Travel Tip #11. Invest in a cross-body purse for travel, sightseeing and shopping to free your hands and discourage purse-snatchers.
In March 2010, on my first trip as a widow, I flew to Paris for a few days, where I stayed alone at Lev’s and my favorite hotel before taking the trains to Maastricht, the Netherlands, to join friends at The European Fine Arts Fair. At Sunday afternoon tea at my hotel, I checked out the mother and daughter at the next table. They were in the Right Bank “uniform”–tailored slacks, tweed jackets, white cotton shirts with the cuffs turned over the jacket sleeves, Hermes scarves at their throats and Louis Vuitton canvas purses–all very understated but sophisticated, nothing “matchy-matchy,” especially not their handbags.
The next day I noticed that many women on the street wore Louis Vuitton cross-body bags over their black coats–again, no effort to match things up.
After TEFAF I returned to Paris with my friends, this time staying at a Left Bank hotel near the Musee d’Orsay. One of the women had her purse snatched as she walked to the museum. Then, before we visited the Louvre, our tour director warned us that the gallery with the Mona Lisa was the worst spot for purse theft in Paris. I was on guard. I purchased my first (and only) Louis Vuitton on that trip. It is especially good for sightseeing, since my billfold can go in the small zippered compartment while everything from camera to travel guide to iPad to water bottle fits in the larger compartment. In the years since, I have discovered multiple virtues of the cross-body bag:
Security. With the purse itself worn forward instead of on the hip, would-be thieves are discouraged from trying to reach inside, and snatching the purse itself is extremely difficult.
Convenience. I can shop hands-free, handling the merchandise without putting down my purse. The same is true in travel. Whether it’s dealing with tickets and ID going through security or juggling several pieces of luggage, I almost always travel with a cross-body bag. My current favorite is a Tod’s, less of an investment than the big status brands, almost indestructible, ultra-lightweight and packable. I like the fact that the wide shoulder strap is removable, and I own multiple colors and two sizes.
Comfort. I have a bad shoulder, and my cross-body bags distribute weight far more evenly. I don’t ache after a day of lugging a heavy purse. Returning home from Philadelphia last week, I carried a large canvas tote bag, and I realized as I walked from terminal to terminal that I was leaning forward, because I had shifted the bag’s weight to my back. As we age, we pay the price of poor posture. In addition to the aches, we look older when we are bent over. For that reason, I want my carry-on luggage and my briefcase to have long shoulder straps. I know…I look pretty silly when I have multiple straps zigzagging across my chest and a bag banging against each hip.
I even like my small purses for parties to be cross-body. It’s a youthful style but practical, freeing one hand for pickup food while the other holds a beverage. But I don’t loop it–or any purse–over the back of my chair when I’m dining out. A young friend had her purse lifted while she dined with her dad in London. Occasionally, I need to fly with both carry-on luggage and a briefcase, and my tiny purse slips inside my carry-on when I board the plane.
Purses: Two Tod’s plastic-coated lightweight canvas, purchased at the Tod’s shop, North Park Mall, Dallas; classic Louis Vuitton, purchased in Paris in 2010; hand-made purse by Dok Kim of Palm Beach and Nantucket.