Why this new carry-on quickly became my go-to bag for travel

Aug 2, 2021

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I’m a huge fan of luggage: With all my traveling, I have a wide range of both suitcases and carry-ons, including a new Away soft-side expandable carry-on; a whopping 36-inch High Sierra Decatur drop-bottom wheeled duffel (I also have the 26-inch and 20-inch versions); a bright red Ricardo 21-inch carry-on suitcase; a large Coach scribble travel tote bag; my Victorinox multimedia backpack; a Lo & Sons Catalina Deluxe weekend carry-on; a Catalina tote and more.

Needless to say, it can be difficult to break into my lineup of travel bags.

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Back in June, I launched my new Instagram Live show, “Q&A With Benét” and my first guest was Imani Bashir, a respected travel writer. As a mother who gave birth abroad, has lived in four countries and has traveled with her son extensively since he was 6 weeks old, Bashir wanted to offer travelers and parents effective multifunctional bags that allow people to get up and go.

During my show, Bashir unveiled her bespoke three-in-one travel duffle, the Expat Bag, from her new Takeoff Collection. I was so impressed I immediately bought the bag. Of course, I also wanted to put it through its paces while traveling.

I used recent trips to New York City and Paris to try out the Expat Bag — and decided it was an instant favorite.

In This Post

The details

The Expat Bag, with the sides removed, at the Hotel 50 Bowery. (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

For the price of $149, you get a thoughtfully designed carry-on bag in two colors (ocean blue and cocoa — I chose the latter) that fits in airline overhead bins and under the seat.

The bag is made from a durable fabric that’s waterproof and has wide zipper pulls that make it easy to open and close. But what really makes this such a compelling bag is its versatility.

Not only is it a full tote, but you can also unzip one or both side segments. Both segments turn into individual backpacks and one is even insulated to keep drinks and snacks cold. The non-insulated segment includes backpack straps and a strap that fits around the waist.

Size and space

The full bag measures 20 inches long by 12 inches high in its full configuration. When you unzip and remove the side sections, the bag is compact but still roomy.

Inside the top of the main compartment are two zippered pockets. The narrow side was the perfect place to store my travel wallet and my small bag of jewelry. The wider side was where I put my passport. For my trip to New York City, I used the full bag. The main compartment held my iPad (in its padded sleeve); my personal medical and sundries bag; a lighter; a tape measure; an ink pen; a clip-on hand sanitizer; a three-pack of snack bars; a travel pack of disinfecting wipes and spray; a Moleskin notebook; a selfie stick; and an umbrella.

The insulated side bag held my MacBook Pro power cord. The other side held portable chargers, cords and plugs to power my myriad electronics. It was more than large enough to carry what I needed.

Favorite features

The backpack segment of the Expat Bag. (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

I love the bag’s deep handles that you can use on your shoulder, along with a removable padded shoulder strap. Both detachable sides also have handles to hold the bag.The outside of the bag has a zippered pocket and a velcro pocket. I used the zippered pocket to store my receipts from both trips. The velcro pocket is best for items you want to access quickly, such as a phone charger and cord.

Since I’m always worried about pickpockets, so I clipped the wide zipper pulls to the top of the backpack. You can also move the backpack’s zippers to the bottom.

Clip the bag’s zippers to the backpack for extra security. (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Small cons

My nits with this bag aren’t major.

First, I wish the bag’s velcro pocket had a zipper at the bottom so it could slide onto a luggage handle. It was sometimes hard to keep the Expat Bag on top of my rollaboard bag.

I’d also love to have another zippered compartment inside the bag, along with the two zipped compartments inside the top of the bag.

Related: Keep calm and carry on: Our 13 favorite travel carry-ons

Overall impression

I took a gamble spending $149 for an untested, new bag.

But I believe in supporting women- and minority-owned businesses (especially those in the travel segment). And I was excited about the duffle just based on Bashir’s description of the bag during our chat.

Thanks to this bag, I didn’t need to pack an extra purse on either trip. In addition to being a smart bag for quick overnight trips, it’s also a great, flexible product for longer trips, too. Plus, if the $149 price tag is a bit steep, you have the option to do four $37.25 payments every two weeks.

Featured photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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