How To Dress For Long-Haul Travel
MR PORTER’s guide to what to wear to the airport, your in-flight skincare regimen and the right luggage to pack everything in
Whoever came up with the hoary old cliché that it’s the journey and not the destination that counts has obviously never flown long-haul in economy. The days when members of the jet set flew from one exotic idyll to another in airplanes that resembled five-star hotels are well and truly over. At least, they are for 99 per cent of the population.
Perhaps one day someone such as Mr Elon Musk will invent a Star Trek-esque teleportation machine to get us to the beach in Bali or the business meeting in New York at the press of a button. Until then, we’re going to have to rely on the following tips to get from A to B in style.
How to choose luggage
Luggage has a long history as a signifier of wealth and status, and many of the world’s most famous luxury brands started out as luggage makers. Today, your luggage has as much to say about you as its contents. The North Face signals your all-action eco credentials. The classicism of Globe-Trotter shows that you still pine for a more civilised era of travel. Aesthetics and status signals aside, luggage is a tool for travel and the right piece of kit is essential for a smooth journey. Here’s how to choose the right tool for the job.
Two wheels or four?
Two-wheeled cases tend to have larger, more robust wheels to haul over streets and kerbs. This is better for larger pieces of luggage that will be checked in. On smaller, carry-on cases, four wheels can manoeuvre luggage in and out of tight spaces, such as the aisle of the plane.
Soft case or hard?
Hard cases offer more protection for items such as cameras and laptops. Soft luggage often has expandable compartments and is lighter and easier to store at home. Finally, it’s a question of taste. Some people find hard cases more streamlined and elegant.
Always choose the smallest, lightest piece of luggage possible. An overnight business trip? See if you can get everything in a backpack. Even for longer two-week-plus trips, some travellers like to set themselves the challenge of getting it all in hand luggage and then launder their clothes half-way through. Others, quite rightly, would like to have the convenience and choice of more outfits. Checking in luggage also means you don’t have to be at the front of the queue if you’re flying economy.
Choose the right case for your trip
Backpack: a backpack is perfect if you’re going hiking or trekking. It should be big enough for a change of clothes and everything you need for an overnight stay in a city. Your travel rucksack should be made out of a robust but lightweight waterproof material such as nylon canvas and have useful compartments for your laptop and grooming essentials. Some have detachable pouches on the straps, which can be useful for money and travel documents. The straps should be well-padded for comfort.
Soft holdall: a holdall works for a weekend in the country or a short city break. It should contain enough room for two nights’ worth of clothes and be robust enough to shove into the boot of a car or overhead locker. Look for something made out of a lightweight but strong material. Some people prefer the classic looks of leather and canvas bags, which, while tough, can be heavy to carry. Nylon has a more contemporary feel and is lightweight, tough and waterproof. Look for useful compartments and multiple pockets so you can organise and separate your packing. Almost all holdalls come with a detachable cross-body strap, which makes it easier to carry.
Trolley case: a trolley case should allow you to glide through airports, train stations and city streets smoothly and quickly and be small and nimble enough to manoeuvre in and out tight spaces such as plane cabins. Some brands engineer the wheels to be smooth and quiet when dragged along the ground. At the very least, insist on 360-degree wheels for maximum manoeuvrability. It should be designed with compartments that easily accommodate work documents, a laptop and tailored clothes. Just as important, it should look smart and elegant in case you’re heading straight to a meeting. At the top end, luxurious leathers in a variety of finishes project classic sophistication, while cases made from polycarbonate or nylon offer a no-nonsense modernist look.
Long-haul case: a long-haul case should have a hard shell in order to protect your belongings, especially fragile items such as camera equipment. The fashion now is for sleek, silver aluminium cases, but polycarbonate cases offer just as much protection and are a little lighter and more flexible. Look out for sturdy 360-degree wheels that can handle the rough and tumble of city streets and kerbs. A decent security system such as a combination lock or strong padlock are a must if you have expensive items. Use Travel Sentry Approved locks so that if your luggage needs to be physically inspected, a TSA master key can be used to open it instead of it being broken open. On the inside, look for sections and straps that will keep items separate from one another, held in place and protected. Some large cases come with detachable laundry bags, which can be useful for long trips.
How to ace airport style
There’s a famous picture of Mr Frank Sinatra getting off a plane in an immaculate Savile Row suit with a grin as wide as Cheshire cat. Doesn’t he look marvellous? But don’t go getting any ideas. You are not a jet-set icon. You are a put-upon modern traveller trying to get from A to B with some semblance of dignity. Thankfully, in the past few years, travel clothes have come on in leaps and bounds and it is now possible to look elegant and chic without sacrificing comfort and practicality. Here’s how.
Look for clothes that are soft and have a bit of stretch in them. Italians excel at this type of clothing. Boglioli, Caruso, Incotex, Barena and Z Zegna all offer the kind of softly tailored separates that come into their own for modern business travel. Avoid selvedge denim jeans and other items of tough workwear. You’ll also want to give fully canvassed suits and slim-cut shirts a miss, too. Anything too stiff and done up will be uncomfortable.
Think in layers
The temperature can vary greatly when you’re on the road. One minute you’re running for the departure gate, the next you’re on a plane with the air conditioning turned down to freezing. So think in terms of loose layers that you can take off and on easily. A zip-up cashmere jumper (mid layer) with a sea-island cotton T-shirt (base layer) is the kind of luxurious combination that is almost as nice as a first-class upgrade.
The perfect mid layer: navy blazers can do double duty in both formal and casual situations and have lots of useful pockets for travel documents. The current trend for soft tailoring is especially helpful for travel. Travel blazers from Z Zegna, Aspesi, Arc’teryx Veilance or Paul Smith are made from wool that is crease-resistant and stretchy. You can go to sleep in these jackets and still wake up boardroom-ready.
Choose shoes that can be taken on and off easily, such as Chelsea boots, slip-on sneakers, loafers or boat shoes. There is now a slip-on shoe for almost every occasion, so you won’t need to sacrifice style for practicality, which is especially important if you’re travelling for business. Wear your heaviest shoes for the journey to save on luggage weight. Loro Piana Open Walk boots are elasticated and versatile enough for a wide variety of situations and events. Gucci horse-bit loafers offer comfort with a touch of glamour. Look to Vans for slip-on sneakers that are both hardy and lightweight or Common Projects for something a little sleeker. One of the sneakers of the moment – the Balenciaga Speed Sock – is a slip-on that is enviably stretchy, which makes it a great travel companion.
Avoid anything with metal, such as belts and buckles, and trousers in stiff, hard-wearing fabrics, such as jeans. Lots of chinos and flannel trousers now come with elasticated waists and drawstring fastenings for an elegant but still comfortable look, which are ideal for business travel. If you don’t need to head into a boardroom straight from the plane, sweatpants are now perfectly acceptable for flights. Grey flannel drawstring trousers from Officine Generale and Z Zegna bridge formal and casual with elegance and ease. As well as being comfortable and soft, the drawstring has the added benefit of not requiring a belt. If you’re not quite ready to go down the drawstring route, consider trousers with a small percentage of elastane mixed into the fabric.
How to survive the flight
Stay cosy, distracted and, if possible, sleep. That’s the key to making all those hours melt away.
Cashmere socks and hotel slippers
Little jets of ice-cold air can leak into cabins, which makes your feet feel cold. That’s why airlines often offer a complimentary pair of socks, which are often not very nice. Ensure that, at the very least, your feet travel in first-class luxury with your own thick cashmere socks. A fresh pair of slippers from the hotel where you last stayed will make the walk to the bathroom a little more comfortable, especially when your feet invariably swell. On no account should you walk around the plane with bare feet as the floor will be filthy.
Cashmere blanket and eye mask
You deserve better than the threadbare polyblend rag the airline provides. A travel blanket by Armand Diradourian can do triple duty as a pillow, blanket and scarf. Wrap it snugly around you and put on a cashmere and silk eye mask, also by Armand Diradourian. There now, you’re practically in first class.
Earphones and content
No headphones will ever totally cancel out the incessant hum of a plane or the sound of a child’s cries, but an over-the-head pair of headphones by Bang & Olufsen will at least afford some relief. Download your favourite shows and music before the flight. Most streaming services will let you download onto your device for a limited period of time.
Drink lots of water
Humidity on board a flight can be as low as 12 per cent, which is about the same as in a desert. A mere three hours in the air means your body will lose about 1.5 litres of water. So drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol and diuretics such as tea and coffee. It can be a chore to ask the steward to bring you water all the time, so bring your own flask or water bottle. To save space, choose a collapsible one.
Spritz your face
Just as importantly, you’ll need to start your skincare regimen mid-air to stop it becoming dull, dry and irritated when you land. Conditions are so dry on a flight that your normal moisturiser won’t work because there’s not enough humidity for it to bind to. Before applying your moisturiser, use a spray that contains humectants, substances that act like little sponges and help the skin retain moisture. Look out for products such as Allies of Skin’s Triple Hyaluronic Antioxidant Hydration Serum, which, as the name suggests, contains hyaluronic acid, a humectant. Better still, a spray of Aesop’s Immediate Moisture Facial Hydrosol, which not only feels refreshing on an arid flight, but also contains rose petal, bergamot peel and chamomile bud to invigorate and revive the senses.
A long-haul flight is a good time to indulge in a 20-minute face mask treatment that moisturises and lifts that dull and papery complexion. An M.E. Skin Lab Plasma 27 mask or 111Skin Rose Gold Brightening Facial Treatment Mask will not only rehydrate skin, but will firm up and brighten your complexion, which will become dull and lifeless from lack of humidity and cabin pressure. In-flight skincare is essential for business travellers who have to head straight into a meeting from the airport.
UV rays can be particularly intense when you’re flying because you’re physically closer to the sun and it can leak into the cabin through the windows. So be sure to get adequate protection using an SPF30 sun cream. And avoid opening the window blind.