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Traveling in Style: Cute but Practical Luggage

Today I am doing a guest post swap with Amber. Yay! You can see my post on here blog here. But first, enjoy her post below.

Hi everyone! I’m Amber, from History &Pearls, and I’m so excited to do a guest post today!

I’m a PhD student in European History, which means besides grading a lot of papers and writing a lot, I get to/have to travel quite a bit for my research.

Sometimes it’s nice:

Yay Paris!

Yay tea! And scones! And clotted cream! And the British Museum!

Sometimes it’s boring:

So many books written in indecipherable Latin, so little time…
But one of the hardest parts of traveling so often and far is finding practical, comfortable, durable luggage and travel bags that still fit my style. This is especially true when I have to hit multiple cities or countries on one trip. Last year I went to London and Lisbon, and this year I’m going to Boston, New Haven, New York, and DC, with lots of train, bus, plane, and metro commuting in between.

Looks like it’s time for a new bag, y’all!

Here are some of my suggestions, from fun bags to professional ones (for those of you who aren’t eccentric academics!):



1. A good upright is crucial, especially if you’re taking a long trip. For my upcoming trip I will probably stick to a backpack and tote, since I don’t have to be super formal and since I’ll be getting on and off a lot of trains, but I always take a carry on suitcase for international or long, one destination trips. I try to avoid checking my luggage, so a maximum size carry on with squishy sides is best.

Also, try to get a carry on with a pattern. If you do have to check it, or just gate-check it, you’ll be glad to have a fun print in a sea of black suitcases – you can see it more quickly and will notice if someone else grabs it!

2. For shorter trips (or when I am not trying to take everything I own…) I take my basic, everyday purse. A cute color makes it fun, and this purse by Fossil is super durable. Plus lots of pockets = not losing all of your stuff in the bottom.

3. I kind of look like Dora the Explorer when I wear a backpack but I don’t care. Nothing beats the ease of a backpack. Yeah, it’s not super professional – those trips are when you can use that cute carry on. But if you have a short layover, or have a lot of other things to carry, or are going to be city hopping, trust me. I have a big North Face backpack that I can use for two weeks, so I plan on taking that on my trip and doing laundry while I’m away.

And if you worry about looking older than you are, just throw on a backpack and feel like a kid again!

4. I LOVE Vera Bradley. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE this bag. This is the Weekender, in Island Blooms, and it is the best large travel bag I’ve ever used. JUST small enough to fit under the seat, I took this and a carry on to London and Lisbon, and, because of the oversized souvenirs I bought, ended up checking this on the way back. It held up great, fits a ton of stuff in it, is super cute, and has a lot of pockets. Also the shoulder strap is a must. I’m only not taking it on this trip because I need to take my computer, and it doesn’t have a laptop sleeve, which I know I’ll need (I’m a jostler).

5. Sometimes, nothing beats a classic. A cheap, cute tote from Barnes and Noble will hold your magazines and kindle and wallet and requires almost zero commitment price-wise. Get a few, throw your stuff in them, and mix it up! Also, I’ve definitely gotten on a plane with my suitcase, my Vera Bradley bag, and my tote bag – try to not take up much room, but it’s usually treated kind of like a bag of stuff you buy at the airport in my experience.

6. Not professional at all, but one of the best large totes I’ve found. It doesn’t close at the top, which I actually like – yeah, you have to keep an eye on stuff rolling out if you put it on the ground, but who hasn’t played the “I can’t get this zipper open to put my receipt in my purse, it’ll be fine in my pocket, OMG WHERE IS MY RECEIPT!?!?” game? I can toss stuff in with one hand, the handle drop is long enough that it fits over a jacket, it’s cheap, it’s colorful, it’s sturdy, and the straps are wide and comfortable enough that I can wear a backpack and carry this and not feel like an overloaded pack mule.
So this is a pretty good variety. I think some basic rules apply to luggage in general:

DO get luggage that makes you happy!

DON’T get luggage you can’t lift yourself!

DO get travel bags that will fit within the size and weight limits of your airline/train!

DON’T overstuff your luggage – you don’t need to take your entire wardrobe!

DO take a big enough bag that you have room for souvenirs!

DON’T check a bag if you can help it!

DO have a wonderful trip!!!
Check out my blog, History & Pearls, in the next couple of weeks for posts on travel wardrobes (including my worst vice – too many shoes!), travel stories, some fun Memphis events, and lots of complaining about pollen!


  1. I totally agree with you about the backpack! There's nothing worse than having to balance a tote bag on your roller bag because your shoulder hurts while trying to make a connection across the airport. It really doesn't matter how I look if I don't get to my destination!


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