Similar to the essential walking shoe, it’s also important to have a reliable bag or purse for everyday use that won’t be easy to pick-pocket.
Much like with shoes, you probably won’t have enough luggage space to bring a variety of handbags. You’ll need one that is versatile and will serve you well. You don’t want to have a bag that is easy to steal from, and you don’t want a bag that is going to weigh you down. Pick-pockets who are skilled enough can rob any type of purse, so you must always be aware of your surroundings and how you protect your belongings. It’s not all about the type of bag you have, but what you do with it. The type of purse you have should be based on your own preferences and traveling style but I’ll write about some characteristics to avoid.
For my trip abroad, I went to DSW and found a nice bag by Tyler Rodan. Dark green, it wasn’t my typical conservative black and it was a color that could match everything I was bringing. This meant I could wear it all the time so I only needed to bring one purse. It was a cross-body bag that measured 10″H x 9.75″L x 2.25″W. This bag was perfect for me because I could hold my wallet, both phones, a 16 oz water bottle (walking a lot makes you thirsty!), a small bottle of hand sanitizer, and even my small umbrella if I organized the items just right, among other things. Although I didn’t think of these reasons before buying the bag, I’m telling them to you now so you’ll be thinking ahead. This bag also had multiple pockets/zippers where I could separate my important items and also have easy access to my unimportant-but-frequently-used items, like my chapstick or pen which I put in the front pocket. I like cross-body bags because I can wear them closer to my front and always keep a close eye on the zippers.
While perfect for my needs, the purse didn’t survive the entire trip. The side zipper came off (on the bright side it would have been more difficult for pick-pocketers to open), and I distinctly remember one of the strap’s hooks breaking in Munich, probably from too much wear and tear after four months. Some ingenious knotting with rubber hair ties solved the issue for the duration of the trip, and saved me from buying a new purse when the OTHER hook broke from similar issues. Regardless of these little setbacks, I think the purse was great considering that it was the only one I wore every day and I got a lot of use out of it.
To summarize, you want a purse that is NOT easy to pick-pocket, but is versatile and will fit your needs.
My own take on types of purses to avoid bringing:
- Oversized bags: In my opinion, they can be very bulky and hard to carry depending on the length of the straps. Furthermore, the more room you have, the more tempted you’ll be to carry things you don’t need (or things can accumulate slowly), which can make your shoulders ache all day.
- “Flat” bags: These bags don’t offer a lot of depth to carry a variety of items, which seems to contradict #1. What I mean is that you’ll want enough space to carry more than your wallet and phone, which are generally flat, but not so much space that you accumulate unnecessary items/weight in your purse.
- Handheld bags: You need to be sure that you’ll have a good grip on your bag at all times.
- Expensive bags: Advertising wealth isn’t wise, especially if you’re not in a safe area. Besides, how would you feel if your nice bag were stolen or ruined otherwise?
- Shoulder bags: This isn’t an absolute, but another one of my opinions. A shoulder bag would be easier to grab than a cross-body bag, especially if it’s bulky and you can’t keep a tight grip.
Characteristics to avoid:
- Single compartments: Never keep all of your belongings in one place. Spread items out — put your most valuable items, such as a passport photocopy, in the deepest pockets to avoid easy pick-pocketing.
- No zippers: A bag that snaps shut is better than a bag with an open top, but a zipper is even better. As you can see in the photo above, I hung my purse against my left hip so that my hand could always cover the zipper of the compartment that held my wallet, protecting my bag in crowded areas like the metro. By hanging my purse this way, that closed zipper was at my front side, instead of being unprotected at my back if I’d hung the purse on my right hip (which I normally do).
- Any print or symbol that advertises your home country: Depending on the relations between your country and the one you are visiting, you might not be the most welcomed visitor. Regardless it is always recommended to blend in like a local and not advertise that you are a foreigner.
Just for fun, here’s my newest cross body bag AKA adventure bag:
Useful link: Which Purses Pickpocketers Love to Pick
Remember, having the “right type” of purse isn’t enough to prevent pick-pocketing; you have to do your part to keep your belongings safe.