Sturdy, light-weight luggage is your best friend in travel. However, most people don’t realize how important it is to invest in the right carry-on luggage until they are met with some suitcase-related disaster on one of their trips. Avoid the traveling trauma, and the trial and error of finding just the right roll-aboard suitcase, with these luggage tips from an experienced traveler who definitely learned the significance of a proper bag the hard way. 

Get the Right Suitcase

best light weight suitcase, Ricardo luggage

Photo credit: Cindy Richards/ Empty Nest TravelingMom

When I first got serious about traveling—taking a minimum of two trips each month, generally with one or more kids in tow—I failed to heed the advice of a friend who traveled regularly. “Buy a sturdy, light-weight bag,” she said.

But I figured I would keep nursing along the ancient suitcases we owned until they could travel no more. Sadly, that moment arrived as I was rushing across the insanely crowded Mexico City airport, urging my then 8- and 10-year-old kids to “hurry up” in the hope we would make our connecting flight. Just then, the extended handle of my suitcase broke in two. My choices: Carry the heavy thing as I raced through the airport, or attempt to hang onto the metal pole that once supported the handle and try to wheel the case on its two wheels.

It’s a long and exhausting story. The good news is that we made our flight. The bad news is that when we arrived in Cancun, I paid inflated airport prices for a new suitcase and repacked on the floor of an airport, my undies in full view of all of the other travelers.

Never again.

Sturdy, Light-Weight Ricardo Luggage to the Rescue

best light weight suitcase

Ricardo Elite Roxbury 2.0 with EZ Access Mobile Office. Photo courtesy of Ricardo Beverly Hills

These days, I travel with my old faithful, a 5-year-old cute purple Ricardo Elite roll-aboard suitcase. Ricardo sent me this bag to try and I would never give it back. The luggage is incredibly light weight, rolls easily on four wheels and is a nice combination of hard-sided and soft cloth. The best feature: a zippered front pocket that is just the right size for my travel laptop and iPad. It’s easy to zip open and retrieve the electronics before going through TSA security and again before I stuff the suitcase in the overhead bin.

Being so loyal to my first Ricardo carry-on meant I was a little skeptical when Ricardo offered to send one of its new light-weight hard-sided 21-inch Elite Roxbury 2.0 (full retail price: $300).

It turns out that this might be my new go-to bag when I’m NOT traveling for business.

Why? Because it lacks my favorite feature, that laptop-and-iPad-sized front zippered pocket. That means I either have to carry a shoulder bag big enough to hold the electronics or I have to open up the suitcase to retrieve them before sending the bag through security or storing it overhead. Neither option works well for me.

Ricardo also sells a 19-inch version of this Roxbury line that has the outside pocket I covet. They call it an “EZ Access Mobile Office” and, though I didn’t test that model, it looks really cool and useful. It can accommodate a full-size 15.5 inch laptop in the padded front pocket. A full-size laptop would never fit in my cute purple Ricardo Elite.

What I Love About the Hard-Sided Ricardo Roxbury 2.0

  • Light-weight
  • Durable
  • Easy to pull or push
  • Expandable
  • Elegant looking

This carry-on is made from something called Makrolon Polycarbonate. Apparently that is some super material because the carry-on luggage weighs just 8.6 pounds but seems as durable as my parents’ old Samsonite. Those were the ones they used to drop from buildings on the TV commercials. I swear it weighed more empty than this Roxbury weighs fully packed.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t pick up that old Samsonite even when it was empty. But this light-weight Ricardo Roxbury and its smoothly gliding wheels made it so easy to maneuver that even a small child would be able to push this bag through an airport.

Sturdy Construction

The handle is sturdy and adjusts to different heights, including a full extension that makes it comfortable for my husband who is 6-foot, 3 inches tall and generally just carries his suitcase because it’s easier on his back than bending off to reach the puny handle.

Like my purple Ricardo Elite, this Roxbury 2.0 is both expandable and pretty. I am a notorious underpacker, but I’m still always shocked to find that the stuff that fits easily in the suitcase when it was clean and nicely folded rarely fits as well after it’s worn and dirty. So that extra two inches is always a nice feature at the end of a trip. And, like my purple carry-on, this Roxbury comes in non-black. As anyone who has ever watched the luggage carousel with a mixture of dread and hope knows, there are A LOT of black bags in the world (and on the luggage carousel). The black cherry color is both pretty and elegant.

Take a look at the bag and a few of other features in this video from Military TravelingMom Meagan Shamy.

And if, like me, you don’t get these TSA-friendly locks and how they work, check out this video from Scotty Reiss, Driving TravelingMom.

What I Don’t Love about the Roxbury 2.0

  • Almost too easy to push
  • Zipper doesn’t work as smoothly as the Ricardo Elite
  • Unbalanced when an extra bag is added
  • Pretty surface is easily marred
best light weight suitcase

Photo credit: Cindy Richards/ Empty Nest TravelingMom

The 360-spinner feature on the wheels that make it super easy to push on flat surfaces also make it easy to lose on slanted ones. The carry-on took off without me as I hurried down a ramp. And another TravelingMom nearly lost hers on an airport escalator. So hold on tight.

The zipper on mine was a little tough to pull at the corners. It worked best when the two parts were lined up exactly and there was no pressure on the zipper. It’s a small price, but I never had similar issues with the Ricardo Elite, even after five years of hard labor.

The front of the Roxbury 2.0 features a hidden strap for attaching a second bag. But when I tried it, the bag became unbalanced on all four wheels. That meant it would have to be pulled like a two-wheeler, which sort of negates the point of having four wheels. I simply did what I do with my Ricardo Elite: Wrap the straps of my shoulder bag around the extended handle and set it on top of the suitcase. That way, the carry-on stays upright on all fours and all I have to do it guide it along (and hang on tight when the floor slopes).

If you’ve ever had a shiny hard-sided bag, you know the damage a baggage handler can do to that pretty surface. A TravelingMom who gate checked her brand new bag found the surface was all scratched up by the time she got it back. It looked like the bag had been attacked by an angry cat.

The Best Light-Weight Suitcase Tested By Expert Moms: Ricardo Roxbury 2.0

What’s your favorite carry-on? Tell us your experience in the comment section below.