Essentials For In-Flight Comfort 2

travel in style – in flight essentials (part 2)

Comfortable travel clothing

Cardigan: Splendid // Tee: Madewell // Scarf: Lauren Ralph Lauren (similar) // Pants: J.Crew // Shoes: Tsubo  (similar) // Tote and Suitcase: Lipault Paris here and here

Last week’s travel post covered sweaters and scarves; this week’s installment on in-flight comfort will focus on pants/bottoms and shoes (though I’ll have a post later dedicated to stylish, comfortable shoes for travel).

Because I travel carry-on only, I try to wear my heaviest, bulkiest items on the plane. We tend to travel during cool to transitional seasons*, so my bulkiest items will often be jeans and boots. But if I wear jeans on a long flight, I make sure that they are comfortable, have some stretch and do not bind AT ALL in the waist. Most of us will swell or bloat just a bit on a long flight, so give yourself some breathing room. Ponte knit or heavier yoga pants are another alternative. Remember that if your flight arrives in the morning, you may not be able to check into your hotel right away and may be doing a bit of sightseeing in whatever clothing you wore on the flight, so clothing that won’t stretch out or look rumpled is key.

In general, I prefer to travel in clothing that, while not tight, is cut fairly close to the body. Clothes that are bulky or oversized are harder to layer, and billowing, voluminous items can get caught in doorways, turnstiles, any narrow spaces you may be trying to navigate with luggage in tow. Baggy clothing can also bunch up or get twisted up if you’re trying to sleep in flight…just something else to consider. I know some women like to wear full or long skirts with tights or leggings, and if that’s what you feel most comfortable in, go for it. Personally, I’m most comfortable in pants for travel days.

I don’t maintain a separate wardrobe just for travel or purchase specialized “travel clothing,” though depending on your destinations and activities, that may make sense for you. I’ve found a simple pair of slim stretch pants in a neutral color can be dressed up or down and go from sightseeing out to dinner with a change of tops and accessories. Look for fabrics and styles that are washable; you’ll get much more mileage from these than anything that has to be pressed or dry-cleaned. A note about bootcut or flare-leg pants: if your travels take you anywhere that rain or puddles or even snow are a possibility, leave these behind or tuck into your boots when out and about. They will act like a sponge, soaking up and holding moisture.

Airport security is every traveler’s bane. I’ve rarely gone through security when it wasn’t a mad scramble, with trying to figure out what goes in which tray, removing all items that need to pass through the scanner, and then retrieving all of your belongings on the other side, all the while in the (close) company of scores of fellow travelers, who may or may not be calm and patient themselves. Pants that don’t require a belt mean one less item to remove. I always, ALWAYS wear socks, even if they’re just athletic ankle socks. I shudder seeing people in flip-flops who have to pass barefoot through security. Though seasoned travelers often advise to wear slip on shoes for going through security, your bulkiest pair may not qualify. Most of the boots I normally travel with have zippers. I would suggest you don’t wear anything that requires a lot of re-arranging to put back on…depending on the airport and the crowds you may have to step into and re-fasten your shoes without a place to sit.

Once on the plane, you may want to remove your shoes, but remember again that your feet will probably swell, so I’d advise against any shoes that are very snug to begin with. You’ll also want to be able to slip them back on easily to use the lavatory or go to the galley for warm-up on your tea.

A few items I always keep handy in my under-the-seat carry on bag:

  • Hand lotion**
  • Lip balm
  • Spray mist for face**
  • Dramamine (in case the flight gets bumpy or I have trouble falling asleep)
  • Antacids
  • Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Eye drops (these can go in your medications stash, don’t have to count toward your carry-on liquids limit)

**these will need to go into your 3-1-1 liquids bag, unless you purchase after going through security.

*I’ll have some warm weather packing suggestions in a later post.

Next up, some carry-on luggage options, and tips for packing light.

Do you have favorite trousers for travel, or strategies for getting through airport security with a minimum of stress?

MORE TRAVEL-FRIENDLY TRO– USERS: (note, many of the Lands’ End style are available in Misses, Petites, Plus and Plus Petites)

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34 Comments

  1. January 29, 2014 / 4:27 am

    Stretchy clothes all the way for me, fluffy socks an eye mask and a pashmina because it can be so cold sometimes on board. Eye drops too, I have dry eyes and they end up feeling as if a lizard has been sucking on them if I don’t add drops every hour or so.

  2. January 29, 2014 / 4:58 am

    I am not traveling any time soon, but I love your ensemble so much, I think I will try to copy it for running errands this weekend…wish I had those booties!

  3. January 29, 2014 / 6:07 am

    I wear cropped pants. Airports and WCs are not the place for dragging your pants’ hem on the floor.

  4. Ellen
    January 29, 2014 / 6:30 am

    Definitely Jag Jeans, the kind that pull on with no zipper and no hard metal button to gouge into you while you sit. They are slim fitting, don’t get baggy after long sitting, andthat wide waist band has something of a tummy tuck effect. Longer cardigan with a Tshirt underneath and a long scarf (I get them at Target for travel) that can double as an extra layer on the chilly plane, a wrap when we dine out, or in the hotel room. In a pinch, it can be a swim suit coverup as well.

  5. January 29, 2014 / 6:43 am

    I wear leggings under a long skirt so I can remove one or the other on arrival. Maybe TMI–but also–pantiliners.

    • January 29, 2014 / 11:30 am

      It isn’t TMI, frugal. Me, either pantyliners, or… an extra pair of knickers. But the liners are more practical with a legging.

      I also wear leggings under a long skirt. Certainly would not feel comfy (or fully dressed) walking around in just leggings.

      I really like the cord leggings pseu shows here, though. I had a legging like that bought from Marks and Spencer eons ago. Only tossed recently, because the elastic had died so the waist was huge.

    • Thea
      January 29, 2014 / 12:47 pm

      No, no! Not TMI. Great idea. I never thought of using panty liners on those long trips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. January 29, 2014 / 7:11 am

    Socks – always! I also take along some Benadryl (same ingredient as Dramamine) for nausea or insomnia. And a mini tube of Vaseline. Thanks for sharing your good ideas, Une Femme.

  7. January 29, 2014 / 7:16 am

    My approach is very similar — although I would also generally be wearing or carrying a light raincoat, not wanting to be without it in a European spring nor wanting it to take up luggage space. Amused and wistful about the tranquility of your photo-collage — wouldn’t it be wonderful if travel/airports could be so quiet. . .

  8. January 29, 2014 / 7:17 am

    I will be travelling in my Une Femme inspired outfit of grey Eileen Fisher pants and cardigan with blue t-shirt underneath. What I really need to buy is a pair of grey booties.I’ll look at your last year’s post because this year, I will be sending 3 weeks in Britain and a month in Paris. Transition season can be unpredictable so layering is the way to go.

  9. Hostess
    January 29, 2014 / 7:17 am

    Not being a seasoned traveller like you I find these posts extremely helpful. The one item I would add would be a pashmina or cashmere wrap for air conditioning drafts.

  10. January 29, 2014 / 7:33 am

    Weird as it may sound I always travel with (not in) my ski underwear. The bottoms are great to layer under jeans if it’s rainy or cool/cold. They double, for me, as cosy lounging bottoms in hotel rooms and cottages. Our daily routine when “on the road” is to be up early and doing whatever then back to the room after lunch for a nap (my husband) or a cup and an hour with a good book (me.) Sigh…thinking of being “on the road” as I write this….so sick of snow and -25 temperatures!

  11. amelie
    January 29, 2014 / 7:41 am

    An excellent and helpful post!

    I definitely second the not bulky or odd fitting clothing for the plane! I had on my EF harem pants (still love them though) for the short one hour hop from NYC to Toronto and that was one hour of torture, couldn’t cross my legs and kept getting twisted and hamstrung with almost any movements! Also agree with wearing your bulkiest or heaviest items so that they don’t have to be packed. I leave off belts and watch and jewellery, except for wedding rings, keeping them in my purse, until AFTER security. And I keep my 3-1-1 bag in a front pocket of my carryon, so that it can easily be accessed. Seen too many people having to practically unpack their suitcase in the security line, looking for their liquids etc.

    As to inflight, depending on length of flying time, I put on compression socks; use Flight Spray hourly (it’s made of natural ingredients, keeps nasal passages moist and inhospitable to bacteria and viruses, supposedly) and use my pashmina as a pillow/ blanket/ back support and/or protection from food spills.

    Another handy item to have particularly during layovers on long haul flights are those disposable washcloths. So refreshing, when one hasn’t showered in 24 + hours!

  12. Jill Ann
    January 29, 2014 / 8:33 am

    I’ve been traveling more in the last couple of years and am still refining my packing. Can’t manage the carryon-only, though! Maybe I’ll get there eventually. Lately I’ve been wearing knit pants, a tee, and cardigan, similar to what you’ve shown. I bought a pair of EF ponte knit pants for a recent trip to England. They were very comfy, but bagged at the knees more than I expected. I did wear them three or four times though, including in-flight, so maybe I expect too much?

    I bring a black cashmere wrap and an inflatable travel pillow, since I have a tricky neck. My Eagle Creek tote also has an outer pocket for a water bottle, plus an easily accessible pace for the liquids bag. One item I just added to my packing list is a 2 oz spray bottle of Febreeze; that’s something I wished I’d had during the 12 day trip to England, where we didn’t stay in one place long enough to be confident in sending out laundry.

    One pet peeve is having to remove my scarf while going through security. Whyyyyy? Also noticed that airports in Europe didn’t require shoe removal.

    —Jill Ann

  13. January 29, 2014 / 8:40 am

    Sounds like our travel styles are very similar Une femme! Loved your comment about bootcut pants – it didn’t even dawn on me on my last trip and you are right- the bottoms definitely act like sponges! We tend to travel during the same time periods (and in winter) so having a range of clothing pieces is crucial – favorite traveling pants right now are a pair of NYDJ’s that are a trouser style – really comfortable and not as heavy as traditional jeans but don’t make me look like I just rolled out of bed. For long, international flights, I pack a pair of velour sweats in my “personal item” and change into these on the plane – then about an hour before landing I change back – refresh my face with a facial wipe, brush my teeth and touch up my make up – then I ready for anything!

  14. Nuts4dogs
    January 29, 2014 / 8:48 am

    First of all let me start by saying I absolutely love your blog and am a faithful reader. However a couple of posts of late have made me scratch my head or simply wonder why. So on this one I will ask. What is the issue with checking in luggage?

    It makes me slightly crazy that people don’t/can’t/won’t check their bags. The waiting areas, aisles and overhead bins are stuffed to the gills with items that should be checked in. Considering the number of bags going through an airport in the run of a day I suspect the number of lost bags is a small percentage. Plus, if the bag is lost it’s a great excuse to go buy a new outfit!

    • une femme
      January 29, 2014 / 9:17 am

      Nuts4dogs, I’ll elaborate on this in next week’s post. 🙂

  15. Duchesse
    January 29, 2014 / 9:06 am

    Suggest not traveling with tall boots; they are heavy. Lambswool insoles make a pair of walking shoes much warmer and are a godsend if shoes get damp in rain. @Ntus4dogs, I do check my bag, but be sure all meds are in a handbag. My suitcase was lost once for 4 days with some essential meds and it was not a good situation.

  16. January 29, 2014 / 9:16 am

    Terrific tips! Like you, I always travel with carry on exclusively. I have pretty much given up in traveling in jeans. It seems no matter how stretchy and roomy they are, they bind. My travel outfit is usually a longish knit skirt of pointe knit slim pants. I always bring a few individually wrapped sanitizing wipes to clean off the armrests, seat back in front of me and my tray table. Planes are so dirty.

  17. Violet Pearl
    January 29, 2014 / 10:18 am

    I also have only one wardrobe and it travels well! I love my Lipault weekender tote. It can almost replace the 19-inch roll-aboard for trips of less than a week. For going through security (and for multiple other uses), Fast Flats from Dr. Scholls ($10 at the drugstore!) are a great way to walk through without going barefoot. The little carry bag that comes with them fits in just about any reasonably-size purse – even the small crossbody bags. I have yet to find any other suitcase that “measures up” to the 19-inch roll-aboard, purchased from TravelSmith years ago, for size, convenience, packability, capacity. It even worked for a 10-day cruise including two formal (long) dresses and two sets of linens bought in St. Thomas.

  18. Marcia Brinkley
    January 29, 2014 / 11:25 am

    I agree with Nuts4Dogs on checking bags. My number one pet peeve when traveling is not being able to stow my one bag because the bins are already stuffed with other people’s multiple carryons. Not anything against anyone here, but many travelers somehow get on board with 3 bags or maybe more. I like Chico’s travel pants and jackets, especially the moto jacket, with a stretchy 3/4 sleeve top. Never too hot, never too cold, never wrinkled. I add a big scarf or pashmina for warmth, stick my iPad in my purse, pack a snack and buy a bottle of water at the airport. My carryon has my meds, a change of clothes, magazines and more healthy snacks!) I usually take a long overnight flight from Hawaii to Texas so I bring half an Ambien and an eye mask as well.

  19. Patty
    January 29, 2014 / 12:14 pm

    My travel wardrobe is so similar to yours: I usually wear my Chico’s skinny no zipper jeans (similar to the Jag jeans another poster mentioned, but the Jag’s tend to sag on me), a dressy tee, and a knit jacket, scarf, socks and good, black walking shoes. We usually travel from cold to warm so I don’t need boots. I think I could do a small carry-on if it weren’t for toiletries, makeup, and velcro rollers (I just can’t get the hang of handling a blow dryer and a brush at the same time) and at least a couple pairs of shoes. I’d love to see a post on how you manage these items.

  20. Elle
    January 29, 2014 / 4:41 pm

    I love wearing boots, but I do not travel with them. Too big to pack, too much effort (and too restricting) for actual travel days. I have a really comfy pair of fidji shoes that are amazing for walking but cute and stylish enough for going out. I usually wear those for travel, and bring one other pair of shoes in another color. I second the idea of a shawl for the plane – wouldn’t be without it summer or winter. (I’m in a hotel in Miami right now, and the pashmina was essential for the over-air-conditioning today.)
    Finally, as for bag checking, frequent travelers just don’t do it. Partly it’s the law of averages on lost luggage, but mostly it’s the extra time at the end of the flight. In Miami and Charlotte for example, you can wait 40 minutes or more for baggage to appear. We once waited almost an hour at Logan (Boston) with 2 little kids – not a happy dance. If you travel a lot, it adds up to more than is bearable. Here’s another story: My husband (not a seasoned traveler) went to Italy for work and his bag never caught up to him – it was eventually delivered back to our house days after he had returned home. (of course, it being Italy, he went out and bought some new clothes there to wear to his meetings, but still…)

  21. January 29, 2014 / 5:50 pm

    Good tips, must remember for the next trip. Love the shoes, very attractive yet comfortable. You are good at passing on info for traveling!

    blue hue wonderland

  22. Rebecca
    January 29, 2014 / 6:39 pm

    Love your Travel In Style tips! And looking forward to the upcoming Travel Light tips. I find your combination of jeans, boots, tshirt, cardigan the most comfortable to travel in. My favourite boots, for travel or any day, are by BeautiFeel – Belle Suede Ankle Boots. These slip on and off easily at security, and are elegant and extremely comfortable. Any jewellery I take (very minimal) goes into a jewellery pouch – even the watch – and into my wheel-on luggage. That way I just have the one bag and my boots to put through the security scanner. One of my favourite Must Take products is Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. I decant it into a little clear pot to put with the other liquids. It really revives nails (and the entire hand) and smells lovely too. As I currently call Australia home, I have jaw-droppingly L-O-N-G flights to get me to Europe or the USA. So that I don’t have to walk around a city for hours waiting for my hotel room (after being in-transit for over 30 hours), I always book my room at my destination for the night before I am due to land. (And make it clear to the hotel that I won’t be there until early next morning – otherwise they may close the booking as a No-Show). This way, I can check into my room even if it is 6am, and at least have a shower and complete freshen up, and unpack, before heading out for sightseeing.

  23. January 30, 2014 / 6:07 am

    Like you, I often travel in jeans. But for work, I find a nice ponte pant can work well while still looking professional. I love your travel posts; keep them up! Sara

  24. Jill
    January 30, 2014 / 6:20 am

    Great post. I haven’t been anywhere in so long that I think I might break out in hives when I next go to the airport. The lines at security alone make me anxious…XO, Jill

  25. January 30, 2014 / 6:29 am

    I put Neo-Sporin in my nostrils a few times during the trip to kill off bacteria, as I used to get a cold nearly every time I was on an airplane. Seems to work well.

  26. January 30, 2014 / 11:14 am

    Great travel tips! I should have consulted you 3 weeks ago! I now travel in fisherman’s pants with open shoes during summer and find them hugely ( pun intended!) comfortable as they just allow so much movement. I will however follow your advice on wearing socks next time, great post !

  27. February 1, 2014 / 7:19 am

    I understand perfectly why one would not want to travel with checked luggage, but what do we do about the little sharp things we need? I always have an Opinel (small French camping knife), a folding corkscrew and a few other essentials.

  28. Phyllis
    July 23, 2015 / 12:14 pm

    Lagatta, I take a corkscrew everywhere, in my carryon, and have never had it removed.

  29. jackie
    March 10, 2016 / 6:31 pm

    i bring a small tube of secaris ointment for my nostrils to prevent them from drying out. I also sleep on the plane with a wet washcloth over my face to have a little moisture.

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