Q: What do you consider carry-on essentials?

A: The answer to this question depends on a few factors, including the length of your flight and whether you're flying solo, with family or with a large group. I won't get into the number of snacks, games and other multitude of distractions you'll want to pack if you're traveling with young kids, but here are my basics when I'm traveling by myself on a long-haul flight:

(Note: These are the things I carry in my "personal item," the one that stays under the seat in front of me. I've never been, and probably never will be, the type of person who can pack all of their clothes into a single carry-on bag! And, despite the lovely stock photo above, my carry-on bag of choice is a backpack, which leaves my hands free in airports and is simply more comfortable than slinging a bag over one shoulder!)

  • A scarf or blanket — Planes and airports can be cold, then warm, then cold again. Having something soft that can be easily added or removed makes the entire trip more pleasant. I love this one!

  • Noise-canceling headphones — I'm a recent convert to this world, and I'm too cheap to buy the fancy ones, but they have quickly become an important part of my flying routine now. I put them on as soon as I sit down and don't take them off until we land. They are easy to wear for hours and hours, whether I'm watching a show or just napping. Some people even say they help prevent jetlag. These are the ones I have.

  • Moisturizing products — Even if you don't ever need lotion or lip balm in your daily life, trust me, you'll want it on a long plane ride. The air is dry up there, and dry skin and lips can be seriously uncomfortable. This lip balm is always in my bag. 

  • Snacks — Even if I'm seated in first class, I always take along a few snack items, like almonds or protein bars. Sometimes I sleep through meals or snacks, sometimes I have a long layover and don't want to eat airport food, sometimes I just get bored and eating helps pass the time (not recommended, but true!), so it's nice to have a few things just in case.

  • Entertainment — This is really a no-brainer, but I always load up my phone with podcasts, binge-worthy shows and books. I try to mix it up so that I have some audiobooks and podcasts that I can listen to if my eyes are tired but I'm not ready to sleep, plus some funny and engaging shows to keep me entertained for the times I want to stay awake.

  • Charger — Since things like my phone and my headphones require charging and not all planes have outlets, I always pack a portable power bank (or two). These also come in very handy at airports (so you don't have to fight for the outlet) and once you reach your destination and are out exploring all day. I generally use Anker brand, but be sure to check the mAh rating ... the larger the number, the more charges it'll give you.

  • Travel wallet — Obviously you're going to bring a wallet along; I like to bring one that will easily hold my passport, my boarding passes (cause I hate the electronic ones), and all of my receipts while I'm traveling. This one has worked well for me.

  • Notebook/pen — Sometimes inspiration strikes, sometimes I remember something I need to do when I land, sometimes I just need to take a break from electronics. Even if you don't want to carry a notebook, ALWAYS pack a pen! You think you won't need one, but you always will. It's worth it to tuck one in your bag just in case.

  • Itinerary and hotel details — I'm not talking about having it on your phone or in your head, I'm talking about having a printout of your full itinerary and the contact details for your ride from the airport as well as details for your first hotel AND, of course, your travel agent's contact info. You never know what internet connectivity will be like when you land, so just make sure you have the details you'll need right away so that you can avoid the hassle!

  • Personal items — Just pick a few items that will make you feel a bit refreshed after a 14-hour flight. Think toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, and deodorant. Take a minute to freshen up in the airplane bathroom before you land, and you'll feel much better at the start of your trip.

  • Change of clothes — I don't always follow my own rule here, and one time on my way to India I ended up stuck in Toronto overnight with no change of clothes and had to take an Uber to Walmart just to feel somewhat presentable. Learn from my mistake and pack an extra set of clothes just in case!

I hope this helps next time you are packing up for a getaway! If you have questions you'd like me to answer about travel, just click the button below to send me a message!

Kati Knowland