Travel Gear We Use: Best tote bags for travel

We’ve already declared our favorite travel day pack, perfect for carrying all your necessities (and the kids’) during a typical day traveling, but what about the larger tote bag you need in airports and on the road? I’ve tried over a dozen travel-sized tote bags recently, in a quest for the best. Here’s the winning list.

Best tote bags for travel:

Duluth Trading Company Lifetime Leather Tote Bag: 

travel toteIt’s so pretty, you’ll wonder if this leather tote really is a durable as Duluth Trading Co says, but it really does seem to be ‘lifetime’ worthy. This substantial, full-grain leather tote is timeless, and the oiled leather ages beautifully. I worried about scratches and rips; after all, I’m not gentle on my bags. But the scratches I’ve put on my leather tote so far have faded to nothing within days (and Duluth says they have cream you can buy to care for your leather bag, too). While I wish this tote had a few more internal pockets, it has one deep zippered one, and best of all, the top zippers closed. As you’ll see as you continue reading this post, a zippered top matters a lot to me. I need my stuff secure, especially on planes, where it can all spill out so easily. This tote also has two side water bottle pockets, which are slim, but perfect for my Swell bottles I like to use for travel. You’ll pay a hefty $170 for the Lifetime Leather Tote Bag, but…lifetime, guys.

Note: if you like the idea of a lifetime leather bag but don’t want a tote style, Duluth’s Lifetime Leather Crossbody Bag is also a contender. It has more internal pockets and even a key fob, which I love. I actually like the style better…it’s almost a hobo bag…but I couldn’t give it top billing because the top doesn’t zipper shut (though it has a nice magnetic closure).

Fjallraven Totepack No. 1:


Fjallraven makes some of my favorite travel bags (their duffels are excellent), and this tote converts from a backpack to a tote and back again. Honestly, I almost exclusively use it as a tote, because for backpack mode, it uses the shoulder straps, which I find less comfortable in the backpack configuration. That said, it can be handy to convert it when you need to be hands-free. The Fjallraven Totepack is made of a wonderful waxed canvas material that is weather-resistant and doesn’t show dirt. This is a substantial bag that has some heft, and keeps its shape, another plus for travel days. The top zips closed (of course), and you get a roomy zippered outside pocket, too. There’s also a smaller inside pocket that zips as well. It comes in an absolute ton of colors, which is fun, and sells for $110. You can also go bigger with the Totepack No. 2.

Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote:

If you want something more sporty (though certainly no more rugged than the above totes), the Patagonia travel tote fits the bill, and best of all, stuffs down into its own small travel pouch. Everyone needs at least one tote or backpack that stuffs down to stash in their bag. This one has significant straps, which is rare on a stuff-able tote, and like the Fjallraven, it converts to a backpack. You get a zippered top, a big interior zippered pocket, and mesh outside water bottle pockets (though I don’t find them quite deep enough). You can compress it down as needed, and it’s only $80.

Baggallini Balance Tote:

I didn’t expect to love this large yoga tote so much, but I keep reaching for it on travel days. It is roomy but squishes down under the seat nicely, zips closed, and has tons of compartments and pockets inside, a nice Baggallini standard. You can fit a lot in it, and the side pockets are roomy enough for any kind of water bottle. The back panel of mine has a sleeve to slip over my roller bag handle, which is an awesome feature, but it doesn’t look like the current version still has that…bummer. It does have straps for your yoga mat, if you’re using the bag for its intended purpose, which I have only done sparingly. It’s $118, and will last you a long time…though I find that the somewhat shiny nylon does show dirt and stains easily.

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Do you have a favorite tote? What is your best tote bags for travel pick?

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.



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