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By The Way
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Why you need a travel uniform

Take a page from a billionaire to reduce your travel stress

(Min Heo/Illustration for The Washington Post)

Welcome to The Upgrade, By The Way’s new series on travel hacks and hot takes. See how to submit here.

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, such as what to wear, your brain can devote more mental energy to important tasks, such as 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 Jobses 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, wearing the same ensemble to travel has its merits, I realized, 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 jet-setter curate for themselves. Why? Well, a lot of it 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 that’s for home 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, loosefitting T-shirt or sweater, so I’m 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 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 backup, while the stretchy material means my legs aren’t restricted. 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, such as 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 from mine, but if you’re a frequent flier, having this preset outfit and the system that comes with it will make your life surprisingly 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.