The Best Cardigan Sweaters for the Coziest Flight

Our top pick is the stylish and affordable Gap shaker-stitch boyfriend cardigan.

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Best Cardigan Sweaters for the Coziest Flight

HM / Love Stitch

The most essential packing items are ones that are useful throughout your journey. And, even when you’re not traveling, these are the pieces you reach for time and time again, and miss when they’re in the hamper. In our opinion, finding a go-to for these non-negotiables is key to upping your travel game, and your fall and winter packing list wouldn’t be complete without at least one cardigan that you want to layer over every outfit. When chosen right, an open sweater can warm you up on a plane, add to several of your vacation looks, and provide an accessible extra layer to throw on in a cold hotel room.

Not every cardigan sweater is made equal, though. We want your next favorite to stay soft and never scratchy, warm but not cloying, and be easy to mix into your outfit rotation. Our top recommendation is Gap’s Shaker-stitch Boyfriend Cardigan, thanks to its stylish silhouette, versatility, and comfy feel. Whether you prefer your cardigans longer, shorter, thicker, or more formal, you’re in luck — we’ve picked out the best ones to slip into your carry-on bag this season, or wear on your next flight.

Here’s our breakdown of the best cardigan sweaters to travel with:

Best Overall: Gap Shaker-stitch Boyfriend Cardigan

Gap Shaker-stitch Boyfriend Cardigan

Gap

Why We Love it: Soft and slouchy, we could wear Gap’s medium-weight cardigan any and every day.

What to Consider: You may want to skip this oversized option if you prefer a more fitted look.

This Gap cardigan is the full package: just the right amount of slouch thanks to a roomy fit, slightly billowing balloon sleeves, and a medium length that hits at the hip. Made of 100 percent cotton, it’s soft and breathable for fall with an oversized style that could be layered over thick long-sleeved shirts during winter, too. We also love the wide range of sizes for this sweater, from petite to tall.

Sizes: XXS-XXL | Materials: Cotton

Best Button-down: BP. Easy Button Front Cardigan

BP. Easy Button Front Cardigan

Nordstrom

Why We Love it: Whether you decide to wear it open or closed, the bold tortoiseshell buttons make a statement on an otherwise classic cardigan.

What to Consider: This sweater’s wide cotton rib means it might not be the warmest option, as more air will be allowed to pass through.

A button-down cardigan is an absolute closet staple, especially since it’s so easy to pack down for your travels. This medium-weight one has a slight crop and breathable cotton fabric so you can stay just warm enough—but not too warm—during an afternoon of walking and exploring. It’s only available in oatmeal or black, but oversized tortoise buttons really add a pop of personality.

Sizes: XXS-XL | Materials: Organic cotton

Best Open-front: Quince French Terry Modal Cardigan

Quince French Terry Modal Cardigan

Quince

Why We Love it: This lightweight cardigan is perfect for activities on the go, and even has thumbholes for an athletic feel.

What to Consider: Modal is soft, stretchy, and breathable, but if you’re not familiar with it, make sure you aren’t allergic or sensitive to this fabric before packing it for a trip.

One might not typically associate cardigans with a sporty look, or any athletic activities for that matter, but this breezy option by Quince is made for some serious movement. An open front, lightweight materials, and a long silhouette will take you from home to the airport to your destination, and still look good enough to wear to lunch afterwards, too.

Sizes: XS-XL | Materials: Modal, spandex

Best Sweater Coat: Lovestitch Lennox Sweater Coat

Lovestitch Lennox Sweater Coat

Lovestitch

Why We Love it: Like a cozy hug in cardigan form, this heavyweight coat by Lovestich is super warm and stylish.

What to Consider: If you’re only packing a carry-on, you might have to wear this on the flight due to its bulk.

If you don’t already have a sweater coat in your cardigan arsenal, here is your sign. We love that they combine the softness and ease of a sweater with the heavyweight warmth of a coat, and this one from Lovestitch has deep pockets perfect for cold hands or small accessories. Slouchy design and neutral color options make it easy to throw on over any outfit, which you might have to do at the airport considering how large the one-size-fits-all sweater is. We don’t think you’ll mind wearing this pick on the plane, though, considering its extra oversized hood will help make catching some mid-air z’s a breeze.

Sizes: One size | Materials: Acrylic, spandex, polyester

Best Cropped: H&M Short Cardigan

H&M Short Cardigan

H&M

Why We Love it: This cropped little number looks good with literally anything, or could even be worn alone if buttoned up.

What to Consider: The acrylic fabric of this cardigan will keep you toasty, but might not be the best choice if you plan on running around a bunch.

If you’re on the hunt for an affordable, all-season cardigan, this is a great option. Its non-shrink acrylic fabric is super hearty, so if you have to give it a wash while staying at a hotel or Airbnb there are no worries about shrinkage or wrinkling. Its cropped style is versatile and can provide a warm layer over any outfit. Besides classic colors like cream, brown, and beige, it's also available in pumpkin orange, as well as in an argyle print and stripes.

Sizes: S-XL | Materials: Acrylic

Best Floor-length: Banana Republic Long Open-front Sweater

Banana Republic Long Open-front Sweater

Banana Republic

Why We Love it: All the length and none of the bulk, this ankle dusting cardigan by Banana Republic is the perfect transitional wardrobe item.

What to Consider: This sweater can keep you perfectly warm throughout a breezy fall afternoon, but wouldn’t be our pick on a chilly night.

There’s nothing that pulls an outfit together quite as effortlessly as a floor-length sweater, and this one is no exception. With an open, rolled front and drop shoulder, we love that this cardigan can be utilized for business travel just as easily as it could for a fall leaf-peeping trip. For those on the shorter side, it also comes in petite sizes, meaning you won’t have to worry about dragging your cardigan on dirty airport floors.

Sizes: XXS-XXL, petite XXS-XL | Materials: Cotton, nylon, recycled polyester

Best With Pockets: J.Crew Cocoon Sweater-blazer

J.Crew Cocoon Sweater-blazer

J.Crew

Why We Love it: The cozy cousin of the standard blazer, this sweater-blazer is just as acceptable for business travel with none of the uncomfortable rigidity.

What to Consider: Unless you’re into an oversized look, prepare to order a size down for this layer.

A cardigan blazer is the wardrobe crossover that we all need, and a must-have item for a polished transitional wardrobe. If you’re planning any fall travel, this J.Crew pick is a great way to stay warm without having to pack a proper bulky coat into your suitcase. And it’s not just for business — this versatile, pocketed pick can also be dressed up with jewelry or dressed down with an activewear set and sneakers.

Sizes: XXS-3X | Materials: Acrylic, merino wool, polyamide, alpaca, elastane

Best Super Soft: Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite® Circle Cardigan

Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite® Circle Cardigan

Saks Fifth Avenue

Why We Love it: For those who know just how soft Barefoot Dreams blankets are, this is a cardigan version of that same fabric.

What to Consider: The cozy material is known to pill if treated incorrectly, so make sure to wash the sweater on the delicate cycle using cold water, and tumble dry using the lowest heat setting.

There’s a reason why Barefoot Dreams blankets are so popular, and it’s all thanks to their uniquely sumptuous fabric. Lucky for travelers, they also make clothing items including this cozy cardigan, which is probably the softest outerwear option for your next flight. Fitted in the arms with a long, slim silhouette, it’s comfortable without looking baggy or overly casual.

Sizes: XS-XL | Material: Nylon, rayon

Best Everyday: Mango Fine-knit Cardigan

Mango Fine-knit Cardigan

Mango

Why We Love it: This classic cardigan has a smooth texture and a straight, relaxed silhouette that’s super adaptable for your vacation wardrobe.

What to Consider: One of the lightest sweaters on our list, it will have to be layered on colder days.

A breezy pick perfect for everyday use (with a hint of luxe cashmere inside), we love that this sweater can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. At less than $50, it’s a great value, especially considering the amount of ways it can be worn, whether unbuttoned or with one side tucked into the waist of your trousers. The thinner material makes it easy to pack, so it’s a no-brainer addition to your carry-on, too.

Sizes: XXS-4XL | Materials: Viscose, polyester, polyamide, cashmere

Best for New Moms: Storq Mama + BB Nursing Cardigan

Storq Mama + BB Nursing Cardigan

Storq

Why We Love it: Made especially for mamas, this cardigan is ideal for nursing while traveling.

What to Consider: It’s very oversized, so skip if you prefer a more form-fitting look.

This extra wide cardigan is designed to provide both comfort and function to moms who want a cozy layer for warmth and a potential cover for their baby while they nurse. We love that it makes a great packing item all throughout a pregnancy, and that there’s both a center front snap and a hidden snap near the shoulder for more privacy. Even sans baby, this cardigan would still be a stylish fit for non-moms, or those whose babies are now grown.

Sizes: XS-XXL | Materials: Oeko-tex standard 100 (alpaca blend)

Best Cashmere: Naadam Cashmere Relaxed Cardigan Cashmere Relaxed Cardigan

Naadam Cashmere Relaxed Cardigan

Naadam

Why We Love it: Some people might associate cashmere with stuffiness, but this easy-to-wear cardigan by Naadam is out to change their minds.

What to Consider: Like most cashmere items, this sweater has to be sent to the dry cleaner when it needs a refresh.

We love that Naadam is a company focused on using ethical and sustainable practices when it comes to their cashmere, and that their prices aren’t sky high. On the softness scale, this relaxed fit cardigan weighs in at “heavenly soft,” so you can easily settle down for an in-the-air nap. With chunky cuff sleeves and statement buttons, it’s also a fashionable layer to add to your fall and winter outfits no matter your location.

Sizes: XXS-XL | Materials: Mongolian cashmere

Best Chunky: Astylish Chunky Knit Cardigan

Astylish Chunky Knit Cardigan

Amazon

Why We Love it: Incredibly affordable and easy to throw on over anything, this super chunky cable-knit cardigan is a no-brainer.

What to Consider: Though meant to have an oversized look, these cardigans tend to run small.

This open-front cardigan is a must for your fall travels. We can’t get enough of its heavy weight; it’s made of 100 percent acrylic, which helps retain tons of heat during all those autumn activities. The sweater’s chunky knit is an easy way to add texture to any outfit, but be aware that it will take up major room in your suitcase.

Sizes: S-XXL | Materials: Acrylic

Best Zip-up: Abercrombie & Fitch Double Zip Ribbed Cardigan

Abercrombie & Fitch Double Zip Ribbed Cardigan

Abercrombie & Fitch

Why We Love it: With not just one zipper but two, this slim-fitting cardigan by Abercrombie & Fitch makes for a highly customizable look.

What to Consider: If you plan on wearing this cardigan as a top, be aware of luggage items or anything else you’re carrying that could snag on either zipper to avoid wardrobe malfunctions.

Most cold weather outfits aren’t exactly designed for accentuating your figure, but this zip-up cardigan from Abercrombie & Fitch helps do just that. We love that it has a slim yet slightly relaxed silhouette, as well as an oversized collar for keeping your neck and shoulders warm. The double-ended zipper (at the top and bottom) allows you to play around with how insulating the cardigan is, making it a handy addition to your travel wardrobe.

Sizes: XXS-XL | Materials: Cotton, viscose, nylon

Best Wrap: & Other Stories Wrap Cardigan

& Other Stories Wrap Cardigan

Lyst

Why We Love it: This soft wrap cardigan can be dressed up for dinner or dressed down for a morning walk depending on your need, making it the perfect versatile item for your travels.

What to Consider: You may want to skip this sweater if you prefer a more form-fitted look.

Wrap-front cardigans are great for achieving an effortlessly chic, off-duty ballerina look. While some of them tend to be too tight or thin, this one by & Other Stories is perfectly fluffy, with a hint of slouch. Tying at your side with a small bow, this sweater would look just as good thrown over leggings as it would layered atop a maxi dress or paired with a tank and trousers. Besides your typical neutrals, it’s also available in ruby red, lavender, and olive green.

Sizes: XS-L | Materials: Recycled polyester

Tips for Buying the Perfect Cardigan

Consider where you’ll be wearing it

To find the right cardigan, it’s important to think about the climate where you’ll most be needing it. For instance, if you plan on purchasing one to keep you warm on chilly, holiday travel days, don’t pick one with a wide weave that lets in cold air. On the flip side, if your trip calls for long afternoons of walking, you might not want to pick a thick, tightly woven sweater that might leave you sweaty and uncomfortable.

Decide which length works for you

Another important consideration is the length of your cardigan, as options can vary from a short crop all the way to an ankle-length duster. Short sweaters tend to look great when paired with high-waisted pants or skirts, but won’t provide you with any warmth on your mid-section or upper legs. Longer options that hit at the knee and below tend to look more casual, and can be easily thrown over a tank top and joggers for a breezy afternoon.

If you’re planning a day jam-packed with activity, a shorter cardigan might work better for you, as it won’t inhibit your movement or make you too hot. Longer options work well for casual occasions and days that involve light walking. For those on the petite side, make sure to double check measurements before purchasing a long cardigan to ensure it won’t touch the floor.

Think about the material

The material of a cardigan can affect everything from the look and feel to the level of warmth the sweater provides. The fabric used can also dictate how polished or relaxed the cardigan appears, which makes a greater impact on your outfit as a whole.

If you plan on attending meetings during your travels, or socializing in a more professional setting, a smooth fabric like viscose will be more fitting, as well as luxe options like cashmere. Chunky, knitted materials or loose fitting cotton work best for more casual plans with friends, loved ones, and family.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Are cardigans business casual?

    Most chunky cardigans would not be regarded as business-casual attire, but a sweater made using the aforementioned viscose or cashmere could easily be used to create a more formal look. Another great professional option would be a cardigan blazer which has more structure and a less-relaxed appearance.


    Cardigans can also be dressed up depending on the rest of your outfit. One classic business-casual look would be a professional dress with a cardigan layered on top, but a more travel-friendly look might be a cardigan paired with trousers and a blouse.

  • How do I fold a cardigan?

    Cardigans can be tricky to fold and pack, thanks to their unusual measurements. Even more puzzling to fold are ones with a chunky knit, which can take up a lot of space and don’t tend to fold as neatly.

    To fold a thick woven or chunky cardigan, start by laying it down flat with the front side facing up. Next, fold both arms into the center of the sweater, one side at a time. Fold the bottom of the sweater up by a quarter, and then fold that all up to the top. Turn it right side up, and pack.


    For a thin, long cardigan, lay it out on a flat surface with the front side facing up. Fold one side into the middle of the sweater, then fold the sleeve back in on itself and down perpendicularly over the folded side of the sweater. Repeat with the other side, creating one large rectangle. Fold the sweater in half, leaving about an inch exposed at the bottom. Lastly, fold it into thirds, and pack.

  • What should I wear with a cardigan?

    Cardigans are one of the most versatile closet staples, meaning they can be paired with nearly anything to create a great outfit. Cardigans are especially useful for seasonal layering, adding subtle layers of warmth when the days grow colder. One of the main things to consider when layering an outfit with a cardigan is creating contrasts in both color and texture.


    An outfit made up of mainly light, neutral hues, looks great with a darker cardigan thrown over top to create contrast — especially if you’re able to tie that look together with similarly dark-toned shoes or a bag. If you’re wearing a tight-fitted outfit like a bodysuit or leggings and a tank, a loose-fitting cardigan helps introduce variety in both form and texture.


    If you become too warm while wearing a cardigan, most of them also look stylish when tied or draped over your shoulders. Avoid tying the cardigan too tightly, or wearing it around your waist, as it could damage the knit or mess up the shape of the sweater.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, Austa Somvichian-Clausen, a travel and lifestyle journalist living in New York City, researched dozens of cardigans and used her personal experience to choose the best ones for travel. A dynamic freelancer with a deep love of travel, culture, and the environment, Somvichian-Clausen’s work has appeared in numerous publications such as Travel + Leisure, Glamour, Apartment Therapy, National Geographic, and more.

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