There’s nothing like a simple dress to give you effortless travel style. Travel dresses are comfortable, especially in the summer heat, and provide versatility for layering and making multiple outfits.
Plus, sometimes us female travelers want to look sexy, feminine and flirty!
The best dresses for travel are multipurpose, should dress up and down easily, and hopefully consist of special fabrics that wrinkle less, smell less, and wear out less. With the right accessories, dresses on our packing list work in many climates and for many travel activities.
Here are our picks for the best travel dresses.
Best Basic Dresses for Travelers
Toad&Co Swifty Breathe Dress
At first glance the Swifty Breathe Dress by Toad&Co looks like a simple tank dress, but in reality it’s so much more. First off, the simple design is perfect for a casual look and travel days (how about being part of a plane outfit), and then it shows a bit of playfulness with the cutout in the back.
In addition, the travel-friendly fabric makes it quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and odor-controlling – all with built-in UPF 25+ protection. Oh, and did we mention that this dress has a hidden pocket… WITH A ZIPPER? Holla. If there’s anything that makes a girl happy, it would be a travel dress with pockets… am I right?
- BUY: Swifty Breathe Dress
Travel Maxi Dress
The simple maxi dress offers the traveler an extremely versatile wardrobe option. Given the length, the travel maxi dress provides coverage for more conservative trips (with an extra wrap on top) while also staying flowy and light for warm, beachy adventures. Best of all, a maxi dress is casual, but also has the capability of being sleek and classy.
Mariah mentioned that a black maxi dress is her one little thing she can’t travel without for the following reasons:
“It’s comfortable, and black goes with everything! The length is perfect for visiting more conservative countries as well as entering cathedrals. As an added bonus I don’t have to worry about shaving my legs! It’s also my favorite outfit to wear for those long days of traveling spent on buses or planes. I’ve slept overnight in airports wearing my maxi dress and it’s almost like having a built in blanket keeping me warm.
“The best thing about my maxi dress is not having to worry if it’s going to fit. With a few colored cardigans and cute jewelry, the options for outfits are numerous and I can tailor it to my activities. I’ve worn my maxi dress on the beach and out to dinner and it’s perfect for both occasions.”
The LBD – Little Black (Travel) Dress
A little black travel dress is a staple in your home wardrobe, so why not in your travel wardrobe? The perfect LBD can be worn in almost every travel situation (that’s not super active), and dressed up for more special occasions. Your LBD can even be a black maxi dress!
Andi Perullo mentioned that a little black dress is her one little thing she can’t travel without:
“An LBD can take me trekking in tropical rainforests to painting the town red at night. It is comfortable and at the same time chic! Black is slimming, it goes with everything in your wardrobe, and it photographs really well. It takes up next to no space. Plus, since it can be worn during the day and at night, you can eliminate other items of clothing.”
Now the optimal little black dress will contain some extra travel specific features (quick-drying material, for example — see the best dress for business travelers below), but even my simple $25 find from H&M worked wonders on a recent cruise.
Convertible Travel Dress Picks
Patagonia Kamala Maxi Dress
In an older version of this article, we had listed the Kamala Skirt as one of our recommended convertible travel dresses. Although no longer in production, there is still the Kamala Maxi Dress to spruce up your travel wardrobe.
The Kamala Maxi Dress is an ankle-length skirt option that can be pulled up into a full dress. In dress form, it can be strapless or tied up in a halter. In addition to being versatile, it’s made of wrinkle-resistant, lightweight fabric perfect for throwing into a backpack and toted off to the next adventure.
- BUY: Kamala Maxi Dress
Encircled Chrysalis Cardi
It may not have dress in the name, but let me assure you that the Chrysalis Cardi transforms into one glorious dress. At its core, this soft modal, wearable garment serves as an infinity scarf. With a couple of strategically placed snaps, the scarf transforms from a scarf to a cardigan, and further into a gorgeous dress.
Caroline documented her love of the Chrysalis Cardi early on, and I also have enjoyed having this convertible travel dress on my packing list. Caroline says:
“As with all multi-wear products, you may like one look over others and for me, the scarf and dress looks suit me best. I love the Grecian inspired dress for nights out as well as bundling up in the scarf to keep warm in winter. It’s also easy to accessorize and comes in a handful of colors.”
Encircled Revolve Dress
By the same company as the Chrysalis Cardi, the Revolve Dress offers up versatility in a much simpler design. This convertible travel dress works as a tunic dress or as a top, plus it can be flipped backwards for a different neckline. The Revolve Dress is made of the same soft modal as the Chrysalis Cardi.
Caroline also gave this one a review saying:
“I can imagine packing this item for my next cold weather trip. Not only is it extremely comfortable and lightweight, it can be worn so many ways and add layers. It would make for an ideal plane outfit.
“. . .I found this garment to be much easier to wear in the different styles than the Chrysalis Cardi, which took a bit of learning and YouTube watching on my end. This dress is fairly straightforward and requires little instruction. You just put on and go!”
Infinity Wrap Dress
It was one of the first articles I put on Her Packing List, and 8 years later, it’s still a viable convertible travel dress option. While it might not be the style of skirt/dress you prefer, the infinity wrap dress is very suiting for beachy and tropical getaways.
Plus the multiple patterns, and the layers themselves, make this skirt/dress literally have 100 ways to wear. It works over bathing suits, it works while sightseeing, and it definitely works while getting dolled up for date night.
Reversible Dresses for Travel
Kathmandu Adapt Reversible Wrap Dress
You get two dresses in one with Kathmandu’s reversible travel dress – one with a pattern, and the other a soft gray stripe. Wrap dresses alone offer the traveler effortless style- the kind that can feel super casual but also look put together (thanks to that tied waist accent). When that wrap dress also reverses for different looks and is made of travel-friendly fabrics, even better.
The Adapt Reversible Wrap Dress consists of moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric that also controls odor. Even cooler is the fact that the polyester portion was made from recycled plastic bottles.
Betabrand Round-Trip Dress
Several reversible dresses for travel make up the Betabrand lineup, but we chose the Round-Trip Dress to highlight in this list. Not only is this dress reversible (one side patterned and the other a solid color dress), but it also flips backwards for two different necklines. It’s essentially four dresses in one!
The Round-Trip Dress consists of a comfortable and stretchy fabric that is able to be thrown into a suitcase without too much worry of wrinkles. It’s sleeveless with a flowy circle-cut skirt that hits just above the knee.
- BUY: Round-Trip Dress
Best Dresses for Business Travelers
Anatomie Michelle Slim Fit Dress
Made of the same signature fabric as their famous travel pants, the Michelle Slim Fit Dress from Anatomie is a business traveler’s dream come true. Wrinkle-resistant, and oh-so-lightweight, this little black travel dress delivers comfort and classy style that can easily be packed in a suitcase without any drama whatsoever.
Plus, it’s quick-drying, meaning a quick rinse in your hotel sink is all it takes to be fresh again by morning!
The flattering cut is only outdone by the inclusion of pockets. Yes, POCKETS! We love ’em in our dresses. If that wasn’t enough, the material offers UPF 50+ protection.
We can’t think of a better dress that can go from business to night out. All it takes is a blazer and the right accessories to make the transition.
Betabrand Travel Dress
Business travelers will love the 3/4 Sleeve Round-Trip Dress, a more sleeved version of the Round-Trip Dress by Betabrand that also includes some pretty useful pockets! Due to the longer sleeves, this dress looks more professional on its own than the basic Round-Trip Dress above. And since it’s reversible with multiple necklines, it’s basically four dresses in one!
Many women struggle with packing light for business trips as there is often the need to pack bulky blazers and dress shoes, all while including casual clothes for outside of work hours. With this dress, you can literally go from work to play, multiple days, with just a few key accessories.
Do Dresses Limit Travel Wardrobe Options?
“I love dresses and find them to be cool and effortless. Does packing dresses limit my ability to mix and match?”
Great question. On the one hand, if you already love dresses and feel most comfortable in them, then putting dresses on your packing lists is a pretty safe bet for packing with simplicity and ease. Many women love packing dresses because the top is included… there’s no need to put outfits together!
But when it comes to packing less and having loads of options, dresses may not be as versatile as a skirt plus top. You can change the look of dresses with cardigans, sweaters, and shirts over the top, but skirt and top separates give more options because you can mix and match those while also wearing the tops with a pair of jeans or leggings.
Or, you can invest in the multi-wear, convertible and reversible travel dresses mentioned in this article.
Best Ways to Pack Dresses for Travel
Two words: packing cubes.
As with all things we pack, the best ways to pack dresses for travel start with the packing cube. By using a packing cube, dresses won’t get jostled around too much while in transit, but it does help if those dresses are made with wrinkle-resistant fabrics.
If you are packing nicer dresses, or dresses that shouldn’t be rolled up into a cube, the left side of a suitcase is usually a good place to store them. That side often has a zippered enclosure, which is where I store my jackets and nicer clothing that doesn’t get stuffed into a packing cube.
You can fold multiple items together, much like a loose form of bundle wrapping, to lessen the chance for wrinkles.
The ExOfficio dress is only $26 in the Raspberry color! And they have my size! Thinking I may have to pick one up, especially with a trip to Mexico in the spring.
Go for it! It looks very versatile, casual or nice 🙂
You forgot the Scottevest Phoebe Dress, available in several colors and short or longer lengths. The top is similar to the ExOfficio Tank Dress, but the dress is a bit more loose and has two hidden pockets for cash, credit card, etc. Very versatile and easy to accessorize.
My only problem with this list is that they are not good for top-heavy girls, like myself.
The Kamala dress is the worst! The tiny strings have to be tied pretty tightly to keep them from slipping and even then there’s a great chance of falling. The strings also have to be tied so tightly that they can dig into your neck or just plain give you neck pain.
The Bandeau is another I couldn’t wear without a cami underneath and then you have the issue of cami straps underneath a halter-style dress.
They are gorgeous though!
I own the American Apparel dress and for smaller breasted ladies like me (34A) some the style like the one pictures leave lots of fabric hanging by the armpits…not a good look. That being said, I can wear it as a bandeau and a high-waisted skirt.
I’m wondered if I would have similar problems with the Kamala skirt? Does anyone know?
I traveled through Thailand with the Norma Kamali all-in-one dress from walmart (http://www.walmart.com/ip/Norma-Kamali-Women-s-All-in-One-Jersey-Dress/11963662). It’s super cheap but the fabric is really high quality. What is great about this dress is that it has long sleeves if you need to cover your arms (plane or holy places) but easily transitions into a tube top, one sleeve, halter top, etc. and i can easily make it into a shirt or a dress. it was like having 10 shirts/dresses in one piece of clothing! I’d wash it at night and hang it to dry and by morning it would be dry. My boyfriend was amazed! We would go to fancy places and the material and cut is nice enough to pass in an upscale restaurant. I highly recommend it.
Absolutely love this list. I’m always looking for good ideas and this site is full of them!
I am in love with the infinity skirt but I can’t seem to find one from the links posted. 🙁
Would you be able to give me the brand or something else to go off of to find it????
Thanks for this great site and helpful tips! Could you perhaps update this list? I wanted to get the Ex Officio dress but it is not available anywhere anymore. Are there new options that are similar?
prAna makes great dresses for traveling also! I have several of their styles and I will never live without them!
I cannot vouch enough for the Betabrand Round Trip Dress. I just picked one up and it’s so soft and light to wear.
Thank you for making this list so i could find these dresses.
Love this list! The Betabrand dress is my favorite, what a versatile yet classy item. Can’t wait to try it out on my next trip. Thanks for the inspiration!
Lori Welty says
“Title Nine” has an exceptional selection of travel skirts, dresses, and other clothing. The items are wrinkle-free, fold compactly, are versatile and perfect for traveling.