I Always Fly in the Same $137 Pair of Pants

I'd consider myself someone who flies pretty frequently. After five years of living across the country from my hometown, I've gotten used to flying back and forth multiple times a year for holidays and visits. What all those in-flight hours have amounted to is me perfecting the outfits I travel in. I regret to admit that during the first year of living away, I committed a few major airport outfit mistakes that I cringe at.

Nonetheless, I've honed in on a few key pieces that I rely on every time I fly anywhere. Topping my list is a pair of pants so life-changing that I'm deeming them the best pants for travel hands down. PSA: They're not leggings. Look, I have nothing against leggings, but I'd prefer not to look as if I just walked out of a yoga class and into a TSA checkpoint. Instead, the answer to my travel outfits is a pair of pants designed to feel just like leggings but look like a sleek pair of trousers. Bonus: They're currently on sale.

Shop the Pants

The geniuses over at Carbon38 designed these pants that, although they could be categorized as "athleisure," are actually so much sleeker than any pair of track pants or joggers. Details like the seaming down the front and the subtle front slits are what give the pants a decidedly elevated feel. Because even if I'm stepping off of a plane after nine hours of travel, I never want to look as if I've been cramped in an economy-class seat for that long.

Luckily, these aren't the only pants on the market that fit the bill for my perfect travel pants. Just look out for details that make a pair of actual leggings more special, like zipper details, an interesting texture, or a cool pattern. Likewise, look out for trousers that are technically trousers but provide enough stretch to have the same feel as leggings. If you go the leggings route, I recommend shopping for a ponte pair because the thicker material looks much better than standard leggings.

Ahead I've shopped out all the "pants" that pass my test for traveling so you can look just as sleek as I do the next time you step off a plane.

I love the front seaming on this pair.

Available in French sizes 34 to 44.

Sporty details can come across as elevated too.

Available in Italian size 42.

Tuck a thin sweater into this ribbed pair.

Available in Italian sizes 36 to 48.

Wait, these leggings are decieving.

Available in French sizes 34 to 44.

Stirrup leggings offer a fashion-forward spin.

Available in sizes XS to L.

Try to resist these pretty ruffles—I dare you.

Available in sizes XXS to L.

These can double as work pants.

Available in sizes S to M.

Another standout Carbon38 pair.

Available in sizes XS to L.

Everlane low-key has the best affordable travel pieces.

Available in sizes 00 to 12.

Another amazing ruffle situation.

Available in sizes XS to L.

The subtle print deserves a closer look.

Available in sizes XS to XL.

Leggings we'd 100% wear as pants.

Available in sizes 0 to 10.

These would look cool with a vintage sweatshirt.

Available in sizes XXS to XL.

No one will guess these are really leggings.

Available in sizes 12 to 28.

Look out for ponte leggings—the material is thicker and thus looks less like regular leggings.

Available in sizes XXS to XL.

Two words: wide leg.

Available in sizes XS to XXL.

Front seams just work.

Available in sizes XS to XXL.

I'm loving the zip details at the ankle.

Available in sizes 6 to 32.

Another great ponte option.

Available in sizes XS to XLP.

Yes, you could also call these hybrid pants "treggings."

Available in sizes L to XL.

Speaking of travel outfits, you should always have these eight on hand.