Let’s face it: Traveling light is not easy for many of us. While away from home, suddenly we feel the need to carry every possible thing we might need with us. You never know what you might encounter! That’s why it’s essential to have a quality, secure, and comfortable travel bag while exploring a new destination.
We consulted travel experts to find out what bags they bring with them everywhere. Most of them are, or were, full-time travelers and have been through many bags in a quest to find their forever companion. From travel purses and totes to backpacks, read on to discover why our experts love these top-rated travel bags.
Travel Purses And Totes
“I got myself a WanderFull bag at the end of last year, and it’s been my go-to around town since the day it arrived. I’m big on staying hydrated and reducing single-use plastic, and before my WanderFull Hydrobag, I was forever fishing my water bottle of the day from the far reaches of a tote or backpack. No more. This bag is so fun with its puffer-vest style, and it can be worn crossbody or over one shoulder thanks to the adjustable strap.
Other features that make this a great bag? Two good-sized zippered pockets — one with a credit card organizer and an ideal spot for pads/tampons/pantyliners and pens if you need them, and another that will fit your phone and keys.
Surprisingly, the water bottle pouch accommodates drinkware from my 20-ounce W&P Porter terrazzo water bottles (I love these and have two) to my jumbo 32-ounce Simple Modern stainless steel Summit water bottle with straw lid.” — Linsey Stevens, Managing Editor
“This made-in-India pouch and tote set makes packing something to get excited about. The bags are super high-end and combine cotton terrycloth and natural jute that feel luxurious to the touch — you know what I’m talking about! These bags are all about
- the big, bold tassels that say Fun in the sun
- the internal zippered pockets
- the tote’s “trolley sleeve,” which lets you load it securely atop your wheeled luggage
While I prefer bags that zip shut, the tote has a drawstring closure that makes it considerably more secure than a wide-open bag. The pouch and tote, which come in an array of colors, can also be purchased separately, and Sidney Byron offers a lineup of unique market bags, crossbodies, yoga mat carriers, clutches, purses, and pouches that deserve a look, too.” — Linsey Stevens, Managing Editor
As an added bonus, TravelAwaits readers will save 10% off this set with code: TRAVELAWAITS.
The Travelon Anti-Theft cross-body bag is a TravelAwaits‘ favorite. Expert contributors Mary Charlebois and Joan Sherman and Senior Vice President Missy Glassmaker, have all gushed over this anti-theft purse.
Charlebois has been a fan of Travelon bags for over 12 years and says her first two bags lasted her 6 years apiece. “This is the best-made bag of any kind I’ve owned, hands-down. The construction and materials are high quality and extraordinarily durable. In addition, it has all the pockets and organizing space a fastidious traveler like myself could wish for.”
Sherman loves this bag because it can easily fit all of her international travel essentials, including a water bottle and travel umbrella. “My Travelon bag has practical, well-placed pockets on the outside, but it provides even more functionality with pockets on the inside. Another thing to love about this bag is that there’s a short strap (tether) inside the bag with a small LED light on it to easily find anything inside.”
All three experts agree: The key selling point of this purse is the security. Cross-body bags are more secure in general because they’re harder to swipe. Travelon takes anti-theft even further. Both the body and the strap are protected by a slash-resistant barrier, the compartments are equipped with locking zippers and pulls, and the pockets even have RFID blocking to protect against identity theft.
“My husband travels for work, so I got him The Nomatic Backpack. It is like the Swiss Army knife of backpacks. First of all, it has pockets — 20 of them to be exact. He loves all of the organization options for different doodads, including the magnetic water bottle pocket that holds his giant Corkcicle water bottle. The easy-access pocket at the top is perfect to store little essentials such as earbuds and earplugs. It even comes with a removable hard plastic case for sunglasses which you can take out and swap with your own. The laptop sleeve holds a 15-inch laptop, with quick and easy access for going through security at the airport. There’s also a second pocket/sleeve for a tablet. It even has little holes that you can slide cables through to charge devices.
He loves taking this backpack on a quick, two-day trip because it can hold everything he needs, including clothes, toiletries, a laptop, and snacks. The expansion compartment makes for a nice place to shove dirty clothes. While he did note that the bag can get a little heavy, he does like the handle on the side so you can carry it like a briefcase if you’re tired of having it on your back. It is also constructed really well, with a waterproof exterior, good-quality zippers, comfy straps that are nice and wide, and an adjustable chest strap. Plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty!” — Laura Ray, Content Strategist
“With so many bags on the market that have too many bells and whistles that I don’t use, it’s nice to have a bag that does everything it needs to and nothing it doesn’t. I’ve been testing Able Carry’s Daybreaker backpack for everyday use and light travel for the past 3 months. This durable, minimalist bag is ideal for people who want to carry their daily necessities while blending in with their surroundings.
Now in its second iteration, the new Daybreaker 2 has a full-length zipper, making accessing the pack’s contents easier. A newly designed back cushion keeps air moving for maximum comfort. With a capacity of 25 liters, I can easily fit several books, my laptop, a charger, a water bottle, and other odds and ends that I use throughout the day.
An easy-to-access side pouch on the exterior is perfect for frequently used items like keys. The interior slim access pocket, mesh pocket, and water bottle sleeve all keep smaller items organized, while the stretch divider is perfect for tablets or small to medium laptops.” — Dan Happe, Editor
Retired flight attendant and TravelAwaits expert contributor Kentrell Charles recommends a TravelPro backpack. He loves their backpacks because they’re small enough to fit under the seat in front of you but still provide enough space to pack for an extended weekend stay.
“Your carry-on should fit underneath the seat in front of you. More people are choosing to carry on their luggage because of flight delays and cancellations and to avoid baggage fees or lost luggage. The additional bags result in less room in the overhead compartments. A larger suitcase isn’t always the best option, though, because then you tend to overpack.”
He loves this particular backpack because it’s comfortable to wear, is water- and stain-resistant, and has multiple zippered compartments for organization. Plus, if you’re someone who hates fumbling for your laptop in the TSA line, this backpack has an exterior padded laptop sleeve for easy access.
“While we have industrial backpacks for more serious hiking, this daypack is a must-pack on every trip. It’s a great size, it’s well made, smartly designed, lightweight, durable, and comfortable to wear or carry, and the quality is backed by Osprey.”
Although compact, the Daylite features multiple interior and side compartments for easy organization. When not fully filled, simply adjust the dual side compression straps for the best fit. The foam-padded back panel with built-in ventilation further ensures all-day comfort.
The packs are built to withstand wear and tear, made with high-quality, sustainable bluesign-approved recycled fabrics, GRS-certified recycled polyester, and a PFC-free DWR coating. Joan and her husband can attest; they said they’ve had their Daylite Packs since 2016 and there’s no sign of them slowing down. As an added safety bonus, the sternum strap features a whistle in case of emergency.
For the budget traveler, Mary Charlebois recommends this Amazon Basics Laptop Bag.
“It is one of my oldest AB purchases. It’s been on some long road trips. Mine is the largest at 17 inches, but it’s also available in sizes of 10, 14, and 15 inches, with an adjustable, padded shoulder strap. I love the strap on the back. It slips over the telescoping handle on your wheeled luggage — very handy and under $25.”
This bag has a separate zippered front compartment to store power cords, boarding passes, and other personal items.
Travel Toiletry Bags
“At last, I can get all my toiletries in one bag that isn’t another black hole where toothpaste goes to die. To make it even better, it unfolds to give access to everything. Then, you can hang it with the attached swivel hook. Bye-bye to the no-counter-space-in-the-hotel-bathroom problem.”
She added that her husband initially declined her offer to purchase him one of his own. However, after witnessing her ease in packing and unpacking, not to mention finding her the items with ease, he quickly changed his tune and exchanged his outdated shaving bag for this hanging organizer. It comes in seven different colors to appease each member of the family.
If you’re interested in more travel expert recommendations, check out: