Review: Is The Away Pet Carrier Worth the Cost? (With Winnie)

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My puppy Winnie and I review the Away Pet Carrier. Is Away Travel’s portable crate for vehicles and airplanes worth the price?

Sorting through the many pet carriers for car and air travel

One of the first decisions I had to make as a new pet owner was what kind of pet carrier I should buy to transport my furry little friend home. It’s a tough decision, particularly for someone who hasn’t had a pet in a long time.

There are so many options for portable pet crates and carriers and harnesses out there to review:

  1. Portable crates made of a hard plastic shell from the likes of Petmate;
  2. soft shell travel cases for pets by companies including Sleepypod and Sherpa (link via Amazon);
  3. luggage-like nylon pet carriers from Away and others;
  4. reinforced American Made, double-wall rotomolded dog crates from Gunner and 4×4 America; and
  5. Dog vehicle safety harnesses for travel from companies like Sleepypod and Ruffwear.

And so many questions:

  • Should I transport my dog in a car using a safety harness, soft-sided pet carrier or hard dog crate?
  • Which dog carriers are the best for airline travel?
  • What features should I look for in a portable pet carrier?
  • How much does a travel dog carrier cost?

I went down a huge rabbit hole reviewing options for pet carriers suitable for car and air travel.

To make a long story short, I wound up choosing the Away Pet Carrier.

This review explains why.

First, a disclaimer: This article is a review of the Away Pet Carrier based on my experience. I cannot vouch for the safety of this or any other pet carrier or appropriateness for any other dog or situation.

About Away

First, let’s take a step back and review Away Travel’s story.

The “Warby Parker of travel,” Stephanie Korey and Jen Rubio founded Away in February 2016 to offer affordable-luxury travel gear direct-to-consumers.

Stephanie Korey and Jen Rubio, Co-Founders of Away Travel (Photo courtesy of Away Travel)

Jen, who ran social media for Warby Parker and headed innovation for All Saints, and Steph, who managed Warby Parker’s supply chain and worked with mattress startup Casper, initially set out to make better and more affordable luggage for humans.

“I found myself wondering, when I went to a luggage store, ‘why do I see a $1,000 price tag’?” Steph told me during a 2016 interview at Away’s Manhattan office. “Does it really cost that much to make a plastic box on wheels?”

Away’s Luggage for Humans

Away started their journey making hard-sided luggage for humans.

One of the reasons I was attracted to Away in the first place is because I was already a happy customer.

I own the Away Expandable Bigger Carry On, which was one of the company’s first forays into soft-sided luggage. The suitcase is a thoughtfully-designed travel piece that is infinitely better than my previous Victorinox and Travelpro models.

One thing I love about Away is their attention to customer feedback. Prior to developing their luggage, Steph outlined how Away convened focus groups of over 800 travelers from all walks of life, and gathered their feedback in making their luggage.

This feedback resulted in an emphasis on lightweight materials, durable zippers, attention to rotating wheels and a thoughtfully-designed interior that maximizes space.

So I looked to Away for a pet carrier because I was confident they had put some thought into the materials, design and craftsmanship.

Review: The Away Pet Carrier is an excellent combination of form, function and safety for car and air travel

As I began my research for a travel dog crate or carrier, I had a few criteria:

  1. The carrier had to be safe to transport my dog in the car.
  2. The carrier should conform to airline standards for future plane trips.
  3. The carrier should be thoughtfully designed and sturdy.
  4. Ideally, the carrier should be affordable or at least not outrageously expensive.

As I mentioned already, there are a variety of options for portable dog carriers and crates, as well as harnesses, for car and air travel.

Just have a look at the results that come back from a search for portable travel carriers for dogs on Amazon.

Here is how Away’s pet carrier fared with my criteria for car safety, airline standards thoughtful design, and price:

Certified by the Center for Pet Safety for car travel

One of the biggest draws for me is that the Away Pet Carrier is crash test certified by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS).

CPS tests dog restraints using the guidelines set in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 (FMVSS 213), simulating crashes of 30 miles per hour.

In the CPS’s tests dating back to 2011, some vehicle restraints failed miserably, in some cases catapulting dogs out of the car.

The Away Pet Carrier received a five star crash test rating from the CPS based on a test conducted in January 2020 with a test subject weighing 18 pounds.

Meets airline travel standards

The Away Pet Carrier meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for air travel.

This was important to me since I would like the option of bringing Winnie on flights in the future.

The Pet Carrier also features a strap on the exterior that can secure it to your luggage.

Thoughtful design

As expected, the Away Pet Carrier shines when it comes to thoughtful design and useful details.

The exterior and lining of the carrier are both water-resistant, which makes clean up easy. (That said, if I’m comparing it to other options, the hard shell carriers from Gunner and 4×4 North America are likely even easier to wipe-down).

The latches that fasten the Away Pet Carrier to the car’s seat belt are sturdy and secure easily.

Away includes two thoughtfully-designed pockets on the carrier. The side pocket sports a waterproof lining and drainage holes (pictured below) that can accommodate a collapsible water bowl.

I had neglected to read the entire description of the carrier before using it, and found myself wondering what the clip on the interior of the Away Travel Carrier was for.

It turns out it’s a safety clip to attach to a dog’s collar to prevent it from escaping when you open the carrier.

Admittedly, these thoughtful touches are secondary to the safety and versatility of the pet carrier but they are definitely nice-to-haves and add to the overall appeal.

Style: The Away Pet Carrier looks like a piece of stylish luggage

Frankly, style wasn’t a criteria for me, though I appreciate that the Away Pet Carrier looks like a nice piece of luggage. If coordinating is your thing, Away offers its pet carrier in black and coast blue.

The Pet Carrier is also part of the Away x Serena Williams collaboration, which means it is available in a limited-edition “dark swirl by Serena Williams” pattern (as of this writing).

Price: The Away Pet Carrier is Expensive

The biggest knock on the Away Pet Carrier is that it is expensive.

The Away Pet Carrier costs $225 for the coast blue or black, or $245 for the Dark Swirl by Serena Williams limited edition, which is admittedly a lot of money to spend on a suitcase for your furry friend.

That said, the Away Pet Carrier isn’t as outrageously expensive as some other options out there.

In particular, the Away Pet Carrier is competitively-priced compared to the very few pet carriers that are certified by the Center for Pet Safety or have otherwise performed well in other independent crash tests for car travel.

Take a look at this comparison of costs for portable pet carriers:

Portable pet carrier price comparison

Pet carrierPrice
Good2Go Crash-Tested soft-sided pet carrier$99.99
Sleepypod Air soft-sided pet carrier$179.99
Away Pet Carrier$225
Gunner G1 Kennelfrom $399.99
4×4 North America Care2 crash-tested pet carrierfrom $499.99
Lucky Duck Lucky Kennel Intermediate$499.99

Reviewing Winnie’s first car trip in the Away Pet Carrier

Having done the research and ordered the Away Pet Carrier, I set out for a 3 hour drive to pick up Winnie.

When I arrived, Winnie was waiting outside, shivering a little from the still-chilly April weather.

I had read these dog trainer books that advise letting dogs walk into the carrier by themselves for the first time, and placing treats inside to get them used to their new surroundings. I was all primed to let her choose to go in the side door by herself.

But she was so cold and snuggly, I decided to unzip the top mesh opening and laid her down gently into the carrier myself.

She went willingly, and seemed to like the plush and soft sherpa bedding inside.

Securing the pet carrier to the car turned out to be straightforward, though I wish that Away would post video instructions so I knew I was doing it right.

I had to rely on the sparse written instructions included with the package (pictured below) and my own experience installing several child carseats over the years.

Winnie wound up sleeping the better part of what turned out to be more than a 5 hour drive home thanks to traffic. (We stopped once for a potty break.)

We continue to keep the Away Pet Carrier out at home so she can get used to it, and I’ve loaded her up in the car to go on a short drive so she gets used to being in it the car as well.

Winnie loves snuggling into Away’s den-like interior and likes to rub her face in the sherpa bedding.

This is perhaps not as high praise as you might think, given that Winnie will pass out just about anywhere — in her wire crate, on the floor, the rug, in our backyard, on your lap.

But, in the end, I’m happy to have the carrier.

Comparing the pros and cons of the Away Pet Carrier

Ultimately, the safety, versatility and design of Away’s Pet Carrier swayed me.

Reviewing the pros and cons of the Away Pet Carrier:

Pros:

  • Crash-test certified by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) for automobile travel;
  • Complies with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for air travel;
  • Nylon material is easy to wipe clean;
  • Includes loads of thoughtful details including a waterproof pocket for a collapsible water bowl; and
  • Looks way nicer than just about every other pet carrier on the market today.

Cons:

  • The Away Pet Carrier is relatively expensive at $225. It’s not nearly as expensive as hardshell kennels like the $499 Gunner medium G1, but it’s still pricey.
  • Only accommodates pets of up to 18 pounds.

The fact that it was one of the few carriers certified by the Center for Pet Safety, combined with its thoughtful made-for-air-travel design and looks, made it the best choice for me.

Winnie totally agrees.


About Jake

Jake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age.  Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.

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