Which Dresses Should I Take Traveling?


I am a self-confessed dress addict. I’m also not the kinda gal that travel packing lists – the kind that include things like “trousers”, “shirts” and “shorts” – aren’t going to help much.

Dresses are great for traveling. They’re easy to pack, don’t take up much room, and make for a quick outfit, a night on the town, or something to throw on over your bathing suit.

Planning a dress-based travel wardrobe does, however, require some careful thought and forward planning. You can’t just shove all of your favorite dresses into a backpack and head off into the sunset (especially if you’re like me, and own 60!). Instead, you need to work out what you need strategically, then pack the items that can be worn in the most ways.

When packing I try to make sure I have at least one dress that falls into each of the following categories:

Day dresses. Whether in town or city, shopping or sightseeing, the dresses that get the most mileage will undoubtedly be your day dresses. These casual and comfy dresses will be the staple of your wardrobe, and ideally almost every dress you pack will be able to be worn comfortably in this category as well as one or more of the others.

Evening dresses. These are dresses that you can see yourself wearing at a restaurant, in a bar or having a big night out – preferably all of the above. Generally travelers are a pretty dressed down lot, so remember that your evening-wear on the road won’t necessarily be as glam as what you wear at home – and keep the lack of high heels in mind too. Generally something cute and black will do nicely. T

Beachwear. Beachwear is obviously a rule unto itself – beach dresses can be lighter, brighter and shorter than their city slicker sisters. Remember though that you’ll also need something a bit more concealing in case you get sunburned, or for the cooler nights.

Slobbing about/ long journeys / hangovers / bouts of illness. The name of the game for these dresses is extreme comfort i.e. nothing that involves belts or ties round the waist, sleeves that are too tight, zips or buttons that dig in or skirts that ride up when you sit down. You need at least one dress you could imagine doing a long-distance flight in.

Keeping it covered. Whether you’re visiting temples, ducking into cathedrals or traveling in countries where men think catching a glimpse of your elbow is akin to Spring Break, you’re going to want dresses that cover you up appropriately. This usually means below the knee, not low-cut, and with sleeves that go past the elbow. If you’re going to hot countries then obviously choose light, natural, breathable fabrics.

Something more active. Some people say you can’t do sports properly in a dress. I say not necessarily. OK, yoga might be a bit undignified (after all, going upside down is the dress’ Achilles’ heel) but generally just make sure you wear a dress that’s loose and breathable enough and away you go. I cycled from Germany to Hungary using this logic!

A little bit of fancy. Occasionally there’s the opportunity to do something on your travels that’s a little different, a little exciting – and genuinely requires fancier clothes than normal. Make like a Scout and be prepared. Sometimes it’s just nice to dress up as well. Treat yourself with just the one dress that’s slightly special.

The dresses that fall into the most categories are the winners that make it into my backpack when I make my final cut, and are the ones that will be worn the most often, in the most ways, once I’m on the road.

Frock on!

Do you think dresses make good travel wear? How do you choose which to take traveling? Let us know! 


About Author

Leah Eades is a compulsive traveller and freelance writer, whose adventures so far include working in an Italian nightclub, contracting a mystery illness in the Amazon, studying at a Chinese university, and cycling 700km along the Danube River. She blames cheap Ryanair flights for her addiction. Having recently graduated with an English degree, she is currently based in Florence, Italy.


  1. A jersey/cotton maxi dress is great for traveling! They are super versatile and can be worn from day to night, to the beach, or to a religious site since it covers your legs completely. They’re also super comfortable and pretty. I always pack at least one!

  2. Comfortable day dresses are the way to go for me, I like that they take up much less space than jeans/pants and you don’t have to think about mixing and matching. I usually prefer sleeveless or cap sleeves, but carry a thin cardigan or scarf with me when it gets cold or I need to cover up.

    Longish skirts that can convert to dresses when you pull them up are also the bomb. Another essential is a thin belt to give you a waistline when you need one and that’s easy to pack as well.

    Great article!

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