Instagram's favorite suitcase is a surprisingly great piece of luggage

Julianne Ross, CNN Underscored
Fri February 22, 2019

Story highlights

  • Founded in 2015, Away boasts high-quality suitcases at a lower markup
  • This is a sleek piece of luggage that is lightweight, thoughtfully designed, and durable

Luggage startup Away has quickly become a favorite of millennial jet-setters. Founded in 2015 by two former Warby Parker execs, Away boasts high-quality suitcases at a lower markup by selling direct to the consumer. It's also managed to make a rather ho-hum item an object of intense Instagram lust through celebrity collaborations, limited edition designs, and plenty of personalization options.

Still, $200+ is still a lot to throw down on what people typically leave stashed in the closet for much of the year. So is Away worth the hype?

In short, definitely. I caved to the brand's online cachet two years ago and have never looked back. This is a sleek piece of luggage that holds a surprising amount of stuff while remaining lightweight, thoughtfully designed, and durable.

Away suitcases come in 12 colors and four sizes, including a medium ($275; awaytravel.com) and a large ($295; awaytravel.com) version for checked baggage. The stars of the lineup, though, are the carry-ons (starting at $225; awaytravel.com), which come in two sizes and also offer versions with an attached front pocket for easier access to a laptop, documents or other small items. Whichever you choose, all Away suitcases come with a built-in TSA-approved combination lock, four 360-degree spinner wheels and an unbreakable polycarbonate shell.

Packing with Away makes it easy to stay organized. The clamshell design features two compartments. One side is meant for clothes and is covered by a compression pocket that smooshes things down surprisingly well. The other side is an open cavity with a zippered mesh closure, making it great for hard or awkwardly shaped objects. I put shoes in there, along with bras, hats or anything else I don't want to get bent out of shape. The outer shell is sturdy yet has quite a bit of give, meaning you can stuff your suitcase to the brim without worrying about damage from less than reverent baggage handlers.

And the wheels! All four rotate a full 360 degrees without snagging. Mine have glided effortlessly through New York City's cracked and tourist-filled streets, offering such a smooth ride that I can strap my dog's carrier on top and he'll stick his head out as if he's navigating a very small and slow-moving car.

Away's original carry-on ($225; awaytravel.com), which weighs 7.6 pounds and has a capacity of about 1.4 cubic feet (40 liters), adheres to nearly all airlines' specifications for carry-on baggage. The bigger carry-on ($245; awaytravel.com) is built to fit the luggage sizers that airlines actually use, which, according to Away, are in fact larger than the stated dimensions required of carry-on items -- sneaky! Having noticed this loophole, Away beefed up the size of its bigger carry-on for those who want to squeeze in a few extra items.

Most of the time, neither version should present a problem at the gate. But if you do a lot of short-haul travel on small or budget airlines, you may end up having to gate-check the bigger carry-on. I went with the original size for peace of mind/in an attempt to Marie Kondo my packing habits, and it's proven just fine for my needs. I can fit in about three to five days' worth of clothing plus shoes, toiletries and accessories.

Of course, one of Away's major selling points is the battery that comes built into either of its carry-on options. A phone-charging suitcase might seem like overkill, but it's actually really useful; there's no need to duke it out for outlets or sit on a sticky airport carpet to recharge while waiting for a flight. The battery will charge an iPhone about five times, and you can use it on any devices that charge via USB. The suitcase itself takes about eight hours to fully charge, which is why the company recommends plugging it in the night before a trip.

While you can buy the suitcase without the battery to keep things as light and spacious as possible, the difference in internal size and overall weight is pretty negligible. The included battery, meanwhile, is TSA-compliant and easily removable. (So easily removable, in fact, that I sometimes pop it out and slide it in a day pack to use as a portable charger.)

So are there any downsides to an Away suitcase?

The bag comes with a nylon laundry bag that tucks into a hidden zippered compartment — a great idea, but I once sent the laundry bag itself through the wash and it frayed heavily around the zipper. Also, the suitcase's wheels don't lock in place, which I didn't think was an issue until my suitcase rolled down a subway car and nearly collided with a break dancer mid-headspin. Finally, I got the color "sand," a light beige that looks lovely but seems to scuff a lot. Then again, I did once drop my bag down four flights of stairs, so that might have had something to do with it.

Overall, this is a suitcase built by folks who understand what travelers need and put it into a package that looks really, really good. The customer service is also impeccable: All Away suitcases come with both a lifetime warranty and a 100-day trial period, during which you can return your luggage with no questions asked.

Since launching the suitcases, Away has added lots of useful products to its inventory. These include packing cubes to keep your clothes organized ($45 for a set of 4; awaytravel.com), a toiletry bag (from $45; awaytravel.com), and garment bags ($195; awaytravel.com). The Daypack ($145; awaytravel.com) and Everywhere Bag ($195; awaytravel.com) round out the offerings and slide securely over Away's luggage handles, so you can complete your travel uniform.

If you decide to buy a set of Away suitcases, they'll stack like Russian nesting dolls for easy closet or under-bed storage. But with luggage this chic, you're going to want to book more getaways to show it off.