The Best Travel Totes: Versatile Options To Carry Vacation Essentials

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We independently select all products and services. If you click through links we provide, we may earn a commission. Learn moreVettedTravelThe Best Travel Totes: Versatile Options To Carry Vacation EssentialsSeunghee SuhContributorOpinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.Forbes VettedKatherine LouieForbes StaffForbes VettedMar 8, 2024,04:43pm EST

No matter what your vacation plans look like, a sturdy tote is an essential component of any travel wardrobe. The best travel totes are versatile and roomy, allowing you to sling your essentials over your shoulder and leave your hands free for your phone, passport or even a cup of coffee. From structured leather carry-alls that provide enough durability for your laptop to foldable canvas bags perfect for shopping trips, there’s a travel tote for every type of need.

If you have a trip coming up and are considering purchasing a tote, we’ve researched a wide range of options, from larger-than-life, oversized totes to smaller, functional pieces that work for a day of sightseeing or even an elegant night out. Our top overall pick is the Cuyana System Tote, which doesn’t skimp on quality or space, while the most affordable option on our list is the Charles & Keith Circle Handle Tote Bag, made from vegan leather. Ahead, our recommendations for the best travel totes to bring along with you on your 2024 trips.

Best Travel Tote Overall: Cuyana System ToteBest Affordable Travel Tote: Charles & Keith Circle Handle Tote BagBest Carry-On Travel Tote: Madewell Zip-Top Medium Transport ToteBest Lightweight Travel Tote: Dagne Dover Small Vida Cotton Tote BagBest Travel Tote For Airplanes: Lo & Sons The Seville Aire ToteBest Designer Travel Tote: Prada Re-Nylon Tote BagBest Foldable Travel Tote: Longchamp Large Le Pliage ToteBest Weekender Travel Tote: Bellroy Tokyo ToteBest Laptop Travel Tote: Samsonite Mobile Solution Deluxe CarryallBest Travel Tote For Business Trips: The Strathberry Tote

Best Travel Tote Overall

A Perfect Bag For Staying Organized On The Go

MOST POPULAR

Cuyana System Tote

Buy From Cuyana

Materials: Pebbled leather | Colors: 6 total, including Cappuccino and Dark Olive | Size: 10 x 17.25 x 5 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

If you’re looking for a functional and attractive travel bag, Cuyana’s System Tote is extremely well designed. It’s available in two sizes: the 13-inch (pictured above) and the slightly larger 16-inch. This minimalist tote is fully customizable with add-on accessories, including a laptop sleeve, adjustable wide strap and zipper pouch insert; just keep in mind that each piece costs $58 to $198 extra. For $15, you can also get it monogrammed for further personalization. While the stacked costs make this pick an investment, you’ll get your money’s worth thanks to its versatility — it’s a travel bag, crossbody and evening clutch, all in one.

What our travel experts say: “This leather bag is spacious and durable, and it holds the essentials without being bulky,” says Forbes Vetted contributor Andrea Servert Alonso-Misol. “I also like that the System Tote has a stiff bottom and soft sides. The rigidity of the base keeps items in place and the bag upright when left on the floor, while the soft sides allow bulkier items (like shoes) to fit inside and prevent the bag from looking too slouchy when worn emptier.”

Pros:

Pebbled leather wears well and holds up over timeThick shoulder straps feel durable and less fragile than standard strapsEasy to customize to organize your accessories

Cons:

No zip closureAdd-ons cost extra

Best Affordable Travel Tote

A Budget-Friendly Option To Elevate Any Travel Look

Good Value

Charles & Keith Circle Handle Tote Bag

Buy From Charles & Keith

Materials: Vegan leather | Colors: 5 total, including Cognac and Mint Green | Size: 7.9 x 14.6 x 12.2 inches | Weight: Not listed

Whether you’re dressed in a classic button-up shirt and sleek trousers or a midi dress with strappy heels, this circle-handle bag from Charles & Keith elegantly elevates any travel look at a wallet-friendly price. The detachable inner pouch gives easy access to your keys and makeup while the shoulder strap provides versatility and comfort.

Pros:

Strap can be worn over the shoulder or cross-bodyDetachable pouch for separate usage

Cons:

No zipper closure

Best Carry-On Travel Tote

A Tried-And-True Essential

Madewell Zip-Top Medium Transport Tote

Materials: Leather | Colors: 3 total, including English Saddle and True Black | Size: 11 x 12.3 x 5.5 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds

Durable and oversized, this lightweight tote from Madewell is made of semi vegetable-tanned leather that looks just as good after years of wear and tear. Inside, you’ll find pockets for your smaller essentials plus enough room to fit snacks, books and toiletries without looking too bulky. A zip closure on top ensures that none of your belongings will spill out while in transit. By signing up for Madewell’s complimentary perks program, you can get your tote personalized with your initials for free. (Without signing up, customization costs an additional $10).

What our travel experts say: “The Madewell Zip-Top Transport Tote is easily one of my most-used bags to date,” says Forbes Vetted updates writer Claire Epting. “The roomy front pocket and zippered inner pocket keep my essentials easily accessible, while the spacious interior provides enough room for a sweater, book and film camera (my travel must-haves). It’s ideal for day trips, but it can easily complement a suitcase for longer excursions. I only avoid using it when it’s raining because I don’t want the leather to get wet.”

Pros:

Interior pockets can hold phone, wallet and keysComes with a removable cross-body strapComplimentary personalization

Cons:

Leather material is not spill-resistantNo laptop compartment

Best Lightweight Travel Tote

A Light And Versatile Bag For Any Trip

Dagne Dover Small Vida Cotton Tote Bag

Buy From Nordstrom

Materials: Organic cotton | Colors: 2 total, including Natural and Onyx | Size: 14 x 11 x 6 inches | Weight: 2.3 pounds

Weighing just 2.3 pounds, this compact tote is a lightweight yet spacious carryall for any trip or day of the week. It has multiple inner and outer pockets, a clean design and a slip compartment with Velcro closure that’s perfect for carrying a 13-inch laptop. The wipeable lining is also great if you’re packing shoes or anything that might spill.

What our travel experts say: “Crafted out of 100 percent organic cotton canvas, it’s a minimalist’s dream, with no major branding, hardware or extra details that might make me tire of it after one season,” says Forbes Vetted deputy editor Jane Sung. “The Vida tote also has four exterior pockets and several interior pockets that help organize everything from iPads and books to sunglasses and sanitizing wipes.”

Pros:

Can be hand washed with cold water and soapComes with a multiple compartments, including one for a water bottle

Cons:

No zipper closure

Best Travel Tote For Airplanes

A Jetsetter’s Travel Companion

Lo & Sons The Seville Aire Tote

Buy From Lo & Sons

Materials: Nylon, poly jacquard, leather | Colors: 2 total, including Black and Deep Navy | Size: 12.5 x 13 x 5 inches | Weight: 2.6 pounds

This travel-ready carrier is a good choice for those who are frequently on business trips. Its built-in outer sleeve easily slides onto any rolling suitcase, while the front pocket comes with multiple compartments in varying sizes to stash and pull your passport, wallet and pens in a cinch. Inside, there’s a dedicated padded sleeve to protect your laptop from damage when you’re inevitably jostled through airport security. If you need a bit more space than the 13-inch size has to offer, there’s also a 15-inch option as well.

Pros:

Lightweight, water-resistant materialAvailable in two sizes (13-inch and 15-inch) for versatilityCompact size fits under any airline seat

Cons:

Too many compartments might not offer flexible usage

Best Designer Travel Tote

A Classic, Sustainable Pick From An Iconic Brand

Prada Re-Nylon Tote Bag

Buy From Prada

Materials: Recycled nylon, Saffiano leather handles | Colors: 2 total, including Black and Desert Beige | Size: 13.8 x 11.4 x 6.1 inches | Weight: Not listed

Founded in Milan in 1913, the Prada brand has become synonymous with luxury and innovation. And while many swear by its impeccably crafted leather handbags, it turns out Prada also knows its way around a travel tote. This streamlined bag is constructed out of recycled nylon with Saffiano leather handles, ensuring that it will stand up to regular use. Prada’s signature triangular emblem sits right between its zip-top opening and roomy front pocket.

Pros:

Iconic, established brandStreamlined, classic designSustainably made

Cons:

No laptop compartmentExpensive

Best Foldable Travel Tote

A Sleek And Spacious Option That Folds Flat

Longchamp Large Le Pliage Tote

Materials: Nylon with leather trim | Colors: 6 total, including Black and Steel | Size: 12.3 x 11.8 x 7.5 inches | Weight: 0.7 pounds

A foldable travel tote is a great way to save space in your closet when you’re not traveling. This option from Longchamp has a spacious interior and one smaller pocket for stashing your phone and wallet. The zip-top closure ensures your belongings won’t fall out in transit, and the water-resistant lining means you can safely carry liquids without worrying about spills. The best part? It folds down when not in use so you can throw it in your luggage or backpack without taking up too much space.

What our travel experts say: “I’ve had this foldable tote for the past eight years and it’s my go-to bag for both weekend trips and longer getaways,” says Forbes Vetted lifestyle editor Katherine Louie. “It fits several days worth of clothing and I love that the lining is water-resistant. I’ve had a few spills over the years and the material is easy to wipe clean.”

Pros:

Water-resistant liningOne interior compartmentFolds down when not in useSecure snap and zipper top closure

Cons:

No laptop compartment

Best Weekender Travel Tote

A Durable Yet Stylish Pick For Overnight Trips

Bellroy Tokyo Tote

Buy From Bellroy

Materials: Recycled nylon and polyester, leather | Colors: 5 total, including Ranger Green and Melbourne Black | Size: 14.2 x 18.5 x 5.1 inches | Weight: 1.4 pounds

In our review of the Bellroy Tokyo Tote, we declare our love for this pick as a versatile, wallet-friendly work bag for women, but it’s equally great as a weekender bag for trips. Constructed from water-resistant fabric with ethically sourced leather details, the 15-liter zip-top tote offers multiple interior pockets for toiletries and a laptop sleeve for devices up to 13 inches. A zippered pouch on the front allows for easy access to a few small valuables.

Pros:

Affordable priceMultiple interior pockets Water-resistant material

Cons:

No detachable shoulder strap

Best Laptop Travel Tote

A Commuter-Friendly Carryall

Samsonite Mobile Solution Deluxe Carryall

Materials: Nylon fabric with vinyl trim | Colors: 2 total, including Black and Navy Blue | Size: 12.5 x 20.5 x 7.5 inches | Weight: 1.2 pounds

This versatile option from Samsonite offers multiple pockets to stash your daily necessities including a padded laptop compartment and exterior side pockets for a water bottle and umbrella. There’s also an exterior front pocket for items that you might need quick access to and a convenient trolley sleeve. Users love the size and say the nylon construction is strong and durable. (The fabric is treated with a water-resistant coating so you won’t have to worry about inclement weather while traveling.)

Pros:

Removable padded laptop sleeveMultiple interior and exterior pockets Fabric is treated with a water-resistant coating

Cons:

Limited color options

Best Travel Tote For Business Trips

A Classic Option For Both Work And Travel

The Strathberry Tote

Buy From Strathberry

Materials: Leather | Colors: 8 total, including Black and Bottle Green | Size: 10.8 x 14.6 x 6.1 inches | Weight: 2.4 pounds

Scottish brand Strathberry is known for its handcrafted leather goods, and the brand’s Strathberry Tote puts both of those features on display with a structured silhouette and the signature bar closure. The design is elegant and ladylike and can easily take you from the office to brunch on the weekends. As seen on the arms of celebrities including Meghan Markle, this bag can be held by the top handle or worn as a crossbody for hands-free ease.

Pros:

Can fit a 15-inch laptopOffers wide range of colors and textures

Cons:

While the shoulder strap is adjustable, it’s too thin to carry as a shoulder bag MORE FROMFORBES VETTED

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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 March 2024 update, we replaced sold out styles with new favorites including the Madewell Zip-Top Medium Transport Tote, the spacious and foldable Longchamp Large Le Pliage Tote and the Samsonite Mobile Solution Deluxe Carryall.

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 asked Forbes Vetted editors to share their recommendations, based on totes they’ve traveled with on personal trips. Additionally, we 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:

Materials

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.”

Straps

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.”

Size

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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