Is the Away Bigger Carry-On Worth the Hype?

Here’s one editor’s honest review of the Away Bigger Carry-On.

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After Away launched its direct-to-consumer luggage in 2015, I watched a rainbow of hardshell suitcases proliferate across airports in the United States. Finally, in August 2017, I bit the bullet and invested in the Away Bigger Carry-On in white to see if it was worth the hype.

After six years and more than 100 flights, it has become my go-to carry-on for any trip that lasts between four to seven days. Here’s why the Away Bigger Carry-On is ranked the overall best carry-on luggage by AFAR.

The price point (and full redesign)

At $295, this bag is a steal, compared to luxury brands that price polycarbonate carry-on luggage at $500 and higher.

Despite its lower price, the bag looks really sleek, and recently underwent a full redesign in 2023, based on customer feedback over the years. At its core, the new Away suitcase is still recognizable with its hard polycarbonate shell with horizontal lines, four spinner wheels, a removable laundry bag, and TSA-approved locks.

But it also now comes with an underside grab handle that makes it easier to pull and lift the bags from overhead bins or baggage carousels. That’s not all. The TSA-approved combination lock features a sleeker design that lies flush with the shell, while the zipper pulls feature a new curved design that swivels and locks more smoothly than before. Away also redesigned the trolly handles on its suitcases to be more comfortable and stable. Though it’s a small detail, the handles on the top and sides of the bag also lay flat against the shell now for a cleaner look. Thankfully, Away kept its bags’ Hinomoto wheels—arguably the highest quality wheels in the luggage industry, with ball bearings to ensure an ultra-smooth ride.

Away did remove one thing: Fans of the removable USB battery packs on the original carry-ons may be disappointed to find that they are no longer available as add-ons.

Gloss Wave Away Interior

The interiors of Away’s redesigned suitcases now are color-matched to the exteriors—among other new details.

Courtesy of Away

A rainbow of color options

The polycarbonate exterior is currently available in a number of matte-finished colors, including black, green, and navy. Plus, as part of its 2023 redesign, Away made its high-shine gloss finish a permanent addition to its core line of luggage. However, it was so popular when it launched in August 2023, the only color currently left in the gloss finish in the Bigger Carry-On size is Wave, a bright ultramarine blue. Though the gloss finish usually costs a little extra, the Wave Bigger Carry-On is currently marked down to $252 from $315.

Unlike the black interiors of the original version of these suitcases, the redesigned bags now feature color-matched interiors as well as dyed-to-match luggage tags in both the matte and gloss finishes. In the redesigned line, the interior lining and mesh are now made from 100 percent recycled polyester, while the luggage tags are made from 50 percent recycled leather.

Though it’s no longer available, I originally chose a white matte-finish bag back in 2017, since it’s an unusual suitcase color that stands out on a baggage carousel. I was right about that, but underestimated just how dirty a white suitcase can get (very). Thankfully, with a few swipes of a Magic Eraser, the scuffs come right off. Also, if you’re worried about maintaining a perfect-looking suitcase, the gloss finish may not be for you as it is more susceptible to scratching than the matte finish is.

The writer's white Away Bigger Carry-On in September 2017 (L) and in August 2022 (R)

My original Away Bigger Carry-On brand new in September 2017 and after five years of use in August 2022.

Photos by Lyndsey Matthews

It fits so much stuff, but doesn’t weigh a ton

At 22.7 x 15.4 x 9.6 inches and 7.9 pounds, the Bigger Carry-On maxes out the limits of what a carry-on bag can be while not weighing you down. Those external dimensions are slightly larger than carry-on luggage restrictions on domestic carriers (typically, 22 x 14 x 9 inches). However, I’ve never once had an airline in the United States question me bringing it on a plane.

The Bigger Carry-On by Away holds a whopping 47.9 liters of stuff, making it my go-to suitcase for any trip that lasts between four to seven days. The bag unzips like a traditional clamshell suitcase and has two larger compartments on each side. The right side, where I keep my clothes, is secured with a mesh compression system that was also improved during the redesign to feature wider and stronger straps, which gives me more leverage to squish my belongings flat. The compression system also now comes with two smaller mesh pockets on the front and one larger slip pocket in the back.

On the left side, there’s still a mesh zippered closure to keep loose items like toiletry bags and shoes secured when you close the bag. But it also now comes with a zipped pocket for extra organization.

Inside a small zippered compartment, there’s also a laundry bag for keeping your clothes separate during your trip. During the redesign, Away made the laundry bag bigger and it now comes with a drawstring closure instead of the previous zipper (so you can hang it out of the way).

In the past few years, the Away Bigger Carry-On has gotten me through a week-long trip to Paris in the winter (with enough space for souvenirs), several long weekend ski trips when I have to pack bulky ski pants, boots, and sweaters, and even a 10-day trip to the Galápagos when I had several tight connections and didn’t want risk the airline losing my bag.

It easily fits into overhead bins

Yes, the Away Bigger Carry-On fits into the overhead bins of most domestic carriers I’ve flown in the six years I’ve owned this bag. The only time I’ve been asked to gate check it upon boarding is on smaller regional flights where most wheeled suitcases wouldn’t fit into the tiny overhead bins.

If you’re making connections abroad, keep in mind that this bag is much larger than most international carriers allow. For example, I did once have a gate agent on a connection between Frankfurt and Paris pull me aside and tell me it exceeded her airline’s dimensions, but she let me bring it on anyway with a warning. It did, in fact, fit in the overhead bin.

Away Carry-On vs. Bigger Carry-On

Away’s standard size carry-on comes with all the same features as the Bigger Carry-On; it’s just smaller. Compared to the Bigger Carry-On, the Away Carry-On measures 21.7 x 14.4 x 9 inches (about an inch less on each side), weighs 7.5 pounds (0.4 pounds less), and has room for 39.8 liters inside (8.1 liters less). It costs $275—$20 less than the larger bag. Since its cost and weight are just marginally less than the Bigger Carry-On, I’d only recommend buying the smaller bag if you’re going to be traveling a lot outside of the United States, where airlines are much stricter about carry-on dimensions and weight limits.

Away Bigger Carry-OnAway Carry-On
Dimensions22.7 x 15.4 x 9.6 inches21.7 x 14.4 x 9 inches
Weight7.9 pounds7.5 pounds
Liters47.9 liters39.8 liters

The Away lifetime warranty

Finger pointing to crack on white Away bag's polycarbonate shell

Away quickly replaced my original suitcase I bought in 2017, after its polycarbonate shell cracked.

Photo by Lyndsey Matthews

In addition to a generous trial period, in which you can return your bag for any reason within the first 100 days, Away’s limited lifetime warranty covers any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, and more of any of its suitcases.

I personally had to put this warranty policy to the test last year. After stacking five other suitcases on top of my original Bigger Carry-On in the car on the way to the airport, a three-inch crack appeared in the top corner of the hard-shell exterior. (If I had to guess, there were roughly 200 pounds on my bag for the hour-long ride.)

This could have been a major con to the bag, but when I emailed Away’s customer support line, a representative responded in 20 minutes. Since my original white bag was no longer in stock, they let me choose any color I wanted that was currently available and shipped it to me for free. The new bag arrived exactly a week after I emailed them. To help their team figure out what went wrong with my original bag, they included a free shipping label for me to return my broken suitcase to them to inspect. To make the brand more sustainable, I do wish there was a repair program instead of just replacing broken bags with new ones.

Bottom line

While my Away Bigger Carry-On’s hardshell exterior did unfortunately crack after several years of frequent use, I found Away’s customer service and lifetime warranty so efficient and easy to use that I’m glad I invested my money in this product. And with all the updates and a price point still under $300, it’s a steal compared to other hard-shell spinner bags.

This article was originally published in 2022; it was updated on December 22, 2023, with information about the updated Away Bigger Carry-On.

Lyndsey Matthews is the former senior commerce editor at Afar, covering travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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