Updated 3 November 2017 - 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.
There are things you do with your handbag — and then there are things you don't do, like loop it over the back of your chair.
But before we get into the how of handbag handling, let's look at the what — the best travel bags for women.
The table above lists the best travelling handbags for ladies — but it's just an outline. Here's what you need to know about each individual model in your search for the best travel purse ever.
How do you find it and which are the best travel handbags for you?
Fossil Morgan Traveler
For fashionistas looking for a fashionable travel purse, this beautiful leather travel handbag is spacious and durable, featuring tons of pockets to hide away all your essentials. The crossbody strap lets you walk around handsfree and the slim profile makes it an accessory rather than a statement piece — which is great if your goal is to blend in and enjoy trouble-free travel. It's one of the best leather travel purses you can find. The only real downside is the price, but it goes on sale frequently.
Don’t let the rain keep you from exploring. This bag is a stylish travel purse, light and water-resistant, so you can take advantage of wet travel days without worrying about your valuables and electronics getting drenched. It comes with a removable RFID-resistant wallet that you can pull out of the middle of the bag, which I prefer to having cards accessible by an outer zipper. Oodles of pockets (including one for a water bottle or umbrella), and amazing color options for anyone tired of basic black, brown and grey. That all makes it one of the best purses for traveling in Europe (or anywhere else).
Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Gii
My all-time favorite — my best purse for international travel! I have two of these, in different colors. Like most Pacsafe bags, it’s slash-proof, which gives me extra peace of mind in busy city centers, and the pocket with credit card slots features RFID-blocking technology. I absolutely love how roomy it is. If you have a DSLR, it will easily fit. I carry my Macbook Air in it. The bag itself is a lightweight travel purse: you can fill it without feeling like you overpacked.
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Timbuk2 Classic 2014 Messenger Bag
This is a new addition to this list - because I bought one recently (small size - there are several) and used it for a month. Had I gone for the large I might have even used it as a carry-on. It has a waterproof flap (rain-tested in Romania by me), enough pockets to keep me happy, especially the external one. The key strap was also useful given the two cavernous main compartments. Plus compartments for pens, and an internal water bottle. I absolutely loved this bag! The wide shoulder strap is so comfortable I loaded it with plenty - but my back was fine at the end of each day.
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The above three are 'normal-sized' travel shoulder bags 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 best handbag for flying 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 small travel purse may well be one of these!
This is one of the more popular small travel bags: it holds what you really need (passport, phone, credit cards), and encourages (or maybe forces) you to leave the extras at the hotel. This makes it a great purse for Europe travel. Both the strap and purse body feature slashproof mesh to keep your valuables safe, the straps and zippers lock, and the inner compartment blocks RFID thieves. And I know you could buy an LED light anywhere, but I love that this purse comes with one attached. Plus the small size makes it the ideal lightweight travel handbag.
PacSafe Citysafe LS100 — my top pick for European travel
Here I go with Pacsafe again — this is a smaller version of the popular antitheft bag but just as thief-proof — among the best travel purses for Europe, safe and stylish. This is essentially the bag featured above but smaller and more compact. You still get all the great anti-theft features (RFID-blocking pocket, locking zippers, and slashproof fabric), but in a burden-free package. It’s possibly the best travel purse for Europe, safe and stylish. The only problem is that the adjustable crossbody strap tends to loosen to its full length, so it might require frequent adjustments.
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Not all bags for travel are made equal and there are a number of features that make for good travel purses:
If you're a person who doesn't carry much around, you may not need one. You can always stash your phone, room card and credit card in a money belt or travel pouch, right? Or if you hate the idea of a traveling handbag, consider a travel daypack instead.
If on the other hand you are a handbag person, here are a few simple questions you should ask yourself before you buy:
Answering these questions will help you choose.
And if you travel often, don't skimp on expense. You're better off investing in the best purse for travel now rather than buying something that will unravel in the middle of nowhere — and that you'll have to replace.
Other than deciding on the best handbag for travelling, 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 for women 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: there goes your perfect handbag for travelling. 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. Keep your bag on the inside rather than on the street side. 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. If this worries you, use a pashmina or a scarf over your shoulder. It won't hide your bag completely but it makes it more complicated for thieves - and they like to keep things simple.
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: someone else might want that perfect travel handbag you just bought.
Whatever I do, I will NOT be hanging my bag on the back of a chair!