How can something as simple as a travel wallet and pouch be such a difficult choice for many travellers including myself? I’ve been through several different types and each one served a different purpose (or no purpose at all).
It’s essential that you choose the right travel wallet from the start since it’ll be used to carry your most valuable and invaluable possessions.
So what’s the right one for you? Well that all depends on the type of travelling you’re going to be doing, where you’re going and the kind of person you are. So here’s a short guide to help you make the right choice.
The 4 Main Types of Travel Wallets & Pouches
The reason why it’s hard for some to choose a travel wallet or pouch is because there are so many to choose from. Not just in terms of aesthetic appearance, but in terms of functionality which is the most important part. Essentially, there are three main types.
Travel Document Holders/Wallets
They have plenty of pockets and card holders to hold everything you need it to, which will come in handy if you’re travelling with your family.
You won’t have to dig through endless bits and bobs just to find what you need, since it keeps all your travel documents very well organised with its many separate compartments. It’s a real timesaver.
They’re just too big to be carrying it around with you everyday. They won’t fit inside normal sized pockets and they usually don’t have a neck/body strap or belt attachment.
A travel document wallet is large enough to carry all your boarding passes, credit cards, passport, train tickets, cash and anything else that can be folded or is slim enough to fit inside. It’s useful if you’re travelling with your family and you’ve been assigned the role of designated carrier for their things.
The problem with this type of travel wallet is its big size and limited options for carrying. You pretty much have to carry it by hand or stick it in your handbag (if you carry one). Of course, it wouldn’t be an issue if you plan on just leaving it in your hotel safe when you’re out and about, but if you’re staying in a guesthouse, hostel or a cheap hotel, then it likely wouldn’t have a safe and it’s probably not wise to leave it there anyway.
If you’re like myself and only need to carry the minimal essentials with you for daily use and peace of mind, then it makes more sense carrying a smaller travel wallet that you can either wear around your neck (across your body) or attach it to your belt.
Neck Wallets & Pouches
Big enough to carry your passport, some cash and cards, but also slim enough to be concealed underneath your shirt without bulking out too much (unless it’s packed to the brim of course).
They’re often made from lightweight materials so you won’t have to worry much about the added weight around your neck.
Certain neck wallets and pouches are uncomfortable and can irritate your skin.
The neck strap can sometimes be longer on one end, and the pouch ends up dangling at an awkward angle which can be extremely annoying.
If you’re wearing it underneath your top, you can probably already imagine how inconvenient it is to access your things.
This type of travel wallet is probably the most common especially for the person who likes to travel light and keep their valuables hidden by wearing it underneath their top.
If you’re going to a hot country, it’s going to touch your skin since you’ll just be wearing one top, so you better make sure that the material is comfortable to wear and is at least a little bit sweat proof.
Some neck pouches have an opening at the rear for a belt to go through for those who prefer not to wear it around their neck. All-in-all, this type of travel wallet is a safe bet for most people as long as the quality is good.
Slim and lightweight with enough compartments for a small amount of travel accessories such as your passport, money, cards and even a mobile phone.
Easy to access all your belongings whenever you need to.
The belt is usually constructed of an elastic material that can only stretch so far, so if you have a big waistline, you should make sure that the belt is capable of going around your waist without tearing at the seams.
The waist pouch more or less has the same characteristics as a neck pouch, with the only significant differences being that waist pouches are horizontally longer and they’re worn around the waist instead of the neck (believe it or not).
If you want something that can carry more than a slim waist pouch, then get a bum bag aka. fanny pack for the non-Brits. They’re a lot less concealed and a bit heavier and bigger, but usually more durable. Yeah I know, they don’t look cool and screams out “tourist!”, but they sure can carry a lot of stuff.
Belt Pouches & Wallets
They’re compact and well hidden which is necessary if you’re travelling to shady areas.
Because they’re usually quite compact, they’re not going to be obtrusive and uncomfortable when you’re walking around or sitting down.
Although you can find a bigger sized belt pouch, most of them are quite small so you won’t be able to fit much inside besides a few cards, cash and maybe a small phone.
Not many compartments, with some only having one main section. This doesn’t leave much room for organising your things.
A belt pouch and wallet is probably the most comfortable and unobtrusive travel wallet because the majority of them are small and sit firmly on one side of your waist. They have an opening at the back for a belt to pass through, making it very secure.
But what if you’re not wearing a belt? Fortunately, some of them include a shoulder strap, but if you’re going to wear it this way then you may want to get a neck pouch that has a belt attachment since they have more storage capacity.
If that doesn’t appeal to you, then a small number of belt pouches have a clip at the back which allows you to easily attach it to the waistline of your trousers or shorts without needing a belt. This is an option that I prefer myself because it’s easy to take on and off and also doesn’t get in the way.
I’ve found that the Running Buddy Pouch is perfect for this since it uses magnets to secure itself and has enough room for your passport and phone, as well as cards and cash.
Quality Factors to Consider
Choosing the type of travel wallet is just half the decision, now you have to pick one that has the characteristics that you want it to have, but more importantly, it has to be good quality.
- Comfortable Material – If your travel wallet will be coming into contact with your skin, it needs to feel comfortable. Thin polyester or nylon is a good choice, but thicker polyester is more durable but heavier and won’t feel good against your skin. If you’re wearing a neck pouch, make sure that the strap is thin, adjustable and non-irritating against your skin.
- Fastening – Are the openings secured by Velcro, buttons or zips? This is down to personal preference but all three can have quality issues so make sure that the Velcro is strong, buttons click securely and zips easy to open and close.
- Waterproof – If you’re going to be doing any type of water sport or you simply just sweat a lot, then it goes without saying that you should probably get a waterproof travel wallet such as the AquaQuest Dry Bag System.
- Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) – Many passports have an RFID tag integrated which criminals can scan to access your personal information. Although I’ve never been the victim of this nor do I know anyone else who has, this has raised security concerns which is why you may want to get an RFID blocking travel wallet.
An Easy Way to Make a Decision
If this is too much to take in and your brain is still scrambling to figure out what to get, then here are a few important questions to make an easy decision.
- What type of travelling are you doing? – Are you going on a short holiday and staying in fairly safe areas or will you be backpacking across several countries with the possibility of passing through some shady places? Your answer will determine how hidden you need the travel wallet to be.
- Determine the size and amount of compartments – Do you want to carry all or just some of cards, cash, passport, mobile phone and travel documents?
- Determine how you want to wear it – Would you prefer wearing it around your neck (across the body) or waist?
Those three questions should give you a clear answer as to what you’re looking for. Once you’ve figured out the type of travel wallet you want, you can head over to our comparisons section where you can choose from the top products in each category.