Come Away (Luggage) With Me: An Unboxing

Yes, this is a story about luggage but it begins several years ago in Dublin, Ireland. Let me explain.

The River Liffy
The River Liffy, Dublin (photo by Jen Gallardo)

A while ago, I purchased a really unique piece of luggage. It was damask-printed and, if you know me, you know I've never met a print I don't like. It was a duffle bag on wheels and I was okay with that — until I flew Ryan Air.

Going through all the checkpoints from London to Dublin, nobody glanced at my luggage. It was big and yellow (and fancy printed!) but nobody really cared as the Ryan Air flight attendants were trying to simply get everyone settled in for the slingshot across the way to Ireland.

However, when flying from Dublin to Liverpool, I hit a snag — an overzealous employee who wanted to see if my bag could fit the sizer (i.e. the contraption they use to suss out if your bag exceeds their size limitation). She didn't care that I had flown with it on the previous leg of my journey on their airline, she wanted to see it fit in the sizer.

Of course it didn't fit and so I was slapped with a fee to check it of 50 friggin' euros! Ugh!

Upon returning from this trip, I realized that I needed to contain myself — literally.

I needed to get a hard shell bag that would ensure I don't overstuff my bag and then risk paying some exorbitant fee because I can't carry it on. I can do pretty well living out of a carry-on for 10 days or so and I usually (sadly) don't get a chance to travel much longer than that.

My next trip where I was going to be flying and needed to address the issue was for South by Southwest in 2014. I was unexpectedly traveling to the Austin festival for business early that year and needed a decent rolling hard-shelled luggage. My mom suggested JC Penney and that's where I met the Samsonite luggage I would continue to use…until today.

The Samsonite is the perfect carry-on size. It's a dark green shiny hard-shelled case and does a good job of fitting everything I need. Still unique but a little more subtle about it. Unfortunately, what it doesn't do anymore is roll 360 degrees. I'm not sure where in the world it happened but at some point in my travels, one of the wheels was damaged such that it has a hard time turning left when upright. I've checked all over and no one sells a replacement so that I can simply unscrew my old wheel and screw in the new 360 spinner wheel. Also, turns out the Samsonite warranty they like to tout so much doesn't even cover wheels.

After being mildly heartbroken about it, I decided I needed to move on and get another new carry-on. I looked at a few brands including Bluesmart, Raden and Away but eventually settled on Away. Away's warranty seemed to be more comprehensive. Additionally, I realized that I didn't really need all the features in those other brands. A USB charger is a nice to have and I can definitely envision myself using it while traveling. An app for my luggage such that I can track it just feels like over-kill, especially for a carry-on which, presumably, is going to stay by my side when I travel (or at the very least, an overhead bin near me).

I ordered my Away a couple of nights ago on Wednesday. I was trying to first see if I can sell my current luggage for scraps or to someone who is okay with slightly damaged goods. That wasn't working. And since the Away is not so expensive (like the Tumi's I looked at – good lord!), I decided to just do it.

It is now Friday and I received my Away luggage via UPS ground (free shipping). Given the shipping speed said 7-10 business days, color me super impressed with the one and a half business days.

Since I'm working from home today, I decided to do an unboxing of the luggage. I probably won't be able to use it anytime soon as I don't have any major trips planned but at least I can share initial impressions.

Away Luggage Box
Away Luggage Box

First, the packaging is minimal and clear which I appreciate. The box it comes in is Away branded, naturally, but as you can see in the pictures, it's done pretty elegantly. Also, points for having packaging that's good for the environment! Buying stuff online constantly already raises my carbon footprint so it's nice when the stuff I buy isn't wrapped in 20 pounds of plastic and styrofoam.

Away Dust Cover
Away Dust Cover

Outside of the box it comes in, the luggage is protected by a dust cover. Yes, like your fanciest leather handbag, this carry-on comes with a dust cover! I doubt I'll use this but it's a nice touch if you are going to store it for a while and don't want it to get too dusty. What I hadn't noticed in the online pictures is that the bag does have a leather trim so there are some leather elements that I guess you can protect via putting your luggage in that dust bag.

Away Box Interior
Away Box Interior

The inside of the box is more vividly designed, which is fun, and contains one paper insert and the luggage. Every other accessory you need for it is captured within the luggage. This is really smart as it allows them to use the minimal amount of packaging for shipping as the luggage is used to hold the manual, some sort of screw implement (I guess to tighten the wheels, if need be?) and the USB charger for the battery inside the bag.

Away Luggage Trim and Zipper Detail
Away Luggage Trim and Zipper Detail

Upon sliding the bag out of the dust cover, I noticed the leather trim almost immediately. I really dig fine leather goods so that was a nice surprise to find. I purchased the bag in the navy color so the black leather trim against the navy looks really elegant in an understated kind of way. I've come a long way from my yellow-printed bag! Unexpectedly, the bag came with a black leather luggage tag. Really nice touch that gives the bag a premium feel far beyond its price tag. Also another thing I noticed was the waterproof zipper; essentially, the way the zipper seams shut helps keep water out — which is wonderful when you are unexpectedly caught in the rain while traveling.

Sizing up the competition: my old Samsonite and new Away side by side
Sizing up the competition: my old Samsonite and new Away side by side

Because I had issues with my old bag's wheels, I decided to pull out the handle and start wheeling it around to test that out. The wheels are just fine and work as I expected. The handle that extends out is a lot thinner and more delicate than I expected. I'm not sure how ergonomic the handle is after you use it for a while but that will be a review for another day. One little thing that bothered me was the handle at the top and side of the bag for picking up the bag. These handles sit very close to the bag and you have to get under them to essentially get your hand in there. While this helps the bag's look when you aren't holding it, it's not super easy to get your hand in there. I've cut my nails really short lately but I would imagine if you have long nails, it could be a little tricky and/or risky to your manicure.

I really had a hard time deciding on the color but ultimately went with navy. I think I made a good choice. I often travel to cities so grime is a given. This probably will wear well with grime compared to the lighter color options they offer. Additionally, the color looks really nice in the light. You can definitely tell it's not black, it's a dark blue.

Next, I laid the bag down and decided to open it. The way the zippers pop off when you unlock the bag is pretty fun. Not going to lie to you. See my instagram post above for evidence. It's likely not going to get old to me.

Away bag interior
Away bag interior

On the inside of the bag, one side has a big zipper compartment (for shoes and bags and such) and then the other side is for your clothes and has the straps that snap in like seatbelts as well a pad to help flatten your stuff. Outside of a zipper compartment on the compression pad thing, I was very surprised that there were so few compartments in the bag. I guess with packing cubes and other things, people don't necessarily need them? I like keeping organized, especially when I travel, so I find that I like to keep things in various compartments.

The flattening pad thing contains a few of the accessories I alluded to earlier. In its zipper compartment, you'll find first the charger for the battery in the luggage. It feels really really weird to be charging my new luggage but welcome to 2017. However, I'm sure it will come in handy down the road. In addition to the charging stuff, you also get a cute little manual/booklet that tells you a little more about your bag. Finally, you also get some sort of tool which I'm assuming is for any repairs you can make on your own (like tightening loose screws and such).

Away Manual
Away Manual

So far, I'm very impressed and happy with my purchase. Now I just need to plan a vacation so I can give it a true test drive!

The good people at Away Travel did not pay me for this review. I wrote it because I felt like it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *