Please sign in to post.

Crossbody or Small Backpack? for 14 day Europe

I will be going on the 14 day Europe in May. Which is better to carry- crossbody or small backpack for the long days of touring? I will be carrying a water bottle, light sweater/rainjacket, sunglasses, snacks ect. Any advice on which fits better? Feels better on the shoulders after a long day? Does it need RFID protection and heavier straps to protect from theft? I will use the money belt for valuables, but what do other travelers prefer? Thank you for your advice.

Posted by
4535 posts

Cross body can be heavy and bulky, and can cause pain. Do a test run with both types and see what you are more comfortable with.
I don't bother with any of that cut proof stuff either--be aware of your surroundings, you'll be fine.

Posted by
8586 posts

Honestly, a thief is much more likely to grab your bag off of you when you're sitting down at a cafe or in a train station and have it on the ground or on your chair. They might open an untended zipper, but if you're not carrying anything valuable in it, who cares? They can have my water bottle, sunscreen and tissue pack. RFID is pointless for protecting your sunglasses.

I like a regular old-fashioned backpack like the RS Civita, because it leaves both arms free, and I can always carry it like a sling over one shoulder in tight spaces or if I'm being cautious. One use that people don't mention, but I do a lot, is to carry purchases, like when I'm bringing a six-pack of diet coke or a bag of fruit, back to hotel. It can be heavier than I want on one shoulder.

Posted by
1080 posts

I like to use the Pacsafe Vibe 325, this is a small sling pack that has some nice features, like being able to lock the strap around a chair leg or table leg, the zipper has a locking mechanism to prevent someone opening it while your distracted. Also, it has a cable in the strap to prevent cutting it.

This is probably over kill because if you are careful when in situations like subways, buses, crowded museums, train stations, etc. you will do just fine.

As always a money belt is the best defense against pick pocketing!

Posted by
1625 posts

I use what I am familiar with, I don't want to experiment while on vacation. For me that is a Crossbody. I like a crossbody because I can easily flip it to the front in crowds or public transport and place my hand over the zippered closure. I can also keep it attached to me if I sit down to eat, placing it in my lap. I usually use a Fossil brand (Leather), small-medium size that I can fit exactly what you described plus a small wallet (I do not use a money belt unless traveling between destinations). The bag gets emptied and cleaned out each night and organized for the next days adventures with needed tickets, cash, maps etc. I love this nightly ritual, usually with a cup of tea, and I sleep soundly knowing I am organized and ready to hot the ground running when we wake up.

Posted by
4983 posts

I carry a backpack for drinks, snacks, guidebook, purchases, and layering. I then wear a Scottevest or Exofficio vest with the inside zipper pockets for money and valuables, eliminating the need for another bag. The vest then zips up. For some reason, these vests are not popular with the folks here on the Forum, but they have worked nicely for me across the years. I have the Feather-Lite styles for warmer climates.

My daughter had problems with the bags with the wired "anti-theft" straps- the wire broke thru the strap and scratched her uncomfortably.

Safe travels!

Posted by
2853 posts

I take both. Maybe it’s overkill but it works for me. You have to try both a purse and a backpack. Load them up, walk around the neighborhood, go shopping but it’s not the same as carrying something for 8 to 12 hours a day. Your next trip you’ll change to what may work better.

Back in 1992, I took a leather backpack as a purse (no such thing as packing light back then). I loved it, zipped in the back, straps tightened through the top , very secure but it was heavy and hurt my shoulders. I also took a fanny pack for riding days (week long trail ride in Donegal Ireland).

Fast forward to 2019, I took a medium sized cross body purse with a bottle sleeve and a packable backpack. The purse ended up hurting my my neck because of the weight. The backpack was a pain to use when shopping since I had to take it off to reach my wallet, phone, sunglasses, etc. Both had added snaps for security.

This trip (9/22) I am taking a very small cross body purse and the packable backpack. I will use only the purse if going to museums that don’t allow backpacks or in cities. Or I can use both for day trips or when I need to carry more. Even with the backpack I will probably carry the purse for ease of getting to my phone and day money/credit card. This idea may change during the trip. The purse is Travelon with added snaps. I chose it because it was red and on sale (cheap), not because it was Travelon. The backpack is Eddie Bauer 20L with added snaps inside and out added for security.

Bottom line to this ramble is you have to decide what works best for you. It’s trial and error. Convenience vs weight vs easy inside access. No matter what you decide, be sure zippers can snap closed securely to deter pickpockets.

This is what I’m calling snaps
Sometimes you have to be creative attaching them to your purse or backpack.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
14157 posts

OK, you are going on Rick's 14 day Europe tour?.... so you'll have some bus days.

I'd want a daypack or tote for my "bus bag" and a smaller cross body for the days you are touring. I personally do not want a day pack on touring days because I want something with the zippers in front of me so I can put my hand over them when moving thru a crowd....with or without the tour group.

I like the LeSportSac Everyday purse for my regular touring day purse. I just throw my raincoat over it OR I have a little strap I found at TJMaxx that will hold it to the outside of my purse.

I use a LiteGear day pack or a LeSportSac Classic Tote or a Kipling Medium tote for my bag to leave on the bus on transit days. Both of the tote bags I picked up at TJ Maxx so paid a fraction of their cost.

When I am flying over, I use the day pack or tote bag and pack my purse in my checked 22" carry on.

Do consider what you are going to do for your 2 nights in Venice. I recommend leaving your suitcase on the bus (it will be locked) and just taking in what you'll need for the 2 nights in a packing cube in your tote bag. The bridges in Venice are steps and it's much easier not to be burdened down with a suitcase you'll need to carry up and over every bridge from where you leave the bus parking lot on the vaporetto to the hotel.

Posted by
2768 posts

No to the rfid and cut proof straps. I’ve never used them, they make bags heavier and I’m a weakling!

As far as which style, it’s a matter of preference. I am team crossbody. Reasons:
- Much easier to access - to get stuff from a backpack you have to stop, take it off, remove item, put back on. To get stuff out of a cross body you can just grab it while walking. Especially if you don’t keep your essentials in your pocket (wallet, phone/camera), you don’t want to be stopping to remove a backpack every time you want to take a photo or buy something.
- Easier to keep an eye and hand on. Just one more layer of security.
- Looks better, less touristy (matter of preference but I think so!)
- Some sights do not allow backpacks but do allow cross body bags. Art museums are big on this - they don’t want bags on your back knocking things over. So you need to check your backpack or carry it oddly
- I sometimes use backpack luggage. If my suitcase is on my back…where is my day bag backpack? You can wear a backpack luggage and a crossbody bag easily. You can’t wear two backpacks.

Also, my advice - for general city and town touring, don’t overpack a day bag. You’re not out in the wilderness, needing to be prepared for any eventuality. You’re in civilization and can manage without most items. This helps with comfort and the weight of the bag.

Posted by
10330 posts

I do similar to what several other people do. I have a smallish Baggallini crossbody that stays on me from the time I walk out the door to the time I return at night. I will never accidentally leave it somewhere or have it taken off a chair. It’s not big, so it can’t get too heavy. I also have a packable Eddie Bauer backpack that I will take with me and if necessary I can use it to stash a jacket or something else, but I only do that if my hubby isn’t with me. If he is, he brings the day bag for both of us to use.

Posted by
295 posts

A crossbody pulls on my neck, so I don't take it for daily touring. I found a company that sells travel vests, which has multiple inside pockets that I have been using to hold my iPad mini, sunglasses, water bottle, etc. but it would not be able to hold a sweater. I love wearing it as an added layer to a jacket for winter venues, though in summer climates, it may be too hot depending upon the location..

Posted by
97 posts

I take a crossbody for daily use when traveling for all the reasons noted previously. It's convenient for me, I'm used to a purse, and I feel safer guarding my stuff. My husband and I take a packable backpack (Eddie Bauer) when needed. My husband is a big travel vest fan as he uses all the pockets. He also has a sling courier-type bag which he seldom uses. It's just not natural for him as a backpack.

Posted by
7389 posts

I will preface this answer by saying “long days of touring” is not like being let off the bus in the morning and not being back at your hotel until late at night. Two typical scenarios:

  1. You’re loading your suitcases in the bus after breakfast and driving to a new city. After a couple of hours of riding, you stop at a smaller town or auto grill for a short toilet stop - maybe an interesting site included. Then again until you reach your new hotel. There will be a guided walk to orient you, a little free time and possibly a group dinner.
  2. Your morning begins with a guided museum tour. Afterwards the rest of the day is yours.

Neither 1 or 2 requires lots of extra stuff to carry. It’s the same as if you were going to a nearby city at home. I wouldn’t be wearing a backpack and carrying water bottles and suntan lotion in Seattle…or Paris, Venice, etc. When you’re thirsty, it’s time for a break. Enjoy a little outdoor or indoor cafe ambiance, people watch and have a coffee or sparkling water. Also, the RS hotels are central to where the good sites are located, so it’s easy to take a short break at your hotel mid-afternoon and before dinner to put your feet up & recharge your phone and yourself! 😉

So, I carry a crossbody purse with the minimum stuff to not hurt my shoulder- coin purse with that morning’s or that afternoon’s money, phone, lip balm, small notepad & pen, a little TP for that empty stall, a few pages from the RS guidebook, and reading glasses. (Credit cards, ATM card, passport and large Euros are in my hidden waist money belt.)

As Pam mentioned, it’s nice to have a day bag on the airplane at your feet and on the bus. All of the misc. can be contained in it, handy during the bus ride.

Have a great time!

Posted by
381 posts

Ha ha - me too Aimee! Hubbie usually will carry an REI small backpack that takes a bit of doing to get into (one of our favorites - has a drawstring as well as a buckle) if we expect to be out for a while and need to carry water or want something to put some small purchases into. But it gets packed into his luggage during travel as we both carry a Biaggi zip sack backback on the plane as our personal item along with our wheelie bags. I carry a favorite Italian leather crossbody bag (going strong after 20 years!) that has several zipper compartments. It's big enough to hold my tissues, sunglasses, cash/cards/passport, lip gloss, small baggie of wipes, etc. - the bare necessities to have on hand. I can easily pull out some bills or coins when needed. But if we know we'll be going into a museum, his small backpack stays behind.

Posted by
3194 posts

If it's a cool day, I wear my jacket or cardi over my crossbody, then it's a bit more hidden.

Posted by
9766 posts

I am like horsewoofie -- I do both.

Sometimes I have a combo of pretty small crossbody and more robust backpack (but still only a packable Eddie Bauer small one), and sometimes I do a bigger crossbody and my small backpack.

I seem to be constitutionally incapable of doing only one or the other. (Although I did do it for my Vatican Museums / Sistine Chapel last month ! But that is definitely the exception that proves the rule.)

Posted by
228 posts

For touring in cities, and on public transport, I’m not comfortable with my stuff being behind me in a backpack. Yes, I use a money belt for deep storage (passport, extra cash, back up credit card), but I still need to carry a small wallet with daily cash and card with me. So I use a crossbody purse, and stow the wallet in an inner zipper pocket. With the crossbody, I can keep it in front of me, with my hand on it if needed in crowded situations.

I took the BOE 14 Day in 2019, and used my crossbody as described above, with a small backpack (Eddie Bauer lightweight packable) for bus days. My husband used the RS Civita daypack, but he was able to carry his cash and card in his front breast pocket of his shirts. He would carry the pack under his arm like a tote in museums, and was never told to check it (it was small and not overstuffed).
It is a great tour! Constant wows!

Posted by
28 posts

Many thanks for all those offering advice! It gave me the wisdom I was needing and also thank you for the names of your cross body and backpack styles. I hadn't considered I might need both and now I am on the right path to finding what will work best. I appreciate you taking the time to write a response to me!

Posted by
4171 posts

On my very first trip to Europe in 1977-78, I traveled with a medium sized cross-body messenger bag, under a smallish ski touring backpack. I also had a very small purse for my passport that I wore under my clothes.

Fast forward 45 years, add misbehaving knees and potential neck/shoulder issues with using any kind of cross-body bag big enough for me to put too much stuff in it, and I'm probably going to have the combo below (not counting my carry-on 2-wheeled roller bag) for my 5 week trip to Ireland and Wales in the summer.

I'm also in the non-RFID camp, mostly because it's not necessary, partly because of the added weight and partly because my daughter's bag started fraying and scratching her the first (!) time she used it. I will tolerate an RFID coin purse or wristlet, so long as the rest of the bag isn't RFID.

This year's likely combo from the inside out:

This step-in StashBandz Unisex Travel Money Belt for deep storage. I've tried every other kind there is and this style is the one that feels the most secure to me. There are other brands available. Of course, you wear the thing under your clothes, not outside like the picture.

Small Baggallini cross-body purse. I'll be choosing between a black one similar to this and a green one simlar to this. I've used the black one on multiple trips. I got the green one for my originally scheduled Ireland trip in 2020 and have not used it yet.

I should point out that I switched to this small backpack for my regular at home purse last year because of the neck and shoulder problems previously mentioned. It's very comfortable and is working very well for me. I'd love to take it as my only purse or backpack, but at about 7.5 liters, it's too small to do double duty as a plane backpack.

In reading through the responses to your question, I was surprised at the number of people who mentioned the Eddie Bauer packable backpacks. I bought 2 different ones last year when they were on sale. Either will be small enough to go under the plane seat in front of me and big enough to put my little purse inside along with my meds, electronics and other items that must go in the cabin with me. I will pack each with my essentials, try it on and the winner will be the most comfortable one.

This is like the 20 liter one. It's 18x10x9 and weighs 11 ounces.

This is like the 25 liter one. It's 17x12x6 and also weighs 11 ounces.

Posted by
2853 posts

I will second Lo's StashBandz Unisex Travel Money Belt. She has suggested it several times. I now have two, a black one for travel moneybelt and a navy one to hold my phone when walking at home.

The only thing I will add to Lo's information is to request you order from the nice people at Stashbandz instead of from Amazon. They are a small California-based business and have to pay Amazon's fees to sell through them.

Posted by
14157 posts

So...Lo or Horsewoofie or anyone else...on the Stashbands...

I see that just one pocket is zippered. Any concerns with credit/debit cards falling out of any of the other pockets? Want to share how you arrange stuff in there? I usually put my passport, extra CC and Debit cards, extra money in my money belt. Last trip I wound up carrying my passport around in case anyone asked for photo ID along with the Pass Sanitaire (no one did).

I had a conversation with my accountant this week. He actually told me I need to spend more money (I did not ask the details on this, lolol!!!) so I've now been looking at a new Baggallini Tote as well as a number of other items. Good grief.

This one:

VS this one:

So thanks a bunch to the OP for sending me down this rabbit hole....😁