The Best Travel Dresses of 2023

The HVN Laura Dress wins our top spot.

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Travel Dresses
Courtesy of Amazon, HVN, and Ralph Lauren

With travel picking back up, we can finally swap Netflix and sweatpants for days spent cruising along the beach, visiting museums and monuments, or lounging by the pool. The world is our oyster, and the latest fashion collections provide plenty of sartorial inspiration for traveling in style.

When shopping for travel dresses, there are a few key things to consider, beyond the obvious weather factors: What will you be doing? Will your schedule allow for outfit changes? Is there a certain level of formality required? How much actual travel is involved and what will be the mode (flying, a cruise ship, road tripping)? These are all things that should inform your decisions when packing. After all, travel should be about the experience, and dressing for it should be effortless.

But selecting a dress can be like choosing an ice cream flavor: The options are infinite, and it all comes down to personal taste. There are, however, particular styles that reign supreme for different scenarios, whether it's something functional for exploring a city, something that will translate from day to evening, or something versatile enough to go from the pool to an al fresco lunch date. The aim is to embark on your trip looking good and feeling at ease, and a fabulous vacation dress can achieve just that. Our favorite is the HVN Laura Dress.

Ahead, we have selected more of the best travel dresses.

Why We Love It: Even the Duchess of Cambridge is a fan.

What to Consider: It's dry clean only.

Flying with only a carry-on? This versatile dress is ideal for packing light. "It folds and packs effectively," explains Harley Viera-Newton, the DJ-slash-designer behind HVN. "I've been able to fit as many as 12 in one side of a carry-on suitcase before!" she says. Beyond being practical, the timeless style is universally flattering, with a slim bodice that flows into a gathered skirt. It's available in a kaleidoscope of prints and block colors, so there is something for everyone, and often, something for a theme: There's even a "breakfast" print this season, and others have buttons made from playful motifs like hearts, daisies, and ice cream cones. HVN's vintage-inspired designs have had rave reviews since the brand launched in 2016 and the Laura Dress is one of the best-selling styles. "It's made from a light, breathable cotton that is perfect for hot summer days," Viera-Newton explains.

Price at time of publish: $395

Sizes: 0-20 | Material: 100 percent stretch cotton.

Best Sporty

Ralph Lauren Cotton Mesh Polo Dress

Polo Ralph Lauren Dress

Ralph Lauren

Why We Love It: It's more refined than your standard athleisure ensemble.

What to Consider: It is form-fitting and quite short, so maybe not the best option for in-transit wear.

There are few apparel items as iconic as the Ralph Lauren polo, and the dress version is equally timeless. It's the perfect alternative to athleisure wear, providing a more polished look that is suitable for wearing to breakfast and then on to a coastal walk or a bike ride into town. And should the opportunity to play tennis arise, this is an excellent choice for aesthetic and functional reasons. The cap sleeves provide ample shoulder protection for days spent in the sun. It also has breathable mesh cotton fabric and a vented hem, which is ideal for activities that raise the heat. And if you intend on capturing good photos from the sportier side of your trip, this preppy dress will look a lot more refined than a pair of leggings.

Price at time of publish: $148

Sizes: XXS-XL | Material: 100 percent cotton

Best Mini Dress

Zimmermann Postcard Spliced Mini Dress

Postcard Spliced Mini Dress


Why We Love It: It's an eye-catching piece that will have you feeling like a jetsetter.

What to Consider: This dress is best suited to petite figures (there is a midi version that's a better fit for taller women), and it is a splurge.

Aptly named the Postcard Dress, this elegant silhouette could live in a vintage travel ad from Monte Carlo. It's an elevated take on the classic minidress, with structured tailoring that adds an element of formality. There is a fitted bodice, a removable buckled belt, linen lining, and shirring at the back with an invisible zip, allowing for unrestricted movement. Whimsical florals are always a mainstay in Zimmermann's collections, and this spliced tonal print provides a modern update on the standard spring blooms. Whether you're attending a soiree abroad or seeking a sophisticated look for date night, this dress will turn heads for all the right reasons. Pair with nude Chanel slingbacks and a Micro Lady Dior bag for a refined evening look, or if you're planning on wearing it during the day, pair with flat leather Staud sandals and a Saint Laurent Raffia tote.

Sizes: 0P (0 Petite)-12 | Material: 100 percent linen throughout the main dress, 100 percent cotton lining.

Related: The Best Wrinkle-resistant Dresses

Best Splurge

Gucci Double G chain dress

Gucci Double G Chain Dress


Why we Love it: It will stand the test of time.

What to Consider: There are delicate features, so it's one for the dry-cleaners only.

The demand for "reemerging" fashion is greater than ever, and what could be better for making an entrance than a luxurious Gucci Little Blue Dress? It's great for city escapes with itineraries that are just as lively in the evening as they are during the day (picture this at Bulgari Milano during aperitivo hour or Girafe in Paris, overlooking the glittering Eiffel Tower). This classic silhouette has a 90s-supermodel vibe, enriched with gold lamé trims and interlocking G chain hardware — a distinctive symbol of the Italian fashion house. Pair with Amina Muaddi pumps and a slick of lipstick and you're set for a glamorous night out.

Sizes: XXS-XL | Material: 54 percent wool, 46 percent cotton.

Best Midi

Zare Satin Effect Cut Out Dress

Zare Satin Effect Cut Out Dress


Why We Love It: It's an elegant take on the cut-out trend.

What to Consider: It's not ideal for women with bigger busts that need to wear a bra for support.

You can always count on Zara for a trend piece, and according to e-commerce data, this cut-out midi is one of the most purchased dresses on the site right now. The Satin Effect Cut-Out Dress has a bikini-style top with a wide V-neck and adjustable spaghetti straps that tie and cross at the back. The hem sits just above the ankle with a subtle flare, creating a flattering line. Another standout feature is the vibrant print, with bright green contrasted against icy turquoise, a popular color combination that would look right at home amid lush tropical surrounds.

Sizes: XS-XXL | Material: 98 percent viscose, 2 percent elastane

Most Versatile

A.L.C Sadie Ribbed-Knit Dress

Sadie Ribbed-Knit Dress


Why We Love It: You can wear it for a full day exploring a city, no matter the formality.

What to Consider: It's dry clean only.

This versatile dress can be worn day or night, dressed up or down, and in both casual and formal environments. "I've been on the hunt for a 'wear everywhere' dress for summer," says Net-a-Porter's Senior Market Editor, Libby Page. "This maxi dress by A.L.C will work perfectly for a weekend away, a stroll through the city, or dressed up for a night out and everything in between." It's comfortable enough to live in for a full day of activities. And being in black, it's ideal for concealing any stains that could be picked up on the journey.

Price at time of publish: $595

Sizes: XS-L | Material: The fabric in the bodice is 71 percent viscose, 15 percent polyester, 13 percent nylon, 1 percent elastane, and the fabric in the skirt is 100 percent cotton.

Related: The 8 Best Exercise Skirts and Skorts of 2023

Most Comfortable

The Drop Women's Renata Rib Midi Dress

The Drop Women's Renata Rib Midi Dress


Why We Love It: It's comfortable and easy to throw on and go when traveling.

What to Consider: It's a loose fit, so it's advised to size down.

It's the perfect dress for the actual travel portion of going away. The staple from Amazon's The Drop collection was designed for situations where comfort is paramount but a full-on tracksuit would be too casual. It won't cling (great for walking), it's temperature neutral (which is ideal for traveling between seasons), and it's long enough to provide coverage if you're going to be seated or lying horizontally, should you encounter an extended layover. The double-sided slit adds dimension to the boxy shape.

Price at time of publish: $60

Sizes: XX-Small-2XL | Fabric: 52 percent acrylic, 25 percent polyester, 14 percent nylon, 5.5 percent viscose, 3.5 percent wool

Best Non-crease

Scanlan Theodore Crepe Knit Square Neck Dress

Scanlan Theodore Crepe Knit Square Neck Dress

Scanlan Theodore

Why We Love It: The quality is incredible; the dress will last decades.

What to Consider: Be careful of catching jewelry on it to avoid pilling.

Scanlan Theodore's signature crepe knit is revolutionary. The fabric is exclusive to the Australian brand, and it's crease-free, with a high level of elasticity and a dense knit that has a shapewear effect. In other words, it's an absolute dream to have in your wardrobe and even better for traveling. There are a variety of styles comprised of crepe knit, but if there is one piece to invest in that will be a go-to for any type of trip, from a holiday to a destination wedding or a corporate event, make it the Square Neck Dress. The elegant midi dress is timeless, flattering, and appropriate for various occasions. Plus, you won't need to pull out an ironing board while abroad ever again.

Price at time of publish: $650

Sizes: XS-L | Material: Crepe knit, which is made from FSC viscose and uses a specially designed Italian polyamide component to enable the high level of stretch and recovery

Best Shirt Dress

L'agence Cameron Belted Shirt Dress

L'agence Cameron Belted Shirt Dress

Blooming Dales

Why We Love It: It's one of the most stylish shirt dresses on the market.

What to Consider: It's dry clean only.

Nothing says vacation like a floaty linen shirt dress, and this L'Agence number is perfect for wearing alone, as a coverup, or as a duster. Stylized design features elevate the otherwise simple silhouette: It has a tie belt to cinch in the waist, cuffed three-quarter sleeves, a hidden front button placket, and side slits to add movement while swanning around resorts. It's so popular that it's reimagined season after season in neutrals and summery shades, like this fresh Baltic blue.

Price at time of publish: $465

Sizes: XXS-XL | Material: 100 percent linen.

Related: The Best Yoga Pants

Best Maxi Dress

Rixo Sorrento Tiered Striped Cotton-Gauze Maxi Dress

Rixo Sorrento Tiered Striped Cotton-Gauze Maxi Dress


Why We Love It: It looks right at home in even the most charming seaside towns.

What to Consider: It's dry clean only.

London-based brand Rixo is renowned for its summer-ready, ultra-wearable dresses, and this candy-colored maxi is perfect for an Amalfi Coast agenda. The floaty, tiered dress has a V-neck with tie-fastening straps, so you can adjust the fit to suit and maneuver it to catch some rays of sunshine. The color pattern, meanwhile, strikes a balance between subtle and bright. It was made for la dolce vita.

Price at time of publish: $390

Sizes: XXS-3XL | Material: 100 percent cotton

Best T-shirt Dress

Everlane The Oversized Mariner Dress

Oversized Mariner Dress


Why We Love It: It gets top marks for sustainability and versatility.

What to Consider: It's oversized and floaty, so it won't provide a structured fit.

Everlane is revered for its sustainable and affordable wardrobe staples, like this floaty T-shirt dress. The versatile piece is a wardrobe staple, essential for any type of trip and season. If you're heading somewhere cold, pair with a cashmere trench coat and chunky boots; for summer, simply add your favorite sandals.

Price at time of publish: $65

Sizes: XXS-XL | Material:100 percent organic cotton

Best Cover-up

Frame Crochet-knit midi dress

Frame Crochet-knit midi dress


Why We Love It: It feels like a robe but looks like a dress.

What to Consider: It's hand-wash or dry clean only.

It's as comfortable as wearing a robe and is perfect for days spent at the beach. The artisanal-style crochet pairs beautifully over a bikini and can be easily dressed up and styled with chunky jewelry and sandals. The best feature? It's partially lined down to the mid-thigh, so you can easily repurpose it for a more formal setting without having to worry about adding a slip. No wonder it's one of Frame's most popular dress styles.

Price at time of publish: $530

Sizes: XXS-XL | Material: 65 percent rayon, 35 percent nylon

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of dresses should I pack for traveling?

It all comes down to what your schedule will look like and where you're going to be going. The key things to consider are the weather conditions, planned activities, the level of formality in your destination, and the mode of travel.

How should I fold a dress?

Ensure that the dress is ironed (or steamed) in advance and smooth out any wrinkles in the fabric when arranging it in your suitcase. To fold, opt for Marie Kondo's KonMari technique to maximize space, or roll to prevent any stubborn creases. For more delicate dresses, it may pay to cover them in tissue (just as you would have when purchasing clothing from a boutique), or place in a plastic bag for added protection.

Where should I place a dress in a suitcase?

Away from any heel spikes or dirty shoe soles (ideally, these should be wrapped in shoe covers or plastic bags). Also, ensure that all of your toiletries and makeup are tightly sealed to avoid any spillage and stains. A good trick is to surround your toiletry bag with sleepwear or athleisure as a barrier — much better than ruining an investment piece.

What material is best for a travel dress?

It depends on the climate. If you're venturing to a winter destination, cashmere and merino wool are ideal given they don't crease and are lightweight, non-irritating fabrics. But if you're packing for a summer destination where you'll need more breathable options, opt for linen, viscose, or a lightweight cotton. Many of the more formal, investment dresses listed above are dry clean or hand wash only, but if you want something that you can machine wash or tumble dry on the go, cotton is the easiest fabric to care for.

Tips for Buying a Travel Dress

Consider how you'll wear it

If you're trying on a dress in a boutique, be sure to pack the undergarments that you intend on wearing, be it a strapless bra, shapewear, seamless underwear, or a slip. Also, check it out in different lighting to ensure it's not see-through (unless that's the look that you're going for). And if it's a dress for a destination wedding or a special event, bring the shoes that you're planning to pair it with to ensure the length is right and everything flows well.

Choose quality over quantity

Building a wardrobe with high quality staples is better than filling it with fast fashion. Designer dresses are indeed an investment, but the cost-per-wear makes it worth it over time. You'll be thankful when you unpack your suitcase and have a selection of well-made, sophisticated options to choose from; it makes dressing for the day a whole lot easier. Plus, such items build sentimental value after every experience, be it a milestone event or a memorable holiday.

Read the details

Remember to check the return policy and estimated delivery date to ensure that it will arrive on time and, of course, the return policy. Some websites will also share details on the size and advise on whether it runs small or large, so you can make a more educated purchasing decision. Also, when buying online, you can see how it's been styled as a full look.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure contributors are shopping, fashion, and lifestyle experts who draw on personal experience and market recommendations to curate the best products for shoppers. For this article, Amy Louise Bailey drew on her decade-plus career in the fashion and luxury industry to curate an inspiring edit to suit various requirements for travel. She also spoke with major designers, leading multi-brand retailers, and personal shoppers to obtain insights on their most popular items and the trends that they're seeing this year.

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