Packing a purse on your travels comes with a unique set of challenges. On the one hand (or shoulder), you want to be able to have your many daily travel essentials within an arm’s reach — from water bottles to sunscreen and more — but on the other, space and weight restrictions make bringing some of your favorite bulky bags nearly impossible.
While the perfect travel purse comes down to your own personal taste and requirements, Nneya Richards, travel expert and founder of ‘N A Perfect World, shares a few simple guidelines for choosing the right one.
“What I look for in a travel purse is style and a lot of compartments,” Richards says. “I prefer something that zips up for when I’m running to my gate.” While she says she fawns over “big luxury totes,” she says they aren’t the most practical when traveling.
From roomy carry-alls to convertible clutches, we spoke to travel experts about their go-to travel purses that make exploring new destinations a breeze.
Whether worn around your hips or your shoulders or swung across your torso, this space-saving waterproof fanny pack makes for the ideal travel companion. “I love going hands-free when I travel and Aloha's Mini Hip Pack is the perfect low-profile option to carry the basics,” says Tara Cappel, founder and CEO of FTLO Travel. “I have it in black and white but they have lots of fun colors to choose from.”
The best part about this backpack? It transitions into several purse styles for ultimate convenience, comfort and style. “I have used this as my second carry-on exclusively since I got it six years ago,” says Cappel. “It fits under any airline seat but has a roomy interior, safety pockets, a computer sleeve and waterproofing. It also comes with a shoulder strap so it can be worn duffle bag style.”
If your travels are bound to consist of several nights out on the town, invest in this convertible foldover purse made of pebbled Italian leather with brushed gold hardware. “I love it because it can be a clutch or purse,” says travel expert Tracy Komlos. Use it as a purse during the day when you're touring around a new destination and then as a clutch when you're ready to head out for dinner. It comes in three different colors, so you can find the one that'll best match your favorite travel outfits.
Beware of the sticker shock, but this bag from Louis Vuitton is a fan favorite for a reason. “Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull is a favorite within the travel industry,” says Misty Belles, a travel expert and Vice President of Global Public Relations at Virtuoso. “As the name suggests, it holds everything you need and then some, all while looking chic. Plus, it’s unstructured and collapsible enough to fit under the seat in front of you."
While this is technically a backpack, it can double as a purse thanks to its chic look. “Longchamp bags, and specifically the Le Pliage line, are also favorites,” Belles says. “They pack up small but can open up big and are the perfect solution when your suitcase can’t handle your vacation shopping spree. I’ve used the traditional Longchamp Le Pliage backpack as my travel purse since a 2008 trip to Rome. It has traveled the world over since then and is still in great shape.” We love the classic Longchamp trim to this bag, which is available in six colorways.
Here at Underscored, we're big fans of just about everything Lo & Sons makes, including the versatile Waverley 2. We love this travel purse in particular because it can be worn four different ways: as a belt bag, crossbody bag, wristlet or over the shoulder. Because of its versatility, you can really take this bag anywhere, making it worthy of a spot in your suitcase or as your personal item on a flight. It's available in three types of leather — Nappa, Saffiano or cactus — and a slew of colorways to best suit your style.
Longchamp bags make for great travel companions, and the Le Pliage Tote is no exception. “This is the only travel purse that I have continued to use over and over again,” says Marci-Beth Maple, travel expert and Senior Marketing Manager at Zicasso. “From when I traveled with small children to now with my older teens, this foldable tote bag serves as the ideal travel purse. It’s collapsible enough to stuff into a large jacket pocket or tuck into a backpack, and once expanded, it’s stylish enough to take just about anywhere. There is a reason this line of handbags has remained popular — it’s suitable to carry what’s needed and flexible for many environments, and I don’t travel without one.”
MZ Wallace's bags are a travel favorite here at Underscored — and for good reason. “For a personal item, I’m obsessed with my MZ Wallace Metro Tote,” says Ashley Les, luxury travel advisor at Global Travel Collection and founder of Postcards From. “The medium size is perfect for under the seat, but I prefer the large one so that I can fit my travel blanket. The material is water-resistant, stain-resistant and tear-proof.” The chic design of this bag is perfect for going from the airport to a night out exploring a new city.
Having a bag that is convertible from a tote to something functional to take around a city is great for travelers of all kinds. “I have a Go Dash Dot tote that’s actually perfect for travel,” says Richards. “It could be a little sleeker but it has a separate snap-in purse that fits my passport, chargers and documents that’s a game changer for both easy access and when they tell you to compress your bags. There’s a padded compartment for a laptop, a water bottle holder and the part that slips over your rolling luggage handles can also double as yet another pocket. The nylon material is super lightweight.”
This roomy, pebbled leather tote by accessible designer brand Dagne Dover makes for the ideal addition to trips of any length with its exterior slip pocket for easy access to your phone, interior zip pockets with organization accessories, magnetic snap closure and convenient top handles. Plus, its padded laptop sleeve will keep your most prized possession safe, as it can fit most 13-inch laptops. Whether you're using it in the airport or when you get to your destination for storing your favorite portable charger, this bag is a versatile option. Plus, we love that it comes in two sizes and three colors.
This editor-approved tote is designed to go everywhere — from the plane to the breakfast buffet. Its soft and unstructured supple Italian leather is perfect for folding into your luggage when not in use, its double-handle design gives you multiple carrying and styling options and its spacious interior allows you to pack more than meets the eye. Its eight colorways are at once eye-catching and versatile to match any type of travel wardrobe.
Not sure what kind of travel purse to grab for your next trip? Invest in three staple styles with this comprehensive set we love for its unbeatable price and 45 stunning colorway options. Each practical style features a zip top, anti-scratch synthetic leather that’s easy to clean (and can withstand a little rough handling on the road) and slot pockets to organize your essentials.
As a travel-friendly take on the Easy Tote, this zippered beauty with our editor’s stamp of approval will keep your belongings safe while elevating your travel ‘fit. Its unstructured silhouette allows you to comfortably fit all your belongings for day trips while its D-rings at both sides allow you to attach additional adjustable straps. Better yet? It comes in three different sizes to best suit your travel needs as well as the option to purchase it with or without a zipper.
When we think of a travel-appropriate purse that’ll take any outfit to the next level, this practical number from Madewell comes to mind. This best-selling tote looks stunning when carried via its handle or shoulder straps and features vegetable-tanned leather with a waxed finish that looks better with age (and trip after trip). Interior and exterior pockets with a zip top make this beauty practical as ever.
Whether you’ll be making a pitstop at the beach or simply want a lightweight purse for warmer weather, this affordable and convenient mesh handbag is in order. Its roomy interior and exterior pockets grant you quick access to your belongings while its see-through fabric available in six delightful hues allows sand and other debris to fall by the wayside. This is one of those bags you can take from a carry-on option to the beach, no questions asked.
Instead of devoting an inordinate amount of space to both a backpack and a purse, pack this two-in-one solution for your next trip instead. Its many pockets will help you to keep valuables safe when roaming in crowded areas. With numerous carrying options and 27 chic colorways and patterns, it offers a perfect fit for every type of traveler.
Outdoor-focused brand Cotopaxi has you covered on your next adventure with its convertible tote that boasts a surprising amount of room and number of compartments. Its interior water bottle pouch prevents your belongings from getting wet, and its adjustable shoulder strap to wear as a crossbody bag guarantees all-day comfort. Each purchase is completely one-of-a-kind with different color schemes.
The coastal grandma look isn’t only on-trend, it's super practical thanks to the use of durable crocheted materials. This hand-crochet carry-all makes for a sound travel bag thanks to its zippered main pocket and zippered interior and exterior side pocket for easy access to small valuables. Plus, it’s made of recycled vegan materials you can feel good about showing off around the world.
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