A little preparedness makes travelling go so much smoother.
A little preparedness makes travelling go so much smoother. Image by Unsplash+

That may sound like an unfortunate title since professional escorts at the top of their game are known to jet round the world to service their clients. But you can usually tell who they are because they rarely dress like travel professionals.

Presumably they have to disembark from their first class cabins and go straight into their clients’ beds, hence the need for the full kit-out.

For the rest of us who also have to travel for work or play albeit a lot less glamorously, dressing right is also something to be mastered so you don’t look like you’ve never been on a plane before. With the advent of cheap airline travel, the hordes can and are travelling and you can easily tell who’s new to all this and who’s not. So here are some tips on how you can look like you’ve done this all your life:

1. Think before you don a tracksuit

Tracksuits may be the most comfortable things to wear onboard but nobody, but nobody, wears velvet ones anymore, especially those that have ‘Juicy Couture’ emblazoned across the bum. If you want to wear athletic wear, sweatpants and a matching sweatshirt (but not in the same colour) ensures that you are warm and chic.

2. Comfortable shoes are a must

I get cold in airports and on planes so I don’t understand keeping your feet bare unless you’re travelling in Business Class and are likely to be given free socks. Ballet flats or gym shoes go best with your track pants anyway and make the most sense. I know boots sometimes are necessary if you’re travelling in winter but because feet tend to swell onboard, trying to put them on again when you land may mean hobbling off the plane in the most undignified manner. High heels are definitely amateur hour gear.

3. Neck cushions? Be picky

I’ve seen Japanese women board flights and then immediately start putting on all these things that they’ve been persuaded is needed for long flights. These include armwarmers, bedroom slippers, neck cushions, eyemasks and god only knows what else. It can take them about 15 minutes to settle down after taking their seats just because of all this gear. Out of these, I can’t figure out the armwarmers unless you habitually wear sleeveless tops when you travel but eye masks and neck cushions are sensible and slippers are only for those with a real phobia about germs on the toilet floors. There are however neck cushions and neck cushions. The type you need to blow up will mark you out as a first-timer, the ones in funny colours and cartoony bits that you hang around your neck even when browsing the shops at the airport will never get you upgraded. The best are the longish types that can be strapped together to be a pillow, or a neck cushion or to prop up your lower back. Get them at Muji in a number of chic colours.

4. Maybe leave the pyjamas at home

If you’re on an overnight flight, do you change into jammies or not? Not unless you’re in one of those Singapore Airlines first class private cabins. Qantas (and Emirates) hands out tracksuit-type PJs to its longhaul Business Class passengers but if the entire cabin puts them on, it feels like a boarding school dorm. I’ve seen some women go into the toilet as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign is off and emerge sans makeup and in a caftan. I guess pretending you’re still home can be comforting. As for me, I dress to travel and sleep, in the most comfortable clothes I can find.

5. Jeans and long flights are a bad idea

One rule I do have though is never to wear jeans. In my youth, when the bum is never unbejeaned, I once did a longhaul flight in the type of jeans where you have to lie down to zip it up. I forgot that flying does make you swell up, which meant that my jeans pinched in the most uncomfortable of places. Mind you, those were the days before stretch jeans and today with the unattractively-named ‘jeggings’, travellers may not have that problem anymore.

6. Wool is not your best friend on flights

I also learnt the hard way never to wear woolen pants on flights, even in the midst of winter. Flying from London to New York once, I had the misfortune not only to wear pants that got extremely itchy with static but to be seated in between two very fat men. There is no better description of a travel nightmare than me trying frantically not to scratch myself in my seat interspersed with having to climb over my seatmate’s fat belly on myfrequent trips to the loo to rub my legs down with body lotion

7. Wear minimal makeup

Unless you’re bringing your whole makeup kit in your hand luggage and can actually clean your face thoroughly in the toilet, I’d suggest keeping makeup to a minimum for your flight. I’ve emerged from long flights looking like a panda after my mascara ran from sleeping with an eye mask. I now never wear mascara though haven’t quite been able to leave the eyeliner.

8. Travel-sized items are your best friend

Talking about makeup, I’m intrigued that there are still people who lug those big square vanity cases, presumably filled with all sorts of lotions and potions. I wonder how they get past security with the LAGS rule these days. Most of your beauty kit should go in your check-in luggage but given the propensity for luggage to go missing, it’s best to bring some supplies in your hand luggage. This often means keeping a stock of travel-sized beauty supplies or the messy business of decanting your usual kit into 100 ml bottles. My favourite solution are wet wipe cleansers, for skin and eyes. And little pots of moisturiser and lip balm.

9. Keep essentials in your hand luggage

Luggage that goes AWOL is a hazard that goes with modern travel. I once flew a direct flight from KL to Dhaka, Bangladesh and my suitcase still didn’t make it. Since I also made the mistake of having nothing in my hand luggage besides my laptop and some books, I found myself with nothing to wash my face with nor to sleep in nor any fresh clothes or makeup to wear the next morning. This would have been bearable if I didn’t also have a very important meeting with a government official at 11am. Thus it was that I met him dressed in a Bangladeshi shalwar khameez with an absolutely naked face on my very first day in that country. These days I pack toiletries, an extra pair of underwear and spare clothes to take onboard every time I travel for work.

10. Don’t throw tantrums over your lost luggage

When it comes to missing luggage, I have more faith in airlines and humanity than most. I have known suitcases bound for New York ending up in Sydney and those meant for Jakarta found a month later on the tarmac in Rome. Airlines don’t lose your bags deliberately; it gets very expensive for them. If you do lose your luggage, stay calm and give them as accurate description of it as possible. No use saying ‘it’s a black bag’ when there are thousands matching that description, give the make, size and any other identifying marks that would help to ID your particular suitcase. Tumi has an identification system for its bags that it claims can help it track them wherever they are. I’ve never tried the system though all my bags are registered with them.

11. Buy good locks

Lastly, do use TSA-approved combination padlocks. My daughter didn’t listen to my advice and lost the key to her suitcase. Luckily this was when she arrived home and it was possible to call a locksmith. Anywhere else this would have been a very difficult not to mention expensive sidetrack in her holiday.

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