How Not To Look Like A Hobo When You Travel

I consider myself to be a seasoned veteran of long-haul flights. I also consider myself to be a stylish person. I must admit, however, that there was a time when these two statements were absolutely, entirely mutually exclusive. If you’d seen me on one of my transatlantic treks a couple of years ago, I almost certainly looked like the human equivalent of a hairball.

It was a real bugbear. I have always been grossly, achingly jealous of those women at airports who somehow–somehow!–manage to look nice. And don’t even get me started on the ones who genuinely deserve “chic.” Ugh. Bye Felicia. I glower at them in Duty Free, wishing for some transcendent justice system to intervene, in the form of a rail of oversize D&G sunglasses falling down on their impeccably undone hairdos.

OK, I’m joking. Well, half-joking. My jealousy stemmed from the fact that nine times out of ten, when I would travel, I looked like garbage: no make-up, a pair of boots that barely made it out of winter, and an enormous old hiking backpack that probably weighed as much as a small child. It was a look that is strategically designed not to be looked at. I mean, how was I supposed to look nice when I’d been sat in a confined space for eight hours, sweating my make-up off and drooling on my shoulder?

The thing is, when  I’d roll off the plane and there were–shudder–actual human beings waiting for me on the other side of the arrivals gate, my hobo get-up stopped being an invisibility cloak and just became really, really embarrassing. It’s not even that I wanted to be the girl wearing heels (!) under the table as she Instagrams a picture of her extra-dry cappuccino; I just wanted to look marginally presentable. But 20+ hours of travelling and very little sleep did’t really mesh well with that aim. Hum.

So. Over time, I learnt from my mistakes and stopped wearing five layers of clothing, penciled my eyebrows in and threw away the old “Sasquatch” boots (ancient Uggs). And it felt awesome.

If you’ve ever wondered how you could possibly look semi-decent when you’ve been shunted from airport to airport for freaking forever, here are some Top Tips. Here’s to sharing airport selfies, and not sleeping on the restroom floor!*

COMFORT IS KEY. Obviously.

Leggings. Leggings are everything. Wear leggings. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a pair of jeans that you’re prepared to wear for two days straight, then do that. Also, flat shoes. THE OBVIOUS.

… But also wear decent clothes.

My problem was always that I’d take “comfort” to mean, “wear your pyjamas! It’s totally cool!” News flash: It really wasn’t cool. A giant old sweater and those Sasquatch boots made me feel like a heathen for daring to walk into tax-free designer stores. So hone your uniform a tad. You know your forever-perfect fall boots that you dropped far too much money on back in September? They’re ideal. And rather than slubbing around in a hoodie, wearing a nice tee/cardigan combo is pretty much a classic winner.


Try a maxi dress.

Seriously, it’s a game changer. Comfort? Check. Decency? Also check. Maxi dresses are the ultimate travel fashion win; it’s like wearing a blanket, for goodness’ sake. Ahhh-mazing.


Maxi dress, $108

Hone your carry-on beauty bag.

So you’ve only got a certain allowance for liquid: It’s absolutely fine. If you don’t wear much make-up anyway, keep it that way. But if you’re like me, and you look like an alien without a little bit of mascara et al., then it’s entirely possible to take a pared-down version of your warpaint on a flight. Take make-up wipes instead of cleanser (and you will want to cleanse at some point). Take mineral powder foundation rather than liquid. That way, you can use your liquid allowance on mascara, a travel-size moisturizer, and some BB cream. Wear a little bit to the airport, and then hoard the restroom on the plane for a few minutes to take your make-up off. Then, when you get to your destination, make a quick stop in the restroom to put a little bit back on. You’ll end up looking and feeling fresh when you meet your greeters at the end of your journey!


Mineral foundation, $14

Take spares.

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Spare socks, underwear, and a fresh shirt are all essential. Also, for the flight itself, it’s worth taking some pyjama pants to change into once you’re up in the air, especially if it’s a long one. Oh, and remember sunglasses. Not because you think you’re Kate Moss, but it’s nice to have a cover-up for if you end up recoiling in horror at your massive eye bags on the other side.

Watch what you eat.

It’s so easy to get carried away and eat way too much when you’re bored for hours on a layover/being constantly fed by flight staff. But I have found that policing my eating habits for the duration of the “getting there” (and “getting back”) had a huge effect on how I felt overall. Stay hydrated, drink moderately (if at all), and eat a little less than usual since you’re essentially going to be sedentary until you leave the last airport. Sidenote: This would bode particularly well when flying to the west coast, because that way I’d be nice and hungry for In-N-Out country. Thinking ahead, yo.

Upgrade your carry-on.

No-one cares what your actual checked bag looks like, but since you’ll be hauling your carry-on around everywhere, keep it neat. Sticking to a small case with wheels, and/or your handbag, is a good shout. I’d always take a hiking backpack that ended up being about the same size as me once it was full; super handy, yes, but also really uncomfortable to lug around everywhere for hours.



*This is a real thing. Not my finest moment.


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