Q&As

Jen Rubio of Away on Packing Hacks, Beauty Essentials and Unplugging in Seychelles

by Joy Pecknold

In co-founding Away, Jen Rubio and Stephanie Korey sought to make the perfect suitcase. While perfection is difficult to qualify, the thousands of rave reviews they’ve received since they launched in 2015 suggests they succeeded. Taking more than 150 flights a year for work and pleasure, Rubio really knows a thing or two about travel, so we had to pick her brain about it.

Q Have you always loved travel? Can you recall your first travel-related memory?
A

I’ve loved to travel for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Quezon City in the Philippines, and some of my favorite and earliest memories are traveling with my family: beach vacations in Boracay, boat trips from Puerto Princesa, and being awestruck by places like Vigan and Bohol.

I credit my dad as the person who truly fueled my love of travel. He took me on my first trip to Paris when I was six years old and later signed us up for flying lessons. We made a plan to visit every continent together, but he passed away before we were able to. When I finally got to visit Antarctica—a trip my dad and I had talked about so many times—I remember being on a boat, looking at this huge glacier, and for the first time, what my dad had said actually hit me: you can literally go anywhere in the world, some places are just harder to get to.

Q When picking out new luggage, what are important things to consider?
A

Your luggage should get you excited about packing for your next trip! It should come with everything you need and nothing you don’t—and that’s something Steph and I made sure of when we were designing our first product, The Carry-On, and every item since then.

We talked to hundreds of people before launching Away to understand how people actually traveled. What we heard was that people wanted something that was lightweight, yet durable, could hold as much as possible inside, and have thoughtful features to help them get the most out of their trips. Our suitcases are designed with features like an interior compression pad to maximize how much you can fit inside and a built-in water-resistant laundry bag to keep your clean clothes separate from what you’ve already worn; they’re also made with the highest-quality zippers and wheels and come with a lifetime warranty, so you can travel with Away for life.

Q Tell us about your packing process. Do you have any packing hacks?
A

Packing cubes have been a lifesaver! I swear by them so much that we introduced our own line at Away. I’m often packing for several destinations in just a carry-on, so they’re perfect for keeping everything neatly organized, and I can sort my outfits depending on the different locations or climates I’m headed to.

weekender away
Q Away recently launched a weekender bag—what sets yours apart?
A

Like everything we do at Away, The Weekender was introduced in response to feedback from our community—it’s our take on the classic duffle and fits just as much as our Carry-On. Ours comes with thoughtful features like a variety of interior pockets to keep your belonging neatly organized, a separate wipeable compartment for shoes, and a hidden exterior laptop pouch for easy access to your computer while on the road. It’s lightweight and works for any occasion or mode of transport, whether you’re storing it in an overhead bin, in the back of a car, or on the seat next to you on the train.

Q Speaking of weekends, what is your favourite city to spend one in?
A

My favorite place in the world is Tofino, a tiny island off the coast of Vancouver. I have a deep love for the Pacific Northwest, and Tofino feels like a remote slice of heaven. I own a home there and try to spend at least one long weekend there every month, starting every day with a walk along Chesterman Beach.

Q What type of traveler are you? The kind that unpacks right away or puts it off? The kind that over packs, under packs or always gets it right?
A

I’m on over 150 flights a year, both for business and for fun, and I avoid checking a bag at all costs, so being a light and thoughtful packer is essential. The more I travel, the more of a minimalist I’ve become, packing items that are inherently versatile, mix well together, and can easily be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, and only my most cherished jewelry.

Q You’re based in New York. What are a few of your fave places there?
A

I live in SoHo, which is, conveniently, also where Away’s headquarters are and my favorite part of the city. I love Lafayette and La Mercerie for a breakfast meeting or a casual weekend brunch with friends. Both serve delicious French-inspired cuisine and their gorgeous interiors are designed by my favorite duo Roman & Williams, with mahogany floors and large, arched windows that allow so much natural light to flood in.

I also love Perrotin, a contemporary art gallery curated by Emmanuel Perrotin that’s located in the Lower East Side. It’s a massive space with exhibitions across three floors, and has celebrated the work of Colombian artist Iván Argote, Takashi Murakami from Japan, and the sculpture work of Indian contemporary artist Bharti Kher. For shopping, my favorite spots are The RealReal for luxury consignment, such as vintage Chanel, and Clic, a concept shop that’s great for unique home and interior goods.

Q When you visit a new destination, what’s the first thing you do?
A

Go for a walk! After I drop my bags at the hotel or Airbnb I’m staying at, I love to head right out to explore the neighborhood and find a few great spots for drinks or dinner. I’ll usually ask the hotel concierges for their personal recommendations on my way out, to get a sense of what the local favorites are.

weekender away
Q What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?
A

Over the holidays this past year, I went on vacation to the Seychelles, which was one of the first trips I’ve taken in a really long time where I felt completely unplugged and off the grid. The Seychelles feel like a fabled paradise, surrounded by hundreds of tiny islands along the Indian Ocean, most just a short boat ride away. We took diving lessons in Praslin, hiked along the Copolia Trail, and ate fresh seafood and Thai cuisine at the beautiful Saffron restaurant.

Q What do you splurge on when you’re traveling?
A

I recently moved into a new apartment in SoHo and I love to collect items for it during my travels. Once I’m back home, everything reminds me of someplace I’ve been. So I’m always on the lookout for new objects, linens or art pieces from local designers and artisans. A couple of months ago I traveled to Marrakech and came home with several rugs from Lahandria, and recently decided on a gorgeous set of chairs from Gustavo Bittencourt that were handmade in Brazil.

Q What’s one thing you never travel without?
A

I always pack travel-sized versions of my favorite toiletries. I like to have my most trusted products while traveling so my beauty routine is consistent, and one less thing to think about. My favorites are Tata Harper’s Rejuvenating Serum and Illuminating Moisturizer, IGK dry shampoo, and Vintner’s Daughter face oil.

Q Where do you dream of going next?
A

My dream destination is Namibia. I’ve been to many countries in Africa, but never there. The salt flats and sand dunes of Sossusvlei look like they’re straight out of a dream or from a surrealist painting. My dream trip is a week off the grid, driving through the Namib Desert and ending in the seaside city of Swakopmund.