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Leggings: A Female Traveler Necessity

leggings female traveler necessity

Every time you see a photo of a female celebrity at the airport, she is almost always wearing a pair of leggings with a flow-y top and a pair of ankle boots. So what’s the key to looking stylish while traveling?


Leggings are a comfortable item that can be paired in many different ways and take up hardly any room in your bag. They are the ultimate lightweight travel pants allowing you to bring several in place of something heavier like a pair of jeans.

Leggings: What to Wear When Flying

Caroline in "flight outfit" that includes black leggings.
Caroline in “flight outfit” that includes black leggings.

It took me a long time to catch on to the leggings trend. I saw girls dressed in Uggs, leggings and short shirts and couldn’t help but think how unflattering it all was. But then I got my own pair and realized how versatile they are. Now I don’t go on a trip without them and usually wear them on the plane.

My go-to plane outfit is a simple pair of black cotton Old Navy leggings paired with my slate ExOfficio Shirtigan and a scarf, pictured above.

The Many Uses of Leggings for Female Travelers

Leggings are so versatile that you can wear them in nearly any season and on any trip. The key to making leggings look flattering is choosing the right top.

Just remember that leggings are not pants, in the typical sense. It is best to wear them under longer tops, tunics, and dresses- anything that covers your bum.

  • Use them as pajamas, which will keep you from having to pack a separate pair. Even if you don’t usually sleep in pants, it’s nice to be able to throw on leggings if you need to run down the hall to a hostel bathroom in the middle of the night.
  • Throw on when visiting a religious site. They don’t take up much space folded up, so you can bring them with you and put them on only when you need to. This is especially beneficial for hot temperatures in places like Southeast Asia where you don’t want to wear pants all the time, but may need to cover your legs at some point in the day.
  • If you plan on exercising while you travel, you can substitute your yoga pants for leggings. They also make great “long johns” or long underwear if you don’t have a separate pair. Layer them under a skirt in winter or a pair of pants for added warmth.

How to Wear Leggings in the Summer

Capri length are best for the summertime as they allow you to stay cooler and have additional choices for footwear. Pair with a pair of sandals like the Birkenstock slides or Converse All Star sneakers. No matter what you wear on top, whether it’s a baggy tank top or a sundress, leggings can be worn underneath for fashion or function. They add modesty to an outfit when needed.

The best leggings to wear during the summer are made of lightweight fabrics like cotton and lycra blends, and bamboo is also nice given its thermo-regulating capabilities. These provide air flow to keep you from sweating too much. Summer is also the best time to wear funky prints and patterns. Just be sure to try them on before you buy them because patterns can get distorted when they stretch!

leggings for women travelers

How to Wear Leggings in Cold Weather Travel

For a more wintery look, put on a chunky sweater over a pair of black leggings with a pair of tall boots. Alternatively, you can throw on a pair of leggings under your pants to keep you extra warm while traveling.

Winter leggings are different from summer or all-season leggings because of their materials. You can find wool or fleece-lined cotton leggings to wear both on their own or underneath other items of clothing. Leather (or pleather) leggings look nice for winter and add a more formal aspect. “Jeggings” have the benefits of jeans without the weight.

Some Winter Leggings Options:

  • Athleta sells many types of fleece pants and leggings, including flare and fitted legs as well as a handful of colors. The Heathered style can serve as a base layer by using Polartec technology.
  • Icebreaker is also known for their Merino wool leggings like the Villa leggings.
  • Faux leather or real leather leggings come in all price points, starting at around $50 USD at stores like Express.

Solid colors work best in winter, as you’ll be layering them under something else, whether it’s a sweater or another pair of pants. Full length leggings are, obviously, better for winter in order to keep out the cold and the snow. Pair with a nice pair of boots or heels, depending on the occasion.

Best Leggings Review

Clever Travel Companion Leggings:

clever travel companion leggings

The company behind the theft-proof clothing (namely underwear and shirts) also launched a pair of leggings with pockets to prevent pickpocketing. The leggings, which come in black and seven sizes, are the standard style, except for the two pockets. One is on the right front side and runs vertically and the other is on the left hip, running horizontally. Each has a zipper to keep prying hands from your keys, cash, passport, phone or any other valuables.

The soft cotton fabric is comfortable and the fit is snug over your hips and ankles.

The only downside I found was the fit. I wasn’t sure which size to choose, so I picked the large, rather than my usual medium. But I should have sized down. And since the pockets are on the hips, this can pull them down when heavy items are placed in the pockets. I recommend pairing them with a top that will go over the pockets so that they’re not as noticable.

>> Check out the Clever Travel Companion Secret Pocket Leggings on Amazon.

Encircled’s Flipside Leggings:

flipside leggings by encircled

The brand behind some of our favorite multi-functional pieces also has the Flipside leggings, a pair of leggings that is reversible, providing you with two pairs in one. They can be worn long, for winter, or pulled up as capris for yoga class. Claiming to be “virtually the most comfortable and versatile leggings you’ll ever own,” the Flipsides are made of soft, wrinkle resistant cotton.

The wide waistband keeps the leggings in place during wear, especially when you’re on a long flight. Flip the waistband for added support or a pop of color. The cuff-style hem at the ankle can also be flipped or pushed up to change style.

>> Check out the Flipside leggings on Encircled.

Lululemon Wunder Under Leggings:

One of Lululemon’s top selling pairs of leggings, the Wunder Under leggings, are made of stretchy Lycra. The wicking material has a thick waistband to keep the pants in place while you’re in yoga class or running around a destination. The waistband also has a small, secret pocket that gives you a place to put your hotel key or a few dollars. The high rise, ankle-length leggings are ideal for the girl on the go.

>> Check out Lululemon’s Wunder Under leggings on Amazon.

shiny leggings
Source: google.com via Kelsey on Pinterest

Styles of leggings vary from your basic black to funky designs and fabrics. Leather leggings are the newest trend because they look more like real pants than any other style. They also add more class to your wardrobe. You can also rock them in bright colors and abstract patterns.

leggings and boots
Source: jjill.com via Laura on Pinterest

Other outfit ideas include wearing an oversized men’s shirt and belting it, under your favorite travel dress or if you’re particularly daring, under shorts! Leggings make the perfect jeans alternative.

Just make sure you don’t leave for any trip without leggings!

leggings for female travelers

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Allison says

    I’ll be traveling to Malaysia next month and I’m looking for some moisture wicking or lightweight leggings. It can get quite hot but keeping covered is respectful. Any suggestions of styles or brands that you like?

    • Hortensia says

      I think the same, and always find really tacky using them with a short top.. but i have been living in Europe the last 6 months, and ALL the girls use leggings as pants!! at first i was like :O but now.. i´m also doing it, but just in home, maybe i´m not that bold!! XD

  2. Melissa @ Suitcase and Heels says

    One rule for leggings though: just as tights are not leggings, leggings are *not* pants so make sure that your top covers your butt. The only exception to this is when you’re exercising. That being said, pairing leggings with a long top or sweater is a great option for travel for all the reasons you mentioned.

    • Sabrina says

      I respectfully disagree! I wear leggings as pants (that is, with normal-length tops) often. I don’t feel the need to cover my butt; I love my butt, and frankly, I think leggings make it looks even better!

      I just make sure the leggings are completely opaque (no one needs to see my thong) and don’t give me the mono-cheek look.

  3. Sofie says

    True: they’s soooooo much more comfortable than pants!
    With the exception of sweat pants, but you don’t want to wear those outside of the house or the gym, now do you?:)
    I love leggings. They’re comfi and can be really stylish when combined with the right top and shoes.

  4. Jenna says

    The absolute BEST pair of leggings is found at Nordstroms. They are called “live in leggings” by Zella and that is exactly what I do ! A little bit spendy ($52)but worth every penny. I live in Denver and wear them for work, skiing, running, and going out. I will be taking a black and brown pair on a two week vacation to Italy this spring.

    • Emily says

      I’d heard many great things about zella live in leggings as well, but as a curvy size 10, I found they did not come up high enough on my waist to stay up well.

  5. Kate says

    I absolutely LOVE leggings! They are my go-to item while flying. The best leggings I have found are from James Perse. They are made from an amazingly soft cotton and I would wear them to work if allowed. You wouldn’t happen to know who that neon top is made by would you? That is so cute!

  6. teehan says

    Regarding leggings: check your fabric, check your fit! More than once, I’ve seen a woman wearing black leggings that were made of a thin fabric that stretched a bit too much over her rear end. She happened to be wearing a thong and, since her top didn’t cover her butt, I could SEE her butt and so could everyone else.

  7. Jane says

    I’m soooo glad I found this (although apparently I’m a bit late to the party LOL) because I’m traveling to Germany in a year and I feel much better about mostly bringing capri leggings as pants. I don’t want to wear shorts since I don’t have any “nice” shorts, all my long pants are either jeans or sweatpants (too warm for summer), and I don’t really like skirts (although I might get a couple skorts from Athleta).

  8. Jim Norris says

    I’m a (straight) guy and late to the leggings game, but I object to only allowing the women to wear them. I can’t believe how comfy they are — 🙂 😉


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