For the longest time I used a Herschel black backpack , which lasted three years before I felt it needed to be retired. I cut the Herschel tag off the front pocket with a seam ripper and also removed the brown leather tabs and it looked a lot less schoolkid-ish. I like the idea of a tote and used to keep stuff in a Monocle Rootote but it was always falling over and spilling its contents.
No more. Confession: I love my Fjallraven Kanken. I know, I know. Everyone has this backpack. And yes, you will look like a Scandinavian school child at best or a era hipster who has somehow managed to time travel at worst. But this backpack is so light, so compact, and so durable it really is ideal for stuffing under tiny airplane seats.
I throw my passport, money, ID, phone, headphones, mints, and face wipes in my fanny pack worn across my chest, not my waist less out of a fear of pickpockets and more out of a desire to remain completely hands-free in the airport. A win for both me and my traveling companions.
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I originally bought this backpack for college, but it has since found a new life as my go-to personal bag for travel. Also, the expandable pocket in the back somehow always manages to come in handy. The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments , rolling luggage , pillows for side sleepers , natural anxiety remedies , and bath towels.
We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change. Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission. You can stash a few outfits and toiletries in the main compartment and use exterior compartments for reading materials, gadgets, and so forth. But because these bags are larger than most airlines' personal-item limits, it will count as your carry-on item—and you probably won't want to pair it with a full-sized checked bag if you can help it.
It's pricier, but you're getting a well-constructed bag with smart organization, smooth-as-butter spinner wheels, and a ballistic-nylon exterior. Within the last 10 or so years, luggage retailers have discovered that travelers need to bring technology with them wherever they go. Enter the category I call "smart bags": small handheld luggage that is designed specifically for those traveling with tech devices.
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Smart bags have fancy bells and whistles that appeal to flyers with tablets, e-readers, laptops, and smartphones. They're compact and often not much larger than the size of a handbag or regular personal item. Each bag generally has dedicated pockets or labeled slots for your gadgets as well as other features like portable chargers, space for battery packs, and cord-organizer systems. Even if you don't travel with every product Apple ever made, a smart bag is a great choice for someone who travels with lots of extra stuff: books, earbuds, snacks, lip balm, tissue, and all the other little things that sink to the bottom of your bag mid-flight.
And smart bags often count as personal items not full-fledged carry-ons , which make these a great supplement to a larger bag. The downside is that these types of bags are often quite small. The options are exhaustive.
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Some favorites that have crossed my desk are the Genius Pack High-Altitude Flight Bag a slim bag that straps onto the tray table and for which you can buy a mobile battery charger and the Cocoon Grid-It line of backpacks absurdly well-organized, with rubberized straps to hold all your stuff in place.
If you want something slim and unobtrusive, the STM Maryann laptop tote is perfect for minimalists—and it's pretty cute. There are plenty of quality backpack and duffel options out there that aren't my baby-blue JanSport. What's great about backpacks and duffels is that they're naturally lightweight and come with comfortable straps, leaving you hands-free for your travels. They're extremely easy to stow beneath seats or stuff in overhead bins, and some convert into rolling bags for easy transport.
Of course, the tradeoff for all that convenience is that they're often smaller than classic rolling carry-ons, and the exterior materials tend to be sporty, favoring durability over fashion.
Look for low-profile, high-quality bags from major luggage lines. If you're more of a duffel fan, this convertible Osprey Ozone bag offers the convenience of straps with the added bonus of a handle and wheels perfect for adventure travel. Diaper Bags. This one is a wild card but stick with me—our marketing manager, Erin Liszewski, shared this tip, and I thought it was brilliant.
She says a stylish diaper bag is the perfect travel companion: "Back in college, my friend showed up at the dorms with what we initially made fun of and then came to admire and covet—a Kate Spade diaper bag.
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The bag looked like a sleek tote for carrying books on the outside, but inside had tons of different compartments for everything a college student needs throughout the day—a water bottle holder, zipper pouches for her student ID and T pass, even a little place to keep her lunch cool and dry. My friend is now a world-traveling mother of an infant, and she—as well as I—carry sleek diaper bags when traveling, even without kids.
I think this is a super-smart move. And diaper bags are even roomy enough to fit a change of clothes, which makes them a great option for a weekend-getaway bag. No frivolous bells or whistles appear at first glance—not terribly impressive. Holy organization, Batman. In addition to a pretty roomy interior, the Genius Pack features an integrated garment suiter that folds neatly into the main part of the bag.
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There is also a pocket for a miniature travel umbrella and another for a water bottle and yet another for magazines; an exterior compartment on the top includes space for a smartphone and the Genius Pack mobile charger as well. Inside the bag are several more compartments of varying size: perfect for electronics, cords, socks, or other small items.
The pocket and its contents hidden in the interior wall of the bag can be compressed with a small air valve, meaning no more balled-up dirty laundry for return trips.
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Other suitcases contain laundry bags, but this unique laundry technology is novel—and space-saving. Additionally, the bag seems to be very high-quality.
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