Best Travel Purse

kipling alvar crossbody bag review

I have long been in search of a functional, yet stylish, travel purse. No matter where I traveled, no matter how long, I always found myself wanting a purse with sufficient space but wasn’t bulky, that had many pockets and storage areas to choose from, that was durable yet didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Impossible? I was starting to think so.

However, after looking for what seemed like years (it might have been), and becoming convinced that this bag didn’t exist, I found myself in a travel conversation with a friend.  During that conversation, she pointed me in the direction of the Kipling Alvar Solid Crossbody bag which she owns in black. She said she loves hers, has used it for years without disappointment, and it is still going strong.

I decided to take the plunge. I ordered up my bag about a week before an international trip and promptly became excited looking forward to its arrival.  Was I finally going to discover the bag of my dreams?

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The Arrival

I had done a bit of research on the Kipling brand and knew that it was well respected and even loved.  Kipling brand began solely as a bag company yet has grown to be a maker of quality travel gear.   They’re recognized worldwide by the whimsical monkey key chain that comes with every bag.  This furry mascot gives a nod to Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” as well as to the company’s fun-loving and adventurous brand which is named after Kipling himself.

Three days before our departure the bag arrived in a nondescript Mylar envelope.  I quickly opened it and was happy to see that right off the bat the bag seemed excellent.  I got straight to work opening and closing all the zippered compartments to see what they offered and appeared indestructible. This quality was great to see because nobody wants a zipper that doesn’t work when you’ve stored valuables inside.

Instantly, one of my favorite features was the two zippered sections on top, both of which access the entire height of the bag – top to bottom.  I found this two-pocket design to be amazingly helpful for organization.  The inner of these two zippered pockets, closest to your body, offers yet another zippered pocket. Right away I knew that this inner-most pocket would hold the bulk of my traveling money.

travel purse review

Passports fit in the slip-in pocket. Inner zipper holds travel cash.


The outer of the two, top, zippered sections offers two, additional, slide-in pockets which I tested out with our passports.  Yeah!  They both fit in the same slip-in pocket.  One criterion important to me during travel is being able to access important documents and papers (such as tickets, boarding passes, and passports) quickly and easily.

Altogether, this bag has four exterior zippered pockets, one interior zippered pocket, and two interior slip-in (non-zippered) pockets.  The latter two were conveniently handy as one held my iPhone 6 Plus (or our passports while we traveled) and the other perfectly fit my RFID-blocking credit card case.  I can’t tell you how happy I am with the easy accessibility these two slip-in pockets offer.

best travel purse

Credit Card holder is easily accessible next to passports.

History of Bags

Earliest Bags

From the earliest stages of civilization, humans have traveled from one place to the next carrying their belongings with them. The history of bags with the dawn of time when they were first developed to help men and women carry loose items that were too much to hold in their hands.  Because of this, they played a fundamental role in the development of civilization and migration as tribes, and wandering nomads took traditional items with them to new places, thus expanding culture and customs throughout the region and even the world. that could be folded up and tied.  Because they made their bags out of these perishable, organic materials, few antique bags exist today.

1500 – 1800 A.D.

Travel forward to the period between 1500 – 1800 A.D. when bags became practical, everyday articles used to carry items since clothing was not made with pockets.  These early purses were of a pouch, used by both men and women, that attached to their belts. In these pouch bags, they would keep necessities such as money, keys, and other valuables.  Later in the 16th century, pockets were introduced into clothing, and subsequently, the waist-pouch bag went out of style.

19th Century

Throughout much of the 17th, 18th, and part of the 19th century, women’s clothing was such that not one but two bags could be hidden underneath. These were often referred to as hidden “pockets” – giving the name to modern-style pockets that are now permanently sewn into clothing.

Also during the 19th century and the time of the Industrial Revolution, we saw the invention of many new fabricating materials which include iron ore and steel. These new materials catapulted the popularity of hand bags which could now be made more durable with these materials.

These new materials also shaped the popularity of large travel bags. Travel trunks, also known as steamer trunks, came into fashion. With these study boxes, travelers could accommodate their many belongings and bring them along on long boat and rail journeys. In addition to these larger bags, manufacturers developed smaller bags called “hand luggage” so that travelers could keep their most essential items close by and not stowed far away in luggage compartments. Although these first hand-luggage bags were larger than what we carry today, they were the real beginnings of the handbag that we now know.

1900 – Present

The most influential factor in hand bag evolution during this period was the emancipation of women. Women were now working out of the home and becoming increasingly mobile. The handbag evolved rapidly as per the needs of these working women. Many new styles, from leather cases to plastic daytime bags, were being developed in rapid succession.

Branding also became all the rage and many great handbag designers that we still know today emerged. With fashion designers on board, the handbag became a favorite fashion accessory for many women. It now could be found in many shapes and forms and was no longer the static, unchanging design of the past.

Packing the Bag

packing the travel purse

 We also kept our camera in the purse but took it out to take this picture! 

Since it was going to be approximately 24 hours before we reached our final destination of India, we wanted to have a relatively large list of items accessible to us.  I was able to fit every item in the picture above into the purse with ease.

On a side note, one thing that I would highly recommend having with you during long travel is a travel-scarf.  You won’t believe how handy these can be as you can use these scarves to keep warm, as a pillow, to cover up yourself and your carry-on items while taking a cat nap, to block the light in the plane, and the list goes on…

Altogether, I wanted to fit the following items into the purse:

  • Passport
  • Money
  • Credit Card Case
  • Plane Tickets
  • Phone
  • Phone Charger
  • Camera
  • Headphones
  • Book
  • Gum
  • Socks
  • Reading Glasses
  • Sun Glasses
  • Hair Tie
  • Deodorant
  • Excedrin
  • Mini Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Travel Scarf
  • Lip Balm

And, we did it!  The list is long, but we were able to get it all in – including our camera that’s not in the picture because, well, we needed it to take the picture!

Along the way, we used each and every one of these items and were even able to stuff in a few, additional, random gatherings as we traveled – such as a box of band aids and a ton of receipts and other papers that we collected along the way.

Overall, I would agree that this bag lives up to its hype and can hold and organize almost anything you throw at it.

travel purse

Still looking good one week into the trip.

The Travel Purse Specs

Dimensions 13” x 10.25” x 1.75”
Weight 0.62 lbs
Material Nylon
Shoulder Strap 24” adjustable
Origin China
Warranty 1 Year against manufacturer defects
SKU HB4061

What I Liked

This bag is great for organization!  I kid you not, throughout my 3 ½ week trip, I was able to organize and quickly find anything I had inside, from passports to boarding passes, to band aids.  I especially loved that I could keep different country’s currency separated in the two front-zippered pockets for easy access while traveling from country to country.

The adjustable strap is sturdy and comfortable and can be adjusted to wear shorter over your shoulder or longer as a crossbody bag. This adjustability is a valuable feature which helps you set the bag to a comfortable length for your height. I, being height-challenged (LOL), always look for a bag that has a strap I can shorten enough to wear comfortably. All too often I come across a bag whose strap is too long, and the bag ultimately becomes uncomfortable to wear. I was able to sufficiently shorten this strap so that the bag comfortably hit my hip.

Even though I generally need to talk myself out of buying black accessories, in this particular case I was happy to buy this bag in black t have to worry about setting the bag on the floor of the plane or elsewhere.  However, if black isn’t your color of choice, this bag comes in 25 different color options, so you’re bound to find one you like.  Each bag includes a color-coordinated money key ring which is Kipling’s trademark.  (Bonuses abound when you chose a Kipling!)

The fabric is durable and water resistant which helped tremendously on our trip since we traveled during the East Asian Monsoon which pelted the region with strong downpours nearly every day.   Even if it got dirty, I could clean it easily and scrub off any dirt without damaging the material.

What I Didn’t Like

To be honest, I’d be hard-pressed to find something I didn’t like about this bag.  I found it to honestly be the perfect travel bag.

If pushed, I might say that one negative would be that if you’re not organized putting things in the bag, you could easily lose them.  I know this seems crazy, but it is absolutely true – I know because I lived it.

On two separate occasions, I haphazardly threw the apartment key into the bag even though I did remember zipping it safely inside.  However, when we later returned to the apartment, I couldn’t find the key anywhere and literally had to empty the bag completely to find it.  This, after looking in each pocket 2 to 3 times and creating a real nail-biter situation for myself.

For the record, this is not a small, nondescript key I’m talking about but a 5-inch long, silver skeleton key….  True story.  Don’t tell anyone.


I can’t be more thankful than I am to Kipling for creating what I feel is the perfect travel bag.  I finally found what I had been looking for after searching for years- literally years.  The bag is durable, waterproof, and well-made of quality materials.  It offers plenty of pockets for organization and even a pen holder between the two, inner, slip-in pockets.  A simple but important feature which keeps you from having to route for a pen in the deepest folds of your purse.  It’s this simple attention to details and the well-thought-out design that puts this bag above the rest.   I plan to use it for years to come, and when it finally wears out, I will buy another that’s just the same.    Thank you, Kipling.

travel purse reviews

Yep, this Kipling Alvar Crossbody Bag even got to visit the Taj Mahal.



Author: Cheryl C.

Cheryl is a Senior Editor for ReadPlease and a contributor to several other leading consumer review sites. When Cheryl isn't researching, testing and writing, you'll find her enjoying a yoga class.

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