Airplane pyjamas are one of the great joys of flying overnight in business class on the airlines that hand them out. Not only are they increasingly cute (Qantas ‘roo shirt for the win), but they also dramatically decrease the chance of you feeling sweaty, gross and unwashed at the end of a long flight. But you don't need to shell out for a ticket to reap the benefits of a more comfortable flight.
It’s lovely to be able to nip to the lavatory shortly after takeoff, change out of what you’ve been wearing all day and slip into something soft and comfortable and spend the flight feeling relaxed. But take one piece of advice from this frequent traveller and aviation journalist: keep your regular clothes and shoes on after takeoff until the seatbelt sign is turned off, and make sure you’re dressed before landing. Any kind of emergency is hugely unlikely, but in the event that you do need to evacuate the aircraft you’ll want to be fully clothed, with your wallet, passport and phone in your pockets, and shoes on.
The trick is to be quick off the mark on takeoff, though, before the toilets get too much use. Shake out your street clothes, roll them up, pop them in your bag in the overhead bin, and welcome to inflight comfort. Even when I’m not lucky enough to be in the pointy end of the plane, I’ll often bring a pair of light cotton shorts and a t-shirt to change into. I like to ensure the shorts have pockets so I can keep important bits and pieces on my person (bonus points if they button), and I’ll usually pick a nice loose T-shirt given how hot it can get on some planes.
If you’re less warmblooded than I, you may want to replace shorts with a pair of yoga pants, leggings or even tracksuit bottoms. I also have a couple of friends who swear by travelling in a light cardigan in case the air conditioning is overly chilly. A nice comfy old hoodie with those pouch-style pockets so you can tuck your hands away and slouch down in the seat, using the top of the hood to block out the light, is also a good choice. For a really long flight, I’ll also pop a pair of flipflops in my bag, especially if I’m heading to or from a hot destination.
You and I, reader, both know how gross those airline lavatory floors can get after a bit of use, and it’s nice to be able to avoid cramming my feet into my street shoes to pop to the loo halfway through the flight. And once on the ground, they’re handy for kicking off your shoes when you get back from a day of sightseeing, or for avoiding any nasties in the communal showers in a gym, hostel or shared apartment.
You can even consider taking the bring-your-own-pjs movement a bit further: you can replicate (or even exceed) an inflight amenity kit with things you have at home.
I have a really lovely fabric eye mask that I use on long flights or when I know that I’m going to want to sleep during the daytime. It’s unreasonable to expect everyone to keep all the windowshades closed, and even in business class the ones they give out can feel a bit plasticky.
A good strong lip balm is another plus, and a little pot or tube will go a long way for lips that get irritated and cracked at the equivalent of eight thousand feet of cabin altitude. It’ll even go beyond: a little dab of lip balm will do wonders if the cuticles of your nails dry out, and if there are any dry spots on your face or forehead (hello, area between my eyebrows) a bit of extra moisture could do them good while you’re in the air. In summer months or if I’m likely to be outside I’ll pick up a tube of something like Chapstick that has added SPF, and in winter I love the chocolatey goodness of Lush’s Whipstick in its little tin.
I also like to take a good hand moisturiser. It’s important to wash your hands frequently when travelling given how irregularly other people wash theirs and how frequently everybody touches all kinds of surfaces. (I wish I’d never seen the microbiology cultures one company took from a headrest, but that’s one of the perils of my job…)
Between the dry air, regular washing with industrial-type hand soap, and the disinfectant gel that we sometimes end up resorting to, hands can get dried out. For something with a relatively neutral scent I like Lush’s handy Charity Pots or that Neutrogena Norwegian formula, both of which which come in sizes under that all-important 100ml.
And lastly, even when I’m travelling in business I pack a fresh pair of socks. It’s nice to change out of the ones I’ve been wearing all day, and those weird plasticky airline ones just feel funny on my skin, so I bring some almost-entirely-cotton ones from home (I like Sock Shop Colour Burst series because they’re a nice thick 90% cotton blend).
The trick: whenever and wherever the road takes you, find the balance for you between the self-care comforts of home and the joys of travel.
As an aviation journalist based in France, John Walton writes regularly on travel for Lonely Planet and a variety of aviation magazines. He welcomes questions from readers on Twitter (he’s @thatjohn) or via email to email@example.com.