In our advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with one of your own — we’re here to help.
Help me, dear Strategist! I’m going on two very different international trips in the next few months (Nicaragua and Japan) and am looking for a cross-body bag that will work for both and doesn’t scream TRAVEL BAG. I’m looking for a goldilocks size that I can wear with my backpacking pack that will hold a water bottle and small book, along with my wallet and phone. I realize I’m describing the Baggu drawstring you all talk about so much, but I’d love to spend less than $75. Any clues?
Then there’s the Baggu duck bag, which is like a tote, but with an extra extendable strap that can be worn as a cross-body. It may be a bit bigger than what you’re looking for, but has a small pocket for your passport, wallet, and phone — the essentials — and the bigger pocket can fit a lot more of whatever you might want to lug around.
Moving right along, this Be Safe bag was designed specifically for travel. An RFID-secure pocket keeps your passport and credit cards safe from data thieves, and the steel-reinforced, adjustable strap guards against slashers. It’s also got seven pockets for all of your stuff.
This more classic-looking messenger bag also has RFID protection and locking compartments. It’s got almost 500 very happy customer reviews on Amazon.
This slightly bigger version has a water bottle pocket and is the highest-rated travel bag on Amazon. I also feel like although it’s built for travel, it doesn’t scream “I’m a tourist.”
And here’s a straw bag if you really want to avoid that travel-bag look.
We were in touch with style blogger Karis Renee this week for another story, but decided to send along the question to see if she had any thoughts. Karis Renee did not disappoint. First, she let us know about these seat-belt bucket bags. I’d never seen anything like them before, but they’re supposed to be very durable, and I’m kind of into seat belts as a texture. Very travel.
I think this Tumi one Karis sent us is great, but it’s way out of your budget. If you happen to be intrigued, though, and are looking for more like this, check out Tumi’s Voyageur collection.
And lastly, Karis left us with a funny tip: diaper bags actually make for the best travel bags. “They make those things tough to last, and now there are so many cute ones.” She sent us the above.
Update: After this post went live, we heard from some people in the comments. We’ve added those bags below.
Flip & Tumble’s travel cross-body has a side and top zip closure, super lightweight construction, and it’s made of a durable ripstop (that means it’ll never tear) nylon. It also fold into a very small pouch, so it’ll basically disappear when you’re not using it.
There’s also Lululemon’s Festival Bag, which they’ll say is for Sunday errands but is actually perfect for travel. It’s got a bunch of pockets, zipper and snap closures, and it’s made of waterproof materials, so bring this one along to the beach without fear. It also comes in seven colors.
Our travel-bag-obsessed commenter didn’t love this one, but we figured you should at least have the option to check it out. It’s got loop-lock zipper pockets, RFID protective material, anti-slash bottoms, and it’s made of a smooth, lightweight material its maker, Sherpani, calls “Liquid Nylon.”
And then there’s the Hong Kong–based Hellolulu, which has two bags that fit the bill. First, the Corbin, which is a thin, square, cross-body that’ll still fit a water bottle and all the necessities. The second is the Kasen, which is a bit bigger and more in the vein of the bum packs and waist packs that have become popular once again. Both are well-designed and built to last.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.