Every trip I’ve ever taken has begun with a decision about what I will carry. Will I take a big old suitcase or carry-on? Do I want a stylish purse or a functional shoulder tote. Do I have something that’s both? Will I need an evening bag?

Of course my ideal travel bag has changed over time as my tastes hand needs have evolved. Since I’ve become a mom, how we travel and what I need to carry has changed drastically. For a while there were always diapers, then snacks, toys and leaky sippy cups. Now I’m back to wanting a good lipstick and cool sunglasses with me at all times, but I still carry water and a couple of granola bars.

The last few years have been a bit of a Goldylocks-like pursuit of the perfect bag that combines at least slightly stylish form and practical-mom function. I wish someone would make a cute messenger-bag style purse for women, butI have yet to find it.

Here is what I’ve tried and learned so far in my pursuit of the perfect vacation daytime tote.

The Perfect Vacation Shoulder Bag for moms

This Purse is Too Small!

Cute purse
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I would love it if more of my travel required a eye-catching little purse. Imagine going around all day long with something this light, tiny and cute. Alas, the best I can do is take a bag like this along as a satellite bag that I can put in a larger tote during the day and bring on its own when we go to dinner.

These Totes Are Too Big!

I’m willing to accept that I need something sturdy and roomy. And we have a gazillion canvas tote bags stashed all over our home, but aside from a trip to the beach or to the pool they’re just too plain, too deep and too open. All the things I need — keys, phone, metrocard are always lost at the bottom.

A lather tote bag looks great but is too bag and hard to organize

I used to be able to pack for a whole weekend in a leather tote not much bigger than this (my bathing suits were smaller then—in more ways than one); it held all my essentials with room to spare. When I decide I want to look more “woman” and less “mom,” I’ll try carrying a tote like this for a day bag—until I realize it makes my shoulder hurt and I can never find anything in it.

Too Small!

Cute, but not great for travel

Once in a while I get an urge to reconnect with my younger, funkier self and will buy a cool new handbag to bring on vacation. But they’re heavy and don’t hold everything I need. Plus, they don’t leave my hands free; it was essential to have two hands free at all times when I was traveling with a small child.

Too Functional!

Sometimes you just need a backpack
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Sometimes I have a lot of travel writer and mom stuff I need to carry. Then I give up on style altogether and throw a backpack like this in the car or use it for my carry-on bag. It’s not stylish but it’s so practical. Multiple compartments help me organize electronics, snacks, books, a hoody and personal items so I can find them when I need them. At the very least, I’ll never have to carry a diaper bag again (though I loved this Skip Hop bag when I needed it).

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Ahhhh. Just Right!

At the end of the day my perfect travel purse fits all my essentials without being too big, keeps me organized, and is fun and eye-catching if not exactly haute couture. This crossbody Connect Tech bag from Eddie Bauer fits the bill.

What kind of Purse or Bag do you travel with?

What does it say about your life and your travel style? Why do you love it? Recommend it below!

Pin it for later!

Like most moms i've tried giant totes, boring backpacks and cute purses. I finally the perfect crossbody bag for travel. Here it is. #travel #accessories #bag #moms


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  1. I enjoyed reading about your travel bag pursuit! I’ve gone through a similar trajectory, also now wanting function plus a handy place for a good lipstick. I am in need of a semi-stylish, small bag, so I’ll check out your link options.

  2. The bag you picked seems perfect to me. I love to travel with crossbody bags. It is small enough to carry around with all the essentials. Plus, I do not have to be leaving it in counters to enter museums or palaces.

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