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What Are the Best Travel Pants for Women?

Jet-setters getting aboard a plane — the Strategist reviews the best travel pants for women.
Twiggy’s wide-leg pants look comfortable. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Sitting in an airplane seat is never particularly comfortable, and it’s only gotten more cramped over time: Airplane seats have continued to shrink in width and legroom in recent decades, which helps explain why passengers often show up for flights in leggings and sweatshirts — cozy, but not exactly sartorial, outfits.

Nonetheless, there are actually some stealthily stylish and comfortable pants out there, perfect for frigid planes and the germy seats you sit in before and during a flight. As a companion to our guide to the best travel shoes, we asked frequent travelers who work in fashion — designers, stylists, and writers — to share their go-to pants for flights, absurd delays, and whatever else the sometimes-hellish journey of getting from point A to point B throws at you.

Nice-looking joggers

The Cashmere Sweatpant

Despite what we just said about wearing sweats on a plane, several of our frequent travelers told us about the good-looking joggers that they often put on for long flights. There are a great many to choose from, starting with these cashmere Everlane joggers. As Denise Lee, founder of activewear brand Alala, explains, “Cashmere actually regulates temperature really well, which is key when dealing with the unpredictable air-conditioning on airplanes.”

Performance Cashmere Blend Lounge Pants

If you want to splurge on a really nice pair, we also like the dip-dyed drawstrings on this Tory Burch pair.

Markus Lupfer Appliquéd Merino Wool Track Pants

Merino wool will also keep you warm on frigid flights, and as a bonus, it’s also a breathable and odor-repelling material. “The slim fit on these gives them a cool look, but they’re just as comfortable as your old-school university sweats,” says Sophie Kahn, co-founder of jewelry brand AUrate, of this pair emblazoned with a pair of lips.

Tibi Paper Bag Jogger Pants
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Tibi Paper Bag Jogger Pants

For a more statement-making (read: not black, navy, or gray) pair of joggers, go for a pattern and a cut that’s slouchy but not schlubby. “Printed jogger pants give you comfort and style all in one,” says Caroline Maguire, Shopbop’s fashion director, of this vibrant Tibi version, which gets “extra comfort points for being high-waisted,” she says. The bright floral pattern is cheery, but isn’t too garishly bright, thanks to the navy background; plus, the paper-bag waist is super flattering.

Anthony Thomas Melillo Silk Jogger Pants

For something a little more muted, but still in silk, these pastel-pink joggers would look equally put-together.

Upscale track pants

Isabel Marant Dobbs Stripe-Trimmed Track Pants

A close cousin of the go-to track pants: fancy track pants. “When I find something I like, I tend to go overboard and get the item in every color. Such was the case with these track pants,” says Felicity Sargent, stylist and writer, of this pair from Isabel Marant. “They’re cropped, making them look as great with a slide as they do with a sneak, and they’re high-waisted with a drawstring, so you can adjust to your comfort.” Sargent pairs these with vintage T-shirts when traveling. She has also spilled red wine on one of her (multiple, that’s how much she likes them) pairs, and says it came out in the wash at home.

Opening Ceremony Velour Track Pant

You could also go for a more ostentatious, logo-striped pair in bright pink, like Kahn. “If you’re up for a bit more spunk and some yummy velour, these pants will do just the trick; they make me want to fall asleep when I wear them,” she says of these Opening Ceremony pants, which have an elastic waistband. She likes to style them with a white tee and blazer.

Opening Ceremony Velour Track Pant

If the bubblegum shade is too aggressive, the black ones are currently on sale.

Ganni Dubois Polo Pull-On Pant

This white pair from hip Danish label Ganni has a faint floral print and a double tuxedo stripe on the sides.

Active Icons Track Pants

Connie Wang, senior features writer at Refinery29, opts for thick sweatpants with an elastic waistband, like these Adidas styles. “Drawstrings and gathered stretch waists end up digging into my torso on long flights,” she says. “I also like a thick fabric that won’t show panty line because thongs on a plane are a form of torture.”

Adidas By Stella McCartney Comfort Sweatpant

And here’s a similar pair with a wide elastic band (no drawstrings) and a straight-leg, trouserlike cut. And these are on sale!

Adidas Tiro 17 Training Pants

One more for those counting at home: This is one of Adidas’s most classic track-pants styles.

Slacks (with elastic waistbands)

Babaton Cohen Pant Pique

Aritzia really excels at travel-ready pants, says stylist and writer Felicity Sargent, who dubs it “the master-life-hacking-maker of slacks that feel like sweats,” with her favorite being this cropped pair. “They have sneaky, invisible elastic bands on the sides, making them super comfy, and they have great slit pockets and are on the low-rise side, which makes them feel fun and ’90s. “They’re also, in my experience, though not advertised as such, wrinkle-free,” she says. For quickly dressing them up upon landing, add a black cami, mules, and some gold accent jewelry, Sargent suggests.

The Japanese GoWeave Zip Track Pant

Not surprisingly, Everlane being Everlane, it makes a similar kind of track-pants-office trouser hybrid, also with a stretchy waist. It’s currently in Everlane’s “Choose What You Pay” section, which just means it’s on sale.

Wide-leg pants and culottes

Eileen Fisher Stripe Organic Cotton Capri Pants

For a more polished but equally comfortable option, Anna Gray — creator of the Things I Would Buy If I Didn’t Have to Pay Rent newsletter — suggests going for a wide leg. “Pick a fabric that doesn’t wrinkle, and a shape that looks good with an oversize sweater because planes, like movie theaters, are always freezing, right?” One favorite of Gray’s is this crisp, cotton, black-and-white striped pair.

Virtuoso Silk Cashmere Sweatpants

For lengthy flights, Lee likes this slinky, wide-legged cashmere style. Her favorite version of the luxe take on loungewear is from Naadam, are made from a silk-cashmere blend, and sport side slits to the mid-shin for some movement, and a sporty tux stripe on the sides.

Drape Wide Pants

Uniqlo also makes some whisper-thin rayon wide-leg pants that are especially ideal for warm travelers going to hot places. Comes in four colors.

Pleated pants

Pleats Please by Issey Miyake Thicker Bottoms in Black

Claire Mazur, Of a Kind’s co-founder, swears by voluminous pants with tight vertical pleating for traveling. “The last time I boarded an airplane, the flight attendant greeting passengers looked at me and said, ‘You look so comfy and chic.’ I later asked that same woman for extra barf bags and she did not retract her statement. The thing that prompted her compliment were my Issey Miyake Pleats Please pants,” Mazur explains. “They look like fancy silk but are actually polyester, they have an elastic waistband, they are loose, they are extremely soft, and, perhaps best of all, they are machine washable.” While Mazur recommends any Pleats Please pants, she notes that the wide-leg silhouettes “are particularly perfect for flying.”

Pleated Metallic Trousers

Here’s a far cheaper alternative with a slight sheen, recommended by Gray. “The hint of metallic in these elevates what are essentially pajama pants,” she says of these, which are pleated, even though it’s hard to see in this photo. “Also, pleated fabric tends not to wrinkle, so you don’t get to the other side with a wrinkly butt, God forbid.”

Eileen Fisher Knife-Pleated Wide-Leg Ankle Pants

For cheaper pleats without a metallic sheen, some Eileen Fisher high-waist ones.

Vince Accordion Pleat Culotte Pants

One more, this time from Vince — travel pants that look like a skirt.

Drop-crotch pants

The Fifth Label Hideout Pants
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The Fifth Label Hideout Pants

Harem pants with an exaggerated drop-crotch might be a polarizing style, but they’re an extremely comfortable travel alternative to leggings, says Maguire. She favors this stretchy pair with the slim legs of your favorite workout or couch-vegging leggings, but with a lot more ventilation. “This olive color pairs well with anything, from a neutral to a pop of color,” she adds.

The Great. The Paper Bag Harem Pants

Here’s a vivid red version, in a lightweight cotton-linen blend.

Siro Draped Jogger

Or a draped jogger style with a more modest drop-crotch, in dark hues (black, gray, or navy) and a slinky, soft fabric.

Leather pants

J Brand ‘8001’ Lambskin Leather Pants

Last, we’ll leave you with an idea that might be just crazy enough to work: leather pants on an airplane. Kahn explains the unlikely travel appeal, “They keep you warm when it’s cold, which is often the case in the plane, and cool when it’s hot, and overall they’re super comfortable.” She notes that she sizes up in this, and pairs it with a cozy sweater and sneakers for travel days.

OT Leggings

Bouchra Ezzahraoui has a similar recommendation: washable leather leggings. (Yes, really.) “I find them to be the perfect compromise between a stylish pair of jeans and comfy yoga pants,” she says of this pair. “They’re flattering, very flexible, and the leather is machine washable.”

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What Are the Best Travel Pants for Women?