Should I… Pack my jeans?

Do you pack jeans when you travel?

Do jeans make your packing list or do you leave them at home?

jeansBefore my first trip overseas, I read countless travel advice articles on what to pack and how to pack it. In these articles, the writers strongly encouraged readers to leave the jeans at home โ€“ so I did! A few trips later, I decided to pack a pair and almost felt like I was breaking travelers’ code.

For as long as I can remember, the “to pack or not to pack” debate on jeans has been alive and well. There are just as many articles and blog posts suggesting you take them along as there are ones recommending you leave them at home.

Of course there is no right or wrong answer, but there are compelling reasons to pack jeans or leave them.

Pack them!

  • You can dress them up or down and wear them with just about anything. As a versatile item, you might consider packing fewer additional bottoms.
  • Many people find their favorite pair of jeans to be one of the most comfortable things they own. Fashion + comfort is an unbeatable combo.
  • Taking a (relatively) short trip? Many people say they tend to wear jeans for several days without washing them, so the potential challenge of cleaning and drying them on the road becomes less of an obstacle. Don’t ask me how many days I’ve gone without washing when necessary!
  • Have access to a washer & dryer — or time to line dry? If you prefer not to go days (or weeks…) without washing, your jeans will be clean in a snap.
  • Living an expat life? Opting for a slow travel style? Hanging out in one location for a few weeks? The potential weight and bulkiness of jeans won’t matter when you’re not on the move.

Leave them at home!

jeans in basket

  • Jeans tend to be heavier than the lightweight travel pants we often bring on the road. If you’re backpacking, every ounce/gram counts after those first few steps!
  • In addition to added weight, jeans tend to have more bulk than other items of clothing. If you’re aiming for carry-on only or attempting to downsize your current bag, jeans may not make the cut.
  • Sometimes washing machines simply aren’t available. If the sink is going to be your stand in, you may find washing jeans is more a chore than other articles of clothing.
  • Are you an on-the-go traveler? Jeans air dry relatively slowly and may not be ready for you to stash in your bag when you’re ready to check out of the hostel and board your next train or plane.

What do you do when it’s time to pack โ€“ include a pair (or more?) of jeans or leave them behind? Does your decision vary based on your travel circumstances (destination, length of trip, etc.)?

Written by Heather

Heather Rudd Palmer is a 30-something with a love for travel, food, and healthy living. After short trips to Europe in her 20s, Heather left her job at 30 to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year. She visited every state and territory, embarked on two road trips, worked at an organic food store, and ate her way through Sydney. She's now a career counselor for university students. You can find Heather at There's No Place Like Oz and Healthy Life Heather.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Christine says

    For the first time ever, I am traveling with NO jeans! Just sent my black skinnies home…figure that since I’ll be traveling in summer, in humid climates, in more laid-back tropical locations, I can get away with some black flowy pants and fancy shorts! We’ll see if I regret it ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Allison says

    I like wearing jeans in the fall or winter (less in the spring if its rainy). I skip them if I’m not going to be in fall or winter. If I’m travelling in different seasons, I usually pick a cheap pair up when I get to the cold season (you can find cheap jeans in any country, if you know where to look).

    On our last RTW, I picked up a pair of really cute jeans just outside the Mong Kok market in Hong Kong (which sadly had a tragic fire yesterday). I got them for $6, wore them every day for about 4.5 weeks (without washing…) and then donated them to a hostel free bin.

    On my RTW before that, I found two pairs of super cute jeans at a local market in Sofia, Bulgaria for $10 for the fall in Eastern Europe after having just spend 6 months in SE Asia and Egypt!

    PS. This reminds me of: โ€œShirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, you can wear them forever.โ€

    • Heather says

      I’ve worn mine for about 3 weeks without washing — way to rock it, Al! It’s a little hard for me to find jeans that fit *at home* with my hips & butt, so I’m curious if I’d be able to find ones that fit on the road. You’ve found some great pairs!

      • Brooke says

        I’m with you on this one Heather – I have a hard enough time finding good jeans at home bc of hips/bum. Jeans shopping is a nightmare, and there’s no way I could find a pair to fit in Thailand — the girls there are tiny!

        • Kaylin says

          You’d be surprised actually. In Korea/Japan, not likely to find anything over a US size medium, unless you head to an H&M or other western store in a bigger city. Then you will find the biggest is probably a US size large. Jeans aren’t likely to fit if you aren’t the straight up and down Asian body type… And you will NEVER find a shoe over a US women’s size 8 in any normal store.

          But in Thailand, I found western size clothes AND SHOES in a shopping mall in Bangkok. And they weren’t hidden in “big size” shops either. I also found clothes that fit in Cambodia too, in the street markets in Siem Reap.

    • Heather says

      I’d love to know how long people have gone between washes…I thought I did pretty well, but sounds like some of you ladies have me beat ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Katie says

    Jeans rock. I packed 2 pairs for my current year long trip and I can’t imagine living without them. If you at least have access to a washer (which I have not had trouble finding at any hostel in 3 months of travel) and run a maximum spin cycle, they will dry in under 24 hours. They are much more durable than other pants, much more flexible in where you can wear them – and if you have ones that are slightly stretchy, they “give” a bit more if you’ve added a couple pounds on the road. I can barely button my hiking pants but I can still slip on my jeans! I also think depending on where you are, you can blend in a lot more wearing jeans because that’s what everyone else is wearing.

    • Heather says

      You’re right, Katie — people DO wear jeans! So many of the articles I used to read said that “don’t wear jeans, you’ll stand out as a tourist.” Hasn’t been my experience and it doesn’t sound like yours!

      • Brooke says

        I never knew that wearing jeans made you stand out as a tourist? I thought it was always the idea of adding more weight to a bag and being hard to dry that made them undesirable.

        • Katie says

          Exactly – jeans don’t make you stand out as a tourist in most places – they help you blend in! Traveling through Europe for the last 6 months, EVERYONE wears jeans. The few days that I wear my black, cargo-style hiking pants, I feel like I stand out the most!

  4. Melissa says

    I made the mistake of traveling with 2 (YES TWO!) pairs of jeans last time I came down under. The bulk and extra weight sucked and I even ended up leaving a pair (my black skinnies) with a friend for 2 months while i went off traveling. Now i only have one pair, because it’s my default going out/dressing up pair of pants should I not feel so inclined to wear a dress. They are a hassle to pack up and travel with, but since I’m doing more of the slow travel it’s not too bad.

  5. Beverley | Pack Your Passport says

    I literally live in jeans and could never travel without them! But, like the post says, if you’re travelling long-term and slowly like I am then jeans are less of a hassle.

    The best thing about jeans is that you can wear them absolutely anywhere and, with a limited budget and wardrobe, that seals the deal for me! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Nethwen says

    I often wonder if the “you’ll look like a tourist” argument is because to some people all jeans are created equal – faded, high-waisted, taper-legged, burgundy, dark wash, pleated – to some there is no difference, jeans are jeans. So, I wonder if this argument sometimes is the travel version of “if you dress from a decade ago, it looks sloppy.” No evidence for this; simply me musing.

    The two times I’ve traveled internationally, I didn’t bring jeans and wish I had. I would have felt like I fit in better with my peers (late teens to early 20s). When I travel in the US, I always have at least one pair of jeans if they will suit the activity.

    • Heather says

      I agree with the “fitting in with peers” — everyone else seems to have a pair (travelers and locals)! And your musings do bring up an interesting point ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Megan E. says

    I like this post since I’m debating whether to take a pair (or two) to Vegas in a few weeks.

    I think jeans that fit well and look good are different than ones some people wear that are faded, old, have stretchy waists, are too short, etc…

    So I think, in general for colder places, 1-2 pair of nice jeans are fine if you can fit them. (I’m obviously leaning towards taking them for my trip, especially since we are hiking at least two days!)

  8. Ev says

    I had 2 pairs of pants with me for 2 months without washing. I’m going away again for couple of months. This time no jeans… so I can buy a nice pair when I’m there! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Sasha says

    I bring skinny jeans with a high percentage of Spandex or other synthetics–they’re smaller, lighter and they dry SO MUCH faster!

  10. Sabrina says

    Many jeans are made much more lightweight these days, which kind of solves this problem! I have a couple of pairs by Guess and one by a Canadian brand called Yoga Jeans which are kind of like jeggings, but leaning more toward the jeans end of the spectrum. They look exactly like a normal pair of skinny denim, but are much less heavy and bulky. I can really roll them up quite small in my luggage too. I think these are the ideal type of travel jeans!

    I’d also like to mention that for traveling, I think a dark wash and a narrow cut are best because they can really be dressed up much better than a lighter wash flare. I always feel much more put together in a dark wash skinny than any other type of jean ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jessica says

      I definitely agree about the dark washes! I have yet to find skinnies or jeggings that look decent on me, but I have 2 pairs of dark trouser jeans that I pretty much live in when I travel.

      Obviously, I fall on the “bring them” side of the debate. The first time I went to Europe, I didn’t bring them and really missed them at night (in Italy in the summer). I just came back from 2 weeks in Germany and Paris and would have been miserable without them (60 degrees and rainy in Paris is not conducive to dresses!). Heading to Seattle next month, and I plan to take only jeans and 1 nice-ish pair of black pants for fancy restaurant night.

      Oh, and I almost never wash mine while traveling unless I spill something and am out of options.

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