4 Well-Traveled People on What They Always and Would Never Wear to the Airport

a woman standing outside a building next to her suitcase and tote wearing a baseball cap, blue jeans, and a tan trench coat with a striped sweater draped over her shoulders

(Image credit: Gabrielle Katz)

Frequent flyers have all kinds of strategies to streamline the travel experience. They rack up airline points to hit status, glide through TSA when others are left frazzled, and have mastered the art of the airport outfit. In part, practice makes perfect. The more miles in the air they have, the more time they've spent learning what works and what doesn't. It only takes one long-haul flight in an uncomfortable underwire bra or one barefoot walk through a metal detector to learn your lesson—never again.

So what are the dos and don'ts of what to wear to the airport? Take it from four seasoned travelers: Comfort is key. While each of their in-flight uniforms differs slightly, they have a few important criteria in common. The outfits try to minimize the discomfort of stuffing yourself into a tiny airplane seat via soft materials and layering. These pros also suggest dressing up a bit, especially if you're traveling for work. That way, if your luggage gets lost, you can still head straight to a meeting without worrying about your ensemble. "I really hate looking like I'm going to be on an airplane," explains Gabrielle Katz, the founder and principal of PR agency Accent PR_ojects. "I love looking at old photos of how people got dressed to get on a plane, which is a stark contrast to what you see at bag check."

Read on to find the go-to airport outfits from four jet-setting women, along with the items they'll never wear on a plane.

Nicole Kliest, Freelance Writer

a woman wearing a black sweater and tan pants taking a mirror selfie with a suitcase

(Image credit: Nicole Kliest)

What's your usual airport outfit?

For shorter flights, my go-to formula is usually a roomy button-down shirt, denim, socks and sneakers, and either a sweater to drape over my shoulders or a light jacket. I know I'm not winning any novelty awards with this formula, but I average around three trips a month, so having a uniform that I know is easy to put together and makes me feel polished takes precedence.

For overnight flights, I skip the denim and go for a matching set in a soft fabric. I finish with a silk scrunchie to tie my hair back while I sleep.

What's your thought process when getting ready?

Being polished without compromising on comfort is the primary consideration for me when planning a travel look. I want to feel and look relaxed but still professional enough that if I interact with someone prior to having the opportunity to freshen up in the hotel room, I don't feel like a ragamuffin.

Anything you'll never wear when in transit?

I would never wear heels in transit! I also don't wear heavy coats or scarves on planes because they take up too much space, and it's never cold enough to warrant that many layers—one cozy sweater or travel wrap is enough for me.

I would say I'm not a big fan of sandals when traveling, walking through TSA barefoot or having my toes exposed on a flight just feels like too much!

What's the best type of bag or shoes for TSA?

I like to carry a small travel bag that I can put my in-flight essentials in (laptop, toiletries, etc.), and then I'll pack my purse in my luggage.

As for shoes, if you have TSA PreCheck like me, then this obviously isn't as much of a consideration, but in the off chance the airport doesn't offer PreCheck, I'll skip shoes like my high-top Chucks that require more effort to put on and take off. I'm also a big fan of the marled sock and Birkenstock clogs duo!

Even though I favor a polished laid-back look for myself, I always appreciate when I see someone dressed up at the airport. I think a lot of us are nostalgic or longing for a return to that golden age of travel when air travel felt sort of cinematic. If I spot a fellow traveler dressed to the nines (even in heels), I always think, More power to them!

For trips when I'm flying from a cold climate to a warmer one, I always pack my sandals in my carry-on bag so when I land, I can change into them en route to the hotel. It's a silly tradition, but it can feel like a little luxury to quickly transition to toasty temps in more suitable footwear.

Gabrielle Katz, Founder & Principal, Accent PR_ojects

a woman standing outside a building next to her suitcase and tote wearing a baseball cap, blue jeans, and a tan trench coat with a striped sweater draped over her shoulders

(Image credit: Gabrielle Katz)

What's your usual airport outfit?

I joke that if I'm not traveling for work, I'm traveling for a wedding, except it's not a joke at all… If I'm not traveling for work, I'm traveling for a wedding, and I'm always traveling.

If I'm traveling to Europe for work, I almost always deplane and get to it, so I try to wear something I can feel comfortable taking a meeting in.

Sometimes I can be on the road for weeks at a time, so anything I wear on the plane also needs to be something I can wear day to day.

What's your thought process when getting ready?

As much as I want to be comfortable on a long-haul, I have one real "no fly" rule, which is anything you can sweat in, you can't fly in. No workout leggings, no sweats, no running shoes. Ever. Honestly, I very rarely fly in jeans. I like to think, If my luggage got lost and all I had was this outfit, could I go to lunch in it?

Anything you'll never wear when in transit?

I've had a few self-inflicted travel wounds when it comes to airport outfits (an incident where I was pushing the return flight to an NYC snowstorm on a very sunny and warm Miami Art Basel day comes to mind), but the worst is wearing shorts on a plane. Shorts or a skirt. I like my legs covered.

What's the best type of bag or shoes for TSA?

I just discovered this brand Little Liffner, and it's by far the best carry-on option. If I'm [only] carrying on, I have my Rimowa Cabin bag and Ola Canvas tote, which is the best all-purpose canvas tote that I mostly use for vacation travel.

For shoes, I usually wear Church's boots in the winter and my Adidas Sambas in the summer—but nothing you have to tie up!

Alyssa Rara-Luna, Brand Marketing Consultant

a woman standing on the sidewalk with a suitcase and tote bag wearing a leather jacket and sweatpants

(Image credit: Alyssa Rara)

What's your usual airport outfit?

Comfy sweats (ideally with pockets) and a cute, functional jacket.

What's your thought process when getting ready?

A comfy flight look, TSA-friendly shoes, a pulled-together travel ensemble, etc.? Comfort is number one for me! Function is also key. I like to wear soft long-sleeve shirts because they're lightweight but still keep me warm on the plane.

To tie the look together, I like wearing a light trench or heavy leather jacket. Both are cute AND have pockets I can quickly put my phone or travel documents in.

Anything you'll never wear when in transit?

I've worn uncomfortable undergarments while flying and am now extra conscious about that. Adjusting an underwire lace bra on the plane is not fun. I also refuse to ever wear denim (unless it's a super-short flight and I have to hit the ground running!).

What's the best type of bag or shoes for TSA?

I prefer wearing sneakers to fly but don't love tying and untying laces, especially in a rush. I'm currently obsessed with my Adidas x Wales Bonner sneakers because they're a bit easier to slip on and off.

My favorite bag to fly with has easily accessible pockets on the outside and lots of storage inside.

Kira West, Travel Writer and Content Creator

A woman sitting in a chair next to a suitcase and tote bag wearing a black coat and jeans

(Image credit: Hannah Schweiss)

What's your usual airport outfit?

I love a matching set or onesie with a jean jacket in the summer or a long trench in the winter.

What's your thought process when getting ready?

I'm going for comfort while looking put together since I am usually traveling for a mix of work and leisure. I love mixing comfort with a chic jacket so the entire fit still looks great!

I don't believe in jeans on a plane unless they're loose and fall in the comfy category.

You'll mostly find me in neutrals because the key to packing in a carry-on only is sticking to one color scheme!

Anything you'll never wear when in transit?

Tight clothes are a no-no for me. If it's going to be jeans (which is rare), they're going to be comfortable.

I love sandals but wouldn't wear them on the plane, because my toes get cold in flight and the thought of walking through the metal detector without socks scares me!

I always have layers. The one time I traveled without them, I was freezing the whole flight.

What's the best type of bag or shoes for TSA?

I love a carryall tote with a zipper or snap (so nothing falls out while going through the scanner).

I'm a carry-on queen, so this is the bag that changes the most when I travel since I'll take a bigger bag if there are more things I can't fit in my suitcase and a smaller one for shorter trips.

I've got TSA PreCheck so I rarely take my shoes off but usually wear my Nike Air Max 97s when I travel for a comfy sneaker with socks that I can take off if needed.

Aemilia Madden