No matter what your travel plans look like—whether you’re checking off a bucket list destination, heading out of town for a work trip or taking a quick weekend away—a classic tote is essential. From structured leather carryalls to roomy canvas bags, the best travel totes check all the boxes and strike a balance between practical and chic.
Los Angeles-based fashion stylist Djuna Bel says an ideal travel tote “should be secretly utilitarian with a clean, timeless silhouette and design.” In terms of capacity, Bel is partial to larger-than-life, oversized totes for all your hauling needs—they’re convenient for a plane ride, functional for a day of sightseeing and elegant for a night out. Our favorite pick overall is the Cuyana System Tote, which doesn’t skimp on quality or space, and the most affordable option is the Charles & Keith Circle Handle Tote Bag made from vegan leather. Ahead, our recommendations for the best travel totes to keep you organized and stylish on the go, wherever you go.
- Best Travel Tote Overall: Cuyana System Tote
- Best Affordable Travel Tote: Charles & Keith Circle Handle Tote Bag
- Best Carry-On Tote: Madewell Zip-Top Transport Carryall
- Best Lightweight Travel Tote: Dagne Dover Small Vida Tote
- Best Travel Tote For Airplane: Lo & Sons The Seville Aire Tote
- Best Designer Travel Tote: Prada Re-Nylon Tote Bag
- Best Large Travel Tote: Longchamp Expandable Travel Bag
- Best Weekender Tote: Bellroy Tokyo Tote
- Best Laptop Travel Tote: Tumi Sidney Leather Business Tote
- Best Work Travel Tote: The Strathberry Tote
Why Trust Forbes Vetted
The Forbes Vetted team has researched, written and published dozens of travel gear stories across the board, covering a wide range of topics from carry-on luggage to laptop backpacks. In order to make the best travel tote selections, we called upon two professional stylists for their shopping expertise: Los Angeles-based Djuna Bel and New York-based Becky Malinsky, who chronicles her latest fashion finds on her style blog, 5 Things You Should Buy.
We regularly update our articles to ensure you’re viewing the most current prices and products on the market. In our August 2023 update, we replaced sold out styles with new favorites including the streamlined Prada Re-Nylon Tote Bag, spacious Longchamp Expandable Travel Bag and weekend-ready Bellroy Tokyo Tote.
How We Chose The Best Travel Totes
To select our top picks, we first consulted industry experts Bel and Malinsky; each walked us through the key features to look for when purchasing a travel tote. We also meticulously read customer reviews online and evaluated the features of bags on the market for fabric quality, versatility and durability. Specific criteria such as material, strap length and compartment design were also considered in order to find the most functional and stylish bags at a variety of price points.
What To Consider When Buying A Travel Tote
When picking a travel tote, you’ll want to keep in mind the scenarios in which you’ll be using it. Some may prefer certain features over others, but you should definitely take the following elements into consideration:
The ideal travel tote should be strong enough to hold your laptop and other necessities, while light enough to rest over your shoulder throughout your trip. A sturdy yet soft leather (or sustainable plant-based alternatives) generally provides the most durable options. For a timeless look, take the seasons into consideration.“Look for fabrics that work for three or four seasons of the year,” says Malinsky. “Something straw won’t work in the winter and patent leather isn’t great in the summer. A nice tan leather or suede will work all-year round.”
When choosing your perfect travel tote, Malinsky says look for long, thick and durable straps that can securely sit on your shoulder, especially when wearing bulky layers like a coat. “I see so many adorable bags with a hand-only strap or a short strap that wouldn’t fit over your shoulder. It just spells frustration down the line,” she says. “You want to be able to carry it easily. You’ll usually fill it full with miscellaneous items, on top of your laptop, and often carry another handbag with it.”
The size of the tote you select depends on the nature of your travel. A quick day trip spent sightseeing in the city warrants a smaller, more lightweight bag, while a longer excursion requires a tote with more storage. If you plan on carrying your laptop, you’ll need a bag that measures at least an inch wider than your device. Those who want to bring their tote on a flight should double check that the dimensions of the bag will clear their plane’s underseat space.
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