Looking for Totes

Recently, my friend L wrote me an email about the search for a great travel tote.

I was wondering if you had any suggestions for a large tote to use when traveling. I’m looking for something that can do double duty: hold a laptop, small purse, make-up, book for when I travel for work, but also serve as a quasi overnight bag for when I fly for fun (holding a small purse, book, make-up, toiletries, maybe a few pieces of clothing).

The most recommended option I’ve found is the Vera Bradley Miller Bag. While I love VB items, I’m not sure there’s a “professional” pattern I can use when traveling for work—should this even be an issue? One friend swears by her Longchamp tote, but the lack of structure (it pretty much crumples up if there’s nothing in it, not idea for a laptop) and the price tag makes me wary.

So let’s see if I can figure this out. You need a professional-looking, structured bag that will work for business travel as your personal item, but also work as a fun trip overnight bag. And it needs to be affordable. We can do this!!

I turned to my trusty favorite, eBags, in search of the perfect bag. I may have gone just a teensy bit overboard, but I swear it’s not my fault. Great bags that fit the criteria just kept leaping out at me! Before I knew it I had a list of more than ten bags that I had to trim. Oh bags, how I love thee.

I had some criteria, in addition to what’s listed above.

Size. Obviously, this is important. A big bag is great, but it can’t be so big that it overwhelms you. And what’s the point of a personal item if it won’t fit under the seat in front of you while flying?

Material. I like purses a lot. I like luggage okay. I do not want my purses to look like luggage. Therefor, finding a great purse for travel that works like a piece of luggage but doesn’t look like one is key. It also doesn’t feel super professional to walk into the office carrying your Samsonite!

Pockets. Pockets are very important! Inside and out, and internal compartments are great too.

Balance. The best purse is one you can sit on top of your rollaboard to simplify walking through the airport. Unfortunately, that’s something that you can’t really judge by seeing a bag; you have to use it to know how well it balances.

Straps. Two straps are better, and if there is an extra long one, even better.

If you’ve been around Road Warriorette for any length of time, you may have noticed that I like color. If I have an option, I will always go for the colors over black or brown. But I get that people like neutrals too, so I have tried to show a variety.

The very practical yet classically lovely Bellino Stefan Satchel is a more traditional duffel bag. It’s size ensures it will hold whatever you need it to, and it’s shape will allow it to fit under the seat in front of you. It is also well priced, and will be perfect for when you need a conservative bag.

Bric’s Metro Shopper is a more modern take. While there aren’t any obvious external pockets, the inside has several compartments. It is also very roomy, has a zip top, and will also work when a conservative look is needed.

Although we are looking more for  structured bags, I felt I had to mention this Tumi Just In Case Shopper. It folds up into a tiny pouch, but will open up to hold an amazing amount of stuff. Specifically designed to sit on top of a rollaboard, it has a strap across the back to hold it in place. Plus it comes in some fun colors.

These two bags from Piel are lovely large purses. They both has plenty of exterior pockets, roomy interiors, and a come in a variety of colors. The Laptop Tote is a little smaller, but has a specific compartment for your computer. The Large Business Tote will hold more items but lacks a laptop compartment.

The JJ Cole Technique Bag is my favorite. I love the retro shape, the lining, and the fun colors. It has double straps, plenty of room, and multiple exterior pockets. Definitely the bag for you if you’re looking to make a statement!

Okay, okay. Just for fun, here is a completely unsuitable but completely fabulous bag from Latico. Swoon!

Readers, do you have a favorite travel bag? What characteristics do you look for?



  1. I absolutely adore lesportsac bags! They are lightweight and basically non-destructable. Many of them can be thrown into the washer if they start to look dingy. I notice that they are a popular choice in Asia and Europe and trendy with the fashion crowd. alot of their patterns are on the trendy, juvenile side but they always have more sophisticated designs which are good if you are a professional. I have about 6 of their bags., although I generally go for the simpler patterns. The weekenders ( Med and large size) are great and function well for an overnight bag. The totes are super functional for an extra carry on. I always put my regular handbag inside one of these, my ipad, pillow, bose headphones and it fits everything, plus more. The totes do double duty as a shopping bag and beach bag! They have mulitiple pockets and also come with a matching cosmetic bag which is really handy. Lesportsac introduces new patterns/designs each season and because they are affordable, I own multiple bags in different colors! My latest is the graphite shimmer which is awesome! Check it out! http://www.leportsac.com

  2. I really like Baggallini – http://www.baggallini.com/

    I’ve had one of their laptop totes for several years and all of their bags have useful pockets.

    The company was founded by two flight attendants – so they keep the frequent traveler in mind in their design.

  3. Fantastic post! Not a huge traveler, but I do have a kiddo. Looking for a great, cute but not an obvious, “hey I’m a diaper bag” bag. :0)

  4. Thanks so much for the post and the suggestions all! I have quite the trip to the mall coming up 🙂

  5. This is an old post, but I’m hoping that someone might see my comment anyway! When you mention putting your bag on top of your suitcase (above), how do you keep it attached? I have been using my company-issued laptop bag for nearly two years simply because I can’t find anything that is cute and has a backstrap to attach to luggage. I can’t imagine the laptop bag staying put while going over curbs, turning corners, etc. without that strap on the back. I would love some ideas! I am so tired of my giant black laptop bag!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.