In search of the perfect work bag: long-haul flights while pumping, with the Longchamp Le Pliage Expandable Weekender
Recently on my international work trip I found myself thinking a lot about how I would bring all my mom stuff (e.g., pumping stuff) with me everywhere and on the plane for a 15 hour flight. I needed something big enough to to fit all my pump stuff, including a large industrial strength milk cooler to keep everything cold, and ideally be able to carry on beside me in addition to a very large backpack I intended to keep in the overhead compartment. It had to be durable and lightweight. Something fashionable would be a bonus, as well as something expandable (in case I needed to bring back more than I brought over), and shrinkable to a reasonable size to double as a daybag if needed.
I already had a Le Pliage Large Tote in a bright fuchsia color which I loved, but I wanted something a bit bigger. Enter the Le Pliage Expandable Weekender. This beauty is large, lightweight, durable, and stylish. It has a shoulder strap and top handles for multiple ways of carrying. It expands to a ridiculous size, just in case, but its unexpanded size is roomy without being ridiculous. Like all Le Pliage bags, it folds up small for storage, too. I got mine in the Dahlia color which is a beautiful purple magenta that makes me happy just looking at it. The color is a little bit more toned down and less neon in real life than in these photographs.
Here laid out is everything I put in it for the upcoming plane ride.
- Vapur water bottle, which I like to travel with because it’s ridiculously lightweight and packs down to nothing when empty.
- Dopp kit from Hook and Albert, is great for my Freemie cups and my pump and tubing. I put the pump in one of the side compartments, and tubing in the other. The side compartments also held an extra milk bag, sharpie pen, small pillbox, and Anker battery to charge my pump. The middle compartment held my Freemie cups and a small towel. The nice thing about the dopp kitt is that the sides fold down flat, which is nice to use as an additional clean surface to set down pump parts when setting up or taking down. The whole thing fits on an airplane tray table when open also.
- Barebones Living Pathfinder Cooler, which was holding Techni-Ice to keep cold and obviously my milk. This is a nice cooler which is stylish (leather handles!), has thick insulation and a zip-out antimicrobial lining, and promises to keep ice for 48 hours. In practice, I was probably in transit for 24 hours at a time including time at airports before and after the flight. At the end of that there was still some frozen Techni-Ice at the bottom and my milk was still cold, so I’d say it did its job. I wouldn’t leave milk in it for 48 hours though. It does have a very rigid EVA foam bottom so this cooler is not going to “squeeze” into any space or bag that’s not big enough for it, which is why this roomy bag was perfect!
- Passport in passport cover with travel documents.
- Ostrichpillow travel neck pillow, rolled up in its case. Seriously this thing is great and beats all previous travel pillows I’ve had.
- Pouch with my Kindle Voyage and my Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.
- Pouch with all my non-liquid makeup and toiletries.
- A pack of Medela quick-clean wipes, used to wipe down and sterilize pump parts while in transit when I don’t have easy access to running water. Airport/airplane bathrooms are gross yo!
With all that stuff, this bag was packed to the max (in its unexpanded state) but still could zip. That being said, when packed to the max with no extra room, it doesn’t quite fit under the seat in front of me. It does fit in that space but doesn’t slide all the way in. I put my feet on either side and threw a blanket over my lap and nobody hassled me about it. Nobody at the airport hassled me about having this large-ish bag as my “personal carry-on” item either. I would say based on its dimension that it’s about 24L in capacity in its unexpanded state. I pretty much almost doubled my carry-on capacity by having this bag with me. Woohoo!
Before I went on this trip I actually had to attend an all-day orientation for work, which was off-site from my usual place of work. I didn’t want to count on milk storage so I had to bring a highly effective cooler to last all day then too (I picked my Polar Bear cooler, slightly smaller but just as effective). For that day I also packed my Le Pliage for all my pumping equipment (as well as work folders and laptop) and it worked perfect for then too.
The carry experience was decent for a bag that was packed out so heavily. Having both the shoulder strap for crossbody carry and the short handles was key. It was quite heavy to lift when packed full like this, so I can’t imagine hauling it through the airport in its expanded state without some sort of luggage cart. I think it would work better expanded as a car trip kind of bag, or when hauling short distances. As it was, unexpanded it was already heavy and when I was standing in line for customs, checking in, etc. I did have to put the bag down often because of the amount of stuff I packed into it. The shoulder strap is reasonably comfortable and wide, but the handles will need some breaking in. I could feel the edges of the leather digging into my hands a bit when carrying it by those handles, simply because of the weight. I suspect they will soften up a bit over time.
When I got to my destination, I didn’t end up using the bag so much as as a daybag like I thought, mainly because I found that I could return to my hotel when I needed to pump and didn’t need to carry all the pump stuff with me. When almost completely empty (e.g., holding just a wallet and water bottle) is slouchy and shapeless and therefore doesn’t look as polished as I’d like in a professional setting. I ended up using my North St Weekender Backpack as a daybag instead.
In summary, I absolutely love my Le Pliage Expandable Weekender and think it will serve me very well for many years as a weekender and carry-on bag. It has a deceptively large capacity for the way it looks, and it’s extremely light and durable while being stylish. It’s versatile in its expandability and packs down to a small package that I can also throw into my suitcase for future trips if I don’t need to use it as a carry on right away. It works for carrying an obscene amount of stuff to work and conferences just as well as it does on a plane. For what is essentially a big empty duffle, I love it surprisingly a lot. Absolutely no regrets on this bag!