My Search For the Best Travel Bag For Moms

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? Or is this a big backpack kind of trip? Will it be a stylish purse or functional shoulder bag and do I have something that’s both? Will I need an evening bag?

Of course my ideal tote bag has changed over time as my tastes have changed. And since I’ve become a mom, both how we travel and what I need to carry has changed drastically. For a while there were always diapers, then endless snacks, toys and leaky sippy cups. Now, I still carry water an extra granola bars, but I’m back to wanting a good lipstick with me at all times, too.

The last few years have been a bit of a Goldylocks-like pursuit of the perfect bag that combines stylish form to marry practical-mom function. I with someone would make a cute messenger-bag style purse for me, but no one has.

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!

I would love it if more of my vacations required a eye-catching *evening bag. Or if I could even get away with something tiny and cute all day long. 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 Purses 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 a bit too plain for me. Too deep, too open (I bet pickpockets love them) and not enough pockets for keys, phone, metrocard, maps and so on.

canvas tote bags are great for beach or market, but not the street.

I used to be able to pack for a whole weekend in a bag like 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.

tote bag for when a purse isn't enough
Too Small!

Once in a while I get an urge to reconnect with my younger, funkier self and will buy a cool new purse to bring on vacation. But they’re heavy and don’t hold everything I need. Plus, they don’t leave my hands free (you need two hands available at all times when traveling with kids).

we love this purse

Too Functional!

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 perfect for trips where I need my laptop and camera and a lot of cables, and also for outdoorsy trips, too.

backpacks hold everything but they aren't very stylish.

At the very least, I’ll never have to carry one of these again (though I loved this bag when I needed it).

I used to carry a diaper bag; now I'm back to a purse

Ahh; Just Right

At the end of the day my perfect bag fits all my essentials without being too big, keeps me organized, and is fun and eye-catching if not exactly haute couture.

this shoulder bag from Eddie Bauer holds a lot and keeps me organized. it looks pretty good, too.

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!

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The perfect travel shoulder bag isn't too big, keeps all your essentials organized, and works as a carry-on for flying. Here are totes, backpacks and purses that we tested for travel. #travel #accessories #bag


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  1. October 10, 2017 at 5:54 pm — Reply

    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. March 26, 2016 at 11:59 pm — Reply

    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.

  3. March 26, 2016 at 6:13 am — Reply

    I like the bag you picked, as long as you don’t leave it on the car mirror.

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