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Top Qualities in Travel Purses (With the Best Packing Checklist!)

Kibou travel purses in canvas options midnight and jade

Do you have an upcoming trip?

Recently I went to NYC. I saw bum bags and crossbody bags everywhere I looked. And it's no surprise. These bags are great for exploring (and everyday use as well).

Before my trip, I knew I needed a bag to work as my personal item while flying and hold all the essentials.

But with so many styles and varieties, it can be overwhelming to choose the perfect travel purse. Travel handbags should be personal (not just functional). And for myself, it was important to travel light and feel good about how I looked too.

Here are some important things I considered while looking at travel purses, and I found this packing list especially helpful. (I hope you do too!)

Travel Purses

When shopping for a travel purse, there are many options these days ranging from a belt bag that fits small and securely around your waist to the more traditional shoulder bag.

One thing seems clear; however, a bigger bag is typically OUT for hands-free travel. And shoulder straps MUST be comfortable if a roomy shoulder bag is what you're going for.

The in-between bag these days seems to be the ever-so-popular crossbody bag with an adjustable strap. (My personal fav.) It's the lightweight travel handbag I can't leave the house without.

But when choosing the perfect travel purse for you, everyone is different. There are multiple factors to consider.

Woman traveling on vacation wearing Kibou travel purse

Style and design

Yes, it's actually possible to choose a travel bag that can be beautiful. There's a nice array of colors and fabrics that make travel bags more stylish these days. And it can even be the perfect accessory for an outfit.

Choosing a travel purse doesn't have to make you look like a tourist. And it's always a good idea to choose a color that doesn't easily show the dirt.

Pro Travel Tip: Choosing earth-tone colors has worked out great for pairing with my travel outfits. It's also been easier to clean tan and black colors vs. creams or lighter shades.

Bag type

Travel bag type is absolutely a personal preference.

I really love my Kibou crossbody and fanny pack travel purse. I can easily access my ID, phone, cash, and credit cards. It's also great for having in front of me in crowded spaces vs. a backpack where I can't see if someone is trying to open my bag behind me.

If you can find a crossbody bag with an adjustable belt extender (like Kibou), you're also guaranteed comfort - being able to loosen or tighten based on your preference. (The belt extender happens to be free today with a Kibou purchase - just another bonus.)


Look for a travel purse that's functional and has a spacious interior for the items you need.

Some of us need more to carry than others (which I totally get.) So your travel purse size could vary. But figuring out how you want to pack all your belongings can help determine the carry on bag and travel purse you want to take.

Pro Travel Tip: What helps me is laying out what I need and then going back through two additional times to remove or replace items. It gives me a sense of the type of bag I need to carry my things, and it helps me pack less in both my carry on and travel purse. (Not every place has elevators and Ubers!)

Super lightweight

If it's international travel or going somewhere nearby, a smaller bag typically means less stuff and less weight.

Yes, having a somewhat roomy interior with multiple pockets likely will come in handy. But making sure it's a bag that doesn't get too big to carry on your day trips out will matter. (Your body and feet will thank you.)

Kibou travel purse in black vegan leather with travel essentials

Organizational Features of Travel Purses

When you're on the go, it's helpful if your travel purse helps keep you organized. Here are some great things to look for.

Interior zip pockets

It helps to have some interior pockets with a zipper to keep items separate and easy to grab. I always like one interior pocket designated for my ID, cash, and credit cards. It helps me know where to look whenever I need them (no guessing or digging necessary.)

Exterior slip pocket

An exterior slip pocket is nice for the backside of my travel purse that rests against my body. It's where my phone can fit snugly inside. As often as I'm grabbing for it to text, check email, or look at a map for directions, I like having it in a slip pocket vs. a zip pocket for quick and easy access.

Passport slots

If you have a passport that doesn't easily fit with your ID, cash, and credit cards, having a passport slot is a nice addition. You know exactly where your passport is when you need to grab it quickly. It's especially helpful while traveling and needing to show it in a hurry to catch your flight.

Water bottle holder

Traveling is a good way to get dehydrated easily. This collapsible water bottle is great for tucking into your travel purse and pulling out when needed. Making sure you have a water bottle holder or specified location in your travel purse allows for one less thing you must carry by hand.

Key clip

Ever try to find your keys in a hurry with no luck? (We've all been there.)

A key clip in your travel purse gives you a place to clip your keys, so there's no losing them. No more frantically looking for your keys and adding to the stress of traveling while trying to see new places. 

woman looking over at NYC wearing a Kibou travel purse

Safety Features of Travel Purses

Because you're traveling, you don't want to look like a lost tourist. Consider some of these safety features to help protect you and your things vs. carrying your current purse.

Anti-theft features

Anti-theft bags that zip entirely shut locking the main compartment is a very good idea. Carrying a bag with an open pocket that doesn't zip invites someone to reach in and steal what you have while you're not looking.

Pro Travel Tip: When you're in crowded spaces or on subways, ensure the zippers are toward the front of your body. For added security, place your hand over the zipper so there's no way of someone trying to unzip your bag to steal your belongings.

Front zippered pocket

Travel purses with a front zippered pocket are also useful for storing less expensive essentials like your chapstick and hand lotion that's nice to grab on the go easily.

RFID blocking material

In the world of technology, it's becoming easier for thieves to steal from you by activating the RFID tag on your debit, credit, and ID cards. But some travel purses have an RFID-blocking card or wallet compartment made of carbon fiber and aluminum to prevent this from happening.

You can determine if travel purses have this by paying attention to the product detail information. It's usually called out pretty clearly.

Waterproof Features of Travel Purses

Traveling also means your chances of getting stuck in inclement weather or spilling a beverage on your bag is much more likely. Looking at travel purses with waterproof features is smart.

Durable, water-resistant materials

Look for a bag made of materials that will hold up against all kinds of weather (rain, sun, and cold.) Vegan leather (used for the majority of our Kibou bags) is a durable and water-resistant material great for travel purses.

It's also a good idea to look for travel purses that can easily be wiped off and cleaned if it gets dirty from your adventures.

Waterproof pockets

Even if you don't have kids, having a waterproof pocket allows you to pack wet wipes for those needed clean-up moments. From cleaning off fingers from eating sticky foods or wiping off dirty tables, having a waterproof pocket is a handy feature. The Kibou has a waterproof pocket that is great for storing wet wipes (or wet socks if you get caught in the rain.)

Knowing what to look for in travel purses before purchasing is helpful, but also knowing what to pack in your travel purse can save you a lot of time.

Kibou travel purse with travel essentials

What to Pack in Your Travel Purse

Of course, different trips may require some different items, but this is a solid packing checklist of items to fit in your travel purse for the next trip you take.

  • Passport
    When you're traveling internationally, you need to carry an up-to-date passport with you.
  • IDs
    Any additional ID cards need to be packed in your travel purse as well. Carrying an extra copy of your ID and storing the copy in a different bag isn't a bad idea either.
  • Phone
    This is a no-brainer. (I know I don't go anywhere without my phone these days.) It can be the lifeline to communicating with those we love, but while traveling, it's great to help you navigate and take photos. (No additional camera bag required - unless you want to take one.)
  • Credit Cards
    You want to be able to pay for things, right?
  • Cash
    Same as above, and it's also wise for those random shops that only accept cash and not credit.
  • Charger for phone
    With your phone being used for texting, calling, looking at maps, and taking photos, it drains your power quickly. I realized that personally on my recent trip. So be sure to pack a charger or an extra battery backup, so you're not left with a dead phone while you're out.
  • Collapsible water bottle
    I love this collapsible water bottle for the space it can save you while traveling. Simply pull it out when you need to get water, and once you're finished, collapse it to store it in your bag. Talk about convenience and also being environmentally friendly. (No more plastic water bottles.)
  • Hand lotion/sunscreen
    These days it's great to carry a lotion that hydrates your skin and has SPF to protect it against the sun's harmful rays. Here's one we recommend.
  • Hand sanitizer
    When no warm water and soap are in sight to wash your hands, it's nice to have a bottle of hand sanitizer. We've all become more acquainted with its usefulness since Covid.
  • Hair ties
    If you have long hair, having some hair ties on hand can be a lifesaver. There's nothing like sweating, and you have no way of putting your hair up to get some relief. Pack a couple to be safe in case you lose one.
  • Chapstick
    Warm climates or cooler climates, I'm always reaching for my chapstick or lip balm. It's a small essential that always feels like an annoyance when I don't have it with me.
  • Sunglasses
    Of course, you don't want to forget your sunnies. My favorite pair of sunglasses is another essential I regret not having if I forget to pack them.
  • Umbrella
    Think about packing a mini travel umbrella like this one. It works twofold - to shield you from a rainstorm or shade you from intense sunlight. If you have an umbrella, it also means you can ditch the rain jacket.

Traveling should give you the opportunity to explore but also show off your everyday style that you enjoy at home. A travel purse is simply an extension of your style.

Instead of compromising on something for functionality's sake, it's possible to find a stylish and useful travel purse that looks like you. And like in my case, you may find it to be your go-to bag for at home as well.

Choosing the right travel purse and remembering what to pack isn't easy. Let's face it, planning for trips is stressful. But hopefully, after reading this article, you'll know what to look for to find the travel purse of your destination dreams. Happy adventuring!

Kibou travel purses in vegan leather tan, blush, olive, and charcoal

If you’re looking for convenient and minimal travel bags, shop our different Kibou bags and accessories. They are an excellent travel purse choice, and others think so too.

You don’t have to take our word for it…

"Five Stars - My favorite belt bag/fanny pack yet!"

"It took awhile to find a roomy yet stylish and durable black leather fanny pack that is roomy enough for the essentials & more when traveling with a toddler. I came across the Kibou and so far have been loving it -- it's the only bag I'm planning to bring for 7 weeks of travel as it can work for day and night." - Becky N.

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