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The Best Weekend Travel Bags, According to Seasoned Travelers

Photo-Illustration: retailers

As many of us gear up for a return to the office this fall, you may be hoping to squeeze some of last year’s canceled plans back onto your calendar — whether it’s a friend’s postponed wedding or a much-needed three-day trip to the beach. A quick weekend getaway can be a restorative stopgap when a weeks-long vacation feels too far away or planning a farther-flung trip doesn’t fit into your schedule right now. It’s a (hopefully) low-key and low-stakes endeavor, and you want your luggage to be the same way. A weekend travel bag can be anything, really, including a trusted tote, durable duffle, or even a rolling suitcase (if you’re packing heavy). But the trick is to find one that’s compact and convenient enough for you to grab and get on your way. It’s called a weekender for a reason. “Think about the types of trips you normally take and how you want to use the bag. If you’re flying a lot, a bag that fits below the seat rather than a rolling carry-on could save you from getting your luggage gate-checked and wasting time at baggage claim,” explains Molly Fergus, the general manager of TripSavvy. We were curious about what folks who travel for a living carry when they’re weekending, so we reached out frequent travelers about their preferred bags to pack for a weekend escape. Read on for their favorites, which include duffels, totes, and backpacks.

Best weekend travel bags

The Patagonia Black Hole Duffel is a favorite of two of our travelers — National Geographic photographer Steve Winter and Stephanie Be, the creator of blog TravelBreak and travel app Buena. Be, who says the bag is ideal for an outdoor enthusiast, likes that it “transforms from a duffel bag into a backpack with padded shoulder straps,” a feature she says is especially convenient if your weekend plans include hiking, because “wearing it on your back distributes the weight nicely.” Winter agrees that it’s “great for weekends because the bag is weather- and waterproof and incredibly lightweight.” He adds that Black Holes are great for longer trips, too. (On one work trip to Brazil for National Geographic, Winter told us he checked 41 bags — “all Patagonia Black Holes.”) He also appreciates that the brand stands behind its products — even if you purchase them from other retailers: “Anything you’re dissatisfied with, you can return, and they also donate money to terrific environmental causes.” (The Black Hole duffel, not surprisingly, also made our list of the best duffel bags for travel, according to frequent travelers).

If you prefer a simple tote for weekend trips, gallery manager Zachary Wampler and Strategist editor Alexis Swerdloff recommend this one from Baggu. “I have owned a couple of duffel bags in my life, but my go-to for the past few years has been this bag, which can take a beating without consequences,” says Wampler. He personally discovered this by “repeatedly squeezing and shoving the bag with gusto into tiny overhead bins and cluttered car trunks.” Wampler, who has the bag in black, adds that it’s not only reasonably priced but still holds up after years of heavy use. Swerdloff agrees that it’s quite versatile, saying she’s used it on various trips, whether she’s traveling by plane, train, or car. Plus, “I can really just stuff so much in,” she adds, noting that the bag can hold things for her toddler in addition to her own belongings. “It makes schlepping around a thousand diapers, various toys, books, and, of course, a zillion tiny pants and shirts a little less daunting,” she promises.

Julie Mulligan, the owner and designer of cocktail lounge and restaurant Lot 15, says she’s been through many overnight bags over the last few years, “but very few have stood the test of time.” For a hard-shell bag, she and her husband, Chris, stick with Away’s Carry-on rolling suitcase, but when she wants a smaller duffel, she reaches for Longchamp’s expandable weekender (as does creative director Daniela Velasco). Made of nylon with leather top handles and flap closure, the shoulder bag features a zipper that, when opened, expands the bag by another six inches in height. She says of both brands, “Away and Longchamp are two brands that we feel are reliable when it comes to quality and come in many colors for you and your partner to mix and match.”

If you like the look of the Longchamp but prefer something a little more structured, consider the brand’s Boxford duffel, which Kathleen Hyppolite, the owner and creative director of Kat Flower, recommends. “I’m an exuberant packer, so I need a bag that can handle the bulk while maintaining a level of chic simplicity,” she says, calling this bag “a real workhorse — durable and completely adaptable to all environments.” She says it works on a weekend away at your boss’s country home or on a beach holiday with your friends.

For an even more structured bag, real-estate agent and Strategist contributor Robert Khederian recommends this handsome one made of cotton canvas with leather accents. He likes that it comes in a different silhouette than your average duffel, calling the bag “roomy without being cumbersome,” and “classic yet distinctive” enough that it will stand out from other bags if you’re traveling with a group. Yolanda Edwards, founder of YOLO Journal travel magazine, also loves the Paravel, noting that her cherry-red version always gets tons of compliments. A bonus: You can monogram it for an extra fee, which costs between $15 for foil letters and $75 for hand-painted emojis.

Be also uses this canvas weekend travel tote from Béis “for a regular weekend out of town.” She likes that it’s functional — the water-resistant bag has a sleeve that allows it to be placed on top of a rolling suitcase, organizational compartments including a laptop sleeve, and a separate bottom compartment where she can keep her running shoes. Those are also the favorite features of frequent flyer Leila Najafi, who works as a travel writer. Najafi uses the added space to pack shoes, an extra pair of jeans, and sometimes a purse or two that she squeezes in. But Be adds that the bag is still stylish enough to take to a work meeting. That’s an opinion seconded by blogger Nabila Ismail of Dose of Travel, who says this tote “was created with stylish travel in mind” while still being functional with a water-resistant exterior. Adding to its functionality, the bag comes with shoulder straps as well as a removable crossbody strap.

Najafi’s go-to bag for road trips and quick getaways, however, is this weekender from MZ Wallace. She stumbled upon it at Bloomingdale’s a few years back — now it’s one of her travel essentials. The bag fit what she was looking for: something big and durable that wasn’t too clunky to carry on. “The material is also water and stain resistant and can be easily cleaned with a mild soap,” according to Najafi. As a bonus, she says the bag, which lays flat, doesn’t take up too much space in her closet.

$108

Ismail’s beloved weekenders include this one from Lo & Sons and Away’s the Weekender — but out of the two, she prefers the Lo & Sons. That’s because of the easy-to-clean canvas and the bottom compartment that zips separately, Ismail says. And she’s able to fit more into the Lo and Sons bag, too. But she does give Away’s bag brownie points for being more trendy and stylish.

If you’re looking to really splurge on a weekend bag, Liz O’Brien, a dealer specializing in 20th-century decorative arts and design, recommends this duffel from heritage luggage brand T. Anthony. “I’ve used T. Anthony bags for as long as I can remember,” she says. “From a design perspective, the stuff just always looks smart with the contrast leather trim.” She likes that the bag is “roomy without being too heavy,” adding that the luggage looks even better in person. Like the Paravel weekender, this can also be monogrammed — but at no extra cost.

For an overnight getaway, Jenny Nguyen, the founder and editor of travel website Melting Butter, relies on Baggu’s Puffy Tote. She says the “super-lightweight” bag is comfortable to carry “because of the padded straps and cushioned exterior.” While the bag is compact, Nguyen says it is still “large enough to fit all of your toiletries, shoes, and an outfit,” noting that there is “an external pocket that’s perfect for your phone, keys, and wallet.” When she’s not using it, Nguyen adds that the bag also packs down nicely for easy storage.

A gift from his girlfriend, this duffel has become a go-to for Phil Dengler, co-founder of travel journal the Vacationer. Before this bag, Dengler traveled with what he describes as a “heavy and bulky carry-on suitcase” on flights, weekend excursions, and even single-night trips. But this duffel has become an essential for “any trip of five days or fewer,” according to him. Dengler appreciates how the bag “has a ton of compartments for organization” for his shoes, laptop, and charger and can still fit into overhead bins on airplanes. He describes it as “roomy, sturdy, lightweight, and very comfortable to carry,” whereas “other bags have fallen short on one or more of those things.”

[Editor’s note: This bag is currently on backorder, and although Amazon says it will ship soon, there’s no official back-in-stock date just yet.]

“There are few more classic combinations than waxed canvas and leather,” says Khederian, who also recommends this duffel from L.L.Bean. That’s because waxed canvas only looks better with use, he says, and is “made to get beaten up.” Featuring a classic shape with leather drop handles, an adjustable shoulder strap, side pockets, and a reinforced bottom, this can be banged around a bit. “You don’t need to be precious,” Khederian adds.

If you’re looking for something handmade, consider the journey bag from Peg and Awl, which designer Michele Varian recommends. The bag, which has six interior pockets and leather handles, is made in Philadelphia from waxed-cotton canvas, which Varian says is “superlight” and doesn’t “add to what I’m hauling around at all.” Varian, echoing Khederian, likes that she can “abuse” it, too, and that it looks better the more she uses it. Another feature she appreciates: its unisex design, “so my husband and I can share it.” She told us that it’s more than big enough for the two of them to use together.

Photographer Natalie Amrossi (a.k.a. Misshattan) opts for this leather duffel bag by Kenneth Cole when she’s packing for a weekend trip. “I’m constantly traveling and need a bag that is not only functional but stylish,” she says. Amrossi likes that the simple design gives it “a certain timeless quality,” and appreciates that the bag fits everything she needs for going on a short trip, thanks to its many pockets.