Ask Alison: I'm Traveling For An Entire Year and I Need a Magical Bag That Won't Fall Apart

Abracadabra!

Mar 10, 2014 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

Hey Alison!
I'm going to be traveling for a year with only a backpack and one other bag. I need that 'other bag' to be something sturdy and cute that can be my carry-on and hold my laptop, then transform into my purse once I reach my destination. I'd like to spend less than $200.00 and I tend towards more modern/sleek styles.
Thank you!
-Yamsalot, your faithful xoJ reader 
 
This is kind of a tall order, but I do understand what Yamsalot is trying to achieve. In order to meet the airline's two bag carry-on limit, your purse and laptop bag really do need to be one in the same. I'm pretty staunchly anti-checked baggage ever since I spent a week in Paris as a teenager with only a pair of sweatpants and a swimsuit after the airline lost my luggage somewhere in the bowels of Heathrow airport.
 
After that escapade, I locked my carry-on rig down tight. I always take the same two bags no matter where I travel: a lightweight 22" Le Sportsac roller suitcase and the most classic travel bag on earth, the Pan Am Airlines "Explorer" bag. My 95-year-old grandfather (yes, he's still alive and kicking!) was a pilot for Pan Am during the golden age of air travel, so the bag is a tribute to him.
 
A satchel style bag really is the perfect 2-in-1 computer/travel bag, although the styling may be a little too classic for our lovely Yamsalot. I'm not big on the classics either, but I do love my Cambridge Satchel Company computer bag, which I got in crazy flouro pink. The color takes a classic and turns it on it's head, making it sort of modern in the process.
 
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"The Classic" by the Cambridge Satchel Company, about $170.00 (depending on color).

 
The 15" iconic Cambridge Satchel retails for about $170.00 and the sides expand to hold a lot more than just your computer. I've crammed my 17" laptop, an iPad, a million cords, my wallet and makeup bag into mine and still had room in the front pocket for a few odds and ends (like my headphones and notebook). It's also crazy-fashionable when used as a purse, as evidenced by fashion bloggers from here to next Tuesday.
 
Another possible option: J. Crew's laptop/carry-on bag hybrid. It's made of waxed cotton canvas (to help resist water) and the extra pockets give plenty of room to tote your extra travel essentials. Again, the styling is very classic -- but the functionality really can't be beat. It's also kind of floppy and very lightweight when empty, making it easy to transform itself into a purse once Yamsalot reaches her destination.
 
This large-sized laptop bag from Mochi Things has a bit more modern flair -- and has room to also hold textbooks and school supplies, so it's a smart mix of useful travel features in one clever package. 
 
One more bag for Yamsalot to consider is specifically a laptop/purse hybrid, meant to handle your computer and other life essentials so you aren't saddled with multiple bags. It's the most modern bag I found, and it kind of seems like the best of both worlds for our intrepid traveler!
 
The more I searched for one single bag to rule them all for Yamsalot, the more I realized that maybe she should just get the best combo carry-on/laptop bag she can find -- then pack a small fold-up purse to use for sightseeing and swanning about town once she reaches her destination. It's kind of the smartest option, as any bag that's big enough to hold a laptop will end up being an albatross to lug around as a purse. I am, of course, an insane bag snob so I love the Longchamp version of the classic fold-up handbag:
 
It folds down to the size of your iPhone and zips closed at the top to keep your valuables safe. But one could also make do with this lovely $14.99 version of the original that really performs the exact same functions:
 
I successfully skirted the two-bags-on-board rule when I flew to Australia with my trusty fold-up Longchamp stashed in my carry-on. I packed all my purse junk in with my computer using this slightly ridiculous bag organizer insert.
 
The minute the plane took off, I unfolded my little Longchamp bag, popped in my insert and enjoyed having my purse on my shoulder when I landed. Same amount of items, just arranged a different way. Rules: they're meant for suckers. Happy traveling, Yamsalot!
 
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Top: Sumo bag. Bottom: Fold up tote. The perfect pair for Yamsalot! (Total cost? $115.00. My work here is done.)

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