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What to Wear and Carry on a Plane Trip

Flying in Style and Comfort

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What to Wear and Carry on a Plane Trip

Dress comfortably, but in style.

© Peter Cade/Getty Images.
By Susan Breslow Sardone

In the early days of jet travel, people actually got dressed up to fly: Women donned skirts and heels, men would wear neatly pressed suits.

Although a few first-class passengers may still wear such gear for flying, the majority of passengers in every cabin now dress defensively, not decoratively.

With all of the checkpoints people must go through to get from the terminal to the plane to their destination — check-in, security, passport control, customs, immigration — it’s smart to dress comfortably and in a way that won’t cause a delay for you or your fellow plane passengers. Of course, if you’re on your honeymoon or a romantic getaway, you want to look stylish, too.

The following tips can help you decide how to dress and otherwise prepare for your next plane trip:

Dress in Layers It can get steamy standing in a crowded check-in line and chilly in an air-conditioned plane. To prepare for both situations, dress in layers that can be peeled off or added as needed in the airport and on the plane.

A sweater, jacket with pockets, pashmina, or hoodie over a pretty cami, tank, or shell for her and a nice T-shirt and hoodie or jacket for him can be an ideal topper.

  • Word to the wise: Hold off wearing your “I’m with Stupid” shirt till after the wedding.

S-t-r-e-t-c-h Grandma across the aisle may be settling into her plane seat wearing elastic-waist sweatpants, but you won’t feel especially attractive if you wear the same. Instead choose pants or jeans with a little extra “give,” woven with a small percentage (5% or less) of Spandex. They’re super-comfortable yet you'll arrive without your pants looking baggy in all the wrong places. You may also prefer pants with multiple pockets, such as jeans or cargo pants, since travelers can always use more places to stash stuff.

Avoid Heavy Metal Silver belt buckles, oversize earrings, loose change, watches, and heavy chain-link necklaces are among the items that can trigger a metal detector alarm. (So can necessities like hearing aids and underwire bras.) To avoid embarrassment and holding up the line, place jewelry in your carry-on and put it back on when you reach your destination. And do you really need to lug all those keys on vacation? Pare down to the necessities and keep those in your carry-on, too.

  • Tip: Recently engaged with a diamond ring? Buy a cubic-zirconia lookalike and leave the real thing at home in a safe place.
Wear Slip-On Shoes Some airport security posts make you remove the shoes you wear and put them in a bin to be scanned; others allow you to walk through in your footwear. As a courtesy to fellow passengers, wear clean socks. And if you’re tempted to wear sandals or flip-flops, think twice: Toes can get inadvertently stomped on in a crowd.

Manage Your Electronics Digital cameras, cell phones, PDAs, and laptops are too delicate and valuable to leave in checked luggage. So plan to carry them on. Do keep your computer accessible; more than likely you will be instructed to put it in a bin on the security conveyor belt to travel through the scanner alone.

Minimize Liquids You won’t be allowed to bring your water bottle through security (but you will be able to buy a new one once you’re past it). All liquids, gels, and aerosols that you want to carry on the plane must be in three-ounce or smaller containers, and you can use only one quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag to hold them. Anything that exceeds those sizes in carry-on luggage is likely to be confiscated.

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