Please sign in to post.

travel purse suggestions and question about passport holding

Last year my family and I went to Italy for two weeks, and I used a brand new Travelon anti-theft cross body bag the entire trip. It turned out to be unneeded (no issues with pickpockets, etc.) and frankly, too small and uncomfortable after a couple days. This September, my husband and I are going back to Italy for 10 days (different regions this time: Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Bari) and I just bought a Baggallini cross body tote. It is definitely bigger, without many of the bells and whistles of the Travelon bag, but looks to be just as safe. Has anyone used one of these bags for a trip? I know it might get uncomfortable, but I can switch shoulders, and I really don't like backpacks.

Second question: I also have a BigSkinny travel wallet that fits both our passports, money and cards and I want to know if I should keep our passports on us at all times. We will not be driving on this trip, so there's that. Last year we stayed in very secure rented villas, and I didn't feel any qualms about leaving important items in our room. We'll be moving around to someplace new almost every day this time, but I don't want to be completely lost if something terrible does happen.

Any help is much appreciated!

Posted by
1975 posts

Hi Danielle. I have used a LeSportSac cross-body purse/day bag for my last 2 trips to Europe and am very satisfied with it. It's lightweight, wears like iron, and has enough room for all my stuff: camera, water bottle, map, etc. I would not recommend using a backpack as a day bag not because it may be uncomfortable but because it's ideal for pickpockets. They can get in and out of there without you knowing it.

When you say that the Baggalini bag is "just as safe", what do you mean? Are you worried about thieves cutting through the strap or getting into the bag? Cutting through the strap is very rare, and you can take precautions to minimize your vulnerability as a pickpocket victim. Keep a hand on your bag in crowds, keep it in your lap when you sit down in a public place, and don't put valuable items in the bag such as a lot of cash.

With regard to passports - I use a money belt and put my passport, credit cards, and most of my cash in it. I prefer to have my passport on me at all times; as some people say, it's the only thing that proves you're in the country legally.

Also, I don't keep my passport in a bag in case of pickpocketing. Pickpockets may not want your passport but if it's in your wallet and you're pickpocketed, it's one more hassle you have to deal with. I keep enough money for a day's worth of sightseeing in a simple zip coin purse in my bag.

Posted by
56 posts

Thank you! Yeah, I was very cautious with my bag last time, and plan on being even more vigilant -- especially in Naples. My husband wore a backpack, and I wish he wouldn't, but I can only protest so much. Actually, if I could find a backpack that was anti-theft and good looking, and didn't cost $100 - minimum - I'd snap it up. They're more comfortable, hold more and are hands-free, but yeah...picky, picky.

Posted by
484 posts

Ditto the above. I prefer a neck pouch. The cord can get annoying. But, I prefer safe than sorry.
Backpack security: just use a small combination luggage lock on the zipper of the pocket you want to secure. Also, you can get a bike cable lock at Walmart (kryptonite) if you want to tether your bag. You don't need an expensive backpack. Your basic, small pack will work.

Posted by
343 posts

My Travelon anti theft was terrible. After using twice on my recent trip, the clasp broke and my bag fell. Good thing someone saw it and alerted me. I was absorbed in what I was looking at that I didn't notice!! I'm sending it back with some strong words, lol

I prefer Pacsafe, and not for the anti theft but more because it's very strong and I like the extra locks. Holds up well in rain, but isn't very fashionable.

Posted by
56 posts

Yeah, the neck straps can get pretty annoying. I was checking out the Travelon anti-theft backpacks just now, and they are pretty nice, and highly reviewed. And they're nice looking! I have a little while, so I might just get one and see how I feel about it. But! The idea of not spending $100 is appealing. I think a good lock is a good investment regardless (we're getting some new ones for our in-room luggage) and I'll be sure to tell my husband about that.

Posted by
2940 posts

I'm religious about wearing my money belt with my passport, cards and deep storage money in it. I nag my husband to do the same. He hates to do it, but he complies.

Any other bag I take besides my spinner is strictly for walking around or as a carry-on. Both my husband and I stopped using day packs a few years ago because they are inconvenient and seem like a target for pickpockets for us obviously older folks. He now takes a crossbody messenger bag (which he uses daily here in the US) as his 2nd carry-on. For walking around he usually carries no bag at all.

I have to admit, I'm something of a Baggallini nut. It's partly because I haven't quite found the "perfect" day bag that can also serve as my 2nd carry-on for the plane (or the only one for internal European flights).

Two years ago I got a crossbody Paris Bagg and hated it because it was too small and had too many compartments. I also got an Expandable Tote which I ended up using everyday. But...when I loaded it up with groceries (or as my 2nd carry-on), it killed my shoulder so I had to carry it by hand. I like it because it is big, deep, there's a zipper pocket inside and it zips across the top. It's the kind of thing I saw most women carrying on their shoulder with their arm pressed close if they were not wearing a crossbody bag. It is crinkle nylon, but similar to this.

Last year I got the Hobo Tote which is crossbody and worked well as my only bag. But, I found I can load it up enough that I choke myself with it. If the bag is spacious enough, that's easily done. I've been using it lately here at home, without so much stuff in it, and it seems to be fine. I can also shorten the strap and just wear it on my shoulder. One thing I really like about it is that there is a pocket on the outside that unzips at the bottom so I can slide it over the handle of my spinner instead of wearing it in the airport.

For my trip this year, I got the Kindred Tote. It also has the outside zipper pocket option. It is smaller than the Expandable Tote and bigger than the Hobo Tote. I can use the curved handles to wear it as a shoulder bag, or add the strap to make it crossbody. I haven't tried it yet, so I don't know if all those options are going to be useless or make me crazy or if it will work best of all of my bags. I will be using it for a short domestic trip soon, so that will give me some idea of its utility.

Around the same time, I got the Highrise Crossbody. I will take it on my trip either in my spinner or in the Kindred. I have used it here at home quite a bit and I really like the size and security. I can fit everything I "need" for walking around except maybe a water bottle. I have some mesh shopping bags that I can use for that.

Fortunately, I've been able to buy all these bags on sale and I've even found Baggallini at TJ Maxx.

If you chose any of the bags I described above, I hope I provided some help. If not I'd like to know which one you chose.

Posted by
6439 posts

Lo, laughing when I read your post and I'm thinking someone needs to start a lease-a-bag program!

I have (I think) settled on the LeSportSac Everyday bag. I like that it has 2 mostly equally sized zipper compartments, one of which expands. The fabric seems to be water resistant. I've used it on 3 international trips and so far no complaints, altho I can stuff it too full so it can get heavy. I did add carabiner clips to the zippers and can clip them to the handle when I am in crowds or might be distracted while moving thru a train station or airport with my luggage.

I also have a larger LeSportSac tote bag (a TJ Maxx purchase as well) but it does not ride as well on my shoulder and the handles aren't long enough for cross body wear.

Posted by
2827 posts

Hi Danielle,

This may be too small for your preference, but I take a black leather "Tignanello Handbag, Multi Pocket Organizer Leather Crossbody" as a small lightweight purse to hold our metro tickets or museum passes in the front small zipper area and a subset of the RS book or similar for our day's location in the main compartment along with reading glasses. All passports, credit cards, & money other than 10-15 Euro are in our money belts. This purse design has the money in a zipper compartment closet to my body. I hold the bottom of the purse against my body as I walk when around anyone else.

My husband has our small camera in a small case on his belt; otherwise, we're hands free.

Posted by
56 posts

Thanks, all! What I plan on carrying in my bag while we're out every day is this: area-specific guidebook; phrase book; medium-sized makeup bag containing SPF 30 lip gloss, SPF 50 sun block, small compact mirror, touch-up makeup stick, Bandaids, tissues, antibacterial hand rub, Ibuprofen; slim, flat wallet to hold money, ATM card, insurance card and IDs, plus other necessary paperwork; water bottle; camera (unless it's around my neck). There may be something I'm forgetting, but I don't know right now.

Posted by
493 posts

I, too, have used a LeSportSac Everyday bag on several trips and it worked well. I'm a huge Baggallini fan, so I used a medium sized crossbody Hobo tote on my last trip. That worked almost as well, and I liked the looks of it better than the LSS. Will likely use the Hobo for my September trip.
I do carry my passport and credit/ATM cards in a moneybelt, in the back not the front. Very comfortable that way.
Happy Travels!

Posted by
1010 posts

Another down side to backpacks is that some museums and other attractions require that backpacks be checked at the front desk area while purses, cross body bags, messenger bags, etc can be carried throughout the museum. Ran into that at several places in Paris this year.

Posted by
2940 posts

Pam -- lease-a-bag sounds good to me. I know someone who even rented her wedding dress. Fortunately, I have 4 daughters, 1 daughter-in-law and 5 grand daughters who are now old enough that I can pass any bag mistakes on to them...and I already have.

Danielle -- You do carry a lot more stuff than I do.

I edited your list to reflect what I plan to carry around on our next trip: area-specific guidebook pages (probably ripped out), Moto X with translate app, SPF lip gloss, tissues, cough drops, antibacterial wipes (maybe), paperwork (like tickets), water bottle (maybe, we're old and lazy and prefer to stop in a cafe), camera (little Panasonic Lumix 20x zoom), room key.

All the stuff you are putting in that wallet will go in my moneybelt or neck wallet or divided between the two. My husband will carry his own. At best I will have some cash in the day bag. One of the good things about some of the Baggallinis is that they have a change purse with a lanyard that hooks onto it and onto the inside of the bigger bag. I've also threaded the lanyard through the elastic loop for the pen to keep the change purse more secure. And most have a zippered pocket inside the bag as well.

Putting all the important stuff in a wallet that isn't under my clothes is scary to me. There have been some posts here that illustrate how easy it is to pick a front pocket and even to get a moneybelt off of someone, but I feel very confident wearing a moneybelt.

This may be TMI, but I always wear industrial strength shapewear on the top, even in hot Tucson. I started doing it to smooth out the fat rolls, but when I fell in January, I realized that it may have been what kept me from cracking ribs. It also helps to improve my posture. When you wear that kind of garment, in spite of what you see on the (skinny) models, you are supposed to wear it under your panties.

I put the moneybelt between the shapewear and the panties (which are also of a shapewear type) in front. My stomach already sticks out, and I wear my tops over my skirt or pants, so I don't care if it adds a little bulk. I always know it's there. I haven't tried it in the back to see if I would feel confident with it there. In either case, the moneybelt is under two garments (skirt or pants and panties) and next to the shapewear, so it is not right next to my skin. Many others have commented that they wear moneybelts, so I just wanted to reinforce those comments.

There was thread recently about men who had had their wallets picked from their pockets. It made me wonder why they carried a wallet at all. To me, no matter where it is, it becomes an easily-pickable package that is all the more obvious because they had to take the whole thing out to get into it and anyone who was watching could see where it came from, what was in it and where it went back to. In addition, the extra thickness of the materials of a typical wallet make it that much more obvious in a pocket, and maybe easier to identify by feel if someone has their hand inside your bag.

Just sayin'.

Posted by
56 posts

A question about the money belts, for someone who has worn one. I wore skinny jeans and tank tops each day I was in Italy last year, and I was very comfortable. I plan on wearing the same things this year, too. Would a money belt be terribly obvious? I don't have a problem carrying a purse, as I have been for 16 years, I rather love purses (I buy them a LOT) and when I used to go to Bonnaroo, I carried a hemp messenger bag on my bare shoulder for 10 hours a day. I mean, I can handle the discomfort that is inherent when carrying a bag, but I am once again getting freaked out about the idea of pickpocketing. I had NO problems last year, and indeed, felt very safe everywhere I went. Isn't it really about just keeping an eye on your stuff? That I can do. I would consider a money belt if it meant I wasn't adding some weird bumps to my stomach or abdomen, you know?

Posted by
4368 posts

I had NO problems last year, and indeed, felt very safe everywhere I went. Isn't it really about just keeping an eye on your stuff?

NO! Pickpockets work on distraction and stealth - and often in teams. You will never know your wallet is gone until later when you need it. And they can strike at anytime, anywhere.

They key is to keep your wallet or valuables in a location that they cannot get to - either physically or without you knowing. This can be done with a bag or purse, but they bag must be very difficult to access. A clasp or zipper is easy pickens. Many of the travel purses work well because they have several steps to gain access or numerous inner pockets that valuables can be secured in. It makes it more of a hassle for you of course, but that means it's working. Putting a travel lock on a zipper can also work great on a more traditional bag. A waist tie money belt also works on the same principle: it is worn under layers of clothing so no one but you can get to it (and often you can't without partially undressing).

Posted by
7097 posts

I don't care for a money belt. I found a neck pouch works for me. I found one that is very soft and not too long (I'm vertically challenged). Instead of putting it around my neck, where it hangs down the front and is bulky, I found another way. I shorten up the strap and wear it over one shoulder. I also safety pin it to my bra strap for added insurance. It fits below my armpit and doesn't hang past the hem of my shirt. It might show under a tight tank top, but I bring tops that are a little looser. It's not visible and it's so comfortable I forget I'm wearing it.

No matter how 'careful' one is, pickpockets can get your wallet if not adequately protected. In a crowded metro, by creating a diversion, or any number of other ways. It is impossible to be on high alert every second you are traveling. Things happen. It happened to me on a very crowded metro train. My wallet got picked. Fortunately for me we were on the train headed to the airport so it didn't disrupt my trip. My credit union reimbursed me for the money that was spent on my debit card. I only had $50 in it, as my euros were in another place. It was a pain having to run around as soon as I got home trying to replaces my drivers license, etc.

I do carry a crossbody purse with the things I want accessible throughout the day. I never take it off. Not at restaurants or anywhere else. If you don't take it off, no one can take it. It can happen here too. I recently saw a story on the news. I can't remember where it happened, maybe NYC, but surveillance video showed an older woman walking through a restaurant. She was quietly slipping purses off the backs of chairs as she walked through.

Posted by
5985 posts

A pro can get the watch off your wrist, no matter how careful you think you are. Diversionary tactics and teams, as stated above. For example: a group of four well-dressed women decided to look at the same painting I was looking at in an otherwise completely empty room. Sensing trouble, I turned away immediately but later found one zipper, a front one under a flap partially open. Only junk in there; the good stuff was in the last zipper pocket next to my body. These women were talented, not like the gangs of kids who are so obvious. So don't put all your valuables in one place or wallet: ie. money, cards, passport. And if you have stuff in a purse, be sure it's buried under a bunch of other stuff: ie. umbrella, guidebook, water bottle, maps. I was wearing a four-zipper cross-body purse I found in a cheap store in France, not one sold in the US.

Posted by
56 posts

Thanks, everyone! Yeah, I am going to be hyper-vigilant with my things while we're traveling this fall. I am also going to try and convince my husband to get a fancy new anti-theft backpack, and make him wear the "secret pocket" thing he bought last year. It was inconvenient -- but isn't it more inconvenient to have your crap stolen from under your nose? I sure think so. It's always worth it, in the end.

Posted by
254 posts

I always use a money belt. On my most recent trip, a Rick Steves tour, I wore it in the back instead of in the front for the first time. Worked much better! I would recommend, however, if you're going to be someplace warm that you make sure to put your valuables in a baggy or some kind of plastic within the money belt. You tend to sweat a lot in that spot! I bring a Rick Steves very very light backpack on most trips as well. But I only use it for things that wouldn't be tragic to lose: sunscreen, a map, make up, a light jacket, etc. also useful for carrying water. I tend not to bother with a purse at all except when En route. Oh, and I have a carrying case for my iPhone that Has a clip which can go on your waistband. I wear it inside my pants, so it's pretty hard to see if you were a thief. If I must leave my passport in my room for some reason, or anything else like my iPad, I will always lock it in my suitcase, and then "casually" placesomething on top of the suitcase so it doesn't even look like there may be something in there at all valuable. So you don't even see the locked part. Maybe this is paranoid of me, but I really do find it gives me peace of mind.

Posted by
1975 posts

Laura makes a good point about what to put in your backpack. If there isn't anything valuable in there to begin with, you don't need to bother with anti-theft anything. Pickpockets are free to go through it. What does your husband plan to put in his backpack? Would he consider a crossbody messenger bag? It's much easier to keep a hand and an eye on a bag like that, instead of a backpack.

With regard to your question about a money belt seen under your clothes: I don't wear skinny jeans so I can't address that, but I do wear my money belt backwards, with the pouch in the small of my back. It's more comfortable that way and it doesn't add bulk to my stomach where I don't want it! This method would probably work with skinny jeans.

Posted by
56 posts

Yeah, I think he might like a crossbody bag, I'll ask him. I just really like the look of the anti-theft stuff, especially from, for example, Baggallini. I think the backpacks look sleek and masculine, and I know he'd like that. I have no problem carrying our passports in a secret compartment in my purse, and I never -- never -- take my purse off when I'm traveling. When I sit down somewhere, it goes in my lap, while still slung across my body.

Posted by
12 posts

For those who keep everything valuable in your money belt, don't you have to expose yourself when you get something out? How do you pay for things?

I have a small leather backpack by Libaire that I love, but it's too small to take with me. The ingenious part is the main compartment is accessed through a diagonal zipper across the length of the back. In other words, the part that sits against your back.

I have always felt secure wearing this bag. I've purchased the Eagle Creek travel backpack, the one made of rip-stop nylon, and I plan on sewing a zipper like this onto the back panel. Then I'll use a wire tie on the zipper in front.

I also do this strange defiant thing where I put my phone in an outer unzippered pocket. I've had this bag for more than 10 years, lived in a big city and it's never been taken. At this point I'm almost daring someone to do it (my phone is 4 years old). I will not do this in Europe this year, though. :)

Posted by
756 posts

@Heidi, your money or credit card for the day's expected expenses are not in your money belt, so you shouldn't need to access it during the day. I usually put my daily use money/card in a deep zippered chest pocket of my travel shirt. The money belt is where I keep passport, other credit card, ATM card, and the wad of cash that I withdraw every 3-4 days. It gets repacked in the hotel room at night or in a bathroom during the day after an ATM withdrawal. Or if I'm getting cash from an ATM inside a bank in a private area, I might slip most of it into the money belt at my waist and then just tuck my shirt in on top. But otherwise the cash goes into that deep zippered pocket till I have privacy to put it in the money belt.

I don't use a purse when traveling; I carry a Civita daypack with waterbottle, guidebook, maps, jacket/umbrella, sunscreen, sunglasses, bandaids, emergency food [I always carry emergency food], etc. All my financial stuff that would go in a wallet back home are in my money belt, except for the day's allowance which is in a well-protected pocket. I realize other women carry purses with no problem, and that's fine, but this system works for me.

Posted by
4368 posts

@ Heidi - That is a downside using a waist-tie moneybelt - it is not easy to access. Which means you have to carry cash and a credit card or ATM accessible but also more vulnerable to pickpockets. Many people here use it for what they call "deep storage" and don't like the idea of letting anyone else know they have a moneybelt even if they can access it (depending on how you wear it you can relatively easily access it).

The thing I always say though is that it doesn't matter IF a potential thief knows where you keep your stuff IF they can't get to it. So your system of a backpack that is only accessed from the part resting against your back is perfect (as long as you aren't careless with it when not wearing it). I wear a belt loop wallet that is on display to the whole world - but no one else can get inside it without me knowing.

Posted by
12 posts

I found the backpack online! I got it at their outlet in Berkeley, CA. It's too small for me, as I'm hoping to be able to stuff a jacket inside, plus all the other stuff, but this or others might work for some of you.

Posted by
1924 posts

I've been tempted by various "travel purses" but always end up not liking the way they look and also feel they scream "tourist!", so I travel with my trusty leather Coach cross-body bag that zips shut. LeSportsac is another option, lightweight but strong. I leave my regular wallet at home (bulky and fiddly) and instead use a wristlet-size zippered pouch, euros seem to fit easier (no more than 100 worth in wallet) and all I need is one of my credit cards and driver's license. Second credit card, passport and the rest of my cash go in belt-loop pouch inside jeans. If I'm planning day trips, such as taking the train from Vienna to Salzburg, I'll bring a sturdy messenger bag instead of my purse so I can throw a snack, book and light sweater inside, and have room for some purchases.