Picture this: It's a glorious spring day in Paris. I'm sitting in a café with my friend Susanne. She loops the strap of her handbag over the back of her chair. You know the gesture - you've probably done it a hundred times.
She'll never see that handbag again.
Before we get into the how of handbag handling, let's look into the what.
The best travel handbag - and which is best for you?
If you're in a bit of a rush and don't want to know all the bag-related ins and outs I'm about to share with you, here are my three favorite travel handbags, and you can rush right out to Amazon and get one. (Or click here if you're a daypack hardliner and would rather sip cod liver oil than carry a handbag around.)
Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Gii
My all-time favorite - my best travel purse! I have two of these, in different colors. Slash-proof, light, roomy, and cross-shoulder.
Buy from Amazon
The above three are 'normal-sized' handbags and will carry pretty much anything you need.
BUT - you may need something smaller. If you're flying within Europe or on a discount airline, you may find you're only allowed a single carry-on, handbag included.
The solution is a small travel handbag: you can slip it into your carry-on if you're not allowed a second bag on the flight. Your best purse for travel may well be one of these!
PacSafe Citysafe LS100
Here I go with Pacsafe again - this is a smaller version but just as thief-proof - possibly the best travel purse for Europe, safe and stylish.
Buy from Amazon
Tom Bihn Café Bag
Easy to open, and lots of nooks and crannies to hold pens and things.
Buy from Tom Bihn
If on the other hand you are a bag person, here are a few simple questions you should ask yourself before you buy:
Answering these questions will help you choose.
If you travel often, don't skimp on expense. You're better off paying more now than buying something that will unravel in the middle of nowhere - and that you'll have to replace.
Other than choosing the right model, the most important issue you'll have to deal with is probably security.
1. Don't wear flashy brand name labels on your bag: they make it that much more attractive to steal.
2. Don't be arrogant as in "it won't happen to me because I'm too smart/careful/savvy" - it can happen to you. I'm a seasoned traveler and I've had my belongings lifted. It's almost inevitable after a lifetime of travel. What I do know is without being careful, it would have happened far more often.
3. Make sure your bag is hard to get into. Even the best travel purses can be stolen. That's why I like the slash-proof straps with all sorts of wire mesh. I can still lose it and it can disappear - but it won't be slashed while I'm wearing it and my belongings lifted from under my nose.
4. Pay attention. The best time for someone to steal your bag is when you're busy taking that ultimate photograph or admiring the view. You're not paying attention and you won't even notice. I sadly speak from experience.
5. Wear your bag in a way that dissuades theft. Most often thieves look for an easy mark. A handbag across your chest (as opposed to hanging loosely over a shoulder) will look more challenging and less appetizing. Yes, there have been instances of women being dragged along by a thief on a scooter BUT seeing a well-protected bag should be pretty dissuasive. Still - it's your call.
6. Never leave your bag unattended. Obvious, right? And if you don't want to hang onto to it tightly while trying to eat, tie it to the table. Or get one of those metal cable locks to tie your bag to your table or chair.
7. Don't carry your valuables in your purse unless it is really secure. I do carry it all in my purse but I watch it like a hawk, spread my cash and cards around various clothes pockets, and wear it across my back. If I'm heading to a pickpocket heaven, I'll use a money belt or pouch.
Whatever I do, I will NOT be hanging my bag on the back of a chair!