Maybe I'm on a quest for something that doesn't exist. I sure seems that way because I've never been able to find the perfect bag for travel. When I was in Italy last year, the strap on my tote bag gave out -- hell, it'd cost $5 and I'd lugged far too much stuff to far too many places in that bag. I'd got my money's worth.
A good hand bag can make such a difference in your travel experience, I think. If I'm out walking all day, I don't want to be forever rummaging through my bag for my stuff. I want to know my things are secure and easy to find. And I want it to be comfortable.
As I looked around the shops for a replacement, I thought one day I should design my own bag so that it met my requirement perfectly. That got me questioning what I'd look for in a bag.
I have shit I have to use my hands for and holding a handbag isn't often on that list. Cross body bags might not always be the cutest look but they are as practical as hell. Hands-free and there when you need them.
I'm not a backpack wearer and more often than not, will just fling a backpack over one shoulder which is so bad for your posture. Also, I hate the idea of having all my stuff on my back. I'm bad enough with a cross body bag -- usually let them hang down near my butt. In Europe, I had to keep reminding myself to be aware of my bag. If that stuff was on my back, I'd be screwed.
Of course, a comfortable strap is essential. I've had welts on my neck from strap friction and that just gets worse in hot weather. Sweat + a thin canvas strap rubbing on your neck is a recipe for pain!
Every travel web site will tell you about the importance of having a secure internal pocket for your valuables. I do like a zipped pocket to add the extra level of security.
Equally important to me is to have an easy access pocket on the outside of the bag. What's the point of having your passport, cash etc in a secure pocket if you have to dig into that secure pocket every time you want to buy a coffee or get out your bus ticket? You want to be able to whip that ticket out quicksticks and get it scanned so you aren't in a crush of people opening yourself up to pickpocket risk.
This is where my current bag fails - no outside pocket!
Another important factor for me is having a separate place for a water bottle. Once my sister got a bottle of Coke from a vending machine and put it in her bag. Even though she didn't open it, it leaked out all over her stuff. Neither of us will put a bottle of liquid in our handbags now unless it's securely upright.
I like having a place for things so I'm not rummaging around in my bag. I don't want things bumping around and getting scratched. On the other hand, too many pockets mean searching forever to remember when you put stuff.
Smaller is better but I've lived in places with crazy weather enough that I want to carry a cardigan around even on the hottest day, just in case.
I travelled around Europe last year with a tiny bag. It fit my camera, my wallet, my tablet and a bunch of other stuff. But... it was so tightly packed that when I had to get out something small, like a pen etc, I'd have to unload everything to search for it. I don't like the idea of piling everything out of my bag onto a table where some light-fingered crim can grab it.
I'm not sure what else to call this but I mean how the bag closes. I used to have a cute satchel but the whole opening and closing process was so annoying that I never closed it and would walk around with an open bag, like having all my stuff in bucket!
I also had a Crumpler messenger bag for a while. For all their hipsterness, I got rid of that bag because it had a velcro fastening. I'd never close it properly and that velcro wrecked so many pairs of tights. Screw that.
What I like - a magnetic clasp that is easy to close on the bag flap and maybe some other way of closing it - like a zipper or drawstring.
There are a lot of travel-specific bags you can buy with all kinds of safety features but the one thing that they lack is cuteness. Sure, I want my stuff to be secure but I don't want to look like some dowdy tourist. And, let's face it, there are thousands of locals in any city you visit who manage their everyday life with a regular bag and don't get robbed.
I mean, my bag doesn't have to be red polka dots (although my current bag is), but I don't want something so ugly, I'm embarrassed to carry it around.
Also, I hate earth/neutral colours. No brown, no beige. Don't like them and they don't go with anything in my wardrobe.
Is there anything I'm forgetting? What are the things you find essential in a travel bag or wish you had?