Fall wardrobe essentials for carry-on friendly travel


If you’ve ever tried to fit everything you need for a week away in a carry-on  bag (or even a weekend’s worth), you know it’s essential that every clothing item have a purpose…or two or three. When we travel, we pack carry-on only, and to be honest, I never have trouble fitting all the kids’ clothes they’ll need. It’s my wardrobe that’s often out of control. The first rule of carry-on friendly travel: make sure every item you pack can do double-duty (especially if you’re on a seaplane in which every ounce counts!).

fall wardrobe

Last spring, I became an ambassador for Aventura Clothing. Many of the clothing picks below come from this brand (you’ll see why as I describe them). Others are favorites from the dozens of other brands I review in my capacity as a writer for Practical Travel Gear. In other words, a lot of travel-specific clothing comes across my desk (and into my closet). Below, you’ll only see what I consider the absolute best. Need carry-on luggage that can go the distance? Check out our carry-on luggage picks for kids!

Essential clothing pieces for a fall carry-on:

1. Organic cotton:

A few organic cotton shirts will last you more than two days on a trip. Organic cotton is extremely soft and comfortable (crucial for long travel days), but more importantly, it doesn’t wrinkle easily. Roll your cotton shirts instead of folding them in your carry-on, and you’ll not only save space, but prevent any creases. One of the reasons I love Aventura Clothing is because so many of their pieces are organic.

Top organic cotton pick: Aventura’s Erin Top. This top is basic in style, which means it can be worn with jeans, slacks, or a skirt, but has just enough detailing to be dressed up in the evenings. The ruching on the sides is very flattering. Pack two of these (in different colors), and you’ll be set for a long weekend.

2. Scarves: Want an easy way to dress up any outfit? Add a scarf. Scarves take up very little room in the carry-on, yet pack a powerful punch when worn. I love something sheer in the summer, then switch to a knitted infinity scarf in winter. Plus, scarves are a fun souvenir to pick up in different destinations. I love wearing scarves that remind me of the places I’ve been.

Top fall scarf pick: Aventura again! Their Alisha infinity scarf is elegant while still soft as a pillow around your neck. Bonus: you can use it as a pillow on the airplane.



3. One lightweight jacket: 

I love bringing one lightweight jacket in my fall carry-on (or better yet, wear it on your travel day to make room for more things). I prefer a tailored look, so I can dress the jacket up or down. Pick one that will look ok if you need to wear it to an outdoor event or dinner, when fall nights can get chilly.

Top jacket pick: Every fall, I reach for my Mountain Khakis Americana jacket. I love this jacket with true devotion. It’s warm, but can also be unzipped and used as a casual covering when just my shoulders are chilly. It has numerous pockets, and looks good with just about everything.

4. Khaki or cotton pants: 

The workhorse of your fall carry-on wardrobe, 1-2 pairs of solid, high-quality, khaki or hemp/cotton pants is crucial. You can re-wear them several times, they’ll match everything, and never go out of style.

Top pant pick: The Aventura Arden pant is a consistent winner in my closet. It’s made of organic cotton, has a brushed finish that looks great, and while they’re fitted, they’re roomy enough that I’m still friends with the Arden after sitting in a car or on a plane all day. (I can’t say the same of my skinny jeans.) I’m also a huge fan of my Sherpa Naulo pant. These stretchy nylon/spandex pants resist stains, move with the body, and look good doing it.

5. Layers!

Layers are your best friend when packing carry-on only. I bring at least 2-3 camisoles or undershirts that can be layered over lightweight sweaters or pullovers and hoodies. If you think you’ll be in extremely chilly weather, bring a thermal undershirt that can be paired with a vest (and discarded when the day warms up).

Top layering pick: I own a collection of hoodies and pullovers, but my new favorite is Aventura’s Amelia hoodie. Why? It’s extremely lightweight thermal, so it takes up next to no room, and its fitted, so it won’t make me look bulky or overdressed. I pair mine with a camisole, because the ‘whisper white’ color is a bit transparent, but the other solid colors could be worn solo. It has cute accenting and snap buttons, too.

6. Minimalist shoes:

I can only live in flip-flops until October or so, and when I do need to confine my feet, I go with a minimalist shoe (or ‘barefoot’ shoe). I pack this type of shoe not for the health benefits to my feet (though the zero depth means I am free to walk with the most natural gait). I pack them because they’re lightweight and compress down small.

Top minimalist shoe pick: I love kigo shoes. They’re environmentally friendly, and cute as button. These shoes breathe well and feel good even after lots of walking.

What do you pack in a fall carry-on?