Travel Fashion Guide : How to Shop for a Perfect Bag

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When it comes to picking the right bag for yourself, what influence your purchase decision?

Some people go to the store or shop online for hours to finally decide what works for them.
Some people have an idea of what they want and may spend few or lots of hours searching for the item.

I’m more of the latter. I’ve always hated shopping and dread trying on outfits after outfits or spend countless hours searching for the perfect bag.

Either way, we all trade our time and money to find stuff that fills our needs.

Your Style Represents You

Fashion and style play a big part of our life, like it or not, it’s the first thing people notice and it can influence how people perceive you.

Here’s my version of freedom in style.

Here’s the backpackers version you’ll never get to see in real life.

I bet you judge me differently if it’s the latter, admit it.

You see, when it comes to style (and to many other aspects of life), the more you know yourself, the better off you can save time and money and energy finding items that are suitable for you.

Style is a way you speak about yourself. What’s your message?

Even more so for travelers with a limited wardrobe, it’s crucial to pick the right travel fashion style that not only represents you, but also serves well.

To pick the right bags and clothes for travel, you’ll need to know yourself very well.
What kind of traveler are you? What do you plan to do and where will you be hanging out mostly?

Like I mentioned in my Solo Travel for Women book, it’s best you pack smartly according to your whereabouts.

Know Thyself

As a long-term traveler myself, there are many events and hang out I want to attend.

I know I am too spoiled to be a backpacker and I certainly want to look good for events. I workout a lot to stay healthy and I certainly don’t want to miss the fun of hiking in nature or swim in the ocean.

Knowing myself and know what I will be doing allows me to prepare my wardrobe and accessories that fit my needs.

As a traveler, the lifestyle makes it even more specific to our needs. We got no room & money for disposable fashions that fades after the season.

Travel fashion focuses on versatile, durable, good value, protect belongings, stay organized, and of course, suitable for one’s style.

Ask the Right Questions

Start with asking the right questions will save you time and money on picking the right bag that fit your needs.

What’s your personality?
• Are you fairly active? You’d hike in the mountains and swim in the ocean?
• Are you quiet type? Do you enjoy taking photos at landmarks, strolling in museums, or do you enjoy watch passersby at café?
• Are you adventurous? Are you up for anything and everything and anybody with invites?
• Are you a classy person? Do you favor higher-end venues so you can dress stylish and enjoy being elegant?
• Are you the practical type who favors planning out your whole entire itinerary with exact numbers on a spreadsheet?
• What if you are all of the above? Do you have a focus for your trip? How long is your trip anyways?

Where are you going and what will you be doing?
What types of events are you attending?
• Business conventions or seminars
• Business meeting
• Local meet-ups
• Tinder dates
• Yoga retreats
• Hiking
• Beach
• Airport
• Party
• Casual hang out
• Workout
• Formal party, events, dates
• Other?

Planning it out will help you avoid packing the wrong item or more stuff than you actually need.

This is my activity chart, what’s yours like?

What’s your budget and your luggage space?
• Do you shop with the budget as a priority?
• Do you plan to buy more stuff at your travel destination?
• Do you favor have the right items that are more suitable for you even if it’s a bit pricier than what you normally pay?

How do you wish to be perceived?
• Do you care about how other people look at you?
• Do you pay attention to your style or you usually go for comfort first?
• Do you prefer to portray certain look?

The focus points you should know

What kind of traveler are you?

Backpackers – budgeted travelers who carry all their belonging in one giant backpack. They tend to use a very large backpack that is often bulky, heavy and puts a lot of weight on shoulders. They usually choose youth hostels and shared dormitory when it comes to travel. They tend to engage in casual parties, hangouts, adventurous events, and casual venues with t-shirt and jeans apparel.
Vacation travelers – These people have clocks ticking for their vacation. They’d go all out and get the most out of their trip. Usually, they like to wear casual and go for comfort during daytime to do shopping and sightseeing. Then they’ll change to trendy apparels for nicer venues.
Retiree travelers – They usually have money and can afford a comfortable nice place to live. They need comfortable & convenient apparels and bags to store their medical supplies and personal belongings. Most of the time, they’d go easy on their itineraries base on their physical condition and capabilities.
Blogger travelers – These people have agenda. Their goal is to have fantastic photos for their blogs. It’s best to have trendy, fashionable items to get the best looks in shots.
Long-term travelers, digital nomads, location independent entrepreneurs – Depending on individual’s priority and interest, these people travel with purpose and will pay to merge comfort & style. This new breed of traveler favors quality shirts that are versatile, name brand jeans, comfy flip-flops and a durable backpack that will make them look like a highly sophisticated traveler. These people will do anything to NOT look like a frugal backpacker.

With different priorities of each type of travelers, knowing your whereabouts will help you conclude what kind of bags can fit your needs.

The events that are most common for travelers include:
• Nature (hike/beach)
• Casual hangout
• Party/date/meetup
• Business events
• Evening events
• Formal events
• Seminars & conventions.

In other words, it’s best to have travel bags that are versatile and travel-friendly.

It’s best to have different bags that allows you to fit into any events:
• Light-weight thin nylon bag
• Everyday bag
• Evening/formal/date bag
• Backpack (for hiking)

The Dont’s for picking a travel bag:
• Don’t buy handbags that are too large – you’ll store more unnecessary stuff than you need, plus, it’ll look like a diaper bag.
• Don’t buy name brands unless you can afford them. If it tears, stained, dirty, lost, or get stolen, you’ll be heart-broken.
• Don’t choose light color (Gets dirty way too quick.)
• Don’t get bags with no sealing zippers. (Too risky for thieves.)

The Do’s for picking a travel bag:
• Do make sure it’s versatile
• Do make sure it’s durable
• Do pick styles that’s multi-functional
• Do pick solid color (better match outfits)
• Do pick dark colors (won’t be obvious if it gets dirty)

• Be careful on the types leather you choose because shiny PU leathers or faux leathers can be scratched or torn easily and they can make the bag and your style look cheap.
• Metal chains, buckles, and embellishments make the bag look stylish, but weighs you down for sure. Also, excessive embellishment makes it more like a burden than tasteful style. You need to know how to balance it out if you favor chains/buckles/embellishments.
• Bags that are multi-functional is the best. I usually go for ones that can be worn on one shoulder, cross-shoulder, or held in hand.


What’s in Your Bag?

The second focus to shopping for the perfect bag is to know what you carry. Examine your relation with each item and prioritize them can help you reduce unnecessary weights that burden your shoulder and ruin your travel experience.

Common items in traveler’s bag

• Wallet
• Sunglasses (and/or glasses)
• Smartphone

Optional items (depends on individual’s needs, country, and agenda)
• Passport
• Water bottle
• Hand sanitizer
• Sunblock
• Portable charger
• Tablet
• Laptop
• Point-and-shoot camera
• Extra batteries for camera
• Eating utensils
• Snacks

Downsize the heck out of your items:

If I’ll be out all day, I’ll include portable charger, if not, I’ll leave it in my apartment or Airbnb.

Depending on the country I’m in, I sometimes pack eating utensils.

I sometimes just use smartphone to shoot instead of my Canon Powershot SX700 camera (which is also travel-friendly).

I may leave my passport in my Airbnb/apartment and just carry a copy version (or snap a photo on my smartphone) if the country is not strict.

For wallets, I may just stash some cash or carry credit card & ID.

Forget the stainless steel, ceramic and Thermos water bottles when it comes to travel. Unless you are in the Himalayas and need hot water to survive, most common folks won’t be out all day more than 8-10 hours.

Silicon water bottle is sufficed for your thirst. Not only you can fold them easily, you can reuse them, refill them, and store hot/cold beverage.

Embrace your un-travel-friendly stainless steel or Thermos or Starbucks ceramic mugs when you go back home.

If you want your water cold, store your silicone water bottle or regular water bottles in the freezer for at least a day before your activity.

I usually pack one frozen bottle, one refrigerated bottle, and one silicon water bottle with protein powder blend for my hikes if I don’t have a water bladder pouch.

For passport, get a quality leather RFID-blocking wallet. They look stylish and protects passport well. You can also put in some bills and put in a credit card & ID.

For portable charger, get the smallest & strongest if possible.

Best to think like a minimalist and go easy on the items so you don’t end up packing tons of stuff that weigh you down. I sometimes just use a small cross-body purse, a clutch,or just hand carry my wallet + phone and dash out the door.

If you are having a hard time downsizing belongings, examine each item you own and think deeper as to why you need it.

How many hours will you be out anyways?
Where you are going and who will you be hanging out with?
If the item is not gonna help you or make much difference in your agenda for the day, why are you carrying it?

Go from that perspective and start detaching emotions to unnecessary tangible things.

You’ll be okay, you got this.

Now you know where you will be going and the things you need in the bag, read the next post on the recommend bags that’s suitable for traveler who is not backpackers.

P.S. Backpackers can be great people. They are adventurous and often tries to explore outside of their comfort zone. They often have the darnest stories to share. I admire their courage and tenacity, but I don’t need to be like them because I’m not suitable. Just sayin’

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