What to Wear on an Overnight Flight: Best Travel Day Outfits (2023)

Our 2014 flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg was a staggering 16+ hours, earning it the title of longest nonstop flight at that time. But now there are nonstop flights from New York to Singapore (18.5 hours), Melbourne to Dallas (17.5 hours) and Dubai to Auckland (17+ hours). Whether you opt for one of these long-haul flights or prefer to book connecting flights, it’s evident that many travel destinations will require hours and hours in the air. What you wear on a long or overnight flight can make or break your trip. In this post I’ll go over what to consider in picking your travel clothes and suggest airplane outfits for women over 50.

You’ve planned your itinerary, booked your flights, and are looking forward to the big trip. But now you’re faced with a long day (or two!) of travel. It’s time to prepare for the flight! Time to load up your airline personal item with comfort items, and activities to keep you occupied. And time to choose what you’ll wear on the plane.

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Airport with travelers and luggage
Photo by Daria Volkova on Unsplash

What to consider in your travel day outfit

Whether you’re on a business trip or a bucket-list vacation, the best airport outfits will meet the following criteria:

  1. Comfort – The most important thing about your travel clothing should be comfort. Choose clothing that feels good and allows you to move easily. You DO NOT want to be wearing tight or fussy items on a long flight.
  2. Practicality – Next up comes practicality. Avoid clothing that’ll stain if turbulence causes a drink to spill. Or clothing that doesn’t breathe and retains odors (synthetic fibers). Natural fibers and dark colors are the best choices.
  3. Versatility – Frequent flyers know to expect a wide variety of temperatures. Being prepared to add or remove layers is one of the most important things to remember.
  4. Efficiency – If at all possible, choose your traveling clothing from your travel capsule wardrobe. Pick comfortable clothing you’ll wear again at your destination.
  5. Appearance – No need to dress up, but you can be comfortable and look good. And who knows? The flight attendant might upgrade you to business class or even first class if you look the part.
Image by olivier89 from Pixabay

Travel day clothing challenges

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be a life-threatening development on a long plane ride. This happens when blood clots form in the deep veins of the legs when you’ve been sitting for long periods. Though this becomes more of a risk as you get older, all passengers should make sure to get up and walk around on a long haul flight to get the blood circulation going. If you’ve noticed ankle swelling on past trips, or have a history of DVT in the family, be sure to wear a pair of compression socks even on short haul flights.

Airport security lines – unless you have TSA precheck, or similar, you may need to remove jackets, jewelry, belts, shoes, etc., before going through the screening. Make it easy on yourself, but avoiding items that might set off alarms. The best travel outfits don’t have metal zippers, clasps, etc., and are easy to layer up or down.

Airplane bathrooms – Bathrooms on airplanes are challenging on a short flight, but on a long haul flight, the bathrooms may get nasty. Don’t go barefoot and be careful of clothing that might touch the floor when you’re in the washroom.

Dry air – This will not affect your travel outfit, but be aware of the dryness, and stay moisturized. Keep lip balm in your pocket so you can apply it often. Wear glasses instead of contacts to avoid eye irritation.

What to wear on an overnight flight - women's traveling day outfits collage

My key pieces – airplane outfits for women over 50

๐ŸŒฑNOTE: Before buying anything new, look to see what clothes in your closet will fit the characteristics of a good travel day piece. If youโ€™re still missing comfortable travel clothes, consider shopping your local consignment shop.

Bottoms:pants, leggings, skirts

I always wear comfortable pants, leggings, or yoga pants when I fly. Mostly because I need to stay warm, but also for the practicality a pair of pants offers when you’re dashing through airports or struggling with luggage. The best pants are soft and have an elastic waist. Bonus points for zipped pockets. The Venice travel pants from Athleta (a certified B Corp.) and the dressy sweatpants from Encircled (another company with a commitment to sustainable clothing) fit both qualifications and are my go-to travel day options. If I’m wearing a dress or tunic, I’ll choose Wool& merino wool leggings as a base layer.

Airplane outfits for women over 50 - what to wear on a long flight. Outfit shown - leggings, merino wool tunic, cardigan.
Wool& Margo dress, Wool& leggings, Athleta Pranayama wrap, scarf from Etsy. Classy, yet cozy.

Tops: tees, blouses, dress

A dark-colored top with long sleeves is my choice. Pick one that’s wrinkle resistant and easy-care in case of travel spills and mishaps. I choose a merino wool top or tunic which I know I’ll be able to wear again during the trip. The best travel clothes are made of natural fibers. Merino wool, a natural fabric, is temperature regulating and odor resistant and is a good idea for air travel. Depending on my travel plans I might wear a soft, comfortable travel dress for the flight. Paired with leggings, a dress can be the ideal airplane outfit for women over 50.

Toppers: sweaters, wraps, jackets

Always have layering options on a long overnight flight. Your body temperature drops when you fall asleep, and you’ll want a lightweight sweater or wrap.

I’m loving my lightweight Julahas cape which has taken the place of my much-loved DKNY Cozy. Julahas are handwoven using traditional techniques in the Himalayas. I appreciate their commitment to sustainability and ethical fashion. And I appreciate that they let me offer YOU a 10 Euro discount if you purchase through this link – Julahas.

Some people pack a travel blanket in their carry-on bag, but I prefer to tuck an extra cozy sweater in my underseat bag. I can grab it mid-flight without having to access the overhead bin and drape it over my legs. My current favorites are Athleta’s long cardigan (Pranayama Wrap) and the Minkey Wrap by Diane Kroe. Both can be compressed in a packing cube to take up little space in your bag. A light jacket is also a great addition to stash in your bag.

Shoes:

Slip-on shoes, ballet flats, or other comfortable shoes are ideal for long haul flights. High heels are just not practical for air travel and might result in a fall when you’re navigating the jet bridge with your luggage.

But my #1 packing light strategy is to always wear your heaviest shoes on the flight. So, if I’m off on a hiking holiday, I’ll be wearing hiking boots. Not the best option for long flights, so in that case I’ll include a pair of slippers in my carry-on bag and change into these after I’m settled on the plane. Please don’t go barefoot on a plane, especially if you’re heading to the washroom…

Airplane outfit extras:

  • A pretty scarf can tie your entire outfit together and create a stylish look. Choose one with some substance and you can also use it as a light wrap or sleep mask on the flight.
  • Wear (or pack in your carry-on) a park of warm socks (or fuzzy socks) if you’re hoping to sleep.
  • Don’t forget face masks, a sleeping mask, and other long flight essentials.

What NOT to wear on a long flight

Sometimes the easiest way to choose what to wear is to consider what NOT to wear! Pack these items for your trip, but avoid them on travel days.

Travel Day Don’tsWhy?Do This Instead
perfumeStrong fragrances may bother fellow passengers.Pack your perfume for use at your destination
high heelsHigh heels are not practical for air travel, and may contribute towards fluid retentionWear slip-on shoes or a pair of sneakers
tight waisted pantsRestrictive pants will be uncomfortable during a long flight.Choose elastic waist pants or leggings.
contact lensAir on planes is extremely dry.Wear your regular glasses during flight.
metal jewelryNot a problem on the plane, but can set off alarms during TSA screening. Leave your jewelry in your bag.
synthetic fabricsSynthetics don’t breathe and can retain odors. Wear a natural fiber on the flight.
jumpsuitAirplane bathrooms… need I say more?Wear separates.
heavy sweatersTemperature variations might have you pulling a heavy sweater on and off.Layer lightweight sweaters.
white pantsAir travel can be messy. Turbulence and questionable airline seats can lead to stains on your good pants.Wear dark colored clothing.
pajamasCute for the under 6 traveler…Choose soft, comfortable, daytime clothing.
clothing with offensive words or imagesMay violate the airline dress code. Don’t make extra work for the flight attendant.

Air travel, especially red-eye and overnight flights, can be challenging. But the clothes you’re wearing shouldn’t add to the difficulty of a long travel day. A week or two before your flight, look through your packing list to select practical items that’ll keep you comfortable during the flight. Choose items you enjoy wearing – items that flatter you and that you reach for at home. You can look good, and feel at home, even on a long flight!


This post is part of our Travel 101 series of posts that will prepare you for your trip. If youโ€™re just beginning to plan, Iโ€™d suggest you start with the first in the series โ€“ Pack Light, Travel Easy

what to wear on a long flight - recommended airplane outfits for women over 50

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