What’s one of the most important things to buy for your international trip?
Your travel purse! Why? Because it’s one of the few things that you’ll use every single day while traveling. And you’ll enjoy your trip SO much more if you find the best travel purse to suit your needs.
Take it from me, it totally sucks to realize one day into your dream international trip that your purse is uncomfortable, too small, too big, too bulky, or constantly slides off your shoulder! Seriously, it’s so frustrating because not only have you wasted your money on your horrible purse, you either have to just put up with it or waste precious travel time (not to mention more money) looking for a new one.
Been there, done that!
The best thing to do is to find your perfect travel purse before you leave. But…there are so many excellent purses for travel that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all and find the perfect one for you.
In the nearly three decades I’ve been traveling internationally for work and fun, I’ve tried every type of travel purse imaginable. No joke. I’ve tried big purses, tiny purses, cross-body purses, purses with long straps, purses with short straps, purses with zippers, purses with lots of pockets, safety purses….you name it, I’ve probably tried it out.
To help you avoid all of the trial and error I went through (not to mention all of the money spent on purses that didn’t work out), I put together this guide sharing my top tips for choosing the best purse for traveling, packing your travel purse, and the overall best travel purses for 2019!
Ok, let’s find you a functional and stylish travel purse you love!
Travel Purse Comparison Chart
Types of Travel Purses
The first thing to consider is the type of travel purse that will best suit your needs. You’ll carry your travel purse pretty much everywhere you go while traveling, so you might want a different type of purse than what you typically use at home day-to-day.
Crossbody travel purses have a long strap that enables you to carry the purse across your body (rather than on your shoulder). I love crossbody purses for travel because I find them super comfortable, and I like having my hands free to take photos or eat a chocolate croissant.
Travel tip: look for an adjustable strap so you have the option to carry it as a should bag in addition to across your body. Crossbody purses offer increased security because they can’t be yanked off of you as easily as a purse that you carry on your shoulder. Also consider whether you prefer a thin strap or wide strap. For smaller purses I like thin straps but for larger purses I prefer a wide strap.
Anti-theft Travel Purse
You’ve probably heard about the various anti-theft travel purses that are available today. These purses come in all sizes have features such as safety clasps on zippers, lightweight wire mesh in the purse straps and lining, and RFID blocking pockets. Anti-theft purses often cost a little more but if increased security is important to you, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
I have an anti-theft travel purse in my collection and what I like most about it is the ability to easily unhook the shoulder strap so I can wrap it around the arm of the chair I’m sitting in (or my suitcase/backpack if it’s a travel day). I still keep an eye on my purse (as I do when I’m at home) but I like knowing it’s not as easy to grab and run off with while I’m sitting in a cafe, on a train or in the airport.
If you carry a small or lightweight purse in your day-to-day life, that may be all you need while traveling. The benefit of carrying a small travel purse is that you won’t be tempted to bring more than you actually need and you won’t lug around a heavy bag all day (been there, done that, not fun).
Plus, on transit days you can easily stash a small purse in another larger bag. I often bring a small, lightweight purse with me for evenings out when I don’t want to carry my larger crossbody or anti-theft purse. I make sure it packs small and flat for travel days.
Large Shoulder Purse or Classic Messenger Bag
On the other hand, you might prefer to travel with a large purse! Large purses can come in handy if you’re doing a lot of day trips and want to bring along things like a laptop or Ipad, a water bottle, a notebook, hard copy book, an umbrella, a jacket or sweater, a change of shoes or clothes, etc.
Large purses can be comfortable to carry all day if you don’t overpack. When I take a large purse on an international trip (usually when I need to bring my laptop) I opt for a messenger style with a comfortable strap. I also bring a wristlet or small purse for evenings out or when I just want to run to the corner market.
What to Carry in Your Travel Purse
The next thing to consider is what you’ll carry in your travel purse while abroad. There’s a fine line between being prepared and over packing, and it’s a line that’s super easy to cross!
One way I avoid overpacking my travel purse is by gathering the items I think I’ll want to carry while still at home. Doing so helps me decide on the size and type of travel purse that’s best for my trip.
What’s in my travel purse? Here’s what I typically carry:
- Small make-up bag
- Small wallet
- Cell phone & back-up battery (and cords)
- Journal & pen
- Camera, case & back-up batteries
- Tin of Altoid mints
- Snacks (small bag of nuts, an apple, power bar, etc)
- Small roll-up bag (for groceries)
Here are additional items you may want to carry in your purse:
- Book/map/magazine (if you prefer hard copies)
- Sweater, long-sleeved shirt or jacket
- Water bottle
- Glasses (case)
- Medication or other health-related items
- Umbrella or rain jacket
- Items your kids or travel partner will need (if you’re traveling with others)
Take a look at what you typically carry in your everyday purse at home. Is there anything in there not mentioned above that you want to take with you on your international trip?
Travel tip: anti-theft purses make great camera bags!
What Makes a Good Travel Purse?
Here’s what I look for in a travel purse:
- A comfortable, adjustable strap
- Interior and exterior pockets (I like one or two on the outside and one on the inside–too many pockets and it’s easy to forget where you put everything!)
- Sturdy zippers (I only travel with purses that have a zippered main compartment, and ideally one exterior and one interior pocket also has a zipper, both for security and organizational purposes)
- Security features (such as locking clasps, slash-resistant strap and body, or RFID pockets for credit cards and passports – I don’t always buy travel purses with these features but sometimes they come in very handy)
- Light colored lining (or even an LED light!), so it’s easy to see what’s inside your purse
- Outer fabric that’s easy to clean
- Balance of function and style
- A color that complements my travel wardrobe (sometimes that means neutral, other times I prefer bold and bright)
Travel tip: Practice packing your travel purse ahead of your trip so you’re sure it will hold everything you want to take with you. Then wear it on a long walk around your neighborhood so you can be sure it’s comfortable to carry. Also check the purse against your travel wardrobe so you can make sure the the color and style goes with your travel wardrobe.
What is the Best Travel Purse?
Ultimately, the best travel purse is the one that best suits your needs. I hope my tips have helped you determine what you’re looking for in a travel purse. Now that you have an idea of what you’re looking for, let’s look at some travel purses!
Best Travel Purses for 2020
This slim crossbody purse has a great adjustable strap that allows you to comfortably and easily wear it crossbody or on your shoulder. It also has zippered interior and exterior pockets (perfect for organization and security), and light colored interior lining so you can easily see the contents of your purse. The outer synthetic fabric is easy to keep clean while on the road. It even comes with a cute detachable RFID-blocking wristlet that you can use as a wallet detach and carry as a small purse!
Pros: Slim profile, adjustable strap, detachable wristlet, lightweight
Cons: Strap not detachable, no slash-resistant strap or body
The Baggallini Horizon is a lightweight crossbody purse that features an adjustable strap (that’s attached to the bag for added security), water resistant nylon fabric (easy to keep clean!) that comes in a variety of colors, and light colored interior fabric. Zippered exterior pockets are perfect for items you want to access quickly. Interior pockets keep you organized. There’s enough room for your phone, iPad mini or Kindle but its sleek design makes it hard to overfill. This purse comes with a wristlet so you get two purses in one!
Pros: Holds iPad mini or Kindle, water resistant fabric, detachable wristlet, many color options
Cons: Strap not detachable or slash-resistant, outside pockets are a bit narrow and deep
This purse has so many awesome features! There’s an adjustable, detachable strap so you can wear it crossbody or on your shoulder, and you can wrap the strap around a chair for extra security while you’re at a cafe, on a train or at the airport. The outside front has two RFID-blocking zippered pockets, and one is even fleece-lined, which is perfect for sunglasses. The outside back has a u-shaped pocket for things like your guidebook or Kindle, and a “quick drop” pocket for your phone. Inside the purse there’s a zippered pocket, key fob, light-colored lining, and other organizational pockets so you’ll aways be able to easily find wha you’re looking for. The fabric and construction are super sturdy but the purse is still lightweight. Even better? It expands on those days when you need a bit more room!
Pros: Great organizational features, lightweight, fleece lined and RFID pockets, expands for more space
Cons: Only one color available, strap and body are’t slash-resistant
If you’re looking for a cute anti-theft bag with plenty of room, this one from Pacsafe is a great choice! The adjustable (and detachable) strap gives you the option to wear it like a messenger bag or over the shoulder. It’s large enough carry an iPad and there’s even a padded compartment to keep it safe. The nylon outer fabric is water-repellent and there are light-weight mesh slash guards in both the body and the straps. The external and internal pockets (including an RFID pocket) make staying organized a breeze. The external zippers lock for extra security. There’s even a headphone port!
Pros: Roomy, padded iPad compartment, water-resistant, slash-resistant strap and body, locking zippers
Cons: May look more practical than stylish
Looking for a slim, lightweight travel purse that will comfortably carry your essentials? This is great one! It has all of the features you want in an anti-theft travel purse–adjustable, slash-resistant strap, slash-resistant body, RFID pockets that protects your passport and credit cards, locking strap clasps, zippered exterior and interior pockets, interior pen loop and key clip (with a light!), and even a drop pocket on the back so you can easily store your phone. Even better? There are several colors to choose from!
Pros: Slim and lightweight, organization and safety features, several color options
Cons: Won’t hold an iPad or Kindle
This purse is perfect if you’re looking for a mid-size anti-theft travel purse that doesn’t look like a travel purse. It has an adjustable, detachable, slash-resistant strap (wear it crossbody or on your shoulder), a slash-resistant body, locking zippers, and RFID blocking slots for both credit cards and passport. The 3 locking compartments (2 on the outside, 1 on the inside) offer plenty of room for storing and organizing your things (like an iPad/Kindle, water bottle, DSLR camera, etc) and security. There’s also a zippered pocket on the back and a key clip and LED light on the inside of the purse. Plus, it comes in several colors!
Pros: Stylish and practical, lots of organizational and safety features, large enough for a water bottle or DSLR camera, several color options
Cons: Top outer pocket can be hard to access
This is a well thought out travel purse with tons of safety features! Its sleek, lightweight design is perfect for both day and night and can be dressed up or down. The nylon twill outer fabric is water resistant and easy to keep clean while out and about. The RFID pockets, locking zippers, and slash-resistant strap and body will keep the contents of your purse safe. The cushioned, adjustable strap makes it easy to wear this purse crossbody or on your shoulder. There’s plenty of space in the main compartment (which holds an iPad), and the zippered interior and exterior pockets will keep you organized.
Pros: Sleek design, lots of safety features, large enough for an iPad
Cons: Not many exterior pockets
This is another fantastic lightweight travel purse from Travelon! It’s on the smaller side but is big enough for everything you need (including an iPad or Kindle). It’s got the safety features you’re looking for, such as a slash-resistant strap and body, locking zippers, and RFID pockets. The adjustable, detachable strap makes it easy to wear this purse both as a crossbody and on your shoulder. There are zippered pockets on the outside front and back, as well as interior pockets to keep you organized. On the front there’s a “quick drop” pocket for your phone that also has a flap to keep it out of sight. The nylon outer fabric is water-resistant and comes in several colors and patterns so it’s easy to find the one (or two!) that best complements your travel wardrobe!
Pros: Slash-resistant strap and body, locking zippers, and RFID pockets, water-resistant, lots of colors available
Cons: Holds only the essentials
One of the great features of this medium size purse is that it’s ultra light weight, so you can effortlessly carry all of your essentials. The outer fabric is super soft; both the outside and the inside are easy to clean. This bag is large enough to carry up to a 9 inch tablet. There’s also organizational pockets and a zippered pocket inside. On the outside of the purse you’ll find a quick drop pocket (on the back) and three pockets on the front (one is under the flap for more security). Safety features include locking zippers, RFID, and an anti-slash bottom.
Pros: Holds an iPad or tablet, easy to clean fabric, organization and safety features
Cons: Only the bottom is slash-resistant
This cute travel purse is another great option if you’re looking for purse that’s on the smaller side. The outer fabric is cotton canvas and suede, which gives it a different look to other anti-theft travel purses. There’s a zippered pocket on the front and a quick drop pocket with a snap close on the back. Inside the purse you’ll find organizational pockets, an RFID pocket, and a key clip with LED light. The adjustable strap is slash-resistant for added security.
Pros: Cute, cotton canvas and suede fabric, organization and safety features, packs flat
Cons: On the smaller size, only the strap is slash-resistant
One more idea…if you’d rather carry a backpack than a purse:
Clark & Mayfield Reed 17
I tried this Clark & Mayfield Reed 17 pack on my last trip to Germany and loved it! I used it as my personal item on my flights and as a day pack in Germany. It has a padded compartment for a laptop and iPad, lots of pockets to keep you organized, and can be carried as a backpack or a bag. It comes in 3 colors (I received the Slate) You can get it on Amazon here!
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