Travel Essentials Buying Guide: How to Pick the Best Purse for Travel

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If I had a dollar for every woman who has complained about the lack of pockets in her clothes, I’d quit my job and travel full time.

Pockets are severely neglected in female fashion. And if you’re lucky enough to actually have pockets in your clothes, you’ll often find that they can barely carry anything more than a chapstick. 

And don’t even get me started on those fake pockets that are sewn shut.

Most of us would love to go sightseeing without carrying anything on our shoulders. But unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to carry your travel essentials without some sort of bag. 

From phones, wallets, passports, and other stuff that we absolutely can’t go without, a purse usually ends up being the go-to for carrying the day’s essentials.

This guide will show you how to pick the best purse for travel.

What should you look for in a travel purse?

Whether we admit it or not, oftentimes we buy a travel purse based on looks and price. Practicality often falls by the wayside. 

Sometimes it works out and the purse you choose serves its purpose well enough. But there are times when you learn too late that your purse is getting in the way of you having a good time.

You may end up realizing that the cute purse you brought was too small, too large, or too uncomfortable to move around in.

It’s better to thoroughly assess the types of purses that would work best for your particular travel style — before you set out on your trip.

This will prevent you from wasting money on purses that won’t be useful to you in the long run. Or worse, that will drag you down on your vacation.

What’s in your bag?

What's in your travel purse?

Getting the right purse all starts with your essentials list.

This will help narrow down your options when it comes to purse type and size. You’ll also want to consider the pockets, compartments, and other organizational features. 

Some prefer the flexibility of having one large main compartment, while other travelers prefer to keep their things neatly organized for easy access. Think about what kind of traveler you are and what will serve you best.

Now picture all the usual things you bring on vacation. Items that you might be carrying with you on a daily basis include:

  • Wallet
  • Cellphone
  • Passport/IDs
  • Hotel keys/cards
  • Power bank
  • Charging cables
  • Water bottle
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Make-up
  • Pens
  • Sunglasses
  • Mints
  • Snacks

Other miscellaneous items include:

  • Camera
  • Tablet or laptop
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Umbrella or raincoat
  • Medicines or health devices

To plan ahead, you can start by looking at your current day-to-day bag. This serves as a good guide for what will probably end up in your travel purse.

Your itinerary and the weather forecast can also help set your must-haves for each day of your trip.

What type of purse should you get?

What type of purse should you pick for travel?

Travel purses come in many shapes, forms, and sizes.

When you travel, one thing’s for sure: you’ll be carrying your purse wherever you go, all day long. Thus, it’s important that you get the purse that best fits your travel needs.

Listed below are the usual travel purses that you’ll come across:

  1. Wristlets or small purses: These purses are great if your itinerary only calls for the small essentials (wallet, cellphone, keys, etc.). Many tend to be able to go from day to night seamlessly.

  2. Crossbody bags: As the name suggests, these bags can be carried across your body for better balance and weight distribution. If pickpockets are a concern, a crossbody bag is a great pick. It allows you to keep your belongings close to your body and within sight.

  3. Large purses or shoulder bags: Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to be prepared for any situation, and your list of must-haves is a mile long. Sometimes a smaller purse just doesn’t cut it for everything you need to carry. Bulky items like jackets, cameras, or laptops will also require bigger bags.

  4. Backpacks: Hands-free and convenient. Backpacks also tend to be more comfortable to wear on a long day because the weight is evenly distributed across both your shoulders.

  5. Anti-theft bags: From clutches to crossbody bags and backpacks, you can find anti-theft versions of almost any style of bag. Most of these look like normal purses, but they have added features like RFID blocking, steel wire mesh, carabiners, and slash-proof outer fabrics.

Once you pick your preferred purse type, you should also consider the following:

  • Pockets: External and internal pockets will make it easier for you to organize and find your stuff.

  • Straps: Go for the ones that are adjustable and comfortable, even when used for long periods of time.

  • Purse fabric: Choose a material that makes cleaning convenient. Depending on your travel plans, you may also want to consider water-resistant materials.

  • Functionality and aesthetics: Yes, it must be comfortable. Yes, it must be practical. And yes, it must look good!

  • Security features: Some amazing destinations unfortunately have a reputation for pickpocketing. And tourists often make easy targets. One way to protect yourself is to look for a purse that has built-in security features, such as locking zippers.

  • Trip type: Your trip type will also help you choose your purse. For instance, a beach trip will require a different purse from a city trip. 

Travel tip: Before you leave for your trip, make sure that the purse you chose can properly carry your daily must-haves. Then, check if it’s comfortable enough for long walks. You’ll also want to make sure that it’s a good match for your travel wardrobe. 

If you’re stuck between a few choices, this will help you figure out which purse is the best choice for your trip.

The Best Purse for Travel: Our Top 10 Recommendations

If you type “best purse for travel” into Google you will get literally millions of results. 

It’s overwhelming. 

We know how hard it can be to wade through all those purse suggestions to find what’s right for you. So we’ve rounded up 10 of the most popular travel purses that are highly approved by the ladies. 

I’ve personally traveled with three of the purses on this list (The Pearl, Waverley 2, and the Longchamp Le Pliage backpack), and couldn’t be happier with them. 

Best Overall: Baggallini Everywhere Bagg

Can a purse that’s named “Everywhere Bagg” really go everywhere? 

We can safely say that the Baggallini Everywhere Bagg lives up to its name. There’s a reason why this bag has become a perennial favorite among women travelers.  

If you’re meticulous about how your travel stuff is organized, you’ll love how this purse has lots of pockets and compartments. Both externally and internally. 

Aside from its organization-focused design, it also has a quick-access pocket on the side that allows you to “magically hide” bulky items like water bottles.

Best of all, its back compartment can easily turn into a luggage sleeve, allowing you to slide it onto your suitcase’s handle. It’s so much easier to run to your connecting flight if you’re not trying to wrangle a purse.

  • Size: 11″ x 9″ x 5″
  • Weight: 1 lb

Best Anti-Theft: Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Mini Shoulder Bag

Not all places that you’ll go to are safe. Some of them are so notorious for pickpockets that unfortunately, it becomes the tourist’s responsibility to deter them.

The good news is, a purse like the Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Mini Shoulder Bag can throw them off their usual tracks.

At first glance, it doesn’t look too different from other stylish purses that you may already have.

But, upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it has locking zippers and a slash-resistant body and shoulder strap. It also has RFID-blocking compartments for your passport and credit cards.

The strap can also be locked to chairs to prevent grab-and-go thieves. With this bag, you can travel in peace, knowing that most pickpockets won’t have their way with your things.

  • Size: 8.5” x 8.5” x 2”
  • Weight: 0.68 lb

Best RFID Blocking: Calpak Kaya Wallet

Don’t let that fluffy handle fool you into thinking that this purse is nothing more than a cute accessory. Behind that cutesy facade lies a powerhouse of features. 

It has a hook for your keys and dedicated compartments for your passport, cash, and credit cards. There’s also a designated pocket for important travel documents, like train tickets.

Its RFID lining will protect your personal information wherever you go. There’s even an outer sleeve where you can slip your phone for easy access.

So is it a travel purse or is it an oversized wallet? 

In reality, the Calpak Kaya Wallet is a bit of both, and that’s what makes it so versatile. 

The removable straps allow you to wear the Kaya Wallet in five different ways. It can be a crossbody bag, handbag, wallet, clutch, or fanny pack.

  • Size: 8.5” x 5.5” x 1.3”
  • Weight: 1.2 lb

Best Style: The Pearl from Lo & Sons

Leather bags don’t only serve to amplify your style, but they also stay with you for the long haul.

Even though they’re usually more expensive than other travel purses, you can be sure that every penny is worth it.

This is certainly the case for The Pearl from Lo & Sons, which comes in two types of leather: Nappa and Saffiano. The Nappa leather is buttery smooth, while the Saffiano is a stiffer, textured leather. 

The Saffiano’s texture makes it scratch-resistant and gives it a more polished look, while you’ll find that the flexibility of the Nappa lets you fit slightly more things into your purse.

Either is an excellent choice, and it just comes down to personal preference.

The Pearl not only looks like a stylish, timeless bag, it was also constructed with travel in mind. It’s equipped with several internal pockets to keep your stuff organized, a key chain, and padding to keep your electronics safe. 

It can be used as a crossbody bag, a shoulder bag, or a huge clutch bag. It’s also big enough to carry a Kindle or a small tablet (like an iPad Mini).

  • Size:  9.5″ x 7.75″ x 3”
  • Weight: 0.9 lb

Best Lightweight Bag: Baggu Mini Cloud Bag

Are you a fan of bags that can be effortlessly folded into a pouch when not in use? Then you’ll like the Baggu Mini Cloud Bag.

This is the purse-sized version of Baggu’s popular Cloud Bag. If you don’t plan to use it as your main travel purse, it also works as a reliable extra bag when you go shopping.

It’s made from heavyweight nylon so you can be sure that it isn’t flimsy. The shoulder straps are also padded to ensure comfort, even during long walks.

It may have the word “mini” in its name, but it’s big enough to carry a 13” laptop!

  • Size: 10 ¼” x 15 ¾” x 5 ½”
  • Weight: 0.5 lb

Best for the Beach: CGear Sand Free Tote IV

Your bag is exposed to several elements at the beach — water, sand, heat, dirt, you name it! Bringing the wrong bag can definitely get in the way of fun, especially if it gets ruined in the midst of it.

Fortunately, the CGear Sand Free Tote IV is an all-around travel purse that you can use at the beach or for simple weekend day trips.

Its bottom is specially designed to repel sand and dust, so you don’t have to worry about extensive clean up when you get home.

Made of vegan leather and waxed cotton canvas, it’s durable enough to withstand several seasons of beach trips. 

Its internal pockets also have magnetic snapping to further protect your valuables.

  • Size: 15″ x 18″ x 9.5″ (Medium) / 16.2” x 25” x 10.5” (Large)
  • Weight: 1.01 lb (Medium) / 1.35 lb (Large)

Best for Versatility: The Waverley 2 from Lo & Sons

You know how hard it is to find an appropriately-sized purse that looks good with most clothes and works for different occasions.

If you want an unassuming purse that can fit in anywhere, The Waverley 2 from Lo & Sons will not disappoint.

This is also a good option if you feel like The Pearl is too big for your needs. Like The Pearl, it comes in Nappa and Saffiano leather options. 

The size is perfect for general sightseeing, and the look is stylish enough for instances when you need to dress up.

In true Lo & Sons fashion, this bag is full of thoughtful features. The zippered pocket on the inside of the bag has three built-in credit card slots in case you don’t want to carry a wallet. And on the back of the purse, you’ll find an outer card slot designed to keep your Metro card or other transit passes handy.

But its versatility is what makes The Waverley 2 a top pick.

It can be worn as a crossbody bag, shoulder bag, fanny pack, or wristlet. No matter which way you choose to wear it, it will seamlessly match your wardrobe.

  • Size: 8” x 5.6” x 2” (Small) / 8.3” x 5.9” x 2” (Large)
  • Weight: 0.6 lb, except for the Large in Saffiano which weighs 0.8lb

Best Budget Pick: Peak Gear Travel Crossbody Purse with Hidden RFID Pocket

Multipurpose travel purses can be expensive, especially if they have unique designs and features.

Fortunately, there are still purses that can do the job without leaving your wallet empty, like the Peak Gear Travel Crossbody Purse.

This purse is comparable to the Baggalini Everywhere Bagg in terms of relative size and function. It doesn’t have as many pockets and compartments, but it’s enough to carry most of the things you’ll need for the day. It also has a hidden RFID-blocking pocket.

If all you need is a no-frills travel purse that can take on a basic, everyday job, this option can definitely give you more bang for your buck.

  • Size: 10“ x 7“ x 8“
  • Weight: Not listed

Best Backpack: Longchamp Le Pliage Backpack

If you like the hands-free nature of backpacks but don’t want to sacrifice style, then the Longchamp Le Pliage Backpack is for you.

Its minimalist design and brown accents are a symbol of casual elegance — the kind that instills confidence as you roam around new places. It’s worth noting that this bag doesn’t have external pockets.

Thus, it may not be the best choice if you need ready access to your essentials.

However, if that’s not a deal-breaker for you, then the Le Pliage Backpack can be a great companion in your adventures. 

It’s incredibly lightweight, and it has a water-resistant coating on the inside to keep your valuables safe from the elements. 

It’s also foldable so you can easily pack it in your luggage if you don’t intend to use it as your everyday bag.

  • Size: 10.2” x 11” x 3.9”
  • Weight: 0.5 lb

Best Fanny Pack: Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack

Fanny packs, also called belt bags, have quite the history. Once mocked for being unfashionable and the mark of a tourist, they’ve made an incredible comeback.

The fanny packs of today have evolved. And they’re now designed with fashion in mind. Whether you wear it on your hip or as a crossbody bag, the right fanny pack can complete your look. 

Such is the case with the Dagne Dover Ace Fanny Pack

If you just need to carry your phone, cards, and cash, this bag will make you enjoy being a tourist.

Made out of neoprene, this fanny pack isn’t just stylish, it’s also practical and water-resistant. It has an exterior card slot, similar to the Waverley 2, a zippered front pocket, and an elastic key clip.

  • Size: 9.25” x  5.5” x 2.75”
  • Weight: 0.5 lb

Conclusion: Assess your travel style to get the right purse

The best travel purse isn’t simply the prettiest option or the one that has the highest ratings.

Before you head to the cashier or the check-out page, make sure that you assess how you’ll be using your travel purse during your trip.

This ensures that you’ll get the one that will work best for you and carry everything that you need.

Do you have a favorite travel bag you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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