The more places we go, the less we take. And that means taking the right bags.
From suitcases to messenger bags, below are 5 Travel Bags that we always carry, and why they make packing and traveling much easier.
Three days or three weeks, it doesn’t matter. All of our clothes fit in our carry-on suitcases. Rick uses a generic piece of crap from Walmart, while Karen uses a much nicer Rick Steves Rolling Carry-On (in purple).
The generic bag is poorly made and won’t last long, but it’s cheap. This older Rick Steves model is well-constructed and has lots of storage pockets. It also comes with two mesh bags for dirty laundry and fits perfectly in an overhead bin. This one tends to topple forward and twist sideways, but you can now buy a new-and-improved version with a hard back and better-spaced wheels.
If you want spinner wheels (and Karen thinks she does!), this one by Lucas Luggage gets really good reviews for being ultra lightweight and sturdy.
If you’d rather have a hard case, Samsonite makes a 20″ Omni PC Hardside in lots of different colors.
We both have spacious shoulder bags that we use to supplement our rolling carry-on bags. Rick uses a Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L for his camera, gadgets, and some comfort items. Click here to find out what he stuffs inside his backpack. Or go straight to his Lowepro review here.
As for Karen, she uses a Rick Steves Velocé Shoulder Bag that matches her rolling carry-on. It’s a little bit of overkill to use as a daypack for sightseeing when all she really wants is a water bottle, a wallet, and sunglasses, but it’s great on the airplane and does make a good backpack for hiking. It also comes with a detachable shoulder strap for cross-body wear.
These don’t really help you to pack lighter, but they do make packing much easier. Finding clothes in a suitcase is a breeze when you know all your shirts are in one, your pants are in another… you get the idea. We have several kinds, but we tend to use the Rick Steves packing cubes (top left and right)…
as well as the Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes, like these at left.
We especially like their Original Pack-It Clean/Dirty Cubes (bottom right in picture above) because they have a waterproof barrier to keep clothes separated.
The Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cubes are very lightweight but have zero structure, which makes loading difficult. They are, however, great for socks, underwear, and dirty clothes that can be crumpled into a ball.
For younger, shorter people, we like this American Tourister Atmosphera Rolling Tote. It’s compact and small with an adjustable handle. That means your child can pull it all by himself. Score!
It has a few pockets on the outside and decent interior space for small clothes worn by small children, although we definitely recommend packing cubes to keep everything from becoming wadded up in the bottom. It will even fit under the seat in some airplanes.
The KEEN Emerson Cross-Hatch Messenger Bag for women is Karen’s go-to purse for some urban sightseeing. It holds just enough for the day without being too bulky. Having a cross-body bag that opens to the front is also great for accessibility and peace of mind. It doesn’t hurt that it looks good, too! Click here to see the specs on this bag.
More recently, she’s been digging the Baggallini Criss Cross Travel Cross-Body Bag. It has so many compartments and fits nice and flat against the body, even with a small water bottle and mini umbrella in the middle.
Ethics statement: The items on this page are bags that we actually own, use, and recommend except when otherwise noted.