Why you need a travel uniform

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I’m not sure when people became so fascinated by the surprisingly simple wardrobes of billionaires, but apparently there’s a scientific explanation behind the ultrarich’s penchant for wearing jeans and plain T-shirts for every occasion: They’re avoiding decision fatigue.

Essentially, when you make fewer decisions during the day, even seemingly easy ones like what to wear, your brain can devote more mental energy to important tasks like creating the next iPhone or thinking of annoying ways to make Instagram more like TikTok.

Ditch the sweatpants, and get dressed up for your next flight

Although I was not inspired by the Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, I apply similar outfit-repeating habits to my life as a frequent flier. Originally born out of my unwillingness to go shopping, I quickly realized the merits of wearing the same ensemble every time you travel, especially if you’re headed to the airport.

Eventually, I approached my copy-and-paste style with more intention, building what I call a “travel uniform” that accounts for every detail from my clothes to my carry-on. Now, it’s something I recommend every jetsetter curate for themselves. Why? Well, a lot of it actually does have to do with decision fatigue.

What should I pack? Should I go with a carry-on or checked luggage? What time should I leave for the airport?

There are so many little decisions to make, things to prepare and questions to answer when it comes to travel. Having a travel uniform takes some of the guesswork out of a situation already full of unknowns and potential hiccups. I don’t waste time mulling over the most comfortable clothes or what I should bring in my carry-on.

It also helps me stay organized, leaving less room for error and unnecessary stress. I know exactly where to look anytime I need something — whether that’s painkillers or a pen. I also don’t worry about leaving anything important behind because I have two of everything: one for home use and one that sits in my backpack waiting for the next trip. All I add is my passport, laptop and current reading material, and I’m good to go.

The rules of flying like a decent human

There are several factors that go into creating the perfect travel uniform, but comfort and an abundance of pockets are key.

My top is always a long, loose fitting T-shirt or sweater so I’m literally covered through all the bending and lifting that happens with luggage and going through security. I add a jean jacket to stay warm on those freezing planes and also use its inner pockets to keep my phone, passport and boarding pass within easy reach.

If I remove my jacket, the pockets on the side of my leggings are a good back up, while the stretchy material means my legs are not restricted in any way. If you’re prone to extra bloating on flights, especially long hauls, then looser-fitting hiking pants or joggers might be a better choice — anything that keeps you comfortable as long as it has pockets. Last but not least, sturdy shoes like sneakers or boots are vital. As my mom drilled into my head: Do you really want to be running around in flip-flops if there’s an emergency?

An illustrated guide to sleeping on a plane

The specifics of your own travel uniform will look different than mine, but if you’re a frequent flier, having this preset outfit and the system that comes with it will make your life surprisingly much easier.

So many things can go wrong during a trip, but at least I’ll be comfortable and ready for anything.

Jessica Poitevien is a travel writer and content creator based in South Florida.

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