It’s All In The Bag: The Best And Most Useful Totes For Summer

We’ve always been fans of having an extra tote bag or at least extra room in our handbag to stash anything we might acquire while we’re out and about. This habit has become even handier now that we’re all (still) going on more walks than ever. Besides, everyone needs a tote bag or good carryall for travel, even if that travel is only to a local park or beach! Here are some of the most useful totes for summer.

Best Totes For Summer

A good tote bag might become one of your most-used bags, whether it is something that you can take to the farmer’s market or grocery store or one that’s a little more polished. Plus a bag that can hold a laptop or tablet and has an extra strap so it can be worn cross-body is always useful. Add an extra pocket or two for your phone, keys, and sunglasses along with a spot for your water bottle and you might have the ideal bag!  

You can also find totes at nearly every price point, from pricey leather versions that you’d never want to use for groceries to simple canvas or nylon bags that cost nearly nothing, and everything in between. You may discover that you need a whole collection to fill a bunch of different purposes. 


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Here are some of our favorite options for practical, durable and stylish totes that you can pick up right now.

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Casual Cloth Or Canvas Tote Bags

Everyone needs a basic canvas tote in their closet that they can use for a picnic lunch or snacks for a road trip! Also, having an extra shopping bag, an extra weekender bag, or just a general catchall for your overflow stuff is always handy.

These bags can be super casual and don’t need any bells and whistles, and cloth totes are ideally inexpensive so you can stash them everywhere you might need an extra bag or two. The basic Baggu reusable nylon totes come in a bunch of colors (we like the periwinkle stripe) and they are perfectly priced at only $12.00. Old Navy also always some good canvas options for $7 or $8 – we like the leopard and bandanna prints.

Straw Totes for Summer

There’s a reason straw or raffia totes come back every summer, and that’s because they can look perfectly beachy while still being relatively practical. They are usually made of straw or similar sturdy materials that can handle a bit of sand, saltwater, or pool water. 

We like versions with fun colorful tassels, ribbons, embroidery, or other details that make us feel like we’re on vacation, like this tote bag from Epsion via Amazon. Or pick one up somewhere fun when you are actually on vacation and save it for future trips  – you’ll have some great memories whenever you pull it out of the closet. 

Polished Leather Totes

Need a tote that’s a little more upscale or elegant? A simple leather bag will do, perhaps with an interior or exterior pocket for your phone and lip balm. Bonus points if it fits a laptop or tablet. But that said, if you are regularly going to be using a tote to carry around your electronics, it’s best to get a padded one with built-in sleeves or pockets in order to protect your devices. 

A detachable shoulder strap might also be convenient if a leather or vegan leather tote is going to be your everyday bag. This monogrammable one by Madewell looks just about perfect on all counts. If you want something more relaxed, we’re fans of the Jenny slouchy tote bag from Anthropologie in any of its summer ice cream-colored hues.  

Foldable Shoppers

Why do you think it seems like everyone and their daughter has a Longchamp Le Pliage? They are practical, durable, and can be folded up to almost nothing, but still look chic even when somewhat overfilled. And that’s a key characteristic of a good tote bag! 

We like these in nylon, canvas, or any other lightweight material that can fit into a handbag or even a coat pocket easily. Longchamp bags are available at Nordstrom and several department stores and they come in a bunch of different colors and sizes. 

Zip-Top Totes for Summer

Whether you use your tote as an extra shopping bag or carryall or as an actual purse, sometimes you’ll want one that can be zipped up to protect your phone, wallet or anything else you might be toting around. 

A zip-top tote is also ideal for throwing in the backseat of a car or using as a carry-on when traveling since nothing is likely to fall out once it’s closed. Something like the traditional L.L. Bean Boat and Tote might fit the bill. These canvas workhorses are classics for a reason! Target (of course) also has some good options for zip-top carryalls, like this one by A New Day with a convenient front zipper pocket for your phone. 

Cross-Body Strap Totes

Because sometimes you just need a free hand for your phone or anything else! Some totes, usually ones designed more like handbags than basic cloth or canvas totes, have an additional adjustable strap that may be detachable. This makes lightweight canvas totes with a crossbody strap like this one from Madewell a comfortable everyday option for those of us who have a lot to lug around.

Want a cross-body tote that can double as a carry-on or weekender bag? This Béis travel tote from Nordstrom can hold everything and then some!

Shop Tote Bags For Summer

(Pictured above from left to right)

Standard Baggu Nylon Tote, $12

Old Navy Canvas Tote Bag, $8

Epsion Straw Beach Bag With Pom Poms, $31.99

Madewell The Zip-Top Transport Carryall, $188

Anthropologie Jenny Slouchy Tote Bag, $98

Longchamp Large Le Pliage Tote, $145

L.L.Bean Boat and Tote, Zip-Top, Single-Tone, $39.95

Studded Tote Handbag – A New Day™, $23.80

Madewell The Canvas Medium Transport Tote, $78

BÉIS Weekend Travel Tote, $989

What is your favorite tote bag and what do you look for in a casual tote? A work tote? Or an everyday bag in general? And perhaps most importantly, do you have an extra tote folded up in your purse or handbag right now?

–Jacqueline Zenn

You may like to read more of Jacqueline’s fashion posts like The Perfect Post-Mask Pairing: Statement Earrings And Lipstick and Summer Fashion For The Well-Endowed (Over 40).

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