Best Leggings to Travel and Fly in, According to a Travel Writer

Travel days are when efficiency really matters. Exactly how late can I set my alarm for so I make my flight, while still allowing enough time if my Uber gets stuck in traffic? How can I arrange my carry-on so I can unpack for the security screening in seconds? And, of course: What can I wear so that I can be comfortable on a long-haul flight, still look like I’ve put thought into my outfit, and sprint to the gate, should dire moments call for it?

If I’m being honest, I still romanticize what getting dressed for a flight looks like Mad Men-style dresses, heels, a scarf that’s tied with that Parisian flair. (Yes, my reference imagery is midcentury airline advertisement.) But then my alarm goes off at 4:12 A.M. after three hours’ sleep, and it’s a race out the door to catch my red-eye.

I’m a travel writer based in Berlin, which means I head to the airport about four times a month to fly budget airlines that make Southwest feel like the Ritz Carlton of air travel. When I think about what I want to wear, I’ll go for an outfit that’s going to make my day easier—not more complicated.

I’ve written about the $35 dress that served as my go-to travel day uniform, and I still stand by it. It’s a great piece that works with or without tights, can bounce between climates (both weather-related and cultural), and is basically like wearing an acceptably oversized T-shirt. The only downside? No pockets. That’s fine if you’re a highly organized person with a designated spot for your passport, your wallet, your boarding pass, your headphones, and so on. But that’s not me. And when I was staring down the barrel of an almost 12-hour flight to Singapore (plus a layover), I knew I was going to have to switch it up.

I’ve been wearing these $75 leggings from Victoria’s Secret for years, exclusively for fitness purposes. I liked them enough, and noticed the brand had a version with pockets. I bought a pair specifically to wear on travel days. They’re high enough that you can throw your iPhone in one without having to take out your earbuds, but deep enough that you can tuck a passport in the other without worrying it’ll fall out as you sprint walk through the terminal. (I guess technically this makes them cargo leggings, but we don’t need to talk about that.) But I’ve found there’s so much more about them that makes them ideal for flying, specifically: a high waistband; a compression fit; an opaque fabric that’s more breathable than cotton but not at all sheer; a great ⅞-length option, which is perfect for transitions from colder to warmer climates, as I did leaving 40-degree Berlin for 85-degree Penang. Oh, and they’re durable—I had a pair from 2016 I just got rid of last month.

What I really love about this pair, specifically, is that it introduced me to this genre of leggings I really wasn’t acquainted with: ones designed for physical activity but intended to be worn elsewhere, too (hence the pockets). To be totally honest, I have my issues with Victoria’s Secret as a company—and the types of people it chooses and chooses not to feature. But at the very least, these leggings have opened my eyes to a type of silhouette I didn’t know existed, and that has changed what I look for when I’m in the market for new travel outfits. And in our athleisure-obsessed world, there are plenty of similar pairs to choose from.

Ahead, check out some of the pocketed leggings I’m eyeing for my next long-haul trip.

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