The Best Messenger Bags for Travel

Go hands-free with these sleek carryalls.

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Messenger Bags
Courtesy of Bonfanti Diego/Getty Images

Much like picking a comfortable pair of walking shoes, choosing the right bags is a crucial part of creating an enjoyable travel experience. The perfect option should be large enough to store all your essentials but also lightweight, comfortable, and hands-free, so you can do more important stuff like take memorable travel photos. That's why we love messenger bags so much — they're stylish, versatile, and easy to carry; plus, the right one can hold everything from your laptop and travel essentials to a change of clothes.

Our top pick is the Kenneth Cole Reaction Risky Business Messenger Bag because of its sleek look, non-bulky feel, and subtly spacious interior. But if you're looking for something smaller or theft-proof, or you simply want more options to suit your style, keep reading because our list has it all.

These are the best messenger bags to buy:

T+L's Top Picks

Best Overall: Kenneth Cole Reaction Risky Business Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It's ultra-spacious while remaining slim and lightweight.

What to Consider: The strap is not detachable.

The Reaction stands out thanks to its luxe appearance, high-quality construction, and functionality. Along with a spacious main compartment, the stylish leather bag boasts an adjustable padded shoulder strap, a cute flap-over closure, and plenty of pockets to keep your belongings organized. Carry books or stow away your laptop or tablet — either way, this messenger bag has the space and sturdiness to take it on without adding bulk to your daily routine. The interior is lined with tear-resistant fabric, while the durable exterior is made of full-grain cowhide Colombian leather that only looks better as it ages. Meanwhile, a padded permanent shoulder strap, which extends 60 inches, provides an easy and comfortable alternative to carrying the bag by its top handle. Plus, it comes in three neutral colors.

Dimensions: 15 x 11 x 3 inches | Material: Leather

Best Expandable: Ytonet Expandable Messenger Laptop Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It has 10 pockets — more than any other option on our list.

What to Consider: There's no padding on the bottom of the bag.

If you ever find yourself needing more space in your bag while you're out and about, consider this expandable travel briefcase from Ytonet. The versatile messenger bag comes with an anti-slip shoulder strap, a luggage strap, a padded laptop sleeve, and 10 pockets and compartments to hold essentials like your cell phone, pens, tablets, and more. Plus, it can easily expand from 7 inches to 9 inches wide just by unzipping the expansion zipper. To top it all off, the bag is water resistant.

Sizes: 2 options | Material: Polyester

Best Leather: Frye Logan Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Nordstrom

Why We Love It: You can feel the quality and craftsmanship with just one touch of the bag.

What to Consider: It's the most expensive option on our list.

Frye has been making high-quality leather goods for over 150 years, and this sleek and supple messenger bag is proof. The roomy interior is big enough to fit a laptop, water bottle, notebook, and more, while the magnetic flap closure keeps your belongings safe and secure. The timeless bag also features a convertible strap and plenty of pockets for convenience.

Dimensions: 18 x 14 x 6 inches | Material: Leather

Related: The 12 Best Travel Purses for Your Next Trip

Most Comfortable: Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Timbuk2

Why We Love It: The mesh strap is padded for a soft and cushy feel on your shoulders.

What to Consider: It could be too small for those who tend to carry a lot in their bags.

Many messenger bags feature straps that start to chafe and irritate your shoulder area. Not this one. , TheTimbuk2 messenger bag features an incredibly comfortable airmesh strap pad, and t also boasts a top handle for easy carrying. You'll also find several interior pockets, including one for a water bottle, and compression straps for a secure closure. The cute carryall comes in eleven different colorways and four sizes.

Sizes: 4 options | Material: Polyester tweed

Most Organized: Samsonite Flap Over Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyonf

Why We Love It: It has a pocket for everything.

What to Consider: It scratches easily.

You'll never have to search endlessly through your bag again thanks to this hyper-organized option from Samsonite. The sleek leather messenger bag boasts a spacious interior, multiple compartments, and a zipper closure; an organizer under the front flap features special pockets for pens, phone, business cards, and more. The bag has both a top handle and an adjustable shoulder strap that's padded enough to keep you comfortable on a day of travel or commuting. If you choose not to use the shoulder strap, you can easily remove it.

Dimensions: 16.5 x 14.5 x 5 inches | Material: Leather

Best for Left-Handed Wearers: Chrome Mini Metro Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of REI

Why We Love It: The fit is especially secure on your body, and the interior features special compartments to separate wet items from dry ones.

What to Consider: It doesn't have a top handle.

While most messenger bags accommodate right-handed wearers, this attractive option from Chrome is designed to be comfortable for both lefties and righties. The roomy bag is big enough to fit a 15-inch laptop along with other daily essentials, and it features a seatbelt release clasp on the shoulder strap that doubles as a bottle opener. It even has special compartments to separate wet clothes or cargo from dry. The bag's hands-free style makes it perfect for cyclists, climbers, and commuters.

Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 7 inches | Material: Nylon, tarpaulin

Related: Cute Crossbody Bags for Travelers

Best for Frequent Flyers: Timbuk2 Command TSA-friendly Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Walmart

Why We Love It: It's a TSA-compliant bag, so most electronics can stay inside as you go through security.

What to Consider: It doesn't stand up on its own.

If you fly a lot, you'll love this messenger bag from Timbuk2. The sleek carryall is TSA compliant, and along with an interior organizer for smaller items, the bag also boasts a comfortable strap pad and sturdy aluminum hooks that will keep the inside contents secure. It even features a slot on the back so you can hook the bag around the handle of your rolling luggage.

Dimensions: 17 x 14.4 x 5 inches | Material: Nylon

Best Anti-theft: Travelon Anti-theft Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It's compact but can fit a surprising amount of cargo.

What to Consider: It's designed specifically with women in mind.

This slim messenger bag from Travelon has a cut-resistant strap and locking zippers to help prevent thefts from occurring and multiple pockets to store and organize your belongings. What's more, it boasts RFID-blocking credit card and passport slots so you can keep all your personal information safe from digital hackers. The sturdy bag may be the smallest option on our list, but you can still use it to carry a surprising amount of things, such as a water bottle, umbrella, wallet, and more.

Dimensions: 11 x 10 x 4.5 inches | Material: Polyester

Best Canvas: Sweetbriar Canvas Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It has a stylish monochromatic design at a great price.

What to Consider: It doesn't have much structure, so it's floppy when empty.

This canvas option by Sweetbriar boasts a spacious main compartment, exterior pockets on the front and sides, a top handle, and an adjustable padded shoulder strap. The casual bag's brass hardware makes it look polished, while the velcro flap-over panel keeps your belongings in place. There are five stylish colors to choose from, and at just $30 a piece, you might as well order a few.

Dimensions: 17.5 x 12 x 5 inches | Material: Canvas

Related: Stylish and Sturdy Laptop Bags for Business Travelers

Best Long: Leaper Retro Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It comes in three sizes and 23 colors.

What to Consider: It's compact, even in its largest size.

Unlike most other messenger bags, which are oriented horizontally, this vertical option from Leaper Retro evenly distributes the bag's weight across your body. The stylish bag features smooth zippers, a padded shoulder strap, a top handle, and plenty of pockets, including one for your laptop or tablet. Leather pull straps and silver hardware give the bag a sophisticated appearance, while magnetic snap-enclosed pockets keep your belongings secure.

Sizes: 3 options | Material: Canvas

Best Waterproof: Peacechaos Waterproof Messenger Bag

messenger bag
Courtesy of Amazon

Why We Love It: It's got a classic, rustic look.

What to Consider: The shoulder strap can't be removed.

This Peacechaos messenger bag is made from a waxed canvas that is not only super durable but also waterproof. The shoulder strap is fully adjustable, and the satchel can be worn as both a shoulder bag and a crossbody bag, or carried by its top handle. The leather accents give the casual bag a polished feel, while six interior pockets and two exterior pockets help keep everything organized. Grab it in seven colors including army green and coffee.

Dimensions: 15 x 11.5 x 5.5 inches | Material: Canvas, leather

Tips for Buying Messenger Bags

Prioritize Comfort

Messenger bags are meant to carry a number of items without weighing you down. That said, choose bags with padded shoulder straps or sling-like options that rest comfortably on the back, sort of like a backpack, and allow for hands-free activity. If you want to use yours as a briefcase also, choose one with a removable shoulder strap and a handle on top of the bag, both of which will allow you to easily convert it from being crossbody to handheld.

Consider Organizational Features

If you're in the market for a messenger bag, it's likely because you have more things to carry than a traditional purse or tote bag can hold. When you buy a bag, make sure it has all the organizational features (ample pockets, dividers, card slots, a laptop sleeve, etc.) you need for your intended use. Other features to look for are zippered pockets to keep your items in place, and if you spend time at the gym, moisture-wicking compartments to separate dirty clothes from your other belongings.

Choose the Right Material for Your Intended Use

High-quality leather messenger bags are typically sturdy and long-lasting, making them ideal for daily commuting and travel. Nylon or polyester bags make great choices for outdoor activities and the gym because they're water resistant and easy to clean. When it comes to everyday use and light travel, choose a bag made of canvas, as it's durable enough to withstand frequent wear and tear.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure writers are shopping, fashion, and product experts who use personal experience and customer recommendations to choose the best items for shoppers. For this article, Rebecca Carhart and Hillary Maglin researched dozens of messenger bags and used their expertise as travel writers to curate the perfect list of messenger bags for men and women.

Up Next: The Most Stylish and Comfortable Travel Backpacks for Women

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