I Traded My Carry-on Suitcase for This Oprah-approved Weekender Bag — Yes, Really

The spacious duffel comes with so many pockets to help keep me organized.

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Luka Duffel
Photo:

Calpak

With the recent news about lost and delayed luggage at airports, it’s no wonder travelers are worried their carry-on suitcases could potentially be checked. I know I was one of them, which led me to bring my favorite weekender bag on my recent four-day trip to Chicago. Believe it or not, the lightweight and spacious Calpak Luka Duffel fit all my outfits for each day, plus a jean jacket, a liquid bag, toiletries, underwear, socks, a pair of sandals and even a travel steamer. 

Not sure you want to swap your wheeled luggage out just yet? Well, you may want to reconsider since this duffel has hundreds of glowing reviews from Calpak shoppers and an impressive 4.8 average rating. What’s more, even Oprah herself has given the travel bag her stamp of approval, including it in her famous Favorites Things list in 2019.

weekender bags
Calpak

To buy: calpaktravel.com and nordstrom.com, $120

I’m extremely picky about my weekender bags (I’ve tried several), and this one surpasses all of my expectations. The long shoulder straps, which do not slip off when I’m on the move, are cushioned so they also don’t dig or rub uncomfortably into my shoulders, especially in the warmer months when I don’t have sleeves to protect my skin. The entire exterior is made of the same plush padding, which is also coated to be water-resistant. Plus, the duffel comes with a longer shoulder strap so you can wear it across your body to more evenly distribute the weight of its contents.

On the inside, there are a total of five (!!) pockets — a dream for organization — including one that can safely store my laptop as needed. On the exterior, there is a water bottle holder, a shoe compartment (which keeps my footwear separated from my clean clothes), and a large side pocket for items I might need quick access to. My favorite pocket, however, is the one on the luggage sleeve, which includes a zipper; this pocket is so hidden that I didn’t even realize I had it until months after I bought the bag.

And that also brings me to the fact that this weekender bag boasts a handy luggage sleeve that you can slide over the handle of any rolling suitcase for longer trips that require me to bring more of my belongings along. This sleeve makes maneuvering through busy airports and train stations practically effortless.

overnight bags
Courtesy of Calpak

To buy: calpaktravel.com and nordstrom.com, $120

In case you were wondering, the bag measures 16 inches by 12 inches by 7 inches, which is compliant with TSA overhead compartment and underseat storage requirements. On my most recent trip, since I intended to use it as a carry-on, I had stuffed this duffel to its maximum capacity. While people with rolling suitcases were asked to check their bags at the gate, I zipped right by with no issues or trouble putting it in the overhead bin. I did test putting it underneath the airplane seat — and while it fit, I was left with no leg room. If you don’t pack it full, it could easily be used as a personal item, otherwise prepare to stow it overhead if you want space for your feet.

But, don't just take my word for it. Reviewers love the bag for its spacious interior and smart design. One shopper wrote, “I packed this for my carry-on bag for a recent trip, and had so much room leftover, I almost felt bad for bringing it.” Another said, “Everything fit without trouble, and I was very pleased with the functionality of the pockets.” In fact, buyers were consistent in their praise for the number of pockets this bag has to keep you organized.

Luka Duffel

Calpak

To buy: calpaktravel.com, $120

If you, like me, are concerned with your carry-on being checked at the gate or that it won't fit in the overhead bins of smaller airplanes, don't fret. One reviewer reported, “Fits in the tiny overhead bins on the small commuter jets." They added, “No more gate checking for me!” Several reviews even noted how they used the Calpak Luka Duffel as their personal item on planes, which shows this bag is truly versatile and fits each traveler’s needs.

I’ll leave you with one last endorsement: my cousin actually bought this bag without knowing I also owned one because, through her own research, she found it was the perfect bag for her travel needs too! Reduce your gate-checking worries and grab the Calpak Luka Duffel while it’s still in stock.

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