How many pairs of shoes do you take on holiday?

I’ve been journeying through my search referrers again, and today’s question is this:

How many pairs of shoes do you take on holiday?

And the answer is:

Personally? As many pairs as I can fit in my suitcase. No, really. And I know that’s not the right answer to this: the right answer according to the so-called “experts” is that you should pack yourself a careful, capsule wardrobe, and make sure every item in it goes with every other item, so you only need a couple of pairs of shoes for the whole trip. Now, I can do the whole “capsule wardrobe” thing if I have to. The problem is, though, that I just don’t want to. I mean, what can say, I’m a shoe addict (and a dress addict, and a skirt addict and… oh, I have a lot of sartorially-based addictions): it just goes totally against the grain for me to want to pack a handful of clothes and then keep wearing them over and over again for a couple of weeks or more. I’m also one of those people who likes to be prepared at all times. What if I pack my capsule wardrobe and then find myself in a situation which is just crying out for that fabulous pair of shoes I left at home? Or that dress I didn’t think I’d have an opportunity to wear? It just doesn’t bear thinking about.

This is why, when it comes to packing, I can generally be found forcing one more pair of shoes into my suitcase as I head out the door on the way to the airport. But that’s just me. And I’m guessing “Just take as many as you can” isn’t the advice you were looking for, mystery reader, so here are the shoes I’d take on holiday, if I was trying to take the absolute minimum – and bear in mind here that this will, to a huge extent, depend very much on where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, and what kind of climate you’ll be doing it in, to say nothing of factors like what kind of clothes you like to wear, and what your footwear style is. For the purpose of this post, though, I’m assuming it’s a standard summer holiday: reasonably warm weather, bit of sightseeing, bit of relaxing – you know the kind of thing. I’d take:

1. A pair of cute flats

For walking, sightseeing, and any other casual kind of activities. My preference is for canvas flats because they’re lightweight, so don’t take up much of your luggage allowance, and the canvas is breathable, so they don’t make your feet sweat – if you’re worried about being too warm, though, you can always substitute open toes or flat sandals. They also tend to be inexpensive, so if you ruin them at the beach or whatever, you don’t have to worry too much.

2. A pair of dress heels in a neutral colour

For evenings out, or anything that you want to wear heels for. (For me this is pretty much everything.) Try to pick a colour that goes with most of your clothes: personally, I always go for The Colour Generally Referred to as “Nude” But Which We All Know Isn’t Actually The Colour of Nude Skin, At Least Not For Everyone. Failing that, I’d go for either tan or a metallic, both of which work with just about everything. Your “neutral” may well be different depending on your dress style: I don’t consider black to be a neutral for me, for instance, because I wear a lot of navy and don’t like the look of the two together, but I DO consider red to be an almost-neutral because it works with so much of my wardrobe. You get the picture.

3. Sneakers, or some variation thereon.

I don’t have a photo of me on holiday in sneakers to show you because… I don’t have a photo of me in sneakers. This is because I hate them. That said, there’s no getting away from the fact that if you’re planning to be even reasonably active on vacation (and hey, you never know!), some kind of sneaker can be a really handy thing to have. I generally just take my running shoes, because I optimistically (and usually completely incorrectly) tell myself I’ll try to fit in a run or two while I’m away: if you wear sneakers regularly, though, this will be a really easy one for you.

4. Sandals

Flat, heeled, whatever you like: they’re good for hot days and, depending on the style, can be dressed up or down as required. Me, I normally throw a pair of flip-flops into my case. No, they’re not particularly pretty, but they’re good for pool/beach days, and they also come in really handy if you’re at all squeamish about walking around barefoot on hotel floors etc.

That would be the absolute minimum I could take on a warm-weather holiday. (And yes, I’d be in a bit of trouble if it rained the whole time, but that’s what shoe shops are for.) I say I “could” take only these four pairs of shoes, though. I absolutely wouldn’t. Because just one pair of heels to last an entire vacation? No. So if I may be permitted a couple of extras:

Optional Extras:

5. High wedges

By now you all know that I love me some wedges. They satisfy my need for height, but are almost as comfortable to walk in as flats, sometimes more so. I take either a red pair or a gold pair. Sometimes I take both. (And I’ll let you in on a secret: sometimes I don’t bother with the sneakers I mentioned above and take another pair of heels/wedges instead.)

6. A pair of statement heels

Well, I wouldn’t be the heel-lover I am if I didn’t include at least one more pair, would I? As you can see, mine are red. As are almost all of the other shoes I’ve shown you in this article. What was I saying about it being a neutral?

Of course, packing for a trip is such a personal thing that everyone’s answer to this question will probably be different.

How many pairs of shoes do you usually pack?

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33 Comments

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Siel

    One pair of flats, a pair of sneakers (to go for some walking or biking), one pair of low heels (or maybe two), one dressy pair for in the evening, one pair of flip flops, maybe a pair of sandals and if I still have space left: another pair of heels!
    For me, red is a neutral colour too, it works with almost all my clothes.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Alex

    I’m going to Rome in just over 2 weeks and have a bet with my boyfriend that I will only take 3 pairs of shoes. This may be because my last holiday I took about a pair for each day. So this time I’m going with a) flats, b) flat sandals c)Heels/wedges. I’m trying to convince him flip flops don’t count as shoes because they are slippers. But we never said I only have to bring back 3 pairs!

    • Reply March 25, 2011

      Natasha

      Last summer I went to Italy on holiday (Rome and Florence) and didn’t get a chance to wear my heels and wedges AT ALL because the pavements everywhere are either pretty cracked or cobbled. Same thing this winter in Venice. Unless you plan on going everywhere by car, I recommend skipping the heels and taking a dressy pair of flats. (Btw, I wear heels a lot and normally have no problem walking in them.) Of course, I did buy a few pairs, although I didn’t wear them there :) Italians have some beautiful shoes…

    • Reply March 25, 2011

      Janine

      I will reiterate the ‘do not bother bringing heels to Rome’ sentiment. I brought heels to Rome and honestly, there is no point. Everywhere is either cobbled or the pavements are accidents waiting to happen for heels wearers. You’ll ruin your pretty shoes. And this comes from a dedicated heel wearer.

      If I were you, I would take flats or low heels only, and buy a pair or two when you’re there. Rome has some fabulous shoe shops :)

      • Reply March 28, 2011

        Holly

        I agree – I went to Florence last summer and packed to overdress. No point. Everyone else was in flat sandals and jeans and the streets are all over the shop, so barely anyone wears fancy shoes for fear of breaking their necks! If you are going to bring heels, wedge sandals or something would be a good bet.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Karen

    On my last vacation, I went to Vegas for 3 days, and I brought: (1) gray calf-high boots, (2) silver flip-flops, (3) red high-heel sandals, (4) black & fuschia dress heels, and (5) running shoes. I squeezed in 1 run, but for comfort sake, I wore the silver flip-flops for most of the trip.

    On a more beachy vacation, I’d probably bring: (1) rubber beach flip-flops, (2) running sneakers, (3) one pair of high-heel sandals, and (4) two pairs of wedge or flat sandals, depending on how long the trip is.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Stacey

    I’m a shoe addict, but on my last vacation I only took one pair of shoes. I couldn’t believe that I made it through a whole week with the same pair of shoes, but I did. I normally take at least 2 pairs, one that’s easy to slip on and off at the airport and another dressier pair.

    The one pair of shoes I took were really cute ballet style flats with a thicker sole that were comfy to walk in, since I knew I’d be doing a lot of sightseeing. They worked for slightly dressier dinners too since the toes had a bit of satin mixed in, plus the straps had some glitter on them (I’m a sucker for glitter shoes).

    I do love all your shoes though, especially the red heels. I like the wedges too but for some reason I can’t wear wedges as they throw off my balance. I have an easier time wearing stiletto heels than wedges.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    karmarat

    For a beach vacation, I would (and have!) need(ed) only one pair of flip flops. In black, which is my preferred neutral.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Kathleen

    When I go home, meaning fly cross-country in my case, to visit my family (I average about 10 days with them), I usually bring two pairs of flats (I prefer flats to heels), sneakers (the cute ones, not the gym ones), and one pair of boots, heels, or sandals depending on what season it is when I visit and what kinds of activities I’ll be doing while on break. So typically four pairs all together, and I usually wear flats to the airport as they’re easy to remove and put back on.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Sunny

    For me it depends on the season and where I’m going. I usually take between 3-5 pairs including sandals and flats. I try to be reasonable because I usually buy myself a few pairs from where I go as well. :)

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Lee-Ann

    i bring two suitcases with me when i go on vacation. One big suitcase for clothes, accessories, bathroom needs, etc. than a carry on luggage full of shoes! lots of shoes! you’ll just never know!

    • Reply March 24, 2011

      Shoeperwoman

      Ha, I put a lot of mine in my carry on, too – I’m always paranoid that the airline will lose my suitcase with all of my precious shoes in it!

      • Reply March 25, 2011

        Mona

        The problem with shoes is that you can’t wear more than two at the same time -as opposed to layers of clothing. Maybe you can wear a giant overcoat full of shoe pockets in the hem, but sadly they may assume you’re a smuggler then.

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    drea

    I guess if I went on holiday I would just really take flats, I would definately take wedges too. If it’s a warm place I wouldn’t take closed shoes because they would over-heat your feet, well mine at least :P

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Loozie

    I haven’t been on holiday for, well I’m now 23 and I think I was 13 the last time I went anywhere (oh god that’s 10 whole years!). But I don’t even have a passport so I’ve never even left the country.

    However, if I were to I’m fairly sure that when it comes to luggage I would pack for every event and quite frankly I wouldn’t know where to start!

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Tracey

    My last holiday to Indonesia involved hiking up volcanoes so boots were required. Other than that, two pairs of sandals – one casual, one dressy – were all I took. When I went through China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Russia twelve months ago, I took boots, walking shoes and a pair of flats. Amazing that I didn’t need any more!

  • Reply March 24, 2011

    Molly Malone

    I probably take three or four. Usually I include a pair of “walking heels” at 2″ and a pair of “dinner heels” at about 4″. And obviously flats and sandals.

    And I use my running shoes as my airplane shoes, because I have given up on being fashionable in flight.

    So I guess that makes five. Oops!

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Nikki G

    Well, amongst my friends I am infamous for my “shoe bag.” I usually have one suitcase for clothes, and one for shoes. However, on my last real vacation, we were trying to pack as light as we could, so my husband and I only had one suitcase apiece. I walked all over San Francisco in the same pair of flip flops for the entire trip. For me, that’s something.

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Leigh

    My last vacation was to Seattle in the winter, so the only shoes I took were a pair of flat, knee-high boots and a pair of heels that I packed but wound up not wearing.

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    ila, bangalore

    im usually the kind to pack 8 pairs for a 3 day trip but since you have put me in the quandary of ‘the minimum’ number…i would go with one pair of sandals ( metallic) to loaf around in+ travel, slippers/thongs for the pool (in a colour that either matches or contrasts my ‘poolwear’ ) and a pair of dressy wedges for evenings, again in either gold or silver …so that makes it 3

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Steffi

    I’ve become a really light packer over the past two years. I’ll usually bring only a handful of clothes (that I can wash if need be) and one pair of shoes additional to the one I’m wearing. I’m the kind of traveller who does sightseeing and hiking but doesn’t go out in the evening (because I’mdead tired by then), so I don’t need all that many shoes. Plus, I figure if I DO find myself short of a pair of shoes, I can just buy one on vacation :D

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Daisy

    If I’m gone for something like a week or two, I’ll probably take one pair of flipflops or sandals, and two pairs of heels (one neutral, one statement). It’s my absolute minimum.

    Then again, I went hiking in Asia for three months straight, and I lived in the same white Birkenstocks for almost the entire three months (I had a pair of Doc Martens with me that I wore maybe two times). Just to show, that even the biggest shoe lover can go without her entire heels collection.

    • Reply March 25, 2011

      Daisy

      And to be completely honest, I usually go home with a couple of pairs extra…

      • Reply March 25, 2011

        Roisin

        Me too! I try not to bring too many shoes, because I usually come home with a pair or two :)

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Moni

    That totally depends on how long that holiday will be, where I’m going, and what I’m planning to do during it.
    Last year on my trip to Barcelona I was accompanied by exactly one pair of sneakers and a pair of slippers. That was it. Because I knew that all we would do there would be walking and sightseeing. If we had planned to go to a theater or concert I would certainly brought heels and a dress with me.
    Normally when I travel somewhere for longer than a weekend, I take at least one waterproof pair with me, and one pair for sunshine. You just never know…

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Ali

    Yep – I’m all for leaving room to bring home more too. My grandmother died while on holiday… for a week… at the age of 95… with seven pairs of shoes with her and I always say that’s the way I want to go out

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Stef

    On my last holiday (to Weymouth) I took Converse low-tops, canvas flats and Doc Marten’s. I only really wore the Converse. I wore the Docs on a night out and the flats to the pool :D

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Natasha

    Depends on the trip, but if we’re talking about a typical 10-day summer holiday, I’d say 5 pairs are the minimum: flip flops, flat sandals, trainers, a pair of heels and a pair of wedges. And I do tend to stick to the minimum, as I’m quite a practical person. Well, if there’s room in the suitcase, I might add another pair of heels or wedges – whichever ones are my favorites at the moment.

  • Reply March 25, 2011

    Topanka

    I’ve recently been on a three-weeks Asian trip, partly the backpacker type, so I had to minimize my shoes… to five pairs. But I ended up returning with eight pairs, hey, BF didn’t say I’m not allowed to buy new ones :)

  • Reply March 26, 2011

    Amee

    One, I’d think. If it’s not winter, I wear my steel toes.

  • Reply March 26, 2011

    Rebecca

    At least one pair of flats, a pair or two of flipflops because I tend to wear through them pretty quickly, a pair of heels, and maybe a pair of canvas wedges.

  • Reply March 31, 2011

    Claudia

    Excluding the one I’ll be wearing (flat patent leather number with a rubber sole)I’ll just pack one more… mid heel metallic sandal which would go with everything.

  • Reply April 13, 2011

    Samantha

    Last holiday I went on I took 15 pairs of shoes and then before I had even left the airport in LA…WHAM…a large american man dropped his suitcase square on my foot and then trod on it and for good measure ran over it with his trolley all while I tried my best not to scream obscenities through the initial pain. Got to the hotel and bandaged my foot back into a foot shape, put it on ice, but no luck, come morning it was so swollen my (very high) arch was no longer visible. After one day in a wheelchair around universal studios attempting to complete the intended itinerary I spent the rest of the holiday in the hotel after catching pneumonia (how? on the plane?). Needless to say I didn’t get to wear any of my beautiful shoes.

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