Finding the perfect pair of women’s travel pants is no easy feat. But finding a pair of travel pants that are both functional AND cute? How about functional, cute, AND sized to fit on my tall, curvy Amazonian body? HA! Forget about it. How dare I have such unreasonable expectations?!
But guess what? After trying on, returning, trying on again, and field-testing like crazy, I’ve found 3 absolutely amazing pairs of travel pants for women. They’ve changed my packing game, and I’m about to change yours.
Table of Contents
Psst: Looking for more tips on what to pack for your next trip? I’ve got some other posts that might help! Jeremy also wrote up a guide to the best travel pants for men.
- The 4 Best Women’s Travel Shoes: Lightweight, Field-Tested, & Cute
- The Ultimate Guide to Makeup & Beauty for Backpacking
- Europe in Winter Packing List: 32 Backpacking Essentials for Him & Her
Is it me, or do women’s travel pants generally suck?
Browse the womens’ travel pants section in your local outdoor outfitter and you’ll find roughly 4 main categories of terrible travel trousers (TTT for short, trademark pending):
✔ There are the quick dry pants that convert to the most hideous shorts you’ve ever seen.
✔ There are the hiking pants that look like they’re still storing the 90’s in their massive cargo pockets.
✔ There are the ladies’ travel pants that are actually just mens’ pants but with the word “ladies’” in the title, as if that’s supposed to fool me enough to overlook my cameltoe and that uncomfortable pull across my hips.
✔ And then there are the women’s’ travel jeans, which are exactly like regular womens’ jeans: thin and stretchy, with teeny tiny pockets that hold roughly ½ of a chapstick and 3 dimes, and end up shredded to pieces after a good 5 minutes of inner thigh rub/walking.
Needless to say, shopping for travel pants is right down on the bottom on my list of favorite things to do alongside root canal and being rescued off of waterfalls while having a panic attack (I speak from experience, unfortunately).
In the past, my solution has been DIY: I sewed in pockets (even hidden pockets!), I added chub-rub patch protection, I hemmed, I repaired. It’s a great way to actually use that fashion design degree I paid a zillion dollars for, but it’s frustrating. I don’t want to have to sew my own pairs of pants just to have good pants.
But! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. After literally years of searching, trying on, She-Hulking my way out of inaccurately labelled jeans, and field-testing, I’ve found 3 pairs of the best travel pants for women, which serve 3 completely distinct purposes.
With these 3 travel pants, you can actually have your pant situation covered. Like, you’re good. This is it. Packing is done. Like maybe throw in a dress or whatever, but pants? Check.
I know, I know: it’s too good to be true, right? But y’all, I’m on my soapbox and I am speaking from EXPERIENCE.
As a full time travel blogger, I’ve logged a LOT of hours in these miracle pants, including a year-long honeymoon, city breaks, jungle treks, mountain hikes, and even the aforementioned waterfall repelling disaster (I was wearing pant #2).
These 3 ladies’ travel pants have proved themselves. They fit on my 5’10”, size 12-14ish size body, they function as promised, and they feel amazing. With these 3 pants in my pack, I can go anywhere (cue Reading Rainbow soundtrack).
With these 3 pairs of pants, I don’t even have that oh-god-get-me-out-of-these-leg-prisons feeling you get when you arrive home from work and disrobe .5 steps into your door.
I even wore JEANS ON A PLANE once. You guys. Jeans on a plane. Not yoga pants. Not leggings. JEANS. It was a lot like snakes on a plane, except with less Samuel L. Jackson and more me drooling onto my husband’s shoulder in a comfy jean-induced nap.
So, are you ready to have your world turned upside down and your legs encased in travel-ready, pocketed fabric heaven? Without further rambling, here are the 3 best travel pants for women.
The Best Women’s Travel Jeans
I recently discovered these travel jeans from Aviator USA, and my one great regret in life is that it took 28 years for us to become acquainted. Because I am full on OBSESSED with them. Love can come in the form of a good pair of jeans, and for me, these are The Ones.
What makes these travel jeans so incredibly wonderful? Let me count the ways…
✔ They have front pockets that are actual human sized.
None of that BS “this pocket will fit 1 key and 4 tic-tacs” crap. I have a LOT of angry feelings about the lack of pockets in women’s clothing and how it’s a sexist, patriarchal conspiracy designed to sell more purses, but I won’t get into that here.
What I will say is this: I can fit my giant phone in the front (FRONT) pocket of my Aviator USA jeans. I can fit my whole hand, up to my cute travel watch-covered wrist. I can sit down with my phone in my pocket, and it doesn’t pop out and fall on the floor like I’ve just given birth to a phone from my hip. If I had an iPhone, I think it would actually fit in the “coin pocket,” which is the size of most jean pockets on inferior jeans.
My Aviator USA travel jean pockets are as big as the pockets on all of my husband’s jeans, and I’m angry that I even HAVE to celebrate that, but I’m celebrating it anyway.
✔ That have back sized pockets that are roomy AF, + a hidden zippered back pocket.
As a result of living my life deprived of functional front pockets, I’ve developed a back pocket habit. And the back pockets on my Aviator USA jeans are fantastically large. Plus, one of them has a cool hidden zippered pocket that is ALSO fantastically large. That’s 2 pockets in 1 pocket. Pocket-ception!
Also, the hidden pocket is actually hidden: the zipper is tucked underneath the back pocket flap, so you can’t see it even when I sit down, bend over, or twerk. Meaning pick-pockets can eff off forever, and also that I can twerk/use the bathroom without worrying that my credit card, license, or transit card is going to fall out of my back pocket, never to be seen again.
✔ They have 6 pockets that are all actually useful.
I know, I know, I’m obsessed with pockets. But can you blame me?! There are 6 of them in these jeans, and they’re all big enough to actually hold stuff!!!!!!!! This is life-changing. Screw you, Patriarchy!
✔ They’re stretchy and soft.
The fabric of my black Aviator USA jeans is buttery soft and super stretchy, in a way that makes them insanely comfy and perfectly fitted, but not in the kind of way that makes my cheap stretchy jeans fall down when I walk too fast or do something athletic, like crossing my legs.
✔ They come long, but are easily tailored.
The 2 colors of Aviator USA jeans only come in 1 length (because it’s a small company) and I’m happy to report that it’s long enough for my 5’10” height. For shorter ladies, the jeans are hemmed in a way that makes them easily tailored. Tailoring costs like $10 and you don’t even need to find a ~tailor: you can literally just walk into a Men’s Wearhouse and use their in-house tailor. Yes, ladies, The Men’s Wearhouse tailors women’s jeans too. Full disclosure: I am a former employee. RIP, my sweet tailoring discount.
The first week I owned my black Aviator USA jeans, I wore them 5/7 days. I took them on a weekend trip. I wore them on the plane. I wore them all day as we explored freezing cold, rainy Seattle – not only did they keep my legs cozy and warm, but they dried quickly, too. I carried a bunch of stuff in my pockets, I looked cute AF, and I was incredibly comfortable. That’s it. I’m sold. I’m throwing out all of my other jeans. These are bae.
You can get a pair of black jeans (my personal favorites) or a pair of indigo jeans (which are slightly less buttery & stretchy, in my experience) on the Aviator USA website.
- Update, August 2018: I’ve newly acquired a pair of Aviator’s indigo skinnies in size 36, and lo and behold, they are AMAZING and fit me perfectly. So if you’re buying the indigo skinnies, you’ll want to size up – I’m a 36 in the indigo and a 32 in the black jeans. No idea why the sizing is different, but whatever, I have pocket room for daysssss and I could do yoga in these jeans (but let’s be honest, I’m not going to), so no complaints here. Similarly, if you’re looking for extended sizes, it seems like size 32+ in the black jeans falls into plus size territory (I’m usually a 12/14 in women’s jeans to give you an idea). If that seems confusing, feel free reach out to Aviator directly with questions – they are a teeny company and will respond to you directly, and according to my readers their customer service is fantastic!
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The Best Hiking Pants for Women
I’m not strictly a city traveler. I’m also an outdoorsy traveler, who loves nature and the occasional adrenaline rush (in moderation). For all of my adventure/hiking/outdoorsy travel needs, I wear my prAna Halle Pants. They’re designed for hiking, climbing, exploring, running, jumping, butt-scooting, knee-hitting, and white-water rafting. I know this because I’ve done all of the above in my Halle pants, and other than a popped button that I quickly sewed back on with my trusty travel sewing kit, they’ve survived completely intact.
Let me gush about these pants a lil’ bit and tell you why I love them so much.
✔ They’re highly technical: super stretchy, quick-dry, moisture-wicking, breathable, reinforced, and water repellent.
Hiking & trekking pants are about function first and foremost, and the prAna Halle pant nails function. When we were hiking the Quilotoa Loop in the Andes in Ecuador, we got lost a zillion times and I ended up crawling up a mountain on my hands and knees. I’d made the mistake of wearing leggings, which ended up full of tiny holes and tiny itchy things stuck in the fabric for the rest of my 10-hour long hike. But the next day, I wore my Halle pants: no holes, no irritating stickers, no problems.
In addition to a reinforced knee and technically designed fabric that lets your skin breathe even when you’re sweating, the pants are water-repellent. Now, they aren’t water proof – then they wouldn’t be very breathable, so that’s a good thing – but I’ve worn these in the rain, under a waterfall, and during a white-water rafting trip and even after getting soaking wet, they dry within an hour. Quick dry pants? Check!
Oh, and they’re also super stretchy and incredibly comfortable.
✔ They are actually cute. Like, for real.
Most women’s hiking pants are hideous and make me want to hide in the wilderness while I’m wearing them. But my Halle pants are legit cute. Like, I’ve actually worn them to work in a corporate office setting, as business-casual pants. I was so comfortable all day! The legs are fully flared at the bottom, not that weird sort-of-skinny-but-kinda-straight mom jeans look that I absolutely cannot pull off. prAna does have a slim fit hiking pant, but the flare on the Halle pant is actually functional, becauusseeee….
✔ They can be converted from long pants to short pants.
NO, they’re not zip-offs. And NO, they don’t look hideous after you convert them. The flared bottom rolls up easily into a cuff that ends above or below your knee, for a cute cuffed capri length pant. Personally, I have massive calves, as do most hikers and bikers and athletic folks, and I cannot imagine rolling a skinny pant all the way up to my knee. But the flare makes it so that these roll up perfectly. And the cuff doesn’t fall down, either: there are 2 little tabbed snaps to hold it in place all day long.
✔ There’s a hidden zip pocket.
The front pockets on these pants aren’t huge, but the back pockets are fine – and snap closed – and there’s a conveniently placed hidden zip pocket.. It’s a few inches above the knee, sewn into the side seam. It’s just big enough for an ID or some emergency cash – put anything too bulky in there and it stops being hidden. But I like that it’s in an unusual spot, because most pick-pockets would never think to look around my knees.
✔ They come in 3 inseams and 18 waist sizes, with a waist tie.
I love that these pants come in short, regular, and tall, as well as sizes 0-18 for all heights and sizes of badass female travelers! I also love there is a waist tie, because some days I’m a 12 and some days I’m a 16, depending on the amount of water I’ve drank and my cycle and a whole bunch of other random things. Plus, having a waist tie helps keep my pants up even on days where my weight is fluctuating.
The prAna Halle pant comes in several colors, which is news to me because I got mine several years ago. I really, REALLY want a pair in black and grey now. Anyway, you can pick a pair up here.
Psst: Looking for a version of these pants with a tapered leg? The prAna Briann Pant is made from the same stretchy, water-repellant fabric as the Halle pant but designed with a skinny tapered leg, perfect for tucking into hiking boots or snow boots. (Note: those are also the pants pictured in this post’s feature photo, on the far right and left.)
The Briann pants are my favorite pants to wear in the snow, over top of a merino base layer or pair of fleece lined leggings! You can check out more of my favorite outdoor apparel and gear for cold destinations in this post.
The Best Travel Leggings for Women
Raise your hand if you wish it was socially acceptable to LIVE in leggings. Anyone else?
I freakin’ love leggings, but I usually can’t justify wearing them every day on a trip. For starters, I don’t want to look like I’m going to work out – the overly athletic look isn’t what I want out of a legging. I want to look like I’m wearing real pants, but FEEL like my legs are firmly wrapped in stretchy goodness.
Secondly, most leggings have no pockets, which is an automatic dis-qualifier for travel-friendly pants in my book. And the ones that do have pockets typically just have a mesh outer pocket, which is basically like a goodie bag for pickpockets. No thanks.
So, does a magical pant actually exist that is close enough to leggings to make me feel like I’m lounging at home all day, but functional enough to actually wear out and about on a day of exploring? My friends: THOSE PANTS DO EXIST.
Color me high-key obsessed with the amazing Royal Robbins Lucerne Ponte Pant, and here’s why.
✔ There are TWO roomy pockets, and they have ZIPPERS!
These aren’t your BS teeny tiny women’s pants pockets, and they’re also not your athletic mesh pockets, either. They’re legit pockets – big enough to fit my gigantic Samsung s7 smartphone, with room to spare. And they zip closed to help with that horrifying “oh god is my phone going to fall out of my pocket into the toilet” feeling (I can’t be the only one who’s done that, right?) as well as help safeguard against theft.
✔ They’re insanely stretchy.
They may not be 100% leggings, but they FEEL like leggings. You can move your legs any which way in these!
✔ There’s a nice, thick waistband.
You know that feeling when you’re running your a** off through the airport trying to make your flight before they close the doors and they’re like, PAGING you (AHH!) and then you realize with growing horror that your leggings have slipped down past your tummy and are rapidly making a beeline for the floor?
Cue that awkward “I’m running as fast as I can but also I have to hold my pants up” move. I know that move so, so well.
Good news: The Royal Robbins Lucerne pant won’t betray you when you most need them to stay the f**k up on your hips. There’s a hefty waistband that both sucks you in a lil’ bit and keeps everything where it belongs… even while you’re booking it through 3 terminals.
Also, yes, I’ve tested, and these are 10000% comfy to wear on a long plane ride!
✔ There’s a flattering vertical seam running up and down your legs on both sides.
My legs are already 18 feet long (I’m like a big, awkward baby giraffe) but the vertical seams running up and down the Lucerne pant add like another 3 feet. Oooooh they make my legs look so good! The only downside to the seam is that if your skin is REALLY sensitive, you might feel it a little bit while you move around. But in my experience that feeling goes away as you get used to it after 20 or so minutes.
✔ They pass the squat test, and then some.
These aren’t your basic leggings, and they don’t have your basic legging problems: I’m happy to report that they fully pass the squat test, as well as the “bend over and look at yourself between your legs in the mirror” test and the twerk test (is anyone else incapable of doing the squat test without also incorporating these 2 highly scientific bonus moves?). These pants are made of Ponte fabric, which is nice and thick and totally opaque – and has the bonus of keeping you warm on a cold day!
✔ They look like actual pants.
Since the Lucerne pants aren’t actually leggings, they don’t fall prey to typical
legging problems, such as “can I wear these to work and actually pull it off, or will everyone know it’s shark week?” These look like legit pants, thanks to the seam, the pockets, and the thick fabric and actual-pant-esque hemline (I’m sure there’s a technical name for that but I have no idea what it is). So yes: you can wear these at work, on the weekends, on an airplane, and exploring a fancy city in like, France, where they would probably judge you for wearing leggings.
I prefer my pseudo leggings in jet black (aka charcoal) but there are a few other colors available as well, like charcoal heather and a really cute herringbone pattern that legit looks like a fancy pair of work pants. Ooooh now I want another pair! You can pick up a pair of these pants on Amazon.