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What to wear when traveling by air to the U.S.

Updated: Jan 21, 2024  | Tags: Airline Safety, ESTA for Tourism, ESTA for Business

Traveling on a long-haul flight to the U.S. can be tiring. Often, those flying experience delays, temperature fluctuations and dehydrating conditions. Thus, it is wise to know the best way to dress before you embark upon your journey. It is also important to dress appropriately. This article covers a number of important considerations for travelers who are taking a long-haul flight to the United States.

What to wear when traveling by air to the U.S.
What to wear when traveling by air to the U.S.

Safety First

Thinking through your outfit in advance so that it is comfortable, appropriate and contains garments that are easy to take on and off will stop delays at check-in or on the flight. Synthetic materials can be flammable or act as skin irritants, so choose the right fabrics with comfort in mind.


Layers work well in a number of situations, especially when traveling by air. Layers could include light fleeces or jumpers that are thin but warm and easy to slip on and off. They can also be packed into your hand luggage when not in use. You may be leaving a chilly environment at one end but land in a hot and sunny climate, and you will be subject to temperature changes on the aircraft en-route to your destination. Light, thin layers provide travelers with flexibility of wearing adequate clothing at all times when flying.

Tops and Shirts

It is usually a good idea to wear natural fabrics such as cotton and linen as they are cooler and also absorb humidity. As the temperature in the plane may become cold whilst in the air it can also be a good idea to have long-sleeved garments. Typical garments that can be taken so that you meet comfort and style requirements could include leggings, yoga pants or chinos, as jeans can be tight and restrictive. Long sweaters in soft fabrics can also be used as thin blankets in addition to serving as an extra layer.

Thin fleeces or sweaters are useful to have nearby when temperatures drop, or alternatively can serve as a makeshift pillow. Silk scarves or other thin materials can easily be stowed in your hand luggage and will provide a cosy extra layer if you feel particularly chilly, without needing the amount of space a sweater would consume in your bag.

Tight fitting garments should be avoided as they can be uncomfortable when you are confined to a small space for a number of hours. Consider wearing darker colors in case of any food or drink spills which will not show up as much as on light garments.

Lingerie and Innerwear

The same rule applies to underwear and inner wear as to your outer garments. Thus, natural fibers are advisable, including cotton and wool. Synthetic fibers can be stifling, itchy and hot. You may be on a long flight so wearing scratchy lace or nylon next to your skin could potentially cause skin irritations and cause discomfort.


Footwear is an important aspect of your travel attire. Choose shoes that are easy to slip on and off, as you may need to remove them at airport security checkpoints. Comfortable sneakers, loafers, or slip-on shoes are great options. They provide support during long walks through terminals and are easy to manage during security checks.

Avoid high heels or bulky boots, as they can be uncomfortable and impractical for air travel. If you're prone to cold feet, consider wearing socks or bringing a pair with you to keep warm on the plane.

Practicality: Considerations for Your Journey

When traveling by air, practicality is as important as comfort. Pockets can be incredibly useful for keeping essential items like your passport, boarding pass, and phone easily accessible. However, be mindful of security and avoid overstuffing pockets, as this can slow you down at checkpoints.

Wearing a scarf or a pashmina is a practical choice. It can serve as an extra layer, a makeshift pillow, or a blanket, making your flight more comfortable. Additionally, choose clothing that resists wrinkles, as this will help you look fresh upon arrival.

Security: Simplifying the Process

To streamline your experience at airport security, wear clothing and accessories that are less likely to trigger alarms. Avoid clothing with excessive metal, such as large buckles, buttons, or metal embellishments. Jewelry should be kept to a minimum, and belts with metal buckles should be avoided if possible.

If you're wearing a belt, choose one that's easy to remove and put back on after passing through security. Consider wearing a watch or jewelry that can be easily taken off and stored in your carry-on bag before you reach the security checkpoint.

Adapting to Cultural and Weather Considerations

When traveling to the U.S., consider the cultural norms and weather conditions of your destination. Dress respectfully and be prepared for the climate you'll be arriving in. If you're traveling from a warm climate to a colder one, or vice versa, dressing in layers allows you to adapt quickly upon arrival.

Packing for In-Flight Needs

Apart from what you wear, consider packing a small bag with in-flight essentials. Include items such as a travel pillow, eye mask, earplugs, and any personal hygiene items that will make your flight more comfortable. Having these items within easy reach can greatly enhance your travel experience.


Dressing for air travel to the U.S. involves balancing comfort, practicality, and security considerations. Opt for comfortable, breathable clothing and practical footwear that can handle long periods of sitting and walking. Dress in layers to adapt to changing temperatures, and choose attire that simplifies the security process. By carefully selecting what to wear and packing essential in-flight items, you can ensure a more comfortable and stress-free journey to the United States.