakers or other comfortable shoes.
Whatever long flight outfit you end up choosing, keep in mind that it's also the outfit you'll be arriving in and might be stuck in for 24 hours or more if you suffer a delay or your luggage gets lost. In brief: make it comfi, but not hideously comfi :D
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets canceled, you get sick or hurt abroad and even when your electronics break or get stolen. I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
Long haul flight essentials: carry-on checklist
Aside from wearing the right long-haul flight outfit, there are also a few things you can take with you to make your flight more pleasant. These are my carry-on essentials:
Yes, food is often included on long-haul flights and yes, you can also buy food on board, but be honest: does it ever really taste good? I know I like having some backup food with me, just in case. Although I often just really need it as I get hungry (and then unwell) rather quickly.
Snacks are plane travel essentials and those who claim they aren't, haven't seen me hangry yet :D
Now, I should probably recommend you to pack healthy flight snacks, but I'm not going to because I don't always do that myself. Being someone who gets nauseous quite easily, I tried a bunch of things and found that the only thing that always tastes good for me on a plane are… crisps. Preferably Pringles, but I'm not too fussy about that. I think it's the combination of the saltiness and the plainness that makes them so tasty up in the air and never causes any trouble.
2. Travel pillow
While you can use a pashmina or a cardigan as a pillow, that'll be a bit hard when you're cold and also want to wear those things. So when I travel long haul, I do take a travel pillow with me. I've yet to find the perfect one but am currently using the J-Pillow.
I always sleep with earplugs but I also make sure to have them in my carry-on bag so that I can use them in-flight when I want to take a nap. They're a much cheaper solution than noise-canceling headphones and a much smaller one as well. Then again, you can also use the headphones to listen to music or hook it up to the in-flight entertainment system.
4. Sleeping mask
I don't personally use one, but I know lots of people who won't travel without it, so I didn't want to leave this out.
5. (E-)book and iPod
While long-haul flights usually offer in-flight entertainment, I don't want to take my chances and always bring something to occupy myself with as well, usually both my Kindle with a bunch of business and travel books and my iPod with podcasts and music on it.
I was once on a 10-hour flight and the screen of the lady behind me didn't work for the entire flight… Don't want to be stuck without a book then!
6. Sleeping pills and other medication
When I came back from Sri Lanka, I was exhausted. A friend of mine had given me some melatonin to take and it helped me to sleep for most of the flight home. It's also always practical to have something against nausea or a headache at-hand.
7. Carry-on toiletry bag
I prefer traveling carry-on only, but even when I don't, I pack a small TSA-compliant toiletry bag with emergency medication and all the stuff I definitely don't want to be without in case they lose my luggage, like my contacts.
Check out my essential travel toiletries list.
8. Clean underwear
Some people pack a whole new set of clothes in case they're luggage gets lost or they spill all over themselves during the flight. I just bring clean underwear. If I spill, I can always switch my layers around to cover it up :D
Good for playing games like Hangman and OXO or for filling out customs forms upon arrival.
10. Lip balm
My mom and boyfriend think I have a lip balm addiction. While that might be the case, it's a fact that airplane air is dry and can wreak havoc on your lips, so you better get smearing! Chapstick is my favorite brand.
11. Wet wipes and paper tissues
Whether it's because of your own clumsiness or someone else's, if you're anything like me, you'll need them at one point :D Tissues are not just long-haul flight essentials for me. I take them everywhere, even when I just go out to do groceries at home.
This, the wet wipes and the next two items will help you refresh at least a little before landing. Make sure to bring a travel-size one!
13. Toothbrush and Toothie Tabs
toothie tabs dissolve in your mouth to create a toothpaste like foam. They're perfect destroy any snack evidence :-)
14. Travel-size hairbrush
Especially when you have long hair, being able to brush it can make you feel so much better.
15. Big practical bag and small handbag
Now, let's not forget you need to put all that stuff away! I usually travel with my Abby Black camera bag for women and either a carry-on trolley if I'm traveling carry-on only, or my Eastpak Egghead laptop backpack if I also checked a bag.
I highly recommend bringing a small shoulder bag even if you're also bringing a backpack or something else, because then you can put all the things you need easy access to – like your passport, paper tissues, and money – in there, while you can leave bigger items that you won't immediately need in your bigger bag.
Book that taxi
All of the above will help you get through that long flight as comfortable as possible but chances are, you'll still don't feel like taking a long train ride or figuring out how to take that bus to your hotel.
For complete ease of mind, consider booking a transfer. Taxi2Airport is a reliable platform. It offers 24/7 support in 10 languages and always finds you the cheapest transfers among their verified taxi partners. It also has a rating of 9/10 on Trustpilot, with over 14,000 reviews.
Book your transfer here.
Stay connected while traveling oversees
Want to stay connected on your trip so you can share photos, call loved ones over WiFi and easily use apps like Google Maps? Then check out Skyroam mobile WiFi.
They offer both day passes and monthly subscriptions providing you with 4G throughout your trips. I've been using their daily passes not just when I travel outside the EU (no roaming charges for me in the EU) but also as a backup for when I think I'll go over my phone's data plan.
And that's it! I hope this post gave you some ideas on how to dress for a flight as well as for what to take with you on board.
Pin for later
Looks like you covered all the elements one needs for a comfortable long haul flight. I’ll try to incorporate come of these tips on my next big flight!
Thanks for this post. I’ve always been curious as to whether or not compression socks work. It’s always been flip-flops and random socks. Travel pillows are tough so I might look into the J-Pillow you mentioned. Ear plugs are an essential though for sleeping masks I’ve never actually tried it. Only thing i might add is eye drops. I think you’ve got it nailed though with this list! Thanks for the reminders.
So far, the J-Pillow’s the best travel pillow I came across. It’s easy to use in different positions and it has a little loop with a pinch button so that you can attach it to your backpack or handbag and you don’t have to pack it.
I only recently started to take an eye-mask for long-haul flights and I find that it does help, especially when I want to sleep through a meal service or another moment where they typically turn on the lights.
Eye drops against dry eyes? That’s a very good addition!
You should try the water filled eye mask!! They are absolutely soothing to tired eyes
Is this like a weighted mask or still a bit different? I’m quite sensitive to things touching the top of my nose (don’t ask :D) so am worried that might be too heavy.
Nice post! :)
A big no-no is loose-fitting pants!!! Why? Because when you go to the loo the pants are all over the DIRTY floor!!! Wear tight-fitting jeans or tights under a long tunic.
Lol. I always wear loose-fitting trousers for long flights and I’ve never had them on the floor. I’ll also take 10 hours of comfortable sitting over having to watch out for two minutes on the toilet any time :-)
Big no-no for me to have my pants sweep any loo-floor ESPECIALLY in cramped plane toilets!!! Soft tights under tunic for me! I’ll give the jeans I mentioned a miss unless they are the soft kind rather than the conventional kind.
Well you can keep your pants up so that they don’t touch the flour :-) I’ve never had issues with that.
Very hard to keep palazzo pants from touching the floor! I wore a pair to school just yesterday and hated going to the loo. You basically have to roll them up and ‘pin’ to the crotch and then try not touch the floor. Anyway that’s just the way it goes with me. Have a nice day!
Hm good point. I usually have elastics with me so I just “tie” the pants together :D
A lovely day for you too!
Love the post but do disagree with the comment on maxi dresses/skirts. I have worn a maxi dress to travel in for the last 4 years and I have never had any issues – they tend to stop you if you are wearing wedge heeled shoes so i have swapped my trusty wedges for flat sparkly sandals this year.
Thanks for letting us know! I never wear wedges so hadn’t thought about those.
That all sounds very good advice. I have noted it all down.
You’re welcome :)
Teresa Szamruchiewicz says
Thanks very helpful
What a great article – you have every single thing covered. Long-haul flights can be a real pain without the right outfits and gear. Thanks for sharing your travel expertise with us!
So glad you like it!
Thanks for commenting :)
TRTL neck pillow is the bomb
Haven’t tried that one yet. Haven’t felt the need to try another one :)
Thanks for Sharing. I will using your tips for my upcoming long haul. It sounds very practical too. Thanks.
You’re welcome :)
What do you think about compression tights?
I dedicated a full article to all kinds of compression socks here.
I personally only wear calf-high compression socks as I always travel in trousers and find those to be the most comfortable.
So helpful for my first trip abroad. Cheers
My husband and I will be traveling in two weeks (so exciting!) and absolutely everything is packed already.. however, you mentioned the compression socks. I will be getting them tomorrow since stores are closed now. Thank you for your advice
Hope you have a lovely trip :)
Lazina Ali says
Thanks for all your great information, My first 18 hr long trip, Thanks for sharing.
Have a great trip!
Julie Atkinson-Baldwyn says
Hi Sofie great advice I’m going from England to New Zealand. What shall I do about my contact lenses? Jules
I used to wear contact lenses (I had my eyes fixed since then) and for flights, I would always take them out. The air on the plane is so dry and if you fall asleep with your lenses in, it’ll feel horrible when you wake up. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about :-)
I would take them with me in a lens container in my carry-on, as part of the little bag of liquids I would keep on me.
If you want to put them back in as soon as you arrive or even right before you land, you can get one of those 75 ml lens liquid thingies to keep in your carry-on as well.
Hope you have a great trip!
Silvia Tallarico says
The clip that closes the bra can hurt your back; then, I recommend wearing a front-closing bra or yoga bra if you have to fly often for six/seven hours. A flight attendant gave me that advice, and I remember it every time I fly.
I’ve never had this issue but that’s a great tip!
liz tomlin says
What is the best way to go about doing your covid test and providing evidence (South Africa ) upon arrival. ?!
You’re best to check official sources for that as this type of information changes too often.
Try the website of the South African Tourism board or that of the airport you’re flying to.