The best smart suitcases to buy, and how to get them through security
What’s a Smart Suitcase?
Smart suitcases are one of the latest iterations of technology entering a part of our everyday lives. It refers to suitcases that have a battery inside them, and sometimes include other “smart” features like GPS tracking and the ability to weigh itself.
However, the tech features have changed with new rules from airlines and restrictions on what you can take on board. Here’s what you need to know about the regulations, as well as the smart suitcases that can and cannot board a plane.
So, Are They Banned?
Some suitcases are—earlier smart suitcases have battery packs that can’t be removed, and several airlines have announced rules that unless the battery can be removed, it will not be allowed on the plane. In December 2017, airlines including Delta, American, and Southwest introduced these policies, changing the fate of several smart luggage brands and their products’ appeal for customers.
If the battery can be removed, however, the luggage can come on board. If you’re checking a bag, the battery needs to be removed and added to your carry-on luggage. For carry-ons, the battery needs to be removed and placed in a different bag or in a different compartment inside the suitcase so that it’s no longer powering the suitcase during the flight.
Even if you follow these regulations correctly, we found in our smart luggage testing that some airports are still unfamiliar with the regulations and won’t know how to handle the battery. It could sail through security smoothly, but if you’re flying from a smaller airport, be prepared for staff to stop you and ask questions.
The Away suitcases are a favorite amongst travelers, and the brand prides itself on calling their product the “thoughtful” suitcase, versus a smart suitcase. But the smarts are still there—the suitcase battery has plenty of juice for charging sessions and offers two ports, including one with super-fast charging abilities. The battery was easy to eject, making it convenient to bring through security. Added bonus? The Away includes adapters for international travel, making it a handy choice for those often flying abroad.
The Away has non-tech features, too, like a TSA-approved combination lock and 360° wheels. And, if lack of pockets outside of the suitcase turns you away from hardshell suitcases in general, Away’s now offers suitcases with an exterior pocket. You can also choose whether your suitcase includes an ejectable battery or not, if you’d prefer to stick with outlet hunting or portable chargers.
While the tech was great, the setup of the suitcase itself is different than other hardshell suitcases. Instead of having one larger side and one smaller, the suitcase is divided into two equal halves. Depending on your packing preferences, that could make packing easier—or not.
The Arlo Skye suitcases boast great quality, with the added bonus of a battery pack to charge on the go. Features like the multi-directional wheels, brushed interior fabric, and interior organization components made this suitcase a great choice all around, whether you’d want charging capabilities or not.
Their check-in-sized bags come battery pack-free, ensuring you don’t forget to remove the battery and wind up having to unpack your entire suitcase at the airline counter. Besides, the need for charging on the go really only makes sense while you’re waiting in the airport, since it’s easy to charge a phone in the car.
The Arlo Skye suitcases also have a beautiful exterior and design, though we did notice they can scuff easily. They also offer locks, similar to the Away suitcases.
Out of Business
Blusmart, the first maker of smart suitcases, shut down operations in May 2018. Blusmart’s designs for both its first generation suitcase and, at the time, pre-ordered second generation suitcases all had a non-removable battery, rendering them useless.
Raden, another smart luggage startup, announced in May 2018 that it would also be ceasing operations.
The lack of a removable design was the nail in the coffin for both of these suitcase brands. Away was able to create a way to modify their first-generation bags to remove the battery, keeping them not only in business but as a leader in the field. But for both Away and Arlo, the success seems to come from focusing on good luggage first, with (removable) battery power as a bonus.