Happy Holidays from snowy Austria! My family and I have gone on our annual ski trip, to a place that may as well have the motto, “work hard, play hard”. Families ski all day in Bogner, Moncler and Frauenschuh, afternoon at the ice bars and cafes, walking along the street and shopping at the boutiques, and then have long, meat-laden meals at the local hotels and restaurants – all in a town center that is perhaps 1/2 mile long. I begin packing for this trip about two weeks in advance, as not only do we need all the requisite ski gear (of which there is quite a lot), but I also have to plan what I should wear for the various meals, some more formal than others, which also require some amount of walking (or even waiting) in the snow.
The question then asks itself: do I need a bag? And then – because obviously of course I do, who am I kidding – What bag should I carry? Finally, how do I get it there, without any issues? Whether you are traveling on a ski trip, or to a city like Paris or Rome, or on any other holiday or vacation, once you have decided to carry one of your good bags (and let’s face it, if you’re reading this, at some point in time you are probably going to do so), you have to figure out the best way to go about it.
I am not the first person to write about this, and I was a bit wary of covering ground that has been covered before, elsewhere, but I have yet to read a realistic article on this subject. My issue with the articles I have read on traveling with your bag is that they seem so impractical; whether it was spending notable sums on bags for your bags, or using packing methods which require you to actually hand carry more on top of whatever it was that you were already going to carry (I envisioned myself struggling to carry three bags nested within each other, all stored inside an even larger expensive bag, struggling with that bag and my wheeled carry-on behind my family, who were ready to leave without me as I held up TSA screeners and continually lagged far behind). It just seems to me like those articles were written by people who didn’t have children, or only two hands, or – aha – were much more concerned with the appearance of traveling luxuriously, ignoring the realities of travel. This may not be the first Traveling-With-An-Expensive-Bag article you have ever read, but it will truly be the most honest and practical.
The answer is really one easy word: backpack (more specifically, an ultralight packable daypack, but I’ll use “backpack” to keep it simple). Maybe that’s a word that you don’t want to hear with regards to your expensive bag, but once you find the right backpack and worry less about how it looks, and then you actually travel with it, you will find that it solves a number of issues at once and makes your travel situation quite a bit easier.
There are a number of benefits to using an understated backpack as your bag travel companion. First off, all those nice bags inside nice bags, or on their own, do tend to attract some attention – at least, *I* certainly notice whenever someone is carrying something expensive through the airport, and I know I’m not alone. Is this really the place you want your good things to be seen and noticed? Of course not.
Another benefit is a worry-free layer of protection for your bag, depending upon the material that the backpack is made of. Most are rather sturdy and can protect against unwanted jabs and even spills.
I love backpacks because they are totally hands-free and, even better, you are wearing your bag, so it’s on you all the time. You know it’s there, though no one sees it (we were waiting to get on the plane when my husband asked me whether I had even brought a purse), it’s protected, it’s on you, it’s light, and the backpack will likely have extra external zippered andside pockets so that everything else you need for your actual travel is handy and easily accessible.
Finally, chances are good that there will be some times on your trip when you are going to need a bag other than your purse or where a purse isn’t appropriate. For example, today I decided to take a day off from skiing and needed to find a treadmill and go for a run. Fortunately there was a place in town with the facilities I needed, but maybe walking in with my 25cm Kelly wouldn’t be the best idea and might even garner some unwanted attention. I had no worries, though, because I had the backpack with me, and so I was able to bring my Kelly and workout necessities while still remaining appropriate and under the radar.
Now of course, you have to make some decisions when choosing what bag(s) to bring with you on a trip. As always, the fewer, the better. Frankly, unless you are traveling with small children, you do not need a large bag. The more you carry, the more you will have to keep track of, and in most places it’s not a good idea to leave a purse in your hotel room so it will have to go everywhere with you. The exception to this, as far as Hermès goes, is that bags which are 25cm or smaller fit in most room safes. I may have even gotten a 30cm Birkin into one years ago, when my children were little and we went to go swim with Dolphins. Also, if you are in a place like Las Vegas, which is very concerned with security, you can use one of the hotel safes on the main floor. Regardless, I do not travel with more than one bag and one clutch: usually a 25cm Kelly (because of the strap) or Birkin, and something like a large Constance or Kelly wallet. This provides enough variety and is not too much to worry about, although on this trip I have just brought the Kelly, and we are away for ten days. Keep in mind the material your bag is made of; as there is so much unpredictability with regards to travel, sturdy leathers that can withstand some inclement weather (or possibly the occasional Disney water ride, yes, I’ve done that) are key.
Once you decide which bag or bags you are bringing, you need to find the right backpack. I was fortunate that the right backpack actually found me a few years ago, when I was was staying at Mohonk Mountain House in New York with my husband and older son. The hotel, which is very well-known for its hiking and rock climbing trails, lacks room safes. How was I going to manage a two-hour hike with my 25cm Birkin? I found the answer in the hotel’s store: a small black daypack by ChicoBag which easily stretched to fit my purse (and even my iPad behind it) with some useful exterior zippers and bottle-holding pockets on the sides. Problem solved! I made it up the mountain with that Birkin safely protected on my back, and it’s been my constant travel companion since.
While my solution may not work for you, you should definitely take some time to look at your options and decide what will work best for your travels. I will only suggest that a thin, light backpack that is sturdily made is your best bet, as you don’t really need cushioning and you don’t want to add any unnecessary weight.
Here are some good places to start, just based on my personal research (I am in no way affiliated with these companies):
This is the bag I use. It is made from completely from “100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles”, which is a total win for me.
Reviews of other Ultralight Travel Daypacks.