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The Best Weekend Travel Bags, According to Seasoned Travelers

Photo: FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A quick weekend getaway can be a restorative stopgap when a weeks-long vacation feels too far away — or when a global pandemic makes planning a farther-flung trip too complicated. 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, whether it’s an extra-large tote or a rolling suitcase. As long as it’s compact and convenient enough for you to grab and get on your way, it’ll work. But we were curious about what folks who travel for a living carry when they’re weekending, so we reached out to more than 20 frequent travelers about their preferred bags to pack for a weekend escape. Read on for their 21 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).

Baggu Canvas Weekender

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 starts at $20.

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. But she adds that the bag is still stylish enough to take to a work meeting. Adding to its functionality, the bag comes with shoulder straps as well as a removable cross-body strap.

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.

Baggu Puffy Tote
Photo: kabir fernandez

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.

“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.