Shape-Shifting Bags

There's nothing quite like travel to test the durability, security, and style of a purse. When you're exploring the world, little details—from cut-proof shoulder straps to padded pockets—can have a huge impact on your confidence and comfort. So what does it take to be a great travel bag? Here are 10 of our favorite features of women's travel purses and day bags.

(Photo: National Geographic)

Shape-Shifting Bags

When you travel, one bag may not be enough. Different scenarios call for different bags: a larger tote for the plane, a secure and comfortable purse for day use, and a smaller clutch for evenings. Fortunately, there are a few options that actually function as multiple bags in one. While not common, if you do find a purse that can change shape with your whims, you'll likely find that you can't imagine traveling without it.

We Like: National Geographic sells the amazing Origami Travel Tote ($149). The bright-blue bag with teal and green accents can be folded into multiple shapes, including a cube, a hexagon, a flat bag, and a tote. The straps can be adjusted for shoulder-length or handbag-length use, and the bag has a zip top for security.

(Photo: Urban Junket)

Pass-Through Pocket for Telescoping Handles

Want to give your shoulders a break but aren't foolhardy enough to prop your purse on top of your carry-on as you roll your way through the terminal? Then consider a bag with a pass-through pocket that allows it to slip right onto the telescoping handle of your suitcase. And since the bag you carry on board as your personal item is usually laden with everything breakable, valuable, bulky, and electronic, a secure and sturdy spot to rest it will definitely be appreciated.

We Like: Urban Junket's eco-friendly Korri Carry-All bag ($149.50) is big enough to be a useful carry-on, has a zipper and plenty of pockets to keep things organized and safe, and comes in a variety of great colors.

(Photo: Overland Equipment)

Multi-Carry Options

Do you prefer a backpack for its ergonomic symmetry, but carrying your valuables on your back feels risky? Or are you visiting a museum or attraction that allows purses but not backpacks? Then it's time to consider a bag with handles and stowable backpack-style shoulder straps.

We Like: Overland Equipment's Cambridge bag ($95) can be worn as a tote, backpack, or even briefcase. We like it because the padded straps stow away when not in use. And it's got a pleasing picnic vibe that makes any vacation feel a little more carefree.

(Photo: Travelon

Cut-Proof Straps

Consider for a moment that most of us carry around money and the keys to our identity (driver's license, credit cards, etc.) in pouches connected to our bodies by thin strings that can easily and discretely be cut by purse snatchers. A few security-oriented travel-bag brands—including BeSafe, Pacsafe, Travelon, and VaultPro—feature straps threaded with stainless-steel cables and mesh to create a knife-proof barrier to deter opportunistic thieves.

We Like: Travelon's Anti-Theft Classic Cross-Body Bucket Bag ($60) is not kidding around. Its cut-proof shoulder strap also has a locking carabiner that allows you to secure the bag to a chair or post so it can't get snatched if you set it down. The bag has other security features such as slash-proof panels and locking compartments.

(Photo: Pacsafe)

Slash-Proof Material

In the battle against cut-and-run theft, slash-proof fabrics are a solid first defense. The same companies that integrate cut-proof straps into their travel bags—most notably BeSafe, Pacsafe, Travelon, and VaultPro—design bags with fabrics reinforced by stainless steel and mesh. Some purses have specific slash-proof pockets, while others feature slash-proof bottom or side panels.

We Like: Pacsafe's Citysafe 400 GII Hobo Travel Bag ($120) is fitted with eXomesh Slashguard, a lightweight protective material that is built into the areas most commonly targeted by slash-and-run thieves. The bag comes in four colors and can be carried across the body or over the shoulder.

(Photo: STM)

Padded Pockets for Tech

Offering protection against scratches, minor spills, and impact, padded pockets are key when you're traveling with a tablet or another fragile and expensive item. Long a standard of laptop bags, padded pockets are now making their way into more purses geared toward travel.

We Like: STM's Maryanne Small Laptop Tote ($85) is the best-looking laptop bag we've seen in a long time. The Maryanne is a good travel companion even when you're ditching the laptop at home and simply need a safe space for a smaller tablet.

(Photo: Longchamp)


Sometimes the best bag is the one that is there when you need it and packs away tidily when you don't. That's why purses, totes, and weekend bags that fold up small are perfect for travel. You can stash them in your suitcase then unfold and fill them as your purchases outstrip your available space. In a pinch, some are even sturdy enough to double as checked baggage.

We Like: Longchamp's Le Pliage ($95 and up) line is full of fashionable and foldable small-stowing totes, purses, weekend bags, and just about everything in between. Choose between leather or nylon canvas bags trimmed with leather. Both come in a variety of colors.

(Photo: BeSafe)

RFID-Blocking Accessories

Slash-proof fabrics and locking zippers won't help you if a thief is using a card reader to gather personal information from the RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips in passports and credit cards. And while old-fashioned purse snatching is still far more common than digital pickpocketing, it can still be a good idea to consider a bag with RFID-blocking accessories designed to prevent on-the-sly transmission of your personal information.

We Like: The BeSafe Medium Shoulder Bag ($69) has an RFID-blocking safe pocket that is the right size to hold credit cards and passports. Other security-oriented details include cut-proof straps and zipper pulls with security clasps.

(Photo: Magellan's)

Locking Zippers

We like locking zippers because they discourage wandering hands in crowded environments. And a few bags manage to work in security-boosting locking zippers without adding bulk. Do note that on most bags with the feature, only one or two—rather than all—of the compartments come equipped with the locking zippers.

We Like: VaultPro's Vertical Messenger Bag ($59.50) comes in red or black and has all the security features the company is known for, including zippers that latch and lock. It also comes with a detachable mini LED flashlight.

(Photo: AmeriBag)

Straps Designed for Comfort

Whether your day bag feels heavier when you're traveling because it's full of more stuff—cameras, water bottles, and other on-the-go vacation necessities—or simply because you're carrying it longer and farther while you're out exploring the world, one thing is for sure: You're going to quickly find out if your bag is comfortable. The most comfy purse and bag straps are not too thin, are made from forgiving materials, and don't slip off your shoulder constantly.

We Like: AmeriBag's HBBevo ($60 and up) is a good low-profile option for travelers looking for back and shoulder comfort. The cushioned neoprene strap can be worn on one shoulder or across the body without slipping or digging into the skin. It comes in a variety of colors and fabrics, including microfiber and leather.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Travel-Bag Details We Love.

Follow Christine Sarkis on Google+ or email her at

(Lead Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

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