In 2018, it’s not enough for your suitcase to look good and hold all your belongings. Today’s baggage has GPS capabilities, can charge your electronics, and even function as a high chair-diaper bag hybrid—the future of travel has never looked more convenient.
But recently, smart luggage has been making headlines for less positive reasons. According to new regulations, you are no longer allowed to check any luggage containing non-removable lithium-ion batteries due to their flammable nature. Per the Federal Aviation Administration, carry-ons with the batteries are still permitted, but if you want to check your suitcase you better make sure it doesn’t pose a safety hazard.
Fear not, tech-savvy travelers (or those of us who keep forgetting to pack a phone charger): There are plenty of luggage options that offer cutting edge perks and won’t spontaneously combust. We know it seems like there are an overwhelming amount of options—because there are—so here, a few of our favorite brands worth putting on your radar.
Arguably the most instantly-recognizable (and Instagram friendly) smart luggage option, Away offers not only tons of options for the savvy traveler, but tons of options that are actually stylish. With four sizes, eight colors, and multiple collaborations with brands and designers—the most recent of which is with Gray Malin—the strongest thing Away has going for it is its variety of choices.
The smaller “carry on” sizes come with built-in batteries that charge any USB device, and can be removed should you decide to check your suitcase. The larger suitcases don’t have a built-in battery to worry about. Despite feeling more lightweight, Away suitcases can hold a surprising amount, thanks to the hard shell and compression straps—even the small carry-on suitcase is perfect for a long weekend getaway if you pack judiciously.
The variety of options, chic design, and ease with which you can carry them around make these a great option for fashion-forward travelers who don’t need their smart suitcase to be so, well, smart.
Of course the flip side to that is in comparison to other smart luggage, Away suitcases do the very minimum. Also fair warning: The lighter colors scuff easily.
Another fashionable favorite is Raden, which offers removable batteries in both its carry-on and check suitcases. A bit more on the sturdier side due to the Makrolon Polycarbonate shell, Raden is both lightweight at 13 lbs. and incredibly durable. Choose from eight colors and two finishes for complete customization.
Its technological offerings are equally impressive: Weight sensors, two removable chargers for USB cords, and location technology sensors help alleviate a lot of the stress around travel. Download the Raden app and enable Bluetooth tracking to ensure you never lose your suitcase at the baggage claim again.
For those willing to spend a bit more than the Away, this is an equally design-centric bag—though it’s definitely on the more durable side thanks to the unique material. Plus, Raden is the only smart luggage brand to offer charging capabilities in the larger sizes.
The carry-on size doesn’t fit as much as comparable carry-ons, probably due to all the tech additions. Also, while the battery for Radan is removable, it’s on the inside of your suitcase; meaning that if you forget to remove it pre-packing, you might have to rifle through a packed suitcase in line at customs.
The Néit is a different kind of smart suitcase. Yes, it includes some technological capability in the form of an optional geo-tracking device that will help you locate your bag at any airport; just download the free app and choose a payment plan that best suits your travel needs.
But where this baggage really shines is in its build. The main draw to Néit is its smart design: It’s the first-ever collapsible hard-case suitcase. The durable shell, made from a combination of polycarbonate and aluminium, can easily fold flat from 8-11 inches (depending on if you choose carry-on or full size) to just three inches. A tri-functional handle that you can pull just as easily as hang up on a wall hook makes storing this suitcase even easier. Waterproof and made to last, this is a no-frills suitcase built for convenience.
It takes up minimal space, making it ideal for small space dwellers who don’t have the square footage for storing bulky suitcases when they’re not traveling.
Paying for a GPS system is not ideal—though you do get the first 30 days of luggage tracking for free. Also, if you need your smart suitcase to include a charger, you’re out of luck.
Arlo Skye, $375-$550
If you’re looking for cutting-edge design, this sleek suitcase brand is the one for you. The dual-port charger, available in the carry-on size and easily removable by popping a button, is the least impressive thing about Arlo Skye luggage. Built for efficiency, it has no outer zipper. Instead, code-protected locks ensure no one except you can access your belongings. Patented “Silent Run Lisof” wheels (which Arlo Skye boasts are 15 percent quieter than their polyurethane counterparts) make these suitcases super silent. The insides even include anti-microbial lining.
There’s a design edge to this baggage line, too. A recent collaboration with Sight Unseen sees the usual range of three simple shades expanded to include a pretty mint hue.
Unique features (like anti-odor lining and silent wheels) that set it apart from other smart luggage. Plus, a sleek design that lends a more high-end than most suitcases.
With one suitcase that can cost up to $550, Arlo Skye is easily the most expensive of the lot. And no zippers = no wiggle room for squeezing in that extra dress.
This smart luggage was made for the business traveler. The carry-on only brand is available in six colorways and is collapsible for easy storage. An easily removable charger comes can power up a phone or tablet up to five times. Want to check your bag? Remove the battery and use the optional proximity sensor—available as an upgrade—to be notified when your Barracuda suitcase is on the carousel.
As for what makes it particularly perfect for the person traveling for work, that would be the laptop tray that drops down from the handle. The shelf also has two cup holders to keep your coffee safe.
The shelf, which as anyone who has ever struggled to find a free table in a crowded gate to get some last-minute work done will tell you, is definitely a game changer for frequent business travelers. The foldable nature of this is another huge plus for anyone short on storage space at home.
Not to call a suitcase ugly per se, but the Barracuda carry-on is definitely the least design-friendly of the group. And a soft shell offers less protection and durability.
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