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Bon voyage! How to choose the perfect weekender bag, according to travel experts

Looking to escape for the weekend? We've got just the thing.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

Hey there, jetsetter! Are you planning to embark on a weekend getaway, but struggling with the type of bag to take with you? Packing for a trip can certainly be frustrating, but choosing the right travel gear can help alleviate any unwanted stress.

When it comes to finding the perfect duffel, tote or backpack for your next excursion, you’ll first want to consider the size, style and material, according to experts. Whether you’re traveling by plane, car or train, we’ve got several great weekender bags that fit their rigorous criteria that'll help make your next adventure the best one yet!

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Size | Style | Materials | Award winning weekender | Best duffel bags | Best tote bags | Best backpacks | How we chose | Meet the experts

Shop TODAY Snapshot

What size weekender bag is best?

Are you planning on attending a beach wedding or going on a yoga retreat? Either way, it's imperative that you have your destination top of mind when choosing which bag to bring on your trip.  

“Determine how much space you need. Consider the length, width and depth to ensure it can accommodate your clothing, toiletries and other essentials for a weekend trip,” suggests Ulliyada Bopanna, vice president of design and innovation for Samsonite North America. “Airlines also have carry-on size restrictions, so check those if you plan to use it for air travel."

Travel blogger Ali Garland prefers using a small backpack (20-25L) that can service multiple purposes for shorter trips and is less likely to get gate checked.

“I’ve been on so many flights where the gate agents say the flight is full and they need to check people’s carry-on luggage and they always take the suitcases,” says Garland. “Even when I’m traveling with my 40L backpack, they tend to ignore me and gate check the roller bags instead. So for a weekend, you can easily pack a few outfits, bathroom items and whatever other necessities in a small backpack."

What weekend bag style is best?

When choosing a style for your weekender bag, Bopanna urges travelers to find one that matches their personal taste.

You know better than [carrying] a gym duffel if you’re not going to the gym,” she says. “Weekenders are a great alternative to rolling luggage or carry-ons as they convey a distinct sense of style and nonchalance. Opt for a weekender bag with comfortable handles and adjustable shoulder straps. This provides versatility in how you carry it, especially if you need to walk long distances with the bag. If you’re carrying it with a rolling luggage, make sure it has a sleeve that allows you to carry it securely with your suitcase."

For Misty Belles, Virtuoso VP of Global Public Relations, she prefers weekender bags that "mix fashion and function. I know myself well enough to know that if it doesn’t fit my “look,” I’m not going to carry it, no matter how convenient. I like bags that can either be carried on my shoulder or in hand, and that are comfortable either way.”  

Also, stitching is extremely important when it comes to shopping for a durable weekender bag. “Pay attention to the stitching and seams,” Bopanna recommends. “Reinforced stitching and strong seams are important for longevity. Check the quality of hardware like zippers, buckles and D-rings. Be willing to invest a bit more for higher quality.”

What materials are good for a weekender bag?

It’s no secret that the material of your bag is just as important as the contents inside it. Bopanna recommends looking for these three materials for weekender bags:

  • Leather: To start, leather offers durability and a stylish, timeless look. Note: It may require more maintenance and tends to be heavier.
  • Canvas: Known for being lightweight and durable, canvas bags are easier to clean and maintain.
  • Nylon: This material delivers water resistance and is lighter than canvas or leather. It’s a good choice for outdoor trips.

If you’re bringing your bag on an airplane, Belles recommends investing in a material that is malleable. “If you’re flying with your weekender, it should be able to scrunch under the seat in front of you, especially if you’re also bringing a rollaboard. Something soft-sided and unstructured is best,” she advises.  

Shop TODAY Travel Gear Award winner

Vera Bradley Weekender Travel Bag

What we like
  • Lots of pockets for storage
Something to note
  • Not much structure

Colorways: 36 | Dimensions: 18.5" x 12.5” x 7.5” | Material: Cotton | Special features: Removable strap | Capacity: 30L

If the world is your oyster, this carry-on bag from Vera Bradley will make the best travel companion. Not only was it a Shop TODAY Travel Gear Awards winner for Best Splurge Carry-on, but it also has 2,000+ verified five-star ratings on Amazon. Featuring a front zip pocket, a side pocket, and two back slip pockets, this weekender tote will store all your favorite items from cowboy boots to fleece leggings.

Best weekender duffel bags

HYC00 Travel Duffel Bag

What we like
  • Separates wet and dry clothes
Something to note
  • Can't handle overstuffing

Colorways: 58 | Dimensions: 10.63” x 21.65” x 7.09” | Material: Water-resistant nylon | Special features: Trolley sleeve | Capacity: 30L | Warranty: Lifetime

This Amazon's Choice bag has six internal and two external pockets, so there’s no excuse for overpacking! This practical duffel is made of a high-density, water-resistant material to help separate your dry items from your dripping wet towels. Satisfied customers speak to the performance, value and the spacious interior of the bag.

ETRONIK Travel Duffel Bag

What we like
  • Separate compartment for shoes
Something to note
  • Not overly spacious

Colorways: 43 | Dimensions: 18" x 13.5" x8.7" | Material: Waterproof nylon fabric | Special features: USB charging port | Capacity: 37L

This trendy duffel bag is a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon and is also a favorite of Shop TODAY associate editor Kamari Stewart. This waterproof bag features a luggage trolley strap, detachable shoulder strap and side pockets. Its best feature? There’s a separate compartment for shoes on the bottom of the bag, which is why it’s Stewart’s travel solemate! 

Samsonite Mobile Solution Classic Duffel Bag

What we like
  • Fits over most luggage
Something to note
  • No pad on shoulder strap

Colorways: 2 | Dimensions: 23.3” x 16.3” x 7.5” | Material: Nylon fabric with vinyl trim | Special features: Smart sleeve | Warranty: 3-year limited

This classic Samsonite bag has a removable/adjustable strap so it can be worn as a crossbody or over the shoulder, depending on your preference. With various pockets, this duffel is designed to carry all the essential items you’ll require for a weekend away. Shoppers like how easy it is to wipe clean and its sturdy structure that holds its shape while packing.

Calpak Stevyn Duffel Bag

What we like
  • Separate shoe compartment
Something to note
  • No wheels

Colorways: 9 | Dimensions: 19.5” x 10.5” x 9” | Material: Polyester | Special features: Shoe compartment | Capacity: 47L | Warranty: one-year limited

You won’t want to hit the road without this chic duffel from Calpak. If you’re a lover of shoes and can’t travel without multiple options, this is the bag for you! In addition to its large bottom compartment for sneakers and heels, this lovely tote also features a roomy main compartment with interior pockets for all your remaining essentials. 

The North Face Never Stop Weekender Duffel

What we like
  • Durable and lightweight
Something to note
  • Shoe compartment is small

Colorways: 3 | Dimensions: 27.2’’ x 15’’ x 10.2’’ | Material: Recycled Nylon & Polyester | Special features: Top handles snap together | Capacity: 42L | Warranty: Limited lifetime

This sporty duffel is great for a family camping trip or weekend at the lake. Featuring a branded internal liner, large central compartment and easy-to-use zippers, this athletic tote will safely store all your travel gear. 

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel

What we like
  • Super durable
  • Water-resistant
Something to note
  • No load lifters on straps

Colorways: 8 | Dimensions: 19.7” x 12.5” x 8.5” | Material: Recycled polyester ripstop | Special features: Removable ergonomic shoulder straps | Capacity: 40L

Production coordinator Camryn Privette loves this Patagonia duffel for its durability. “I’ve used this bag for 5+ years now and it never has failed me. I’ve [dragged] it through airports, campground dirt and everything in-between,” she says.

This sporty duffel features zipper side pocket, an interior mesh lid pocket and a padded base to help protect all the items inside. If you’re going away for longer than a few days, this bag also comes in three larger sizes: 55L, 70L and 100L.

The best part about this bag is that it's eco-friendly as it is made of 100% recycled thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). TPU is a laminate applied to the material and is a crucial part of what makes the Black Hole Duffel so durable and weather-resistant, according to the brand.

Best weekender tote bags

Baggallini Carryall Tote Bag

What we like
  • Tons of pockets
Something to note
  • No hard structure

Colorways: 22 | Dimensions: 18”x 12” h x 5.5” | Material: Nylon | Special features: Quick access phone pocket | Warranty: One-year

Production coordinator Bella Druckman turns to this Baggallini tote for fulfilling all her weekend packing needs.

“The bag has a luggage sleeve, so I can slip it onto my rolling luggage bag during a longer trip. For shorter trips, I love that it has two types of straps — a longer crossbody strap and two shorter straps to hold it as a tote bag. This allows me to carry it differently depending on how heavy the bag is (and how tired I am)," Druckman says.

Béis The Weekender

What we like
  • Separate shoe compartment
Something to note
  • Bottom can be hard to open

Colorways: 9 | Dimensions: 19" x 15.7" x 9.8" | Material: Jute canvas, vegan leather and polyester | Special features: Removable shoulder strap with shoulder pad | Capacity: 49L

Commerce writer Danielle Murphy no longer leaves home for the weekend without this trendy bag. "My favorite part is the separate shoe compartment at the bottom. I use it to keep my dirty footwear separate from my clothes, but it’s also great for storing clunky toiletry bags!"

This stylish tote has nearly 11,000 perfect five-star ratings on the brand's website and features a key leash, trolley pass-through and organizational pockets.

"I’ve used it on multiple trips now and have enjoyed it because it has enough space to pack for a weeklong trip (if you pack right), but also works as a carry-on and is easy to pack thanks to the many compartments it has. I also love how the handles are long enough that you can just put it on your shoulder if you wanted to carry it that way," adds editor Vivien Moon.

Dagne Dover Landon Neoprene Carryall Bag

What we like
  • Easy to carry
Something to note
  • Straps can seem short

Colorways: 6 | Dimensions: 9” x 6.25” x 4.75”| Material: Premium neoprene | Special features: Detachable adjustable crossbody strap and key leash | Capacity: 5L

You won’t regret splurging on this classy Dagne Dover carryall bag for a second! This 100% vegan option includes a detachable crossbody strap and exterior phone pocket, so you’ll never miss an important call from your bestie again. This chic tote comes in sizes XS to XL, depending on your desired preference... and the amount of clothes you pack.

“This is my second Dagne Dover purchase and I love it! This bag has more than enough space to pack for a weekend and I love all the pockets/compartments. It’s stylish and practical at the same time,” said one verified buyer.

Away The Everywhere Bag

What we like
  • Very spacious
Something to note
  • No lock for laptop compartment

Colorways: 5 | Dimensions: 16.3” x 10.2” x 7.3” | Material: Nylon, leather | Special Features: Trolley sleeve | Capacity: 20L

…. and Away we go! Featuring a trolley sleeve, interior & exterior pockets and 15” laptop pocket, this bag has everything to deem it the ultimate travel accessory. Satisfied buyers speak to the great quality and design of the bag. 

Best weekender backpacks

Matein Carry on Backpack

What we like
  • Very durable
Something to note
  • No separate laptop compartment

Colorways: 9 | Dimensions: ‎19.5" x 13.5" x 6" | Material: Water-resistant polyester | Special features: Expandable | Capacity: 40L

If you’re planning to hit a few hiking trails this weekend and in need of an oversized backpack, look no further. This airplane-approved backpack has 5,800+ verified five-star ratings and comes in three different sizes. Its adjustable shoulder straps are designed to make the bag feel lighter and easier to carry.

“It was more than what I thought it was going to be. I was able to fit a lot more items than expected and the convenience of front pockets/storage made it easier going through TSA. Will buy more for my family,” said one verified buyer.

Athleta Excursion Backpack

What we like
  • Easy-access cell phone pocket
Something to note
  • Straps can be loose

Colorways: 2 | Dimensions: 9” x 3” x 15” | Material: recycled nylon | Special features: Mesh back panel and adjustable strap

Going on an adventure? Made from recycled polyester, this Athleta excursion backpack is exactly what you need to maximize your fun. If you’re planning to spend the weekend outdoors, you’ll be extra thankful for this bag’s side pockets so you can quickly access your water bottle for an ice-cold drink.  

“Perfect size. Very cute! Sits well on back. Using for hiking and around town. Quality is great,” said one verified five-star customer.

Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Pack

What we like
  • Super spacious
Something to note
  • Can be bulky

Colorways: 5 | Dimensions: 22” x 12” x 10” | Material: TPU-coated 1000D polyester | Special features: Security anti-theft YKK zippers | Capacity: 35L | Warranty: Lifetime

Get ready to explore the wonders of the world with this lightweight backpack from Cotopaxi. This rugged backpack is ideal for both short getaways and longer excursions as it features a weight-distributing, low-profile harness system for added comfort.

“I love love love this pack!” raves editorial assistant Sierra Hoeger. “I got it for my birthday, and it has been my go-to for weekend trips, weeklong trips back home and everything in between. I like how durable it is, and looks are deceiving, because I’ve managed to fit way more than I think when packing.”

How we chose

These weekender bag recommendations were based on expert insights, market research and Shop TODAY editor picks. We selected the best totes, duffels and backpacks based on the overall size of the bag, the style and the material.

Meet the experts

  • Ulliyada Bopanna is the vice president of design and innovation for Samsonite North America.
  • Ali Garland is a travel blogger living in Berlin and runs Travel Made Simple and Berlin Travel Tips.
  • Misty Belles is the vice president of global public relations for luxury travel company Virtuoso. She previously spoke to Shop TODAY about travel pillows.
  • Chanel Garcia is the product manager at Samsonite.