24 essentials for your carry-on bag in 2022

carry-on bag, two purple suitcases and pink suitcase and green lululemon backpack on airport trolley, woman wearing backpack and pants and blue sneakers hiking up mountain

My trusty Lululemon backpack (i.e. my carry-on bag of choice) sitting atop a mountain of luggage and and keeping me company on a literal mountain (Photos via Kayla Kuefler)

In my pre-pandemic life, I was on a plane at least six times a year. As a Canadian living abroad, I spent my days and dollars finding cheap flights, avoiding checked baggage and (literally) living out of my suitcase. Therefore, even if only self-proclaimed, I consider myself something of a carry-on (and travel) expert.

While I typically travel with two carry-on bags (a mini suitcase and a backpack), I’m going to focus on what to bring in your backpack carry-on today. First and foremost: The backpack itself. While a duffle bag and oversized tote are certainly cute, I find anything that requires hands or limits your mobility to be entirely unpractical when you’re speeding through an airport — especially during the holiday travel rush.

My backpack of choice is a decade-old Lululemon bag that has (sadly) been discontinued. However, I stand by the quality and durability of the brand, so I have my eye on Lululemon’s Everyday Backpack 2.0 23L for an in-stock alternative.

Everyday Backpack 2.0 23L in black (photo via Lululemon)

Everyday Backpack 2.0 23L in black (photo via Lululemon)

$98 at Lululemon

What I love about my (and this) Lululemon backpack:

  • Water repellant fabric: Trust me, any travel bag that is not water-repellant or waterproof is a waste of your money

  • Padded laptop pocket (for obvious reasons)

  • Exterior water bottle pocket

  • Interior pockets for your wallet, keys and more

  • Trolley-compatible sleeve — destined for an airport!

Now, equally as important: What to pack in your carry-on bag. From a reusable water bottle to noise-cancelling headphones, here are 24 travel essentials I never leave home without.

Don’t leave home without them: 24 carry-on bag travel essentials

1. Reusable water bottle

If you take only one tip from this article, let this be it: Always pack a reusable water bottle in your carry-on bag. I repeat: Always pack a reusable water bottle in your carry-on bag. Between global warming and inflation, buying a disposable water bottle at the airport is not helping anyone, anywhere. Pack an (empty) water bottle, fill it up inside, and just like magic, you’ve saved $8 at the airport convenience store.

FineDine Water Bottle in pink and blue ombre next to black box and two lids (Photo via Amazon)

FineDine Water Bottle (Photo via Amazon)

This best-selling ombre water bottle is triple-insulated to keep drinks cool for up to 24 hours and insulate hot beverages for up to 12 hours. The bottle is available in 25, 32 and 64-ounce versions and 18 colours.

$24 $30 at Amazon

LARQ Self-Cleaning Water Bottle in Monaco Blue (Photo via LARQ)

LARQ Self-Cleaning Water Bottle in Monaco Blue (Photo via LARQ)

This luxe self-cleaning water bottle uses PureVis technology to eliminate up to 99 per cent of bio-contaminants such as E. coli from your water and bottle.

$125 at LARQ

2. Over-ear noise-cancelling headphones

Next to a reusable water bottle, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones is a travel essential, in my opinion. Why? Wireless headphones (i.e. Apple AirPods) can’t connect to in-flight entertainment, so unless you’re keen to stream a show on your phone via the airline’s app, you have to either forgo entertainment or purchase a pair of single-use headphones for the flight. Secondly, the noise-cancelling function helps to drown-out noisy neighbours and comes in handy if you’re looking to snooze.

PowerLocus Wireless Over-Ear Headphones (Photo via Amazon)

PowerLocus Wireless Over-Ear Headphones (Photo via Amazon)

These over-ear headphones come with a staggering 22,000 reviews from Amazon shoppers and an average rating of 4.3 stars. According to one reviewer, the sound is “great” and the “bass is excellent.” The headphones can wirelessly connect to your phone when out walking or at the beach, but also include a cable that can connect to in-flight entertainment.

$32 at Amazon

Bose QuietComfort 45 Noise Cancelling Headphones with charging cables and black carrying case (Photo via Best Buy Canada)

Bose QuietComfort 45 Noise Cancelling Headphones (Photo via Best Buy Canada)

These best-selling over-ear noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones allow you to listen to music for up to 23 hours on a single charge and adjust the amount of external sound you hear via their noise-cancelling feature. The set includes a USB-C cable that can charge the headphones in as little as 2.5 hours and an airplane-compatible cord.

$360 $450 at Best Buy Canada

3. Change of clothing

If this year’s airline blunders have taught us anything, it’s to bring a change of clothes in your carry-on, just in case. On my personal packing list: socks, underwear and a cute day-to-night maxi dress.

woman in sleeveless black dress, H Halston ​Shirred Waist Maxi Dress in black (Photo via Saks Off Fifth)

H Halston ​Shirred Waist Maxi Dress in black (Photo via Saks Off Fifth)

A steal at 67 per cent off, this H Halston sleeveless maxi dress features a flowy silhouette cinched in at the waist with a shirred stretch panel.

$50 $156 at Saks Off Fifth

model wearing black The Somerset Maxi Dress and chunky sandals (Photo via Anthropologie)

The Somerset Maxi Dress (Photo via Anthropologie)

Dubbed Anthropologie’s “best-reviewed dress, ever,” this maxi dress is available in dozens of colours, materials and prints. It’s “amazing,” raves one reviewer. “So comfy and so flattering.”

$168 at Anthropologie

4. Eye mask

While my body seems physically incapable of sleeping on a plane, I still reach for an eye mask on every overnight flight, hoping for a miracle. A teacher once told me that your brain waves during deep meditation are similar to the early stages of sleep. So if anything, I venture for a lights-out meditative session and pray that it’s enough to keep me going until I eventually find a bed.

man sleeping on white bed wearing grey Cotton Sleep Mask (Photo via Amazon)

Cotton Sleep Mask (Photo via Amazon)

This blindfold-style sleeping mask is made from skin-friendly organic cotton and is designed to block out 100 per cent of outdoor light, including around the nose area. The mask has earned more than 7,400 reviews from Amazon shoppers and an average rating of 4.3 stars.

$27 at Amazon

Slip Lovely Lashes Pure Silk Contour Sleep Mask (Photo via Nordstrom)

Slip Lovely Lashes Pure Silk Contour Sleep Mask (Photo via Nordstrom)

This contour sleep mask is made from high-grade mulberry silk that’s designed with eyelash extensions in mind.

$77 CAD at Nordstrom Canada

$55 USD at Nordstrom U.S.

20 carry-on bag travel essentials, according to an avid traveller:

  1. Mini toothbrush & toothpaste ($25 on Amazon)

  2. Granola bars & snacks (basic enough that they could double as breakfast)

  3. DIY first aid kit with additional ibuprofen, anti-nausea medication, melatonin, Pepto-Bismol, allergy pills, Band-Aids, antibacterial hand wipes, plus antidotes for whatever else you’re prone to

  4. Emergen-C Immune+ drink mix packs (I swear by these! Plus, they taste good)

  5. A good book (I couldn’t put this one down)

  6. A blanket scarf (never trust the forecast — airplanes are freezing)

  7. Socks (I repeat, airplanes are freezing)

  8. Ear plugs

  9. Extra pads & tampons

  10. Neck pillow (this one has a lot of reviews)

  11. Pen, pencil and paper

  12. Kleenex

  13. Phone charger

  14. Power bank (for when you can’t use your phone charger)

  15. Lip balm (this one is worth the hype)

  16. Hand sanitizer

  17. Gum (for your ears and for flavour)

  18. Any and all travel documents you may require

  19. Enough cash (in the correct currency) that you can pay for a taxi to your hotel

  20. Your favourite chocolate bar — for when the going gets rough

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Originally published