Over the quarter century of planning tours and trips, seminars and retreats I’ve been asked a near infinite amount of questions, like “How much one can check in on a plane or take as a carry on?” and countless queries on what one should wear in the frozen hinterlands of Antarctica.
How does one dress on a Safari? Does sitting at the Captain’s Table on an Atlantic crossing require a tuxedo? Should one wear open-toed shoes when zip lining in Costa Rica?
With gentle bonhomie, I assist clients in navigating through their journeys, understanding their desire to obtain clear answers.
The one question I’ve never been asked, the one that surely every passenger has mused a thousand time is, “What should one wear on a plane?”
Air travel is often a conglomeration of various disparate micro-climates, from the sweat-inducing sunny tarmac to the arctic air-conditioned cabin during flight. So, fight discomfort with plenty of layers. Plus, the more layers you pile on your body, the less you need to pack in your luggage. Roll items and stuff them in your carry-on bag or under the seat in front of you if you’re too warm.
Don’t wear tight clothing; do wear natural breathable fabrics. Whenever I see a man in a three-piece suit, I can’t help chuckling, realizing that either he want others to view him as a very important person or he’s meeting someone immediately upon landing and never thought to take a second outfit with him.
Maintain in-flight comfort and cleanliness by wearing breathable fabrics – materials like cotton, silk, or linen. Fabrics that don’t allow air to circulate will hold sweat on the skin, likely making you feel dirtier faster and probably necessitating a good spin in the washing machine upon landing. Tight clothes can restrict blood flow in the already-confining space of an airplane seat. Is the reward of showing off your fantastically toned thighs worth the risk of deep vein thrombosis? Ditch the skinny jeans and don loose-fitting natural fiber garments to give your skin some breathing room.
Women: Don’t wear high heels, wear comfortable shoes. Heels are restrictive, and they’ve been said to cause a long list of maladies, from chronic foot pain to hammer toe. Plus, unless you’re one of Charlie’s Angels, they don’t exactly facilitate a clean exit in case of emergency.
It’s best to wear extremely comfortable, mostly flat shoes on the plane – think of your poor feet after hours or even days of sitting, standing, and walking en route to your destination. You’ll also want to select comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off when passing through airport security.
Don’t wear a new outfit. Yes, you enjoyed shopping at the Jersey Gardens. If you have just bought that new cashmere sweater and you’re itching to try it out and show it off, maybe leave it for when you arrive. You can easily spill drinks or food during turbulence and in the small spaces of the seats. So only wear something new if you are sure you won’t be damaging it on the way over.
Overalls, or as my British clients call them Dungarees, are another piece of clothing that boggles my mind. Even in the best of circumstances, overalls should be left to someone painting your house. Many have asked if there is an item that is more man-repelling than denim overalls? OK some cute kid can carry it off but when I see an adult person wearing them on the plane, the first thing that pops into my mind is that I pity the poor person behind them lining up to use the toilet. Anything that makes going to the bathroom difficult normally will make it impossible when stuck in a tiny airplane toilet with a line waiting outside. Just make sure to wear something simple that you know won’t be any fuss.
Let’s discuss your feet, or, more to the point: Why do I want to look at them on a plane? Unless you have the comfiest flips flops in the world, you’re probably best sticking these in your suitcase. They aren’t very hardy and when you’re on your feet a lot of the time, you might be better off with some white trainers or formal black flats. If you’re worried about your feet smelling, try using some spray for your shoes and refreshing mint spray for your feet. And take a spare pair of socks. Never stick those naked pair of feet in the aisle or in front of the seat ahead of you. My solution when I encounter naked feet invading my seat space is quite elegant: I ‘spill’ some water on them and apologize profusely. They never return.
If you’re over 12, kindly refrain from switching into your pajamas on those long-haul flights. Please resist the urge to put on your cute little outfit of athletic leisure clothes. Unless, of course, the airline provides you with them. One of the more underrated premium passengers’ perks are airline pajamas.
Stepping onto a plane, out of those designer duds, and into a pair of branded pajamas is like telling the plane that you belong up there. In what other context would it be remotely okay to have a nightcap while lounging in your PJ’s? And airlines do their part to make you feel welcome by collaborating with famous designers on their sleepwear.
When flying in United’s Polaris class on flights over 12 hours, you’re offered 100% cotton pajamas. To say I’ve never had a more comfortable set of pajamas would be the truth. In fact, United prides itself on emphasizing sleep and many a passenger says along with ear plugs and eye mask, it blocks out any ambient distractions. Delta offers fliers snazzy two-tone gray sleeper suits but only on certain transpacific flights from the US to China and Australia.
Speaking of United Airlines, trying to fly in leggings could be problematic. This probably only applies if you are flying with United Airlines as two teenage girls were not able to board their flight after company representatives stated that they did not comply with the companies’ dress code. Most airlines are likely to be fine. But don’t wear them if you want to be sure.
Let me request something you should never wear on a plane: Heavy perfume or cologne. You may be tempted to try all those samples as you saunter through the duty free stores. Don’t! Your seat mate will thank you for it.
Sometimes flying stinks. Seriously, sometimes it stinks – as in being a downright putrid experience. If you’ve ever thought “There ought to be a law against people who turn the air in the cabin of an airliner rancid,” you’re in luck. It’s not exactly a law, per se, but most airlines have rules in their contracts of carriage that allow them to remove particularly smelly passengers if the stench is so bad that other travelers are sickened by it.
Certainly, it’s not fun for the crew members who must do that dirty deed.
So, what do you do if you’re on a flight and are seated next to, or near someone, with extraordinarily bad body odor or someone who has particularly smelly feet? Good manners would tell us to just suck it up and stay quiet. But some rare situations create a smell so rank that air travelers, even those with the best manners or the worst olfactory senses, can’t stomach it.
In such cases, travelers’ only real option is to bring the situation, and its overwhelming seriousness, to the flight crew’s attention. In the past, when planes typically flew much less full than today, it might have been possible for attendants to relocate passengers in the cabin to get them away from the source of the stench. Not today, when most planes are flying at 85% full and during prime traveling hours are completely full.
If enough passengers revolt in a polite, reasonable and non-threatening way, it’s possible that the crew will take quick action to eliminate the source of the disgusting odor. And by eliminate, I do mean removing the offender. Yes, that pretty much guarantees that the flight will be quite late and that everyone onboard will be inconvenienced. And that stinks, just not as bad as staying on the plane contaminated by the rotten smell of a putrid passenger.
Now we come across the conundrum of loose-fitting clothing versus tight clothing. While a loose-fitting top will not get you stopped, if your entire outfit looks a little like a clown suit, you may look like you are hiding something. This is not the look to go for when trying to get through security. Clothes that are way too tight are going to feel uncomfortable on a flight. Feet naturally expand during a flight and so wearing anything tight around your ankles and feet is not going to serve you well and could even be potentially dangerous on a long-haul flight. Choose something a little more loose-fitting that allows your skin to breathe.
I would advise against anything really constricting. You want to be the most comfortable you can be to avoid cramping, swelling, and anything that may affect you later. Allowing for healthy blood circulation is especially important to avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein, usually in the legs. It’s very important to be able to move around a bit in your seat – very difficult, I know – and keep your blood flowing. If you are tall, travel a lot, or are on a long flight, this is extremely important because you face the risk of developing DVT. More innocuously, swelling in the stomach can also occur, causing discomfort – especially if you’re in restrictive clothes. Bloating is a major issue, so wear something comfortable around your waist like elastic. As cute as they may be, tight leather pants probably aren’t the best.
It is surprising, but wearing anything that is provocative in terms of political message or that might offend other passengers could mean you are booted off your flight. If you’re unsure, ask your Mom or a good friend. If you’re unsure you could wear something to a family gathering, then it’s probably best to leave it in your suitcase. Color me silly, but when flying I prefer reading a magazine or a novel and not your T-shirt.
Bottom line: Keep it simple. Make sure to bring a few extra layers. Wear what is comfortable. If you’re a woman or a man that eschews stares, wear a scarf: It’s great as a blanket for when you nap and always makes any outfit look chic. Do remember, life’s too short to wear boring clothes.The author is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. For questions and comments email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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