Whether you’re filling it with road trip essentials, bathing suits, or park-bound picnics, a summer bag should be two things—chic and efficient. You want to get compliments on it (of course), but you don’t want to think too hard about how to pack it up. This is about effortless getaways for fun in the sun. So we took it upon ourselves to test the best bags we could find, from beach-only totes to versatile weekenders. We packed them until they were air-tight, (accidentally) got them wet, stuffed them in car trunks and overhead bins, brought them on boat trips, and gave them a good once-over to figure out just what makes the best summertime carry-all. Here are our Fodor’s Approved picks.
Lo & Sons The Catalina Weekender
The Bag: Lo & Sons The Catalina Weekender in Dove Grey
The Tester: Salwa C. Jabado, Senior Editor, Countryside and Adventure
The Review: I loved the look of this bag—casual, but elegant, and has a very Cape Cod feel to it. This bag does double duty with a smart bottom zipper pocket for wet clothes after a day at the beach or shoes if you're using it as a carry-on. It's bigger than your average one-person beach bag, but would make the perfect weekend bag, easy to toss in the back of the car. I actually got it wet and it has zero water resistance, so for beach days that could be an issue.
The Verdict: I'd buy this bag for myself; it would go really well with a Panama hat! I can see it lasting for many years to come.
Calypso Valencia Straw Tote
The Bag: Calypso Valencia Straw Tote in Red
The Tester: Dennis Tyrrell, Senior Manager, Online Marketing & Web Development, and family.
The Review: We used this as a beach bag—it is just a big, easy bag. It holds a lot, but has no pockets. This couldn't be your only bag if you were going away for a weekend, but would be a great additional bag for a trip to hold things like magazines, a small purse, sweater, etc. You'd just have to be careful where you set it down; if the bag gets wet, your stuff gets wet.
The Verdict: It fit everything we needed for a family of 3 nicely—towels, sunblock, water bottles, magazines. Plus, it folded up easily into our carry-on.
Warehouse Canvas Shopper
The Bag: Warehouse Canvas Shopper
The Tester: Linda Cabasin, Editorial Director
The Review: This bag is perfect for a plane, shopping, the beach, going out on a boat, I loved it! I liked how sporty it looked with the navy and white stripes, and appreciated a top zipper to hold everything in place. I brought it to the Exumas, so got to test it out in lots of ways. Perhaps the best was being able to toss my purse into it when climbing on a small plane. This would be too small a bag for a weekender, unless you really pack light.
The Verdict: It was lightweight even with snorkel gear, towels, and a purse inside, and it endured the elements of the Bahamas well, plus it's fairly priced; I'd spring for this bag!
Everlane Reverse-Denim Weekender
The Bag: Everlane Reverse-Denim Weekender
The Tester: Maria Hart, Editor, Cities and Cultural Destinations
The Review: For a few days at a lake house or a weekend road trip (or a quick jaunt to Paris?), this bag is ideal. It's neutral and minimal, and the leather and reverse denim elevate it from the usual duffel. I tossed in books, shoes, a hair dryer…the works, and still had space for souvenirs. It's not the bag you'd bring down to the beach (salt water and leather, not a great combo), but it's an ultra-chic summer weekend bag.
The Verdict: I'd love a few more pockets in there and maybe a sturdier bottom for ultimate packing convenience, but I'd absolutely buy it for myself.
Free People Neo Tote
The Bag: Free People Neo Tote
The Tester: Megan Bell, Executive Director of Fodor's Travel
The Review: I loved the colors of this bag, bright fluorescent orange and pink. Plus the neoprene fabric was summery and fun. I used it as both a carry-on with shoes and clothes, and as a bag to bring to the beach. You can get a lot of stuff in here with all its different compartments, making it great to toss in the back of the car or have with you by the pool. The best part is that it looked like new after two days of travel and time spent by the beach.
The Verdict: I got tons of compliments on this bag and everyone asked where I got it. I'd definitely buy it for myself, and even as a gift!
Baggu Weekend Bag
The Bag: Baggu Weekend Bag in Sea green
The Tester: Cate Starmer, Senior Content Producer
The Review: I took this boating, to the beach, and to the Bahamas (I know, tough life), and the simple look in that sea green color was perfect on all occasions. I got to test it as both a beach bag for the family and as a weekender for myself, and I'd say it was successful both ways! And the fabric is sturdy enough to stand up to the elements. It is nice and roomy, with space for lots of various items, but you do need to organize them yourself (there are not many compartments).
The Verdict: All in all, the bag is easy to carry and really cute. In fact, I think I won't be giving it back after all. (In other words, I'd definitely buy this for myself.)
Maptote Miami Beach Tote
The Bag: Maptote Miami Beach Tote
The Tester: Katie Fleming, Senior Publicist
The Review: So I brought this Miami Beach tote to…Miami. It actually got me excited for my trip! It's a classic, basic beach bag in a lightweight canvas, so it was easy to put into my carry-on. It fit towels, sunscreen, a beach read, and more plus has a small interior pocket that held my phone and sunglasses for easy access. And even when it was jam-packed with beach gear, the cloth strap was super comfortable and didn't dig into my shoulders.
The Verdict: I'd absolutely buy this for myself. It's a great beach carry-all, plus I'd easily use it to go to the pool, park, and even the farmer's market.