June 21, 2024

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Fly to a New World, Set Foot on Every Adventure

The Bucket List Family Told Us Their Best Travel Tips for Families

12 min read

Maybe your personal travel bucket list includes going on an African Safari. Or learning to surf in the Pacific Ocean. Maybe you want to challenge yourselves to a polar plunge in the Arctic Ocean or a horseback ride on the beach in Nicaragua. Adventure may look a little different to each of us, but for some, it looks like all of these and more. One family, in particular, has taken their list of out-of-this-world adventures and made it into a lifestyle: The Bucket List Family. They’ve traveled to over 80 countries—with millions of followers along for the ride—so it’s safe to say the family has learned a thing or two about travel—and they’re sharing their tips with The Everymom!

I had the chance to sit down with Jessica Gee, mom of three and matriarch of The Bucket List Family. And not only was chatting with Jessica a delight, but the seasoned world traveler and now author had plenty of helpful hacks for families who want to create their own adventures and memories. We discussed the new book she has coming out this February with National Geographic, the inside scoop on her favorite family travel destinations, and some genius trips to make family travel not only possible but enjoyable. Read on for The Bucket List Family travel tips none of us should embark without.

Who is The Bucket List Family?

the bucket list family
Source: @thebucketlistfamily

After Jessica and Garrett met, they received the opportunity to go to Tahiti with Garrett’s mother, who is a travel journalist. The two went with her repeatedly, falling in love with the island and growing their sense of adventure. Then, in 2015, with a 1- and a 3-year-old, the duo created The Bucket List Family. They sold all of their things and set out for a life on the road, vowing to document their adventures for their YouTube channel. Since then, their following has grown to 1.4 million YouTube subscribers and nearly 3 million Instagram followers. They’ve visited over 80 countries and welcomed a third child.

Jessica and Garrett’s kids are no strangers to doing schoolwork next to a herd of elephants, sleeping like royalty in Irish castles, and everything in between. Since setting out to begin their adventures in 2015, their now 11-year-old daughter, Dorothy, and 9-year-old son, Manilla, saw 65 countries in their first five years on the road. Before his first birthday, their third child, Calihan (now a 6-year-old), had traveled to 25 countries!

Now, as their family of five continues to travel the world, Jessica embarked on a new adventure: writing a book with National Geographic. In her book, readers get expert advice on how to make their own bucket list travels happen. The illustrated guide offers 50 family-friendly itineraries to destinations like South Africa, Alaska, and so many more, along with helpful family travel hacks they’ve picked up along the way.

Jessica Gee

Filled with tips, travel itineraries for families, and more, get your hands on Jessica Gee’s book on February 6, 2024!

Favorite Travel Destinations for Families

Jessica’s travel destination recommendations perfectly capture what’s important to her family: nature and wildlife. For each destination, she highlighted some amazing opportunities to get kids immersed in nature and see animals like they’ve never seen them before. She even mentioned that since all of her family shares this interest, it tends to guide their travel choices. Even in their young years, her little ones have cage-dived with sharks, gone swimming with whales, and watched turtles being hatched. Whenever they have the opportunity to see wildlife in a natural habitat, they take it.

However, growing up, Jessica’s view of traveling looked a lot like mine, or anyone else’s, for that matter. She grew up with a favorite travel destination her family went back to again and again: Disneyland. To this day, she shared, her extended family remains “Disney people.” And while the Gee family has been to Disney, they have plenty of other recommendations for families inside and outside the U.S.

the bucket list family travel tips
Source: Garrett Gee | The Bucket List Family

Favorite Domestic Travel Destinations for Families

Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast

The first spot Jessica highlighted was the Oregon Coast, specifically Cannon Beach. Being on the beautiful coast, she touched on all of the great elements the piece of ocean has to offer. She and her family have loved doing things like looking at the tide pools, going crabbing, and eating all of the delicious seafood in the area. Cannon Beach also happens to have a charming downtown area filled with shops, a landmark shown in the ‘80s movie The Goonies, and tons of rental homes and local inns perfect for a family getaway.

Lake Tahoe

A destination that’s beautiful all year round that Jessica pointed out is Lake Tahoe, situated between Nevada and California. Adventurous families will love Lake Tahoe for skiing in the winter or rafting down the river in the summer. Jessica dubbed Lake Tahoe as one of her favorite underrated spots for families.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Lastly, Jessica raved about their experiences in Hilton Head, South Carolina. She shared how welcoming and inviting the southern charm is in the town and the amazing wildlife experiences they had while there. They were able to experience baby turtles hatching on the beach, partake in a traditional low-country seafood boil, and learn about the unique ecosystem of the area.

bucket list family travel tips
Source: @thebucketlistfamily

Favorite International Travel Destinations for Families

Of course, The Bucket List Family’s travels take them far beyond the United States.

Editor’s Note: When researching or booking international family travel, it’s important to be cognizant of the latest travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State. Click here to view all current travel advisories.

Belize

The first international destination recommendation that came to mind for Jessica was Belize. She explained that it’s a great first spot for families new to traveling outside of the country. The residents speak English and take the U.S. dollar, making it easy to interact with locals. With tons of airports in the U.S. having direct flights, it’s a quick and easy country to get to. Plus, you get the best of both worlds—literally—with both jungle and ocean in one place.

Japan

Japan was the next spot Jessica touched on. Opposite to Belize, where there are some familiarities, she explained that Japan is quite the opposite. As she put it, “It’s a whole new world.” The country’s major cities offer a beautiful mix of futuristic metropolises and ancient temples frozen in time. A culturally rich country, Japan is also known for having an incredibly welcoming population and is very clean and safe, Jessica shared.

Scotland

Finally, Jessica recommended that families head to Scotland. While you may see the future while visiting Japan, touching down in Scotland is like going back in time. Jessica specifically pointed out how impressive the Scottish Highlands are. She and her family loved staying near Isle of the Skye and Loch Ness. She recommends going to the area to explore castles, going on hikes, and seeing all that the beautiful country has to offer.

the bucket list family travel tips Ireland
Source: @thebucketlistfamily

The Bucket List Family’s Top Travel Tips

One thing we learn quickly when becoming parents is that things don’t always look the way they used to—travel especially. Jetting around the world solo, with your partner, or even a group of friends is much different than having little ones who rely on you to get them where they need to go. But family travel is far from impossible. Here are some of The Bucket List Family’s top family travel tips and hacks.

Shifting Your Mindset for Family Travel

A theme that kept resurfacing during my conversation with Jessica was the idea of being mindful in each moment. Whether you’re dealing with a stressful situation like losing luggage or trying to catch an adorable video of your little one’s first time in the ocean, remembering to be in the moment is an important piece of enjoying your family travels.

Source: @thebucketlistfamily

Feeling “At Home” On the Go

The Gees have dealt with pretty much everything while traveling, from lost luggage to loose teeth on an airplane. No matter the situation, Jessica and Garrett prioritize making sure their kids are comfortable and feel “at home” no matter where they are. Jessica touches on this in a chapter in her book and shared some additional insight.

Even in a world that’s as extraordinary as theirs, the Gees are just like other families and thrive in routines. She shared that even when they’re across the world, their kids can still expect a sense of “normalcy.” For them, this includes doing schoolwork and having a nighttime routine filled with stories, songs, and prayers. There’s a lot of power in bringing some of the same traditions from home on the road with you. Jessica said it best when she explained, “I think a lot of it too is just the trust that we’ve built with the kids over the years to know, it doesn’t matter where we go or what we’re doing that they’re in a safe space and that they can just be themselves.”

Packing Tips for Family Travel

When it comes to packing for family travel, Jessica summed it up in three simple words: Less is more. She explained that she understands the desire to want to overpack—she found herself in the same boat in her early travel days. But, she encourages all travelers to remember that you can get what you need basically wherever you are in the world.

Especially in the case of parents with young kids, it’s easy to want to pack all of the diapers, baby wipes, ointment, and so on that you’ll need for the entire trip. As Jessica pointed out, there are babies all over the world who need similar products. You can lug around all of this gear through airports, in and out of cars, and up and down stairs. Or, you pack what you’ll need in the immediate future and buy the rest when you’ve reached your destination.

The same is true when it comes to clothes. Again, less is more. She suggests packing clothes that can be layered and mixed and matched. Plus, it always helps to remember that things can be worn twice. Wherever you are, chances are you’ll either have access to a washing machine where you’re staying or a laundry mat won’t be too far.

the bucket list family travel tips
Source: Garrett Gee | The Bucket List Family

Tips for Flying With Babies and Kids

When I set out to get the best Bucket List Family travel tips, I wanted to start with one of the most intimidating aspects of traveling with little ones: making it through a long flight. It’s natural to worry about how we’ll entertain them or how to prevent a meltdown. Jessica had some great advice on this, and again, a lot of it comes back to mindset.

First, we can set ourselves up for success before we even step foot in the security line. For Jessica and Garrett, this means intentionally getting their kids excited for the traveling ahead. She shared, “Try to shift the conversation and the perception of a really fun exciting travel day versus something that’s long and stressful.” To do so, they incorporate talk of the adventures and magical experiences to come during their routine bedtime stories. Now that their kids are a little older, they also have them pack their own backpacks for the flight. She explained that knowing what toys, snacks, and activities they have planned for the flight gets them excited. Then they don’t let them even crack the zipper until they’re up in the air.

Try to shift the conversation and the perception of a really fun exciting travel day versus something that’s long and stressful.

She also pointed out the importance of being aware of our own energy levels, especially in stressful situations. We all know that kids feed off of our energy. In those moments that are challenging, it’s important for us to regulate our own emotions and not spiral into a stressful mental state, or our kids may quickly do the same. As best we can, it’s important to keep a positive attitude, and our little ones are likely to follow suit.

Accommodation Recommendations for Families

Understandably, Jessica’s advice when it comes to where to stay while traveling varies based on where you’re going. She touched on the benefits of selecting a resort with a kids’ club when going the resort route. She loves that the clubs have dedicated activities for kids, and parents will have time on their own. Otherwise, finding a hotel that offers a complimentary breakfast can be a great way to cover at least one meal.

Jessica’s favorite way to travel, though, is by going the rental home route. Not only are they a great way to immerse ourselves into a community, but most of them offer amenities like a washer and dryer. Plus, rental homes with kitchens ensure that you’re not forced to eat out for every meal.

the bucket list family travel sleep tips
Source: @thebucketlistfamily

Travel Sleep Hacks for Kids

If you packed like a champ, tackled the flight, and have finally made it to the perfect lodging accommodation, there’s still one thing to grapple with: sleep. Especially when traveling to different time zones, adjusting your and your little one’s sleep routine can be tough—but not impossible. Jessica’s best advice? Be awake with the sun. Even the times when we want to nap, she recommended pushing through long enough to make it to sunset.

She explained how she learned the hard way to not book a big experience right away. This is especially true if it’s a drastically different time zone. When her family was traveling to Tokyo early on in their travel days, they headed to Disneyland on their first day in hopes that it would force them to stay awake. Instead, they realized everyone was drained and not able to fully enjoy the experience. From there, she tries to not plan extravagant events on the first day of arrival. “This allows us to enjoy it and be more present after we get a chance to acclimate,” she said.

Lastly, perhaps her best bit of advice is to remember to give everyone grace while traveling to different time zones. Being out of our normal routine, it’s natural to not feel our best. And flying can take a toll on our bodies, she mentioned, especially for little kids. Try not to be too hard on yourself or your family members, and don’t let it ruin a minute of your experience.

The Bucket List Family’s Must-Have Travel Products

From a family who has done as much traveling as the Gees, we had to hear their favorite travel products. We asked for both Jessica and Garrett’s recommendations, here are their top picks:

Nordstrom | Babyzen

A compact stroller is a must-have for traveling with young kids. Jessica raved about the Babyzen YOYO2 because of its compact design. She loved that it folds up to fit in the overhead bin of an airplane and comes with adapters to make it into a car seat for double the functionality.

Best Buy | GoPro

Being the one often behind the camera, it’s no surprise Garrett recommends a quality, durable camera. He loves that the GoPro can be used underwater and is all-around great for capturing family memories no matter what adventure you find yourself on.

Final Thoughts on Capturing Family Travel Memories

Since starting The Bucket List Family, Garrett and Jessica have captured thousands of moments on camera. So how do they simultaneously film the moments and remain present in them? Unsurprisingly, a lot of this, Jessica shared, comes with experience. Garrett does all of the filming and has become a master at holding a camera and capturing memories while being fully immersed in them.

Jessica explained that it doesn’t come as easy for her, and filming doesn’t always turn out perfectly. She said that what’s more important than getting the perfect shot, though, is having the memories to look back on. She shared, “At the end of the day, I think if you can have your phone out, just film it… Maybe it’ll capture it, maybe it won’t. But just trying to record it and doing your best, it’s still worth it. I think you want the memories.”

Maybe it’ll capture it, maybe it won’t. But just trying to record it and doing your best, it’s still worth it. I think you want the memories.

Read more of The Bucket List Family travel tips, including top family travel itineraries, travel hacks, and more in Jessica’s book National Geographic Bucket List Family Travel: Share the World With Your Kids on 50 Adventures of a Lifetime, available February 6, 2024.


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