After Years of Travel, Founders of Retire Early and Travel Share Their Best Packing Tips

Retire Early and Travel Keith and Tina

We are Retire Early and Travel. We provide help and ideas for those who want to retire early, and we provide travel inspiration for those who want to have unique travel experiences. We were both born in Michigan. We went to high school together and have been married for 32 years.

We have lived in Florida, California, and Texas. We now call Cuenca Ecuador home. We love to travel, experience new cultures and meet new people. When we are back in Cuenca, we like to socialize with our friends and play cards. We are both outgoing. Tina is probably a bit more outgoing than Keith.

Retire Early and Travel Keith and Tina

How and why did you get into traveling?

The year after high school graduation, (we started dating one month after graduating high school and have been together ever since) we traveled to the Dominican Republic. Back then it was a developing country. We fell in love with the different smells, sights, and colors of the country compared to what we were used to in the US.

The people were so friendly and welcoming. We decided then that we would like to see the world. We have always traveled. While our kids were young, most of our travels were seeing the USA. We owned an RV and managed to see 48 of the 50 states in the U.S. I do not think we did much to prepare for our first trip. We decided we were going and that was that. We do like to research a country before we travel there. We are planners.

Since we live in Cuenca, Ecuador which is a walkable city, we do not own car. We walk miles every day and not for exercise but rather to just get around. Tina is a naturopathic doctor and nutritionist, so we eat healthily. We take advantage of the great year-round fresh produce in Ecuador.

Retire Early and Travel

How do you finance your travels?

In the beginning, we had to finance it ourselves. Once we built up an audience, we were able to get sponsors. Much of our travel now is sponsored. The hardest to get paid for is airfare. That doesn’t happen 100% of the time. We retired early from our “normal” jobs and because of our love for travel, decided to start the blog Retire Early and Travel. Our goal was to travel and not have to use any of our early retirement money for it. We don’t spend that much money on gear anymore. The first two years we ended up buying everything we need, so gear purchases are not that much now.

Why is traveling important for you?

We only have one life to live. We want to have as many unique experiences as possible. We want to experience as many cultures as possible. You would think that travel would accentuate the differences in cultures, but we see more similarities than differences.

Retire Early and Travel

How do you bring your things with you?

We travel with one suitcase and one carry-on each. After years of travel, we understood the value of a good suitcase. So we now both own Briggs and Riley TORQ hardside suitcases. They are expensive but they have a true lifetime guarantee and work so well. I also have a Briggs and Riley rolling under the seat carry on. The suitcases are medium size and can hold the maximum 50 lbs., so they are a good size. I also have a Pacsafe camera backpack that I bring in my suitcase and use while at the destination. Tina also has a Pacsafe purse.

We chose Briggs and Riley because of their reputation for standing by their products. I also like the 80/20 split of the hardside suitcase. Not being a full clamshell style works well in small hotel rooms. Our backpacks, messenger bags, and Tina’s travel purse are Pacsafe. I like the security features of Pacsafe including the locking zippers and slice proof steel mesh in the straps and bag material. I don’t think there’s a competitor that has these features.

Retire Early and Travel

How do you organize things in your bags?

We use packing cubes when we pack. Not everything goes in a cube, but most things do. I also use the cubes for my photography gear and electronics. It makes finding things so much easier. I try and pack the least amount of stuff in my carry on. Obviously, I have to carry-on batteries, but I also have my computer, camera, and iPad. We don’t keep an extra set of clothes in our carry-on as some people say.

I kind of take for granted that all my bags are at least water resistant. If we are going to do any water activities, I always bring my waterproof stuff bag that I can put things in just in case something unexpected happens.

Retire Early and Travel

How do your bags and gear hold up?

All of our bag gear holds up very well. Briggs & Riley and PacSafe both last for years. I think paying extra gives you the peace of mind that the gear will last. Both Briggs and Riley and PacSafe are lightweight bags.

We wouldn’t change anything about the brands or models we use. Tina has a 30/70 split expandable Briggs & Riley and wishes she had the 20/80 split. If I were to have started over, I would have bought the better suitcase sooner. And while we haven’t had to do any repairs on the road, we know someone who had a Briggs and Riley that the airline broke a wheel. They called the company, and they shipped them the parts to their hotel. They even offered to reimburse them for a repair expense at a local luggage place, but they were able to make the repair themselves.

Retire Early and Travel Keith and Tina

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

We wish we would have had a GoPro for its underwater capabilities from the beginning. We missed out on some great photos. I think everyone always brings too much. After years of experience, you learn what’s really needed or what to buy that may serve multiple purposes resulting in less. Tina wishes we had a better drone so we may be looking at those when we are in the US in a few weeks.

The one thing we recommend everyone brings is a USB charger/battery pack. We have two of them. A bigger and smaller. They are invaluable for charging your phone/camera/drone, etc.. We never go on a tour without one in my bag.

Retire Early and Travel Keith and Tina

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

Our best purchase was the Klymit Static V Luxe Sleeping Pad. A good night sleep is so important when traveling. And many places have beds that are too hard or too soft. We always bring these blow-up sleep pads with us, which makes even the hardest bed perfect for a good night’s sleep. I can’t stress this enough. We’ve tried a few over the years, but the Klymit is the best. It’s wider than most, quiet and because of the design, you don’t roll off.

Our second best purchase would be the Anker PowerCore battery pack. We own two of these. A bigger and smaller.

Our other favorite gear is my camera. After using many cameras’s over the years, we settled and love the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70. We had a full DSLR which we found was too big to carry around. Then we went to a small point and shoot. Then we realized that the point and shoot wasn’t much different than our iPhones. So we tried just using the iPhone. The iPhone is a great camera for both photos and videos, but it didn’t work well with a zoom or the flash. So we decided on the Panasonic and just love it. This has one of the largest optical zooms in the industry. It has a 30x zoom, which is the equivalent of a 700mm DSLR lens and then you can double it to 1440mm with very little loss of quality. The zoom is so great for getting the right crop on your pictures. The camera is small enough to carry everywhere. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. So for us, smaller was important.

Retire Early and Travel Keith and Tina

What is your best advice for other travelers?

Don’t be afraid to go out and experience new cultures. Don’t think not knowing the language of where you are traveling to is a bad thing. You will get by. Creating experiences rather than buy things. You’ll have the best memories that you can pass on to your family and friends. There’s so much to see in the world. Just get out there and do it. If you can’t afford to travel internationally, then travel locally. Get out and see the country you live in. We lived in the United States and visited 48 of the 50 states.

Retire Early and Travel Keith and Tina

What will the future bring?

We hope that in the next five years, we visit at least 100 countries. We are on a personal quest to visit as many safe to travel to countries as possible.

We currently live in Cuenca Ecuador. So as part of our Ecuadorian resident visa’s, we were not allowed to be out of the country for more than 90 days a year for the first two years. 2018 is now the 3rd year so we don’t have any more restrictions. This is a big travel year for us. We already are scheduled to visit 14 new countries with a few more still in the planning stages.

Visit Keith Paul with his wife Tina on their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

About MightyGoods

Here at our site MightyGoods, we have checked thousands of reviews in order to build the biggest directory of backpacks, luggage, handbags and lots of other bags.

So far we have checked more than 2.3 million reviews!

Using our bag review summaries, we aim to help you find the perfect bag without having to spend a lot of time reading an endless list of reviews.


  1. Robbin Messier says:

    Helpful travel advice!

  2. Very insightful Keith & Tina! Just a few more years and our adventures will begin. Taking notes from you two!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *