airport style what to wear

Airport style: 10 tips for blending comfort & class

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Traveling in style from catwalk to concourse

Travel ensembles blending comfort and class can coexist (read: Comfy doesn’t mean frumpy). While we might not all get to sit at the front of the plane, sip sommelier-selected wine, change into silk pajamas mid-flight, and shower at the lounge upon arrival, we can still look like it. I promise.

With the help of a carefully selected travel outfit, strategic layers, smart color combinations, and a few beauty tricks, dressing like an off-duty model strutting from catwalk to concourse is within reach, even if your seat is 75D.

Let’s start from the top.

1. Hat and sunglasses. Like in most photos of a celebrity at the airport—just Google “airport style” and 101,000,000 results show up—high-flying A-listers are almost always wearing a hat and sunglasses. Primarily, they are trying to “fly under the radar,” but this incognito combo also conceals the I’ve-been-on-a-14-hour-flight look with an air of mystique. Try it. Someone might mistake you for a celeb (and you might even get upgraded).

2. Outerwear. There’s a reason sports teams always dress up the day they play: Looking and feeling sharp boosts confidence. Think of outerwear like game-day garb—it can make or break your outfit (and your outlook)! Applying this same methodology to travel, select a coat that compliments what you’re wearing and works well with your body type for a pulled-together look, and that gives you confidence (à la Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can).

Airport Style Tips

3. Tops. Every frequent flyer swears by a different travel top—an oversized men’s dress shirt, a soft T, or a cashmere sweater—but one thing everyone can agree on is layering. With temperatures always shifting from climate to climate and moment to moment while in transit, you have to be prepared for everything from cold gusts of air-conditioning to humid arrivals. Finally, don’t shy away from one patterned layer—there’s a reason hotels often have intricately designed walls and upholstery—this decor tactic hides spills and stains.

4. Bottoms. Sorry, folks. While jogging pants and yoga leggings are the height of comfort, they don’t fly. (Get it?) Thankfully, there are many other alternatives that don’t appear as though you’re about to turn in for the night or do a downward dog. Classic jeans with a bit of give do well, as does dark denim with a touch of stretch. Otherwise, black pants never go out of style (and hide a multitude of spills).

5. Shoes. Two packing rules I follow for shoes depend on where I’m headed and what kind of trip I’m taking. Flat shoes are best for comfortably clocking steps through airport concourses and quickly navigating security. If I’m traveling with a carry-on and bringing a few pairs of shoes, I often wear my biggest pair en route, which saves packing space!

Viewfinder Tip: Want more travel style secrets? Check out my seven tips for carry-on coolness, or how to get from plane to pool, pronto.

6. The accessory. By traveling every two weeks, I’ve discovered that the single most important travel accessory is a scarf. (Men, this includes you, too!) And this travel do-all isn’t just for cool locales. Even if I’m headed somewhere hot, I still pack a scarf to combat sudden and frequent temperature changes, and to double in my “packing program” as a blanket, rain screen, or beach cover-up.

7. Face. When I attended Virgin Atlantic’s grooming class, I learned how the well-heeled crew maintains a fresh look even after flying in a capsule for 10 hours. Hint, hint: It’s all about pre-flight grooming—moisturizing face masks, a copious amount of moisturizer, and fresh-faced tips such as berry-red lips, barely there concealer, and strategically placed eyeliner (swipe a skin-toned hue in your tear duct and along the lower lid for bright eyes).

Learning about on-the-go grooming with Virgin Atlantic

Learning about on-the-go grooming with Virgin Atlantic

8. Hair. Dressing your tresses with the iconic style of a Singapore Airlines flight attendant is not as complicated as you might think. (Thankfully, you don’t need to make sure your chignon is between the one and three o’clock positions at the back of your head, or measures 2.75 inches wide!) Think about your entire journey when considering a right-for-you travel hairstyle. For example, men and ladies with short hair often get a circular indent near their crown from resting their head on the seat. Avoid this by changing your position regularly, styling your hair to avoid the indent, or adjusting it “on the fly” in the lavatory. For longer locks, a loose topknot will produce voluminous hair upon landing, while a low bun or twist won’t rub on the seat and cause flyaways.

9. Survival kit. Before you fly, assemble an in-transit survival kit to keep in the seat pocket in front of you. Think of it as your feel-better pack. Mine contains a comb, hair clips, hand sanitizer or wipes, moisturizer for my hands and face, Evian Facial Spray, lip gloss and stain, a neutral eye pencil, deodorant, acetaminophen, a protein bar, and a pen (you always need a pen while traveling).

10. Arm candy. Not all travel totes are created equal. Whether you go with an oversize purse (ladies) or a canvas or leather carryall (men), make sure it loosely matches your luggage and your look. It should also be refined and functional, with pockets to store all your travel docs and doodads.

What are your travel outfit must-haves?

Expedia compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site, such compensation may include travel and other costs.

This author has either a relationship with, or received other compensation (which may include monetary or in-kind compensation) from, the product or service providers that are the subject of this post.

Trip Styler

Trish Friesen chose an unlikely profession given her fear of flying and propensity toward car, air, boat, train, and chairlift sickness. Thanks to Gravol, Sea-Bands, and cruise ship stabilizers, the reluctant—yet enthusiastic—jetsetter packs her bag once every two weeks to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef or to sample the latest libation in Portland. Trish unpacks her suitcase in Vancouver, Canada, Eh! where she’s the editor-in-chief of TripStyler.com, a travel lifestyle website for aspiring jetsetters. Find her moonlighting on Expedia, Fodor's, Jetsetter, and as a travel expert on TV while circumventing the globe with her entourage: a MacBook Air, an Olympus camera, and the biggest carry-on she can fit on the plane.

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