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We at Reviewed are just as curious about those flashy products we see in our Instagram feeds as you are. For our 'As Seen On IG' series, our writers buy them and put them through their paces to find out if they're actually as good as they look online—or too good to be true. Spot one that we've missed? Email us at AsSeenOn@reviewed.com.
I dragged my good ol’ Samsonite carry-on thousands of miles around the globe until, at last, a hole appeared in the top right corner. Eventually it was in such an unsalvageable condition that my frugal Asian mother, who almost never wants me to buy new things, gave it a side-eye. “Why don’t you get one of those Rimowas that all your friends seem to enjoy owning?” she asked.
“Nah,” I said to myself. I was never really impressed with the brand’s heavy-duty design or convinced of its made-in-Germany durability. Besides, the $700-plus price tag was beyond the range I could possibly justify spending on a suitcase. So, I decided to go luggage hunting—and was immediately bored by the same black, soft-shell ballistic nylon carry-ons I was seeing everywhere.
So what was I looking for? I’m a millennial, a globe-trotter, and an environmentalist who supports mission-driven, sustainable businesses. I love an aesthetically-pleasing social media page and, most importantly, owning things that stand out. I was lost in this sea of black nylon until one day, an Away Instagram ad popped on my feed. With the promise of a 100-day, no-questions-asked return policy, I went with its best-seller, the Bigger Carry-On in Sand, and I’ve never looked back.
What is Away luggage?
Founded by two former Warby Parker executives, Away is a high-quality luggage brand with a customer-oriented business model. It took off on Instagram and Facebook soon after its launch in 2015 and has since garnered celebrity endorsements from the likes of Karlie Kloss, Rashida Jones, and even Dwyane Wade. You’ve probably even seen its signature hard-backed, millennial pink roller on the street or in the airport.
Essentially, the cool kids like Away. Take my fashion-forward New York friend Rainnie He, who’s a big fan of the brand. I trust her judgement not only because she’s a UI/UX designer, but also because she has an astute fashion sense that’s helped me filter out which products to avoid in the past. “Their branding is very neat because it taps into a smaller niche rather than targeting the mass,” He says. “Their NYC showroom had great customer experience, too. It’s really cool how they bring good aesthetics to fit a ‘lifestyle’ rather than a need for product—you can buy suitcases from any brand, but with Away, you’re buying an experience.”
But the brand also wants you to know it’s more than just a pretty face. Away co-founder Jen Rubio has told the same story to multiple outlets about the time a zipper burst on her traditional nylon carry-on, causing her clothes to spill out all over the floor of the Zürich airport. With this incident in mind, Rubio wanted to create a brand of dependable, life-proof luggage that was built for busy travelers like herself.
Away offers a range of suitcases from the Kid’s Carry-On ($195) to the Aluminum Edition Check-In ($595), but its most popular models are its two carry-on options: the Carry-On ($225) and the Bigger Carry-On ($245). After Away’s initial launch of its carry-on line, the company soon discovered that the luggage dimensions airlines actually use are larger than the dimensions found in official documentation. Because some budget airlines might have tighter regulations, the traditional Carry-On is your safest choice—but as a big shopper who can never travel light, I opted for the Bigger Carry-On.
How do the Away features stack up?
My Away Bigger Carry-On arrived in a well-packed box within two days of placing my order. Instead of using heavy plastic packaging, which is common practice for e-comm businesses, Away opted to protect its suitcase in a dust bag, which makes it seem like more of a luxury purchase than its price tag suggests.
From the millennial-oriented pastel color palette (with some seasonal limited edition colors like sea green and bright red) to the monogrammed leather luggage tag, every visual detail of the Away spoke to me. There are 10 colors to choose from, and each is as photogenic as the last. I went with Sand, a light tan color. There’s also an option to monogram the side of the suitcase's polycarbonate shell with hand-painted letters for an additional $50, but I didn’t go that far into customization.
Tucked right under the handle, there’s an ejectable airline-approved lithium ion battery that can charge your phone whenever you need. I was initially skeptical of how necessary the battery would be, but it saved me from a dead phone on a long flight to Shanghai.
On the inside of the carry-on, there are two compartments for shoes, toiletries, and clothes. Additionally, there’s a compression pad that gives fragile items extra protection, in case of overly crowded packing situations. Inside the compression pad, there’s a case of plug adapters that are useful in most parts of the world. It also has a TSA-approved combination lock to keep stuff safe.
I was most excited about the nylon laundry bag for dirty clothing hidden in the clothing compartment. I’m the type of person who carries a tote bag around to store my dirty laundry while traveling, but canvas and cotton totes aren’t the most water-friendly. The machine-washable, water-resistant laundry bag saved the day when I forgot to bring something to separate my wet bathing suit from the rest of my clothes in Aruba last Christmas.
For travelers who love a well-organized inner compartment, Away also offers a great solution: Its water-proof packing cubes not only come in various sizes, but also fit nicely in Away’s patent-pending compression system.
How well does the Away carry-on travel?
Overall, the Away suitcase performed like a product designed by frequent travelers just like me—and it was particularly strong when it came time to roll. From running across a station to catch a train to getting on a cruise ship, I put my Away’s wheels under a lot of duress, yet they stayed strong and always gave me a smooth ride.
Take my Samsonite, for example. Its rolling performance was fine, but when I glided it alongside the Away, it paled in comparison. The Away luggage rolls on four 360-degree Hinomoto wheels, which give you a flexible spin in every direction.
The only downside of my Away suitcase is the wobbliness of the handle. I’m often paranoid about breaking the luggage handle when I drag my suitcase from terminal to terminal, and although I know the handle needs to be a bit flexible to bend and absorb shocks, it’s still unsettling. However, the lifetime warranty offers me the assurance that I can get a brand new piece of luggage if and when the worst happens.
So, is Away luggage worth it?
As a carry-on item, Away is definitely not the most affordable choice—there’s a sea of black nylon suitcases that will cost you less. But would I label it an exorbitant investment piece? Absolutely not. In the end, you’re paying the price for excellent customer experience, a thoroughly-researched design, and yes, a beautiful aesthetic—all for less than the premium brands such as Tumi and Rimowa.
For many millennials like me, Away sparks more joy than these other high-quality luggage brands we simply can’t afford. The price isn’t for everyone, but it’s fair for the product—plus, the brand offers a 100 day free trial, so you can test it out yourself to see if it's worth the price. With its sleek design, ejectable battery, innovative compression system, and personalization options, the Away isn’t so much a piece you own but a companion with whom you’ll share your most precious travel memories.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.