You’ve meticulously planned your trip, now don’t forget to pay attention to the bag you’ll be carrying around all day. I’ve rounded up 50 of the best handbags and purses for travel, whether you need something comfortable for long-term travels, or are just heading from airport to resort and need a stylish carryon item.
What makes a purse suitable for travel? In my opinion, the minimum requirement is secure fastening across the main compartment. It drives me crazy that so many bags don’t have any way to secure them across the top. Beyond that, functionality, comfort and security will depend on the nature of your travels as much as your personal preference.
Consider how much you’re going to be carrying and whether you like separate compartments. Do you like to carry water, extra layers, or multiple electronic items? Are you heading somewhere known for pickpockets? Will you have a laptop? Do you need construction that will survive a round-the-world trip?
Some features to look for in a travel handbag/purse include:
- something that will hold at least wallet, camera, phone, tickets and documents
- secure fastening
- comfortable for long days of walking, not going to dig in or give you a backache
- distributes weight evenly
- lockable zips to deter prying hands
- durable and/or water-resistant fabric
- a dark colour that won’t get dirty easily
- slash-proof fabrics, straps or linings
- a detachable shoulder strap that can be used to secure it to something (a table leg whilst you’re eating, for example)
- zippered interior compartments to keep cards/documents safe
- power bank pockets with a porthole for wires
- versatile – can be dressed up or worn on an evening out
- RFID-blocking compartments (to protect sensitive information contained in electronic chips in your cards, although it’s debatable how necessary is, especially outside the US)
Personally, I like to blend in with a normal purse and favour a cross-body bag as I like to be able to hold it in front of me on public transport and in crowded places. That said, robust travel-specific bags can provide peace of mind and durability on long trips.
One last tip for you; try extending your search to include diaper bags. These are usually durable, spacious, have excellent pockets, and are usually cheaper than bags labelled specifically for travel/laptops/cameras.
BEST LEATHER PURSES
A decent leather bag won’t come cheap but is always going to be a good investment. In fact, my next travel purse will be a leather crossbody. I’m a bit in love with the Fossil range of leather handbags at the moment, so let’s start with them.
Fossil Morgan Traveler
The Fossil brand is one to check out if you’re looking for classic styling and a bag that you can use in everday life as well as on your travels. The Morgan bag (bigger than it appears in this image, 10.5″L x 2.5″W x 10″H) although best if you’re carrying minimal tech. Also comes in black with brown detailing.
Fossil Corey Large Crossbody
Slightly larger than the Morgan (ideal if you’ve got a tablet, for example), it looks like the Corey range is being phased out so grab one now whilst you can! I’m in love with the sleek and simple design of this bag, but it is quite narrow and the straps are thin so if you’re like me and throw everything but the kitchen sink in your purse then it’s probably not the one for you.
Fossil Harper Large Crossbody
The beautiful Harper bag features classic satchel styling. The small version is too small—imho—for travel unless you’re an ultra-minimalist. Dimensions are 13.5″L x 4.5″W x 9.5″H so it’s large but not quite messenger bag size. Has a zipper on the inside.
Fossil Maya Crossbody
This purse is almost perfect. It’s almost the one bag to rule them all. ALMOST. It’s roomy, a great size, nice thick strap that won’t dig into your shoulders. I love the shoulder strap option too. It comes in some great colour options. But it doesn’t zip closed, there’s just a magnetic clasp on the inside. I hope Fossil can hear my deep sigh of disappointment from across the Atlantic. Damn you, Fossil. If you’re not bothered by the lack of zip then this is indeed a lovely bag.
Fossil Fiona Large Crossbody
Hallelujah, zips. The Fiona is a great size (11.42″L x 3.15″W x 9.84″H) for a small travel purse and keeps it simple with regards to pockets. It comes in a number of different colours/materials.
Fossil Rachel Satchel
The Rachel is 10″L x 5″W x 7″H and zips across the top. It’s a boxy roomy bag with good protection for your stuff. I like the black leather but it’s available in some funky patterned fabrics too.
Rebecca Minkoff Julian
Gorgeously slouchy and stylish, the Julian has a lot of fans. The genius of this bag is that you can clip the bottom of the zipper to the ring at the top for extra security. Worth the money for its versatile and stylish looks and buttery soft leather.
Boyatu Leather Business Satchel
Boyatu is another brand to check out for their competitively priced leather bags. I’ve included this Boyatu bag because I luuuurve the shape. Top handles – check, detachable shoulder strap – check. Zipper? Sort of. The interior is divided into three compartments, the middle of which zips closed. You could stash your water/scarf/snacks in the outer compartments and save the middle for your valuables. Also, it comes in some really lovely colours such as pale blue. For a work purse to take on city breaks this will do the job.
Boyatu Leather Backpack
This large rectangular leather backpack will fit a small laptop and has top zippers . The straps are adjustable and fairly sturdy for a leather backpack. Dimensions are 10.6″D x 12.9″H x 4.3″W.
Kattee Urban Satchel Tote
This classy purse has carry handles, a detachable shoulder strap, and secures with a zipper along the top. All my favourite things. And the internal compartments are good too. It has a shiny embossed cowhide finish and slightly slouchy shape. A great choice if you’re looking for a more traditional purse that will double up on travel duty. Dimensions are 14.17″ x 3.94″ x 10.24″.
I discovered whilst researching this article that my favourite style of purse (simple, rectangular, slouchy, with a crossbody strap and a shoulder strap) is called a hobo. Figures. This leather version is a great example, and it comes in a bunch of different colours for me to collect. Woohoo! If only it were a tad cheaper I’d buy them all.
S-Zone Leather Backpack
What I like about this bag is it’s fairly flat, square shape. You could pack it down to store in a suitcase if needed. And the detachable shoulder strap which gives you the option of using it as a shoulder bag. Main access is via a zipper that runs across the top. Good value for money.
YALUXE Leather Backpack
Another leather backpack with a wide square shape designed for sliding in a 13″ laptop. This one has double zippers on the main compartment for locking, plus side pockets which are handy for water bottles and umbrellas.
BEST CROSSBODY PURSES
Crossbody handbags are the most versatile bags, and easy to travel with as they often pack down flat. I find wearing a crossbody much more comfortable than a shoulder bag as part of the weight rests on your hip. The best crossbodies come with top straps so you can use it both ways though. The other main advantage of crossbody purses is that you can easily clutch them in front of you in crowds, or hold on to the top zipper whilst walking. This is my go-to zone; something that will work equally well at home as my everyday purse.
Orla Kiely Large Crossbody
Pattern-lovers (like me) should check out Orla Kiely’s range of bags. Jazzier colours are available, but this one in her dark Giant Linear Stem print will withstand travel the best. In lined canvas with leather detailing and a detachable shoulder strap. The print is also available in a sling-style crossbody.
Fossil Emma Crossbody
This is my kind of bag – simple, lightweight, and I love the pattern on this one (although it does come in solid colours too). This is the fun, printed little sister of Fossil’s leather bags listed above.
Cath Kidston Oilcloth Crossbody
Cath Kidston is a British institution for her fun and feminine prints with vintage appeal. It’s worth hunting out one of her oilcloth bags which will survive getting bashed around or wet. The navy polka dot print is a classic and won’t show up dirt.
Cath Kidston Folio Crossbody
In a classic Cath Kidston floral print, this cute purse has retro appeal and is a perfect small-sized handbag with detachable shoulder strap and zipper across the top. Dimensions are 9.8″ x 7.3″ x 3.2″ so it’s tablet-size rather than laptop-size.
Vera Bradley Midtown Travel Bag
I’m head over heels with Vera Bradley’s range of travel bags and purses which have superb attention to detail. This large shoulder bag with crossbody strap from Vera Bradley is perfect for travel pros and frequent flyers. The bag separates into two compartments which zip together. There’s a pocket for a portable power bank, whilst the back unzips to form a trolley sleeve. It’s also water repellent and has a charging station for your electronics. Perfect for long journeys. exterior pockets mean you don’t have to rummage around to find your earphones or lip balm. Dimensions are 18.25″ x 16″ x 10.25″.
Vera Bradley Triple Zip Hipster
The next size up in Vera Bradley bags is the Triple Zip Hipster. Zipper heaven! This one is lightweight but large enough to fit a small tablet and also has the power bank pocket (with port hole for the wires) which is standard on Vera Bradley designs. Dimensions are 11.75″ by 11.5″ by 1.75″. Plain colours are available but there’s a fab range of patterns.
Vera Bradley Mailbag
Baggallini Hanover Crossbody
Baggallini was founded by flight attendants with travel in mind. This lightweight crossbody is made from a durable water-resistant nylon material perked up with gold detailing. It’s available in a whole host of different colours and comes with a free wristlet could be used as an evening purse.
Losmile Crossbody Tote
This is very similar to my current handbag, only larger. I find the grey canvas/brown leather combo a winner; it pairs well with all sorts of outfits. This bag is a bit on the large side (good if you’re carrying a laptop) but if they start making a smaller version it’s an absolute steal at the price listed. Dimensions are 21.3″ x 14.9″ x 5.2
Minimalists look no further. If you just need a smart purse for nights out or you don’t carry much beyond your wallet and phone, this little leather-look bag is super affordable and will easily pack down inside a larger bag.
Kipling Noelle Crossbody
My mum (hi mum!) has this bag and says it has revolutionised her life. It’s lightweight, water-resistant, durable, and full of neat organisational details. A true workhorse of a bag and a perfect personal item for journeys.
Herschel Alder Crossbody
Hipster favourites Herschel do a small and simple crossbody in a few different colourways. Dimensions are 10″ x 11″ x 8.5″. I wish they made this bag in a larger size as I love the simplicity of it.
BEST ANTI-THEFT HANDBAGS
If you’re particularly concerned about carrying all your worldly goods on your being then it might be worth the peace of mind to invest in a purse designed specifically for travel. These bags have features to protect your valuables not just from thieves but also from the elements. These bags are rugged babies. Pacsafe and eBags are routinely name-checked by travellers who value their security features and durability.
The downside is that these uber-practical bags made specifically for travellers will mark you out as a tourist. That said, choice and design have improved dramatically over the past decade. The Travelon brand, in particular, could pass as a standard purse.
Vera Bradley Iconic RFID Crossbody
This purse is essentially a wallet that you can wear as a bag; it comes with a shoulder strap and wrist strap. Great if all you’re after is something stylish and small for nights out as it has RFID protection for your cards. You can also remove the straps and use it as a regular wallet. Vera Bradley’s quilted Iconic purses come in a range of different colours.
Vera Bradley Iconic RFID Mini Hipster
A slight step up in size, the Mini Hipster is more like a mini messenger bag. It’s designed to sit comfortably on your hip with its adjustable shoulder strap and will hold your wallet, phone, notebook and keys. Same RFID protection and quilted design from Vera Bradley. I love this Bahama Blue colour but other colours and patterns are available. 6″ x 7.5″ x .75″.
Arden Cove Crossbody
Arden Cove bags are designed with travel and style in mind. Waterproof, slash-proof, RFID-blocking, zip-locking, vegan super-bag cunningly disguised as a normal purse. It has a built-in wallet compartment at the front and an internal keychain, Even the zippers are claimed to be waterproof (not gonna test that) so its suitable for cold wet climates. It’s a boxy shape so you can fit a fair amount in it. The strap is chain and leather which might not be the most comfortable for long days spent walking around though. Dimensions are 8.5″ x 6.5″ x 2.5″.
Pacsafe Citysafe CS100
I had this bag and took it with me sailing around Africa. This is a hardcore little bag. The strap detaches so you can hook it around something for example whilst sitting down at a table. It has an RFID-blocking pocket and is made from slash-proof fabric. The main zip can be clipped to secure it; a feature I’d love to see on more purses. You can also use a slim packlock to secure the two zips. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it again if I was in the market for something super-safe. It’s inconspicuous and discrete but bigger than it looks—it will fit a large-ish point and shoot camera and a small bottle of water. Dimensions are 7.9″ x 11.8″ x 3.1″.
Lewis Clark Crossbody
I will say that I’m not a fan of the shiny hardwearing fabric to look at, but it sure is tough (and water-resistant). And the best thing about the Lewis Clark is that is you can clip the zips to a hidden clasp to prevent opportunistic fingers from easily opening the bag.
Pacsafe Citysafe CX Small Crossbody
A simple and elegant shape, with only the bulky straps and zips giving away that it’s designed with hardcore travel in mind. The metal details are gold coloured rather than silver. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for something small but secure that won’t look completely out of place in the evenings. Dimensions are 12″ x 6.5″ x 2.5″.
ebags Anti-theft Crossbody
A classic anti-theft crossbody here in ripstop slash-proof material and all the security features you’d expect. Available in black, grey, and a few brighter colours. It’s expandable via the zipper that runs along the bottom of the bag, so you can either pack it full of stuff or pack it down flat. Dimensions are 11.5″ x 9.5″ x 2.5″.
eBags Terrace Mini
eBags are another brand making sturdy and secure travel bags, mainly in muted colours. It has an RFID-blocking pocket, tough nylon fabric, and a mini price tag to match its size. The Terrace Mini is good for small electronics, a water bottle and your documents.
Baggalini Everywhere Crossbody
This Baggalini Crossbody is large, water resistant, and has a triangular shape to its depth as well as a multitude of pockets and compartments so is definitely one for the overpackers and organisation freaks. It has a sleeve for luggage handles. Several colours available, and it comes with an RFID-blocking wristlet that you can use inside the bag.
Travelon Signature Shoulder Bag
Props to Travelon for making their purses look a bit more like normal bags. This one also has slash-proof material, RFID-blocking pockets, and clippeable zips. The tucks in the seams and grey colour make it an appealing option for a travel bag, and you can wear it across your body or on your shoulder. It’s a great price too. Dimensions are 11″ x 9.8″ x 3″.
With similar features, this crossbody is a bit larger and more of a rectangular shape. For me, this is a really great size, however—much as I love zips—having to lift up the foldover flap to unzip the main compartment seems bothersome. I like the overall look though. Dimensions are 13″ x 10″ x 3.25″.
Travelon 3 Compartment Crossbody
This bag is sling-style on one side which increases the depth slightly. It has two zipped pockets on the front as well as the main compartment (2 of the 3 compartments have locking zips). RFID-blocking sections and slash-resistant materials.
Travelon Heritage Hobo Crossbody (large)
Of all the ranges with added protection, I like the Travelon Heritage bags the best. The small leather details and canvas-esque material make all the difference. Of course there’s RFID and slash protection too, and clips for the zips. This one is roomy at 13″ x10″ x 4″.
This Travelon tote has all the antitheft bells and whistles in tote format; RFID-blocking pockets, slash-resistant material, locking zips, slash-proof straps. Dimensions are 13″x 10″x 4″.
Travelon Hobo Crossbody
If you don’t need the size and depth of the above bags, there here’s a mini crossbody version with all the same security features. I particularly like the oatmeal colour for those trips when you’re pretending to be Indiana Jones. Dimensions are 9.75″ x 7.75″ x 2.5″.
Travelon Heritage Small Crossbody
Even smaller at 10.5″ x 7″ x 2″, this purse should fit snugly against your body and pack down pretty small. No clips for the zips here, but you still get RFID protection for your cards and slash-resistant material. The indigo colour gives a nice denim effect (a few other colours are available too).
BEST TRAVEL TOTES
Although I wouldn’t recommend a tote as an everyday travel purse if you plan on walking around lots (shoulder problems: the struggle is real), they definitely have their place in my travel gear arsenal. If you’re primarily using your bag as a carryon item then they’re ideal as you can fit lots in them and squish them under the seat in front of you. They will easily fit a laptop, and often have luggage sleeves (that slip over the top of suitcase trolley handless).
Longchamp Le Pliage Large Tote
The elegant Longchamp Le Pliage has a lot of fans; this is one bag that would be popular with Mary Poppins for its ability to fit in everything but the kitchen sink whilst still looking stylish. Top quality finish, too.
Vera Bradley Glenna Tote
Vera Bradley produce a tote in their quilted Iconic range (can you tell I’m in love with the beautiful Bahama Blue?) and it has everything you’d expect from a Vera bag. Zipped closures, hidden pockets, space for your power bank. Designed specifically for carryon purposes, it’s an unusual rounded shape which gives it bags (arf) of room and a lovely slouchy appearance.
Kipling New Shopper
If you’ve read this far you know I appreciate a detachable shoulder strap, so here’s a tote-style Kipling bag with just that. This one is neat-looking in black with gold details. Dimensions are 19″ x 13.75″. x 6.75″.
This ZMSnow tote is designed for work/college (it fits a 13″ laptop) but could easily be used for travel thanks to its sturdy straps and zipper along the top. Pockets aplenty plus foam padding for a laptop. Once you have a laptop in there’s not that much added depth though compared to some of the totes on this list.
Baggalini Crossbody Tote
This tote is designed for the road—or the air, to be precise. Lightweight but tough nylon fabric? Check. Removable shoulder strap? Check. Zip closure? Check. Luggage sleeve for trolleys? Check. Versatile pockets and a variety of colours (I like the Pacific Blue). It’s also available in a smaller size.
Call It Spring Word Cross Body Tote
For a classy leather-look structured tote that will work for travel at a very reasonable price check out this Call It Spring bag. The shoulder strap is removable and the bag zips across the top. Just one slip pocket on the inside.
BEST TRAVEL BACKPACKS
We all know that backpacks are the best type of bag for our backs as they distribute the weight evenly across both sides. Thankfully, backpacks are having an ‘in’ moment and are no longer the preserve of geeky schoolkids.
My main concern with using a backpack as my travel purse is that it’s on your back so thieves can potentially fiddle with it without you noticing. So lockable/clippable zips are a bonus, as are carry handles or a shoulder strap so you can wear it an alternative way.
Travel-specific daypacks are recommended if you’re going to be using one extensively or for hiking, I won’t cover those here. But here are a few suggestions for smart travel-suitable rucksacks.
Ebesa Canvas Backpack
Because I’m in love with grey, here’s a canvas laptop bag that’s perfectly functional for travel. It will fit a large laptop, but it’s boxy shape and size means you can also use it for your travel gear. Carry handles, sturdy material and straps, zippered closure, and handy side and front pockets complete its feature list.
Travelon Signature Slim Backpack
With its lockable zips, slash-proof fabric, detachable straps and organised pockets this bag must be from a travel brand! Another nifty-looking ruched anti-theft travel bag from Travelon. That said, it is small for a backpack and the straps aren’t padded. Good if you’re running around a city and just want space for water and wallet but you might struggle to fit much more in there.
Cath Kidston Backpack
I couldn’t resist adding a Cath Kidston backpack into the mix as this floral Richmond Rose print is a cute alternative to blacks and greys. Sensible padded straps and top handles, and a padded laptop compartment (which I find handy for a hammam towel or sarong when I’m not carrying my laptop).
Eastpak Wyoming Backpack
Sometimes you just can’t beat the classics. Eastpak is another brand designed to withstand the trials of frequent travels. With simple minimalist styling, you can find the Wyoming in all sorts of colours and prints.
Herschel Supply Co. Heritage Backpack
The original choice of hipsters around the world, the recognisable Hershel design now comes in about a billion different colour choices and is a solid bet for a purchase you won’t regret (if you don’t already have one, that is).
Fjallraven Kanken No.2
Battling Herschel for hipsters’ heart and wallets are the Fjallraven range of boxy backpacks. This one has slightly more padded straps than some, a rain flap, and bags of room.
And there we have it. 50 (actually slightly more as I keep adding to this list as I find them) purses, handbags and backpacks perfectly functional for travels home and abroad. I hope you find your perfect one.
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