Luggage review: Putting the Away carry-on to the test
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On a recent trip to London, I checked into my hotel, slipped off my Everlane boots, put my Warby Parker glasses on the table and pulled my Quip toothbrush and Glossier cleansing wash out of my Away suitcase.
You may have guessed this by now, but I am a complete sucker for well-curated Instagram advertising.
Give me a glass of wine and 15 minutes on social media and I’ll have 10 packages filled with Billie razors and Casper mattresses waiting at my door when I get home. Some say it’s a problem, but many others appreciate that I test everything before they buy.
It was therefore only natural for me to purchase the new Away carry on suitcase to test, despite the fact I already owned the original carry-on, just to see if it was worth the hype — or the upgrade.
The TL;DR version is: This bag is worth purchasing if you don’t already own an Away carry-on, but the differences are not significant enough to justify a bag upgrade if you already own the original.
But if you’re in the market for a suitcase, now is definitely the time to invest in Away luggage. The iconic American Express® Green Card just emerged from a serious refresh, and — as part of the current welcome bonus — new cardholders can earn up to $100 in statement credits on eligible Away purchases made within the first three months.
So, let’s break it down.
For $225, you get a thoughtfully designed, sleek piece of luggage in your choice of nine different colors, sized to fit comfortably into the overhead bins on most airlines with:
- A durable polycarbonate shell
- Ejectable battery that charges your phone or Ipad
- TSA-approved combination lock
- 360-degree spinner wheels
- Leather detailing
- Black leather luggage tag
- Interior compression system
- Hidden laundry bag
This bag can be thrown in and out of a cab and dragged off a carousel without a worry, but be prepared for some scratches on the shell. (If you really want to see the durability in action, jump to the 3:00 mark of the Kids Away Luggage review video at the end of this article to see how we tried to destroy that bag.)
But with normal wear and tear, even with the matte material, scuffs can be seen. Lighter colors show black marks as well. The wheels roll smoothly (except on cobblestone, but that’s tough for any suitcase), and the zippers are relatively sturdy and effortless to use. The handle sometimes feels a little flimsy, but it does the job. The TSA-approved combination lock is easy to set and will be a comfort to those who worry about people rifling through their clothes.
I purchased my original Away carry-on in August 2016, and it’s definitely held up well over time. It’s scuffed, sure, but still looks slick.
Size and space
With a 39.8-liter capacity, and some tight rolling, you will be able to fit approximately five-days worth of clothing in an Away carry-on, if you’re not taking big coats. It has a zip compartment for shoes, accessories and toiletries, as well as water-resistant laundry bag to pack away your dirty clothes. If you’re not into a capsule wardrobe, there’s a compression pad to help you out. The bag measures 21.7 x 13.7 x 9 inches, which will easily pass major domestic carrier’s carry-on bag size rules.
With the original carry-on, the process of removing the lithium-ion battery was extremely cumbersome — and after one experience of frantically trying to take out the battery with house keys at the boarding gate, while my underwear fell over the feet of impatient passengers, I vowed never to use the battery again.
But with the new upgraded carry-on, the ejectable 37-watt battery makes life a whole lot easier. Not only could I charge my phone (up to five times) at the airport without sitting on the floor next to an outlet, but I could also relax knowing the TSA-compliant battery could be removed without a screwdriver if I had to check it in. Just press down and it pops out. The hardest part now is just remembering to charge the battery fully before a trip.
The most exciting feature for me was that the Away carry-on came with a selection of international plugs, which came in handy when I landed in the U.K.
Even with the scuff marks, and slightly flimsy handle, this suitcase looks good. I enjoy taking it on trips, and especially when I combine with packing cubes, I feel like an organized “professional traveler.” And with a lifetime warranty and a 100-day trial period, during which you can return your luggage with no questions asked, it’s a pretty safe bet for frequent travelers.
If you’re buying an Away suitcase, skip the black or white bags in favor of a more unusual hue, as more than once I have grabbed someone else’s Away bag from the carousel and nearly walked away with it. I purchased my new bag in “brick” red, but there’s also a lovely “coast” blue, a deep forest green and plenty of limited-edition shades. If you do opt for black or white, add a very identifiable tag or something to stand out from the baggage carousel crowd.
How to buy
So you’ve decided this is the bag for you? Well, whether you want to check out the bag in real life at one of Away’s seven brick-and-mortar stores (in New York City, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and London) or shop online, be sure to purchase the bag using a card that will earn you bonus points on retail purchases.
And, as we mentioned earlier, now is a great time to get both a Green from Amex card and an Away suitcase, because new cardholders can earn up to $100 in statement credits on eligible Away purchases made within the first three months from now through Jan. 15, 2020 — as well as 30,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months. Not a bad way to get one of the top-rated pieces of luggage for nearly half off, right?
Buy: Away.com, from $225
If you are debating between the full-size Away bag or the child version for your little traveler, here’s a video review of the children’s Away bag.
Featured photo of the new (left) and older version (right) of the Away carry-on side by side by Isabelle Raphael.
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