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For most females, our purse is our lifeline. In everyday life, we never know what we might need, which is why it can often seem like a bottomless pit for everything from hair clips, tissues, and receipts to a good book.
But on your travels, your purse is even more essential. You’ll be using it for your important documents, your phone (which means your camera, maps, and communication tool), and your hotel or hostel room keys! Therefore, it needs to provide a certain level of extra utility in order to prove worthwhile for packing.
Theft protection features and comfortable straps for long wear are important considerations. As is your style of travel.
Whatever you are in the market for, take a look at our top travel purses that are both functional and cute, you’ll be sure to find something perfect for your travels!
Our Top Travel Purses Shortlist
Keep reading for even more options from each category.
Essential Qualities of a Travel Purse
A purse needs to have certain features to make it perfect for travel. While some purses are specifically marketed as travel purses, you don’t necessarily need to buy a travel brand of handbag if you choose based on the best features.
However, a lot of times, travel-specific bags will be a better option in some way be it through security, comfort, or organization.
Choose a purse that works best for you and keep an eye out for these qualities when shopping:
Comfortable: The most important feature of a travel handbag is the ability to wear it for a full day of walking around. It must have comfortable straps and plenty of compartments for keeping everything you need organized.
Secure: Crossbody bags are better at preventing theft (they are harder to pull off your shoulder), as are slash-proof straps. While we still recommend the robust security of a slash-proof mesh-lined travel purse, going for something made of leather is usually tougher to cut through than fabric.
Also, forget the bags that only secure with a snap or magnet and go for a tough zipper that you can then lock with a lobster clasp or carabiner clip in crowded areas. If for some reason you prefer the look of a bag that has only a snap closure, try to find one that has a hidden pocket to store your more valuable purse items.
The Right Size: The size and style of purse will depend on how you intend to use it in your travels. Will you use it for cash, cards, and small bits and bobs (like lip balm and a mirror)? If so, then a smaller purse that can also act as a clutch can suffice. Some travelers, like Adventurous Kate, prefer the smaller purse models because they can easily be managed, shifted, and hidden close to the body.
If you intend to use your travel purse to carry extra essentials- think in place of a daypack– then bigger is better. In that case, the ability to fold small for days you may not use it is even better.
What to Carry in Your Travel Handbag
While traveling, here are a few items that I recommend always carrying with you. Some items can be substituted if you have a smartphone, but backups are great in case your phone loses charge!
- A map of your destination, which you can typically pick up for free at the visitor’s center
- The address to your hostel or hotel, ideally a business card
- Pen and paper
- Copy of some form of identification, preferably a passport
- Bandaids in case of blisters
- Lip balm
- Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
- Travel scarf for churches or other religious sites
- A foldable water bottle
If you choose the right travel handbag, you could even use it as your carry-on luggage and fit everything you need for a week of travel in it. Yes, that includes your clothes, shoes, AND toiletries!
If you think this sounds like an easy and stress-free way to travel, but don’t know how it could ever be possible for you, check out the HPL Packing Method. A proven 4-week program from Brooke Schoenman, Founder of Her Packing List, that teaches you to pack so confidently light that you could travel for a week in a personal-item-size bag.
Top Travel Purses by Type
We have a mix of travel and non-travel purses on this list. Choose the one that works best for you and your needs.
Minimalist Travel Purses
These types of bags have a slimmer profile and are purely for the essentials. Minimalist travel purses are best for people who don’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary stuff while traveling and sightseeing, and they definitely love that they can easily be worn close to the body or underneath jackets.
Baggallini Bryant Pouch
The Baggallini Bryant Pouch’s compact style makes it the perfect size for carrying just the essentials. Plus, it will take up almost no space in your bag and it only weighs 5 ounces!
The RFID-blocking technology keeps your credit cards and ID from being scanned and stolen. There are multiple credit card slots to help you stay organized and the removable 52” adjustable strap allows you to travel hands-free. The strap can convert this crossbody bag to a pouch that you wear at the waist. It’s also lightweight and water-resistant.
Brooke used this as her travel purse on a 2.5 week international trip and was thankful for the compact size. It was just big enough to hold her cards, a little cash, a FulFill container with lip balm and lip shimmer, her phone, a pair of Ombraz sunglasses, a hair pick, and a pen.
For a little extra space, she added an On the Go Link Pouch to the strap to hold hand sanitizer and personal products.
She could stuff her pouch into her main bag (the 8L convertible Pacsafe backpack in this article!) and be one bag in a pinch.
Healthy Back Baglett
The Healthy Back Baglett is the mini version of the Healthy Back Bag (featured later in this post) and is the perfect crossbody bag for everyday essentials. It’s super versatile. It can be worn on either shoulder or around your waist and the strap is adjustable and detachable. It is water and stain-resistant, easy to clean, and the lining is treated with an antimicrobial technology to prevent the development and spread of bacteria.
It features 2 exterior and 1 interior pocket and a key hook on an elastic band. As a bonus, this travel handbag comes in a whole range of fun colors and patterns.
- Buy the Healthy Back Baglett now
Pacsafe Go Anti-Theft Sling Pack
The Pacsafe Go Anti-Theft Sling Pack is ideal for city day trips, long walks, sightseeing, music festivals, bike rides, or a night out. It is made from a water-repellent shell fabric and features numerous security features like RFID-blocking pockets and material, a slashguard strap and material to prevent thieves from slashing your bag, a zip clip, and a dual-release security buckle.
- Buy the Pacsafe Go Anti-Theft Sling Pack now
Osprey Aoede Crossbody Bag
The Osprey Aoede Crossbody Bag offers both a minimalist aesthetic and comfort. This travel purse features a flap front pocket with a secure zippered main compartment and a zippered rear pocket for close-to-body valuables. The shoulder strap is adjustable and there is a key clip for internal organization.
- Buy the Osprey Aoede Crossbody Bag now
A messenger handbag is a great option for a traveler who wants to carry just a little bit extra with them on their days traveling. This might be a great option if you get cold easily and always want to have a small cardigan with you or if you need to store a Turkish towel for modesty when entering religious venues. The crossbody style means that you can always keep your valuables close to you.
Travelon Anti Theft Messenger Bag
The Travelon Anti Theft Classic Messenger Bag will carry and keep more items organized than everyday bags which makes it perfect for a day out traveling. Especially if you’re going to be taking off layers of clothing. This water and dirt-resistant travel handbag features a slash-resistant lining and strap, locking compartments, and an RFID-blocking organizer.
There are also zippered mesh water bottle pockets on each side and a tethered key clip with an LED light.
Guest blogger, Kristen, told us about the different features of her bag and how it kept her from being pickpocketed in Portugal.
Manhattan Portage Mini NY Messenger Bag
Don’t be fooled by the word ‘mini’ in the name, this travel handbag can still fit a lot of things in it. The Manhattan Portage Mini NY Messenger Bag is ideal for anyone trying to carry a little extra while still keeping a low profile. The spacious interior compartment features a zip compartment and it has a water-resistant coating and a strong hook and loop closure.
- Buy the Manhattan Portage Mini NY Messenger Bag now or shop the Classic Messenger Bag if you’re looking for something with a bit more space.
Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag
The Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag is a timeless crossbody bag ideal for daily use and travel. It can fit an iPad Mini, an e-reader, and small journals or books. They also make the same style in two other sizes if you are looking for something a bit bigger.
The main compartment has 4 organizer pockets and two O-rings. There is a front zippered pocket to secure important items and a slanted open-top pocket in the back for quick-access items.
Convertible Bags (Backpacks, Purses, Waist Packs, and More)
The perfect pick for travelers who want the best of both worlds but don’t want to compromise their minimalist packing technique. A convertible bag lets you have more travel purse options without taking up extra weight or space in your luggage. One example is a backpack for days spent sightseeing that then folds down into a travel purse for a night out.
Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Convertible Backpack
The Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Convertible Backpack is two stylish anti-theft travel bags in one. The convertible design can be worn as a backpack or folded down into a handbag.
The smart zipper security and cut-resistant materials protect your belongings and the RFID-blocking pocket protects your credit cards and passport against unwanted scans
This bag is made with post-consumer recycled polyester equivalent to 5 recycled plastic bottles! Perfect for the eco-friendly traveler.
- Brooke used this 8L convertible backpack as her ONLY luggage on a 2.5 week trip. Learn how she did it by enrolling in the HPL Packing Method.
An 8L convertible handbag to backpack chock full of Pacsafe's signature theft protection features. Fits a tablet. Brooke traveled for 2.5 weeks with just this bag!
Keen Hybrid.Transport Recycled Shoulder Bag III
The Keen Hybrid.Transport Recycled Shoulder Bag III is a light, durable everyday shoulder bag made from recycled nylon with a zip pouch for cards and keys. It is water-repellent and the large fold-out bottom securely holds containers the size of a shoe box. The perfect travel purse for when you end up buying more souvenirs on a day out than you think you’re going to.
- Buy the Keen Hybrid.Transport Recycled Shoulder Bag III now
Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Convertible Crossbody and Waist Pack
The Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Convertible Crossbody and Waist Pack can be worn either as a crossbody bag or as a waist pack depending on how the straps are attached.
This water and dirt-resistant bag features a built-in 5-point anti-theft security system to protect your valuables. This includes a slash-resistant mesh barrier, a slash-resistant lock-down strap, locking compartments, and an RFID blocking organizer. The interior includes an organization panel and zippered pocket, and there is a front zippered pocket and a quick access rear slip pocket.
Comfortable Handbag Options
Comfort is key when it comes to your travel purse. You’re going to be wearing this purse for long days sightseeing and certain features can make this experience a whole lot more comfortable. Think of bags that evenly distribute weight or mold to the shape of your body.
Healthy Back Bag
The ergonomic shape of the Healthy Back Bag hugs the natural curve of your back distributing the weight evenly down the spine. The strategic pocketing not only keeps your possessions organized but also shares the weight evenly around the interior of the bag to make it feel lighter and put less stress on your neck, back, and shoulder. Ideal for a long day of traveling. There are 3 exterior pockets, 6 interior pockets, 2 pen slots, and a key hook on an elastic band
The lining of the full-sized version of the Healthy Back Baglett, has also been treated with antimicrobial technology and the main compartment zip is always against your back (no matter what way you wear it) to ensure your valuables stay safe.
Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Crossbody Bag
The asymmetrical shape of the Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Crossbody Bag molds to your body creating a comfortable fit perfect for long travel days. In addition to this thoughtful silhouette, the shoulder strap is adjustable to give you the perfect fit.
Like all Travelon bags, security is a top priority in the design. The material is slash-resistant and there are RFID blocking card slots. There is a front and back zippered pocket and two quick grab front flap pockets with convenient magnetic closures. There is also a tethered key clip with an LED light in the main compartment.
- Buy the Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Crossbody Bag now
Baggallini Modern Everywhere Waist Pack Sling
When walking through the airport or spending a day sightseeing, the last thing you want to think about is holding another bag. That’s what makes the Baggallini Modern Everywhere Waist Pack Sling so convenient. The bag is adjustable which means it can be tailored to your body and with multiple sizes, you’re sure to find the sling that’s just right for you.
This lightweight travel purse is made from a water-resistant material and has multifunctional pockets.
- Buy the Baggallini Modern Everywhere Waist Pack Sling now
Carry Everything Handbags
Sometimes no matter what you do, you need to carry a lot of stuff and a more minimalist bag won’t cut it. If you’re going camping, spending a long day at the beach (and have to pack towels, sunscreen, water, and snacks), or simply doing a grocery shop to cook back at your accommodation, a carry everything bag is a great option for you.
Keen Harvest Adventure Tote
The roomy Keen Harvest Adventure Tote is made from upcycled factory scraps.
It has large inside dividers and large and small pockets to make it easy to neatly store small items. The inner side pocket has a wide bottom to store bottles and avoid spillage. The shoulder strap is adjustable and has a shoulder pad for comfort. When you’re not using it, the Keen Harvest Adventure tote can be rolled up and stored inside its own pocket.
- Buy the Keen Harvest Adventure Tote now
Baggallini Modern Everywhere Drawstring Bag
The Baggallini Modern Everywhere Drawstring Bag is all about convenience with a quick-access drawstring opening. The key leash, privacy pocket, pen loop, and scratch-resistant pocket all offer extra organization options, while the carry handle and crossbody strap let you wear your drawstring crossbody bag however you’d like. Bonus, this bag is machine washable.
- Buy the Baggallini Modern Everywhere Drawstring Bag now
Tom Bihn Pop Tote
The Tom Bihn Pop Tote is a zip-top tote bag designed with distinctive snaps at the top. These four snaps can be opened or snapped shut as needed to create a large opening. There are two open-top pockets, one on each side of the main compartment, and two zippered pockets, one on each side of the open-top pockets. The handles have foam padding for extra comfort.
Backpack Style Purses
A backpack style purse is for the traveler who wants the ultimate convenience of hands-free travel. This is also a great option for travelers who suffer from a sore back as the weight of the bag is distributed across both shoulders instead of just one.
Not only that but backpack style purses often have a bit more room than your standard travel purse meaning you don’t have to worry about placing things like your water bottle or cardigan down and forgetting about them.
Fjallraven Mini Kanken Backpack
The Fjallraven Mini Kanken Backpack is a durable, water-resistant, and quick-drying backpack, perfect for everyday use. Its small size makes it ideal for your essentials when you are spending the day sightseeing. A foam layer prevents your things from poking you in the back, ensuring all-day comfort. There are two flat side pockets and a zipped pocket on the front.
The Fjallraven Mini Kanken Backpack comes in a huge range of colors and styles.
- Buy the Fjallraven Mini Kanken Backpack now
Osprey Arcane Small Day Backpack
The Osprey Arcane Small Day Backpack is meant for life on the go. It features a wide zippered opening, a 13-inch padded laptop sleeve, a soft, breathable harness, and a self-locking security hook (perfect for keeping your things safe while traveling).
The Arcane Small Day Backpack is made from 7.8 plastic bottles!
Sherpani Vespa Mini Backpack
The Sherpani Vespa Mini Backpack is the perfect mini backpack for any day’s adventure and ideal for carrying all your necessities. There is a front zipper compartment and an exterior zippered pocket and the internal compartment is divided into two sections for organization.
The RFID-lined front pocket gives you a place to store your credit card and passport securely. This backpack is large enough for an e-reader and most tablets.
You don’t need to worry about your bag getting damaged on your travels because all Sherpani bags come with a lifetime warranty.
- Buy the Sherpani Vespa Mini Backpack now
Baggallini Essential Mini Backpack Purse
The lightweight Baggallini Essential Mini Backpack Purse features a convertible strap which allows you to wear this bag as either a backpack or a sling bag. There are a host of multifunctional pockets with RFID-blocking card slots for an extra layer of protection
After your travels simply throw this bag in the washing machine for easy cleaning.
- Buy the Baggallini Essential Mini Backpack Purse now
Travel Purse Alternatives
While a travel purse is no doubt very useful, they’re not for everyone. Even if you really don’t want to have to worry about an extra bag while traveling, there are still some essentials that you always need to have on you, like your phone, room keys, or passport.
There are some great options out there to keep your valuables safe and secure on your body while at the same time leaving you free to explore without the weight of a travel handbag.
Speakeasy Travel Scarf
The Speakeasy Hidden Pocket Travel Scarf is for the traveler who really only takes their essentials when they leave for a day of sightseeing.
This special infinity scarf has a hidden pocket so you can stash your extra cash, cards, chapstick, keys, and passport without anyone knowing it’s there. They come in different weight options so if you plan on stashing heavier items, like your phone, you’ll want to invest in a heavier weight.
- Buy the Speakeasy Travel Scarf now
Hidden Pocket Travel Clothing
Rather than carrying a bag for just your phone, keys, and card, invest in some clothing pieces with secure, zippable pockets. As women, so much of our clothing is made WITHOUT usable pockets! We’ve found some top choices of travel clothing WITH functional pockets to make carrying your essentials easy and secure.
- Check them out in our Stylish Theft-Proof Travel Clothing for Women blog post.
Money Belt and Money Belt Alternatives
Many travelers prefer to use some version of a money belt – whether this be a traditional money belt, bra pouch, or a hidden pocket – over carrying a travel handbag. A money belt fits the essentials, like money, cards, and your passport (depending on the product’s size) while keeping your valuables safe and secure close to your body.
If this sounds like you, check out our blog posts to find the best option for you:
- Money Belts: My Waist Wallet Experiences + 7 More Secure Styles
- The Bra Stash Personal Security Wallet
- Buddy Pouch: A New Money Belt Alternative
- Going Handbag-Free: 14 Products to Help You Ditch the Purse
Didn’t Pack A Travel Purse and Need One?
If, on your travels, you are going out to one dressy dinner, you might not want to waste precious space in your luggage by packing a purse that will only be used once. At the same time, you’re probably not going to want to bring your everyday backpack with you to a fancy restaurant.
The solution: repurpose what you already have!
Get creative with this one. Maybe your cosmetic pouch or coin purse can be used as a makeshift ‘purse’ for special occasions while traveling.
Brooke (Her Packing List founder) has used a wallet with a wrist strap for bars and dinners on her travels. The wallet usually lives in her backpack during the day so she’s not packing anything extra but she still fits right in at fancier venues.
Do you have a favorite travel purse? What do you carry in your travel handbag?