The summer travel season is quickly approaching! As more people get vaccinated, the roadways, theme parks and the great outdoors will soon be buzzing with tourists. No matter where you and your family are choosing to travel this summer, there’s one essential you’ll need: a good travel backpack.

Travel backpacks come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and patterns, so the options may seem overwhelming when you’re shopping for one. But fear not, the Shop TODAY team got some of the top questions about travel backpacks answered by travel expert Valerie Joy Wilson.

Why is a backpack a necessity when it comes to travel?

When many people think of traveling, they think of toting a backpack around an airport, while exploring a new city or storing it safely on a rollercoaster at a theme park. “Backpacks are the easiest way to carry personal items and essentials in one place,” said Wilson. No matter what your essentials are, you’re going to want a backpack that fits them all, can be easily organized and isn’t too big and bulky.

What features should someone look for in a travel backpack?

“If you’re considering the purchase of a travel backpack, start by looking for smart, well thought-out compartments for organizing your items,” said Wilson. “Think about what you will typically pack and how you will need to access it. Look for something lightweight and durable with an excellent warranty.”

For those going to a national park or on an outdoor backpacking trip with friends, you’re going to want to find a bag that’s waterproof for those splash-and-dash summer showers. Families traveling to the theme parks should try to find something that’s easy to carry and will be comfortable for long days on the move. Travelers going on a road trip should consider something with a lot of pockets and compartments, so you can still find your wallet, laptop or cell phone in a pinch when the car is overloaded with suitcases and snacks are everywhere.

How big of a travel backpack should you consider?

“Backpacks should be small enough to fit the carry-on requirements for airplanes, which are generally 15″ x 8″ x 20″ maximum,” explained Wilson. “Everyone is different and what’s essential can vary from one traveler to the next, so one backpack will not fit everyone’s needs. It’s a good idea to decide what you absolutely must have with you.”

Travel backpacks for hiking and outdoor trips

Rupumpack Insulated Hydration Backpack

This lightweight backpack has an integrated 2.5-liter bladder for water while hiking, biking and camping. One unique thing about this backpack is that the waist strap features two pockets where you can store items, including your phone to snap the perfect Instagram photo. The backpack comes in seven different colors to choose from including purple, dark orange and lemon green.

Compass Backpack

The Compass Backpack is made from recycled water bottles and is slash-proof, which is a nice feature when hiking through the woods with sticks and thorns. The backside pocket can also keep valuables like a phone and passport safe and out of sight.

Hauler 25L Backpack

This backpack can fit just about anything you might need for a weekend camping trip with friends or family. It’s made from recycled plastic and has multiple compartments to keep everything organized. There are also two removable compartments that can hold small accessories like hand sanitizer or headphones on the shoulder straps.

Welded Backpack

The Welded Backpack is perfect for outdoor trips in climates with unpredictable weather conditions. The zippers on this backpack are weatherproof and the fabric is a waterproof nylon. It also has a lifetime guarantee, which is good for travelers who explore the great outdoors often.

Osprey Kestrel 58

It’s no surprise one of the most recognized brands for travel bags also makes a stellar backpack. Osprey’s Kestrel comes in two colors and two sizes, so you can pick what best suits your needs. For those who are roughing it in the wilderness, this bag comes with a specific compartment for your sleeping bag and a trekking pole attachment.

Gregory Mountain Products Juxt 28

This backpack is a good option for outdoor travels with its removable tech compartment that can be swapped for a water bladder. The backpack is weather-resistant and can withstand most of what the trail might bring including sharp objects and water. The side pocket for water is handy if you decide to keep the tech compartment inside the backpack.

Travel backpacks for theme parks

Magellan Outdoors 30L Hydration Technical Frame Pack

Traveling to theme parks just got easier with this hydration backpack that can hold up to two liters of water. The backpack is water-resistant, which makes it perfect for hot, sticky afternoons where the weather can be unpredictable. We also love that it’s made of lightweight foam, allowing you to wear it comfortably all day long.

Adventurist Classic

The Adventurist Classic is the perfect size for theme parks like Dollywood or Busch Gardens, where you’ll be slinging your bag on and off as you head to big roller coasters and water rides. The two side pockets are a good spot to put a refillable water bottle and your phone.

Marvel Kawaii “Avengers” Backpack

Show off your geeky side with this Marvel backpack. All of your favorite “Avengers” characters are prominently featured, which makes it a great choice for Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland’s upcoming Avengers Campus. The backpack has four different pockets to hold everything and keep you organized throughout the day.

Pixar “Up” Balloon House Flap Mini Backpack

Disney fans love the Loungefly mini backpacks that often feature favorite characters or movie scenes. This “Up”-inspired backpack is cute and functional for a day at Disney’s parks and resorts.

Kane Double Pocket Large

This backpack from State Bags is roomy enough to fit everything you’re going to need for a day at the theme parks. The two side pockets are big enough to fit a large refillable water bottle along with sunglasses and your phone. We also love that this backpack has a luggage slip sleeve on the back, making it easy to carry into hotel rooms, too.

Travel backpacks for road trips

Vera Bradley Sling Backpack

Small backpacks are ideal for road trips since they don’t take up too much room at your feet in the car. This sling backpack from Vera Bradley not only comes in multiple patterns and colors, it’s the ideal size for hopping in and out of the car as you stop at roadside attractions. The backpack is water-repellent and made from recycled water bottles.

STM Myth Backpack

This stylish backpack is the perfect size for road trip essentials. One unique thing about the STM Myth is that it has an integrated charging cord organization, so you can charge any of your devices without getting tangled up in wires.

GoPro Daytripper Backpack

Road trips often mean hopping in and out of the car as you travel to different locations. The Daytripper backpack is ideal for that since it has protective compartments for cameras and lenses, along with a designated spot for a laptop or hydration bladder for when your family gets thirsty while touring a new place.

Samlaren Kånken Limited Edition Water Resistant Backpack

This backpack is unique in that it has multiple front pockets that make access to things like hand sanitizer, lip balm and sunglasses easy. The colorful options will help your family spot you as you navigate a new city.

Dakota Neoprene Backpack

This stylish backpack comes in three sizes, but the medium is likely the best for an all-around road trip bag. The backpack is made from a water-resistant and insulating material and comes in 10 different colors.

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