I have a confession to make: I travel with a lot of bags. I’m not talking about an army of suitcases that could rival a celebrity’s. What I mean is that I like to pack bags within bags…within more bags… so that I always stay organized and have options when it comes to choosing the perfect caryall for any given day’s festivities. This doesn’t necessarily make packing light easy, but I’ve been able to make it work by strategically choosing styles that are foldable, rollable, lay flat — or in the case that they’re not — able to be stuffed with other items to maximize space in my suitcase. Read on to see and shop the bags I love most and the ones I’m dying to get my hands on.
Herschel ‘Dawson’ Backpack, $69.95
When you’re someone that cares about both functionality and style, finding great travel products can become quite the challenge. I’ve especially had a difficult time sourcing a tech backpack that I like in terms of its appearance, which is why the Dawson Bag by Herschel has effectively been filling that need for me over the last year. This bag comes with me on every flight since it holds my most valuable goods including all of the following: my laptop (it has a padded laptop sleeve), a clear pouch by Truffle that I use to organize important documents and business cards I collect along my travels, two external hard drives, my Canon DSLR, two lenses, a tech case full of charging cords, extra memory cards, lens wipes, etc, along with a few extra odds and ends. I usually then stuff the top with my travel scarf for some extra padding and to make it more difficult for any potential thieves should someone try to put their paws inside. You never know!
Lonchamp ‘Le Pliage’ Backpack, $125
This nylon backpack has been my favorite little go-to bag for daytime excursions around the world, and it’s come along with me to places like Cuba, Guatemala, Bali, Australia and many more. Here’s why I love this bag so much: For starters, it’s super lightweight and small enough that you never have to worry about back aches and pains, yet it still holds enough volume to fit everything you’d need for a day adventure. I love that it has both a zipper and snap closure, which gives me extra peace of mind in a place where pick-pocketing might be more prevalent. Last but not least, it folds up into a neat little square, making packing a breeze. Trust me when I say that this one is a winner.
The 5th ‘Essential’ Backpack, $110
I just got this cute leather and nylon backpack before my New York City trip, and so far I’m loving it. Not only is this bag super stylish, but it also has plenty of functionality for every urban explorer. Two interior pockets create the perfect space for easy access to your phone and sunglasses, while an exterior valuables zipper pocket is great for cash and credit cards and becomes hidden when wearing both straps. Big enough to fit a 13-inch laptop, this bag will be the perfect piece for me to carry around my tech gear while I check out different coffee shops and co-working spaces around the city.
REI Co-Op Stratocruiser Wheeled Convertible Luggage, $224
This is the suitcase that I used for about 8 months straight traveling around Asia, Central America, South America and Australia last year. It is definitely not for the heavy packer, but after much internal debate I chose this bag for several reasons. #1) It is both a roller suitcase and converts into a backpack, which means that in dire situations (aka flooded streets in the Gili Islands), I could throw it on my back instead of tracking it through mud and puddles. #2) This bag is super lightweight and I’ve never had to worry about paying expensive overweight luggage charges at the airport. #3) The wheels are built for rugged terrain, which means it can handle any destination I put on my itinerary. #4) It has plenty of interior pockets and mesh straps that aid in compression and organization (and stress levels) after I’ve packed for about the millionth time that week.
Osprey Meridien Wheeled Convertible Luggage, $350
This is the bag I brought with me to India, and it worked extremely well as my main suitcase for a month-long trip in one designated destination. I will warn you that this bag is quite small if you’re not used to packing light, so it really works best if you are traveling somewhere warm where you can mostly pack light clothing items like tank tops, shorts and bathing suits rather than bulky sweaters and layers. I also wouldn’t choose this bag if I was traveling for months on end to varying destinations that require different types of clothing. One reason why I love this bag so much is that it feels super freeing to rid yourself of shlepping luggage from one destination to the next. In India, my itinerary consisted of ten different cities within a month’s timeframe, and looking back, I know I would have hated lugging something bulky and heavy around to each place.
‘The Bigger Carry-On’ by Away, $245
As I begin to plan some smaller mini-trips rather than long journeys this year, I’m dying to get my hands on Away’s raved about carry-on luggage that features a built-in USB charger, TSA-approved lock and is made with an unbreakable shell. Even better? As you build up your collection of Away pieces, they nest inside one another allowing for super easy storage. I’m in love.
Lulus Grey Bucket Bag, $31 (left) and Forever 21 Faux Leather Tassel Bucket Bag, $27.90
The bucket bag that I carry from Topshop is no longer available, so I’m linking two different options shown above that I think are very much comparable. To mix up my assortment of bags along my travels and to have an option that works well for nights out, I like to pack a small bucket bag in my suitcase. The one I have is camel colored and just big enough for a few small items like a wallet, phone and a light scarf. The straps are also long enough to wear as a crossbody, so I can be hands free during a night out with friends. I chose to showcase two cheaper options here because I like to roll my bucket bags when packing, and I wouldn’t want to do this with something I spent a fortune on. In addition, choosing one that is made from a material that is not too structured or firm will ensure easier packing.
Lo & Sons ‘The Pearl’ Crossbody, $248
I also own The Pearl by Lo & Sons, which is a great little crossbody bag for travel because it has so much interior organization. It features two different zippered sections as well as extra interior pockets for your cell phone, pens, notebooks, and a key leash so you never have to go searching for your keys again. Can I get a hallelujah?
Gatta ‘Lola Noir’ Camera Bag, $149
I’ve had my eye on this bag for awhile as I’ve found it to be one of the better looking camera bags out there, but haven’t quite pulled the trigger yet. I hate when camera bags have to look like such, especially when as a travel writer I’m glued to my camera 24/7! This piece by Gatta seems to be a great option for combining both style and functionality without announcing to everyone in your destination that you are a tourist.
von Holzhausen Tote, $695
von Holzhausen’s classic tote bag is my go-to companion for shorter work trips or as my day bag when I’m headed somewhere with my laptop to pump out work. It’s the perfect piece for those who do a lot of business travel, as it’s super classic and chic and looks great with both casual and professional outfits. It also has tons of room to carry everything you’d need for a hectic travel or work day. Perfect for your next work meeting or digital nomad day at the local coffee shop.
Cuyana Small Caryall Tote, $195
This has been my main purse for over a year now, and it pretty much looks good with everything. I actually have this bag in black, but thought I’d spice the post up with a lighter color since as you can probably see, I like a ton of black! I also use this bag as a crossbody especially while exploring cities, and it carries everything from books, sunglasses, my camera and passport holder to additional layers of clothing. Extra bonus: If you remove all items inside, this bag can easily be laid flat for super efficient packing!
Kate Spade New York Reusable Tote, $16
I always like to have an extra packable tote inside by luggage in case I go a little overboard on a trip and pick up more souvenirs and gifts than will fit in my suitcase. This Kate Spade cutie is great because it can also double as a gym bag, beach or laundry bag and is easily hand washable.
Mar Y Sol ‘Portland Packable Raffia Tote’, $139
Beach bags can be pesky to pack if too bulky, but this raffia tote by Mar Y Sol solves that problem by folding flat in your luggage. It’s also handmade in Madagascar using sustainable materials and the sale of the brand’s products enable families in under-developed areas to gain economic independence. I love when brands have a charitable element and I will be happily purchasing a Mar Y Sol bag in the future.
Zara Wicker Bucket Bag, $59.90
The ultimate beach bag for the style setter, this affordable wicker bag by Zara is perfect for short warm-weather getaways. I wouldn’t recommend trying to pack this for a longer jaunt around the world, but if you’re headed somewhere short-term this spring, it could be the perfect piece to elevate any simple beachy look.
JADEtribe Basket Tote, $142
For something super colorful that screams ‘life’s better at the beach,’ I love JADEtribe’s quirky totes that often come adorned with tassels, pom poms and other fun flair. To pack this tote, I would make sure to utilize all of the space possible in my bag by filling the interior with smaller items like socks, underwear, and beach sarongs.
Organizers for Small Items
Delfonics Quitterie Pouch, $28
Small pouches are a huge travel necessity as they help me organize smaller items and avoid the chaos of random loose objects flying around my luggage. As they say, a place for everything and everything in its place. I love this chic little pouch by Delfonics and have used is as everything from a wallet and nighttime clutch to an organizer for receipts and foreign change. The options are literally endless.
I always use some type of bag as my designated holder for laundry, and Flight001 has a great line of colorful options. I love how the bright hues also make it super easy to find when you’re digging through a hot mess of clothes and travel gear.
Coach Embossed Zip Wristlet, $65
I use a very similar Coach wristlet to the one pictured as my daily wallet, and I’ve found it to be a great piece for holding all of my small items like credit cards, cash, loose change and lip balm. The wristlet option also gives you a bit of added security if it’s all you bring out for the day or night, as it’s less likely to be swiped or fall out from your grasp.
von Holzhausen Pouch, $55
von Holzhausen’s new Pouch in Technik-Leather is actually not leather at all! Their “Technik-Leather” is a vegan, sustainable and forward thinking material that reduces toxins and waste during the production process, which are values I can definitely get behind. This Pouch is also the perfect size for organizing smaller items in your purse like lipsticks and jewelry. I am currently using mine as a designated place for receipts in an attempt to get better organized for next year’s taxes!
‘Caroline’ Travel Jewelry Case by Wolf, $69
There’s nothing more annoying than running late only to find that your necklaces are all twisted and your jewelry is a hot mess. Behold Wolf’s tiny travel jewelry case that should solve all your tangled travel woes.
Beauty 360 Weekender Bag Travel Organizer, $17.99
For the last year I’ve been using an oversized opaque pouch as my makeup bag, but I just switched to this one and am completely converted! Major bonuses include: Handles that allow you to hang it from door knobs or towel hooks (aka say goodbye to zero counter space), two clear zipper pockets that make finding your products a cinch, and two mesh interior pockets for even further organization. Loving it!
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Please note that some affiliate links have been used in the creation of this post. What that means is that if you decide to purchase something, I may make a small commission from that sale. As always, all of the opinions in this post are my own and I would never promote products I didn’t love!
Photo Credit: Feature photo by Emilio Kuzma-Floyd, @eyes_of_a_nomad