What to wear on an overnight flight

I leave soon for India, and I have spent a lot (A LOT) of time thinking about what to wear during transit. It takes 30 hours and four flights to get there, and I want to make sure that whatever  I’m wearing is as comfortable as possible. However, I will be traveling with coworkers, so I would prefer not to wear the same clothes I sleep in!

The general guidelines I like to follow for clothes for an overnight flight are:

  1. Comfort. Obviously! Everything needs to fit well and be soft and stretchy.
  2. No zippers or buttons. No matter how comfortable the clothes, zippers or buttons will start to dig into your skin after about 15 hours.
  3. Smooth knit. I used to have a pair of very stretchy, pull-on work pants, and it seemed like they would be great for a 12-hour flight. What I didn’t realize is that they had a pattern in the knit and weren’t perfectly smooth. After about seven hours my skin started to get irritated, and by hour 10 I was ready to throw them in the trash.
  4. Compression socks. I will never travel long distances without compression socks. They’re not fun, but they keep your circulation  going and minimize swelling in your feet and ankles.
  5. Snuggly sweater. Planes tend to be really cold, especially on overnight flights. A wrap or waterfall cardigan will keep you warm when you need it.
  6. Glasses, not contacts. I usually wear contacts but on long or overnight flights my eyes get super dry. Glasses are definitely the way to go!

Here is what I came up with.what-to-wear-for-overnight-flight

  • Leggings. I have wide-waistband leggings that don’t pinch or pull.
  • Tunic dress. A jersey tunic dress will be soft, keep you covered, and look nice even after a day and a half of travel.
  • Toms. I love my gray Toms–they’re so comfortable, sturdy for walking long distances  in airports, they slip on, and they look nicer than regular sneakers.

Once I slip a sweater and pashmina into my travel purse I will be good to go! I’ll look great but feel like I’m wearing pajamas.

Readers, what did you wear on your last overnight flight?


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  1. I travel annually to Australasia from the UK so like your US>India journey it’s a long time to be scrunched up in an Economy seat plus various flight changes and the switch from Northern to Southern Hemisphere’s seasons.
    I wear smart dark blue jersey track suit bottoms , and a longish T shirt, decompression socks and laced ankle high soft shoes which have a side zip that I swap for soft hospital type slipper socks when in the plane. Over this I have a calf length dark blue woollen cardigan that doesnt show creases, it covers me up in transit , slips over a shoulder bag if not required ( see Dubai airport temperatures) but also serves as a blanket in the plane. I have a silk blouse top ( no buttons ) in my bag that doesn’t show creases that I change into near my eventual destination so I arrive with a smart top half! Also in my carry on bag I have a change of underwear and another rolled up T shirt to swap into at the half way point, so it’s all lightweight. Soft underwear throughout e.g lightweight sports bra with no seams and once again spare of whats worn underneath for refreshment at the half way point and prior to disembarking . This is all easy to carry and makes me more comfortable on e.g 11 hour flights . The time spent in midway airports is essential for freshening up , plus simple clothes changes and making yourself almost human again.

  2. Pockets! The problem with your outfit above is no pockets. Where are you going to put your tickets, passport, phone? Things you need to hand immediately? One can only stuff so much into one’s bra.

    I had a choice between comfy leggings and flowy linen pants on my last trip, and chose the pants for the pockets. They were also a good choice when I moved from the cool weather in my hometown to the hot weather at my destination… you can always get a blanket on an international flight, but it’s hard to make your clothes cooler if you are too hot.

    The other thing, always take a scarf. You can use it to keep your neck warm, shade your eyes if the cabin is too bright, and cover a stain on your shirt if need be. Don’t take a knitted woolen job but something lightweight and flowy because it will improve your outfit rather than detracting from it.

    And take spare underwear and a spare top in case your luggage goes astray in all those connections. Spare underwear I had, but I had to shop for a new top, and it took a lot of time out of my trip.

  3. More on long haul Economy.
    I don’t bother with pockets as , for me, things get too easily lost , unless all the pockets are zipped. I carry a small bag within a bag on board. An easy wheel cabin size suitcase within which is a (cheap) lightweight small haversack. This has several different zipped pockets for my tickets, passport , debit card , reading glasses, polythene bag with face cream, mascara , face wipes , small hairbrush and toothbrush, and slipper socks. My phone as Wifi back up for a slimline iPad , with plug/ charger, that doubles up for emails, downloaded podcasts and kindle books. Plus a cheap ball point pen, for writing out entry documents for customs at the next country. I put the larger bag in the overhead locker having taken out my mini haversack that usefully scrunches up by my feet and under the seat in front. Anything else I might need when refreshing between flights , or if my bag gets lost, is in the onboard suitcase. This all fits into a 7kg weight limit.
    (I’d forgotten the scarf, yes that’s proven useful.) Re clothing for heat I’m frequently cold , even in warm climates, so my choices for travel reflect that. It’s personal taste and forward planning isn’t it?
    Finally! I keep my shoes on and store my passport in one side of the bra and phone in the other until we are safely air bourne when they go back in the haversack , just in case of take-off emergencies. I always book an aisle seat so I can get myself together without disrupting other passengers too much.

  4. You’ve duplicated my normal outfit for my regular 36-hour rural Argentina to USA jaunts (including the bag, which is a champ). I also add on “plane socks” which are thick yoga socks that I buy in multipacks on Amazon. I hate wearing shoes to sleep, so I slip into those while I snooze.

    One other thing I’ve found super helpful are the Olay facial cloths–the dry ones. They don’t dry out, they don’t get weird wetness in your bag, and they don’t have any alcohol. I find the ability to wash my face on layovers to be one of the most important things–and these just suds up, wash nicely, and then you chuck them.

    Also important to add to your carryon–a pen. So many airports require a form to be filled out before landing, and it’s just easier to do if you’re not scrambling for one.

  5. Everything is obviously comfortable, except for the Toms. It all depends on our preferences because I preferred a doll shoes than a Toms. I tried toms before because it fits so good, very comfortable and look so nice on my feet. However, after a long walk it got me blistered which made me fill uncomfortable while walking and I started looking for a place where I can buy a doll shoes or flipflop because my doll shoes was on my check-in luggage. Also, I totally agreed with Sara to always bring a pen with you because you will be needing it to fill-out a form before landing on your travel destinations for immigration purposes. I have had two experiences which I borrowed a pen and unfortunately my seatmate on board has no pen as well. Anyway, Be always ready and prepared when travelling.

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