As a long-term traveler on the road for more than eight years, I have carefully tested and tried countless travel products. My major hunt was for the perfect travel purse — and after several years on the road, I found one that does the trick for most types of trip. Travelers don’t have a lot of extra space, so it’s important to find just the right gear. There’s an art to travel, and I spent dozens of trips testing options in an effort to reach that perfect mix of practical and useful — but still stylish!
Although finding a great cross-body travel purse was my first goal, over the years I’ve found a few other things that always make it into my luggage. All of these things make my travels more enjoyable and make me look like a put-together traveler.
1. My Favorite Cross-Body Travel Purse
A lot of travelers, like me, carry a purse in everyday life, so it makes sense to carry one while traveling too. I’ve tried to carry my things just in a backpack, or in my pockets, but it’s not for me. So I began the hunt for the perfect travel purse. I have carried expensive bags, cheap sack-like bags, regular purses, messenger bags — none of these bags ever quite kept pace with my travels. I started my yearlong RTW trip with an AmeriBag — this worked well and was easy on my back, but it’s not stylish. And the Baggallini Travel bag is a finalist — it looks good but it’s less durable, so it worked best for nicer vacations, not backpacking. My pretty leather purse looks great for conferences, but was less comfortable for sightseeing.
I did find the perfect travel bag — the Donner by Overland Equipment — but they shuttered in 2015. Eventually I needed a replacement travel purse, so I renewed the search. I settled on Travelon, which channels what I loved about the Donner. It’s the best travel purse I’ve yet found on the market. I like that it looks nice enough to carry out to dinner, but also holds my camera, water, and sightseeing gear.
The Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bag emerged as a clear leader for it’s combination of size, functionality, and number of pockets. If you’re a long-term traveler, it will keep pace with your travels, and if you’re heading to Europe, it will transition from go-bag for sightseeing to dinner with friends.
- Sturdy features, the material is strong and the strap is wide and comfortable.
- Great convenience factors; there are a range of pockets in various areas so you can easily store and find things. I like the back zippered pocket to hold my tickets and passport for quick access.
- Good looking and versatile; works in a range of situations from sightseeing to dinner.
- A great size; this purse fits an outing’s worth of stuff in it: water bottle, sunglasses, mirrorless camera, notebook, snack, chap-stick and Kindle.
- Anti-theft features; I usually travel with a carabiner to secure my purse strap, and this one has it built it. So handy! It also has locking zippers and slash-proof fabric. In Europe, the carabiner and anti-theft features are particularly ideal so you can affix the purse to your chair in places like Paris and Rome where petty theft is high.
I always carry a purse on my travels, and if you’re looking for something ideal for your trips, this one hits all of my positives.
Picking one out: Amazon has a range of gorgeous colors. I prefer the black Travelon, but the grey one is cute too.
2. A Stylish Pocket Scarf
Wearing a scarf is a great way to dress up an outfit when you’re traveling, and the SHOLDIT Fleece Pocket Scarf is a fun, practical addition to your travel wardrobe. It’s wicked useful and they have dozens of colors. Use the pocket to keep your passport, credit cards, and spare cash safe as you roam around Europe or squeeze through crowded streets in Asia. This is also a great way to go super lightweight for a night out on the town as it works as a scarf or a small clutch.
The best travel wardrobes have items that function in different capacities, and this wins on that front. You won’t regret tossing one of these into your bag in a neutral color that coordinates with most of your outfits.
3. A Stylish, Warm, Durable Cardigan
Look no further for the perfect cardigan for your trip. Made from Merino wool (a breed of sheep from Spain), the Icebreakers Bliss Cardigan is my favorite piece of travel clothing. It’s a travel must, especially when venturing around Europe. The weather fluctuates a lot in Europe and you are likely facing warm days and cool evenings. The great thing about Merino wool is that it stays cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather. Having a good sweater is important so that you can keep yourself warm on chilly planes, buses, and trains. And even more, this sweater looks so good that I always get compliments on it when I’m on the road. It works just as well on a plane as it does in a bar for happy hour. I own this sweater in grey and blue, and it’s one item that is always in my travel bag.
4. Cute, Comfortable Sandals
I never thought I would say this, but I have found the perfect travel sandals and they’re a pair of Crocs. I am in love with my sandals. I know, don’t make that face though, because I’m going to make my case. The Crocs Sexi Flip Sandal is so comfortable, and surprisingly stylish, too. Like my cardigan, people have stopped me on the street to ask about my sandals. They’re as comfortable as you would expect from a pair of Crocs, but the style is downright trendy. The soles are manmade and the ankle strap fits well (they are tight when you first order them, so round up a size and then they will fit once you wear them in for a day or two).
I have worn these through half a dozen countries now and my original pair is still going strong (and they’ve never given me a blister). This is the perfect sandal for hot summer days spent wandering through historic European cities and villages.
5 & 6. Security for Your Smartphone
Your smartphone is likely one of the most expensive items in your day bag and you should take a few steps to keep it safe. The best cases on the market are both the Otterboxes and the Lifeproof cases. While Otterboxes are good for daily use, the Lifeproof FRE case wins out for travelers. There is a reason why Lifeproof cases are so popular among travelers, they are almost indestructible. Lifeproof cases protect your phone from falls, sand, snow, and water. Anything you dream up for your trip — your phone case can handle it. There are several colors and styles available, and they also have a floating case if you’re planning a beach holiday.
With the camera safe from drops and spills, now it’s time to prevent theft. I hands-down love my Kenu Security Leash more than most anything else. I traveled Africa with this and I had no worries about dropping it into Victoria Falls when I leaned over the edge. Nor do I worry about a “grab and run” when I’m at the iconic European hotspots (which are known for pickpocketing and theft). I love that I can secure it to a zipper inside my bag to keep from phone completely safe.
7. The Perfect Travel Camera
Depending on your travel style, you may want to bring either just your phone, a point-and-shoot camera, or a higher end camera with interchangeable lenses. You don’t need to have a big fancy DSLR camera to take beautiful photos when you’re travelling, plus a point and shoot is light and does not take up too much room. If you’re looking for something small but powerful, the Canon Powershot S120 is the perfect pocket camera. It’s more powerful than your phone. It goes fully manually. And it takes great photos. One big benefit is the camera’s 24mm wide angle lens — now you won’t chop off part of the Leaning Tower when you’re taking your selfies!
Another great camera option is the Panasonic LUMIX GX7, which I use religiously. This camera has 16MP and a CMOS four thirds sensor. If you considered bringing a DSLR camera, you just have to look at the micro four-thirds cameras. These line of cameras are the hands-down best travel cameras for quality and size. While most travelers will enjoy having a slim point-and-shoot, if you’re considering getting a better camera then read my review of my Panasonic LUMIX GX7 — it’s my favorite purchase in years.
8. Stylish Camera Scarf
Finding a comfortable camera strap is challenging. If you own a DSLR, or if you opted for the Lumix that I recommend, then you might want to upgrade your camera strap. With the Capturing Couture Scarf Strap, I love the idea of a camera strap that is made from a scarf. Made from soft jersey fabric, this scarf camera strap is comfortable, functional, and stylish. It will look great as you snap photos of anything from the Taj Majal to the Eiffel Tower.
Other Items You May Need
In addition to these travel items, I always pack a few extra things that make my travels easier.
- Backup Battery: If you’ll be using your smartphone then don’t forget a backup battery. I like the mid-priced and compact Anker Astro, or the Power Brik Portable charger, which is less expensive, slim, and it will carry at least one charge for your phone.
- Reading Material: I always bring a Kindle as I like have a single-purpose device and no distractions. You can download a few books related to the country you’re visiting and learn about the history, culture, and people as you travel.
- Tunes for the Road: Spotify won’t work overseas, so consider upgrading to Spotify Premium for your trip. With premium, I download all of my music so I have offline tunes for the train rides and days out wandering new cities.
- Handy Travel Journal: There are no better notebooks than a Moleskin and this travel themed one is super cute.
That wraps up the handful of my very favorite items that make it into my backpack on each trip, despite the extra weight. And there are other things I love (my backpack, my hiking boots, etc), but each one of these items have made my travels better in some identifiable way. As a traveler, every single thing I add to my backpack adds to the weight I carry on my back. And as a woman running a business from all over the word, I need to look nice when I’m on the road. For this reason I am ruthless and meticulous about what I allow into my bag. And while many of these items cost more than other brands, these are the ones that tend to combine quality, style, and function. If it’s only going to break or look mishapen a few weeks into my trip, then it’s not a good purchase. My full travel packing list is here. And if you’re interested in fashionable travel gifts, I have a full gift-guide here!