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Which shoulder bag for travel is best?

Whether you lead a jet-setting lifestyle or you only travel on occasion, having the right bags ready to go will save you the hassle of figuring out your luggage before you head on a trip. Finding the best shoulder bag for travel will prepare you for all of your travels, near or far. 

You should consider what size shoulder bag you need and make sure it’s convenient to travel with. If you’re looking for a shoulder bag for travel that’s stylish and roomy but not bulky, the Vera Bradley Cotton Weekender Travel Bag is the top choice. 

What to know before you buy a shoulder bag for travel


In addition to a luggage set, it’s a good idea to have a more compact shoulder bag for travel. However, the size you choose will depend on a range of factors. 

If you need a bag for single-night stays, for instance, it can be much smaller than a bag for a long weekend trip. You should also consider whether your shoulder bag is the only luggage you’re taking on your trip or, instead, if the shoulder bag that you’re using is considered your personal item on a flight, in addition to a larger carry-on or checked luggage. A sizable duffel is great for longer trips or as your only piece of luggage, while a more compact overnight bag or weekender bag will suffice if you don’t need to carry as much in your shoulder bag. 

Carry-on allowances

If you want a shoulder bag to take with you on a flight, you should make sure it aligns with carry-on rules and can fit under a plane seat — unless you’re prepared to store it in the overhead compartment above your seat. Carry-on sizes can vary slightly between airlines, but if your bag measures equal to or smaller than 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches, it should be accepted as a carry-on by most airlines. Smaller shoulder bags may also meet the requirements for you to carry them on a plane as a personal item in addition to a larger piece of carry-on luggage. This allows you to store travel essentials — such as your phone, book, passport and snacks — in a compact bag you’ll have easy access to, whereas you can store your larger carry-on bag in the overhead bin. 

What to look for in a quality shoulder bag for travel

Pockets and compartments

A good shoulder bag for travel should have several pockets and compartments, so you don’t have to rummage for important travel documents or your cell phone in the packed main compartment. 

Adjustable straps

An adjustable shoulder strap allows you to more easily carry your bag in a comfortable position to suit your height. 

Carry handle

It’s nice to have a shorter handle on your bag in addition to the longer shoulder strap, so you can carry it in your hand if you choose to. 

How much you can expect to spend on a shoulder bag for travel

Affordable shoulder bags for travel start at around $15-$40, while top-end designer options can cost thousands of dollars. Unless you’re looking for a high-end designer shoulder bag, you should be able to get a well-made option for less than $100. 

Shoulder bag for travel FAQ

What type of bag is best for travel? 

A. There’s no single bag that’s best for travel, as it depends on what the user prefers and the type of trip you’re taking. If you need to pack two weeks’ worth of clothes, for example, a compact overnight bag isn’t going to be suitable for that length of trip, but it would be perfect for a weekend away. Ultimately, consider your travel style and what you want in a bag before buying. 

Are shoulder bags better than backpacks for travel? 

A. If you’re still considering whether to buy a shoulder bag for travel, you might be wondering if a backpack or shoulder bag is the better choice. Both have pros and cons, so it comes down to personal preference. While backpacks are arguably easier and more comfortable to wear for long periods of time, shoulder bags give you quick access to your belongings as there’s no need to remove your bag to rummage inside. Some people also feel shoulder bags are more secure and less prone to pickpocketing in busy transport hubs, since you hold the bag on the side of your body rather than on your back.

What’s the best shoulder bag for travel to buy?

Top shoulder bag for travel

Vera Bradley Cotton Weekender Travel Bag

Vera Bradley Cotton Weekender Travel Bag

What you need to know: With its spacious yet manageable size, this shoulder bag is ideal for weekends away. 

What you’ll love: This is a durable bag, crafted from 100% cotton. It has a range of exterior pockets and compartments for items you need easy access to. The bag features both an adjustable, long shoulder strap and shorter carry handles.

What you should consider: The floral and paisley prints aren’t all buyers’ tastes. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top shoulder bag for travel for the money

Adidas Court Lite Duffel Bag

Adidas Court Lite Duffel Bag

What you need to know: This affordable mini duffel bag is a lightweight and versatile shoulder bag for travel. 

What you’ll love: You can choose from a range of colors. This bag has a secure zipper closure and an adjustable shoulder strap. It features two exterior pockets to hold travel documents or anything else you need close at hand. 

What you should consider: The compact size means it isn’t suitable as your only bag unless you’re going for a single-night trip. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Ben Sherman Vegan Leather Travel Duffel

Ben Sherman Vegan Leather Travel Duffel

What you need to know: This is an elegant shoulder bag that’s durable, spacious and great for travel. 

What you’ll love: Made from high-quality faux leather, this bag is sturdy without the maintenance or ethical concerns of real leather. It’s available in a black or brown finish. An internal pocket inside the main compartment is perfect for holding your phone or passport. 

What you should consider: This bag could be improved with some additional pockets or compartments. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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