Welcome to AFAR Approved: a deep dive into the travel items we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about.
→ Buy now: Away Bigger Carry-On, from $295, awaytravel.com
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 with an ejectable battery built into the suitcase for on-the-go phone charging to see if it was worth the hype.
After five years and nearly 70 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.
A rainbow of color options
The polycarbonate exterior is available in a number of matte-finished colors, including blush, black, green, and several shades of blue. Away is also known for launching seasonal and limited-edition collections, so it’ll be rare to have anyone confuse your bag for theirs.
I chose white 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. And now Away bags come with a tiny Magic Eraser included.
It fits so much stuff, but doesn’t weigh a ton
At 22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 inches and 7.4 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 packs down bulky items. Inside a small zippered compartment, there’s also a laundry bag for keeping your clothes separate during your trip. The left side has a mesh zippered closure to keep loose items like toiletry bags and shoes secured when you close the bag.
In the past few years, it’s 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 five 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 must gate check it, make sure to remove the ejectable battery, since those are not allowed in the cargo hold of planes for safety reasons.
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.
The price point
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 it comes with a TSA-approved combination lock, YKK zippers, as well as Hinomoto wheels—arguably the highest quality wheels in the luggage industry, with ball bearings to ensure an ultra-smooth ride. The handle can be extended to multiple heights and comes in and out smoothly without getting jammed. Keep in mind, if you want to include the ejectable phone battery, it’s an extra $20, and only available in certain colors.
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 13.7 x 9 inches (about an inch less on each side), weighs 7.1 pounds (0.3 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-On||Away Carry-On|
|Dimensions||22.7 x 14.7 x 9.6 inches||21.7 x 13.7 x 9 inches|
|Weight||7.4 pounds||7.1 pounds|
|Liters||47.9 liters||39.8 liters|
|Price||$295 (with USB charger: $315)||$275 (with USB charger: $295)|
The Away lifetime warranty
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 put this warranty policy to the test the other week. 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 with a battery 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.
While my bag’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 at under $300, it’s a steal compared to other hard-shell spinner bags.
Aside from which color to buy, your toughest decision will be whether to buy the Away Bigger Carry-On with or without the ejectable phone-charging battery. (And yes, it’s worth the extra $20 to never have to fight for a plug at the airport during your next delay.)