Style Travel

How I Travel: The Bag Within a Bag

Today’s post is one that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, sharing how I normally travel with just a handbag/laptop bag, and a carry on suitcase. As many of you know, I absolutely loathe checking luggage (although I know that this is going to have to change with baby) and always try to travel without ever interacting with a baggage carousel.

My most important tool in my quest to travel lightly? The handbag within a bag! Unless I’m going on a short trip, you’ll never catch me at the airport with just a roller and a little gorgeous purse dangling off my arm. You are much more likely to see me instead with a trolley and what looks like a gigantic, stuffed bag on my shoulder. Inside that bag, is my actual “real” handbag – as well as a shawl, my laptop, water for the plane (purchased after security), snacks, my Kindle, and more. Doing so not only allows me to carry lots more than what just my handbag could carry, but also protects some of my favorite bags inside. The last time I went through the TSA Precheck line, they weren’t even letting people put their purses inside of a plastic bin – they all had to go on that very dirty rolling conveyer. I’m all for using and not babying my items…but subjecting your little box Kelly to that treatment without even a bin or bag to protect it, I’d say borders on abuse.

Here are a few of my favorite bags to use for traveling. I call them my “plane handbags” for that reason. I’ve picked them because they are each super light, fit most of my favorite leather bags well, and also quite a few other goodies as well. I’ve used both of these bags on multiple trips, by the way – and have never been questioned by aircraft crew about using them as my other “handbag” carry on.

Kelly in Longchamp

The first is the old standby – the Longchamp Le Pliage. Here, it’s pictured with my 32cm Kelly inside and a shawl. It easily can fit a laptop in a padded case, my Kindle, a bottle of water, and some other goodies as well.

A size comparison on top of my Globe-Trotter carryon (my other frequently used one is the Tumi Alpha)- as you can see, the top of the Kelly handle peeks out here, as the bag doesn’t zip fully with it inside. Doesn’t bother me at all, but just something to note.

Longchamp Pliage on Luggage

The Longchamp is one of my favorite bags (as it is for a lot of people). It isn’t the most structured, and I wish it had more pockets, but that’s really one of the genius features of the bag as well – it’s super light and folds up well. If you don’t necessarily your plane bag to fold up though, then I’d highly recommend looking into the Longchamp Neo as well – same dimensions, but a thicker, sturdier fabric that looks just a wee bit more formal and structured.

Another plus about either Longchamp (but especially the Neo)? They look decent enough to take to the office or meeting, which I’ve often opted to do in circumstances where I’m dragging my laptop and papers around, and/or having a designer bag isn’t appropriate.

Now, I’d like to show you an alternative “plane handbag” – the Kipling Sasha.

Kelly in Kipling

The Sasha isn’t as sleek as the Longchamp options, but I’ve found it to be quite a bit more practical at times. First of all, the bag comes with a long strap which can easily be shortened or lengthened to be crossbody – always a plus when running around a new city! As you can see, it also fits my Kelly with lots of room to spare. There’s a large zip pocket inside, which just fits my 13” MacBook Air without a sleeve – I usually don’t use it for that purpose.

Kipling on Luggage Front

As I mentioned earlier, the Sasha isn’t as “clean” a look as the Longchamp options, and can’t be used in a business meeting. But what the bag lacks in looks, it makes it for in other areas. I love the multiple pockets in the front, as well as the long zip. Often, I’ll stick my passport in one of the front pockets for easy access, along with a pen and my wallet.

And, one of the best features?

Kipling on Luggage Back

Yup – it slides over your suitcase handle easily! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to put my Pliage or another tote like this on my suitcase for easy rolling, only to have it tip over or fall off. Not a big deal, although it can get seriously inconvenient when you’re running to catch another plane or trying to balance everything you’re lugging. You’d never think this little bit of fabric would make such a difference, but it does. Plus, for other mamas – the Sasha makes a good diaper bag too, and you can adjust the cross body strap to hang over the handles of a stroller.

I do have some bags larger than the Kelly 32cm, and for those I also own the Kipling Ferra, which is a few inches higher. The Ferra fits my Bolide 35cm and also used to fit my Birkin 30cm easily, and could zip over both. It doesn’t feature as many pockets as the Sasha or the cross body strap though – just something to keep in mind!

I hope this post has helped some of you who have been looking to for ways to travel without checking baggage…or who just want to protect your expensive bags while traveling! And if you have any “bag within a bag” recommendations to share for fellow travelers – please do, I’m always looking for new finds, as I’m sure other readers are too!

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  • Yumi
    November 2, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Great post Katherine! I was just flying this weekend (to and from SF no less!) and I was definitely wishing that my bag was a bit larger. Normally I end up checking a bag but since this was a two day trip, I thought it would be a bit ridiculous. So note to self: acquire a Le Pliage.

    One question I do have: how do you minimize the liquids you bring for longer trips? I can never seem to fit all my liquids into the quart sized bag for the trip and so end up having to check a bag.

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Ooh…I usually hoard little liquid jars/samples and use them all for traveling. Or you can buy a kit that has little jars…no perfect solution there, especially for items like your favorite hair spray, etc.

  • Sandy
    November 2, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Love all your traveling tips Katherine! I use a backpack and carry on luggage for my 2+ weeks trips and never check anything in…well only on returning flights back to home. Only then, I dont mind as much.

    Since you mentioned way back that you have a Faure Le Page tote bag, do you use it for travel? Also, may you do a review on this? Ive been thinking about FLP as an alternative to LV neverfull and Goyard. Thanks!

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:16 am

      I’ll do a little post with my FLP in it soon hopefully! It’s a great alternative and I can see it being used as a travel bag, though the Kipling would still fit more, for example.

  • Lina
    November 2, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I love using the Lo and Sons TT for work. I typically tuck a small wristlet in there as well for evenings.

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:16 am

      I’ve never tried Lo and Sons, thank you for the recommendation though!

  • ella
    November 2, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    I picked up this trick from you in an earlier post and now use it ALL THE TIME. Thank you! Your travel tips are really excellent – you got me hooked on Rimowa luggage, among other things.

  • ella
    November 2, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Oh, one other thing – the expandable Longchamp (the bigger one – travel bag as opposed to tote) is especially great for this purpose.

  • ella
    November 2, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Argh, sorry, one more additional thing: I like to combine your approach above with the Chanel WOC (also covered in one of your earlier posts). Clothing and toiletries go in the roller board. My handbag, laptop, and things I need for the flight go in the Longchamp. And then my phone, cards, cash and passport go in the WOC, which I wear crossbody in the airport for easy access. When I get to your destination, I have all the bags I might need: a large handbag, a nondescript tote, and a small evening-appropriate bag.

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:18 am

      Great pick on the Longchamp expandable! I usually end up packing a WOC too, or something similar…so easy to wear like you say and access your ID, passport in emergencies.

  • Alison
    November 2, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Katherine,

    I love everything about your blog! I’m not in the market for designer bags, but I love learning about them from your blog. I especially love your book and article recomendations. I just picked up “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”, and can’t help wondering what you think of the book? I’m at the other end of mothering journey but it made me feel like a slacker! Thank you!

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Hi Alison, thanks! I haven’t read the book but did read the WSJ article when it came out and have a pretty good idea. I actually wasn’t raised in this style and am definitely not raising my child. I don’t think it’s bad, but I simply don’t have the energy, lol! I think as long as you try your best and try to set a good example, you’ll be fine. I’m sure you aren’t a slacker!

  • helen
    November 2, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    ditto on the expandable longchamp tote+WOC. i’m a big fan of the ebags packing system – shoe bag, flat toiletry bag (it has a plastic lined section for the liquids), and packing cubes. for liquids, i’ve had a lot of success with the little containers from muji labeled with office-supply label dots. definitely thumbs up on the big square blanket scarves that double duty as a warm layer and fashion piece. i also just picked up a pair of pluggz foldable flats, which are cushioned unlike the dr. scholls ones.

    as a ivy educated, 30-something tiger “child”, i wish my mom were a slacker. it would have been nice to be a regular kid.

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

      eBags packing cubes are great! I have others as well, I have a small packing cube addiction lol.

  • Wei
    November 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I love Prada nylon totes as carry-ons. Something that you can consider and it comes in various sizes and colours, depending on season. Mom loves her Longchamp for this purpose too.

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Great suggestion, thank you Wei! Prada nylon is quite indestructible in my experience.

  • Yuet
    November 3, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Hi Katherine, I often travel from NY several times a year to visit both my kids who are in school in CA. I’ve been using my rolling carry on plus my Vera Bradley weekender bag. It’s been the perfect combination for me since I haven’t had a need for checking in luggage. The weekender bag is super light weight, has plenty of interior compartments, a detachable shoulder strap, sturdy double handles, an exterior zip pocket for passports, that extra fabric band that slips onto the roller handle and it also fits my handbag when I need to board with only two pieces of carry ons. I know, some might feel that the fabric patterns may be a bit too busy, but I think that a bit of color is fun. I have a polka dot one. And they also come in solids too. I love this travel combination so much that I’ve gifted the weekender bag to several people already! And it fits easily under the seat I front .

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hi Yuet, thank you for the recommendation! I’ve heard good feedback on the usability of Vera Bradley bags, the fabric makes them super light too.

  • Cecilia
    November 3, 2015 at 2:00 am

    Thanks Kat for another great, informative post. I use Longchamp Le Pliage too, and will certainly given Kipling a try! Another alternative is LeSportsac’s Every Girl, Like Le Pliage it’s super light and roomy. I used one in Olympia le Tan’s special-edition Blooming Heart print for two recent NY trips and totally loved it!

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hi my friend, I love the tote too! I also adore this print and have a few items 🙂

  • Ella Pretty Blog
    November 3, 2015 at 7:50 am

    My forever fave bag within a bag is the Herve Chepelier – they were quite popular in the early 00s – which is when i bought my 3. They are so light, easy to stuff – and don’t get dirty!

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:21 am

      The Herve is a great bag and I wish they were easier to find. You were wise to stock up!

  • VC
    November 3, 2015 at 9:48 am

    I do the same thing! A bag inside a bag for travel and work =) I have a fabric Prada tote I bought in Italy and use that for everyday work but inside I always have one of my cross body bags.

    • Katherine
      November 3, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Another vote for Prada! Thanks for sharing what you use.

  • Oonagh
    November 3, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    Globetrotters are beautiful but in the US you must have bigger carry on bag measurements – in Asia the “carry on” size is too big for many airlines.

  • alice
    November 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Yesss I do this too! And that way if I do end up buying too much shit, I could potentially check in the carry on luggage and then stuff my overshopping in the bigger tote that I hold my handbag in originally.

  • Friday Things - Cake & Lilies
    November 6, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    […] Do you travel with a “bag within a bag”? I have TSA PreCheck and while it’s absolutely worth it, my biggest qualm is that they […]

  • Elizabeth
    November 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Hi Katherine!
    Too funny, I travel with a Le Pliage and a Tumi Alpha also, or a Rimowa. I refuse to check a bag (until kids arrive lol). Same strategy: Kelly, laptop, Kindle, water, and I have to have skin cream on flights, all in the Longchamp.
    What I have started to do, though, especially when traveling through multiple climates, is ship my luggage. I’m headed to Paris this week, and while I will carry on a bag TO Paris, another bag is going to my next destination (warm weather, different clothes), and I will ship the Paris bag back to LA. It’s not all that expensive and makes travel much easier. I won’t have anything but the Longchamp on my way back into the States!
    That’s my only tip as clearly your strategy is very well evolved 😉
    Safe travels,

    • Katherine
      November 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      That’s a fabulous tip! What shipping service do you use and do you insure? About how much does it run to say, Paris? Would love to hear as I’d like to utilize this in the future!

      • Elizabeth
        December 22, 2015 at 12:09 am

        Ack! I owe you an answer to this Katherine 🙂 I use Luggage Forward usually. It’s pretty reasonable given all the annoyance it saves. I think the trip I mentioned (one bag LA- Southeast US, one bag Paris-LA) cost about $350-$400 (the Paris-LA leg I would say was $260 of that) and I’m about to ship a bag LA-NYC-LA for around $250 (while I travel on to Tulum, where the boots, tights, and sweaters will do me no good at all!). This is with insurance which is a good chunk of the cost (about $10-15 per $1000). The more advance notice you have, the less it costs.
        It’s EXTRA great if you get to travel with just your smaller carry-on like a Longchamp – so freeing and almost weird to not be lugging around bags within bags attempting to have “only two items”!

  • Coco
    November 11, 2015 at 2:03 am

    My travel handbags used to be kipling. Then longchamp ( cos you can fold them!). I have since discovered Agnes b. It’s huge in Japan but actually a French brand. Their nylon bags look slightly more professional than kipling.

    I love the idea of a WOC, bought 1 but it’s too tiny for my travel essentials. Do you think a mini would be better size?

    • Katherine
      November 11, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      I do think a Mini would be better – I wish I had gotten one as well!

  • Revanche
    November 17, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    I love the abundance of suggestions for lightweight and good looking bags, I can never find recommendations for both form and function anywhere else 🙂