How We Traveled Safely

I’m a runner by nature. When I was a kid, I ran away from home and got lost in my backyard. I hid in the flowering mustard plants that covered the hill until I finally got hungry and ventured home. When I was 24 and my parents got divorced, I didn’t want to face the reality of a split family and all that would entail, so I rented an apartment in Paris—a city I knew nothing about with a language I knew even less. It was, and is, a pattern that I’ve adopted over the years.

When the pandemic started, I braced for an unknown territory of being sedentary. It was refreshing to have everyone’s feet under the kitchen table, but I could sense myself getting restless around month three. Don’t get me wrong, I long for my family to be together everyday, but somehow, knowing we couldn’t leave our home left me feeling a little like a caged animal. I wanted to hike, climb a mountain, and get lost, and I was counting the days until our family could.

Let’s be real: In the age of coronavirus, everything is a risk. So, after three months in quarantine, we made the calculated risk to drive from Austin to New Mexico to Utah to Idaho to Montana and back. We knew Jared was going to have to start filming soon, so we wanted to use some of this time as a family to explore the U.S. But we were intent on doing it as carefully as possible, both for our family and for all the other people we encountered.

We ran off for new horizons and had a wonderful, adventure-packed time soaking in nature, exploring wide open spaces, and unplugging from the latest breaking news. And I think we did a good job staying safe and sticking to safety protocols that we believe are necessary. (I will say that traveling during these unprecedented times was very eye-opening. In some cities we visited, everyone wore masks, while no one did in other places. Full disclosure: It definitely felt like a partisan issue. Wearing a mask shouldn’t be political.)

Keep reading for a look at how we traveled safely. Have you traveled this summer to see family or take a vacation? Let me know in the comments how it went and if you have any good tips to add!

Isolate Before and After

We’ve been very careful about socializing since Texas lifted its lockdown in early May. We’ve had a few outside playdates and a few necessary doctors appointments, but that’s it. And once we decided we were taking this trip, we put everything on hold. The five of us stayed at home for 14 days, making sure we weren’t COVID carriers. And we’ve been doing the same thing since returning to Austin. (Just a note that we left the city a few days before the mayor extended the stay-at-home order.)

Drive Instead of Flying

I didn’t feel comfortable flying just yet, and we weren’t able to rent an RV, so driving was the only way to make this trip happen. It worked out great because we could all stick together in one car vs. being spread out on a plane. Plus, we could pull over when the kids needed to stretch or to take photos of amazing scenery.

Keep It Clean

As the CDC recommends, we always wear masks (even Odette) when we are near other people, and we wear a mask and gloves when pumping gas. Tip for parents: Always have toilet paper, wipes, and paper towels on hand. And since bathrooms can be a bit dicey right now, you may want to bring along a portable potty or even purchase a funnel—I have a friend who swears by this!—if you have little kids and want to limit their access to germs.

Opt for Takeout

We also aren’t fans of eating in restaurants right now, but we did the next best thing: We ordered takeout and ate it in parks. It was a great way to support local businesses and try new dishes while staying in our comfort zone (and get some fresh air and let the kids get their wiggles out). For drinks and snacks, we stopped at grocery stores along the way to restock when our supplies got low.

Sleep Safely

Since this was an ongoing trip, we stayed a few nights in hotels or Airbnbs. For each one, we’d call before booking to ask about their COVID safety protocols. We only stayed in places that were open about their sanitation efforts, including putting guests in every other room, cleaning all bedding, wrapping remotes, etc. (Kudos to the Hampton Inn in Roswell, New Mexico, for being super safe and clean.) But our favorite place we stayed at was Under Canvas in Moab. The glamping experience was amazing, and we felt ultrasafe sleeping in the outdoors, spread out from the other campers.

Trust Your Gut

Don’t be afraid to speak up if something feels uncomfortable. We arrived at one unnamed hotel and the receptionist wasn’t wearing a mask—so we switched hotels. This is a time where there are so many unknowns and variables, so if something feels off don’t question yourself.

There are many feelings about traveling with the current state of the world, but I find that exploring and changing my horizon provides a fresh perspective. It certainly was a challenging and extremely thoughtful decision for our family, and we weighed all of our options. It’s just as important to fuel your mental state, so make sure you take time to do the things that make you happy—while keeping you and yours safe.

Previous Post
August 5, 2020
Next Post
August 5, 2020


  • Paige Walker

    Hi Gen! I absolutely love being in nature. It does my mind good. I completely agree with y’all not staying at a hotel where masks were not being worn because you know if they don’t put in the effort to just wear a mask then you know they don’t put in the effort to clean rooms as they should. It’s individualism over collectivism. Some people don’t want to do anything that is a minor inconvenience to them in order to protect those around them. It will really be an inconvenience when they are hooked up to a ventilator fighting for their life. I’ve gotten some nasty comments from others who aren’t wearing their masks when I am. I’m proud of y’all for wearing your masks and not being afraid to speak up. Love y’all so much!!! Stay safe! ❤

    • Pam Stansell

      My husband wants to travel to New Mexico for our vacation. We have a cruise planned for Feb 2021 that may just turn into his New Mexico trip! Thanks for the insight. We’re in SC, we could drive, but will be quicker to fly. Glad you all are home safe and well

  • Khushi

    I absolutely loved you in supernatural. I even watched your vlogs on YouTube and now reading your blogs. Such a positive personality you are. Love from India💜💗💜. Keep growing.

  • Hailey Owens

    These tips are necessary from a staycation to a cross country trip. Like you, I’m always on the move. I get restless whenever I’m still too long. I used to get in trouble when I was little because everything I saw I would climb. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us to keep everyone safe. 🖤

  • Bethany Srock

    I’m obsessed with they way you live life and have be an awe of you since I first found your Instagram! I’ve watched all supernatural seasons and that is how I found you! I would love to be able to garden some day and just be outdoors a lot more when I have my own home. I currently live in an apartment with no backyard and two wild children so it’s near impossible especially with the pandemic.

  • April

    Hi there! Like you, I recharge by spending time in nature. And after self quarantining for 4 months, my husband working from home, losing most of my business and having all of our socializing concerts/festivals/etc. cancelled this year I am SO OVER DUE I can’t stand it!!! However, due to the racial turmoil taking place (more so than pre George Floyd) I don’t feel safe to get away. There was an attempted lynching of a Black man in a park south of where we live, and near some state parks my husband and I like to hike at. With racists like that feeling bolder now and police burtality, I don’t want to take the chance of putting our lives in danger. You see, I’m white and married to a Black man. So, our days are spent at home away from any possibility of violence against us. And while I love seeing others enjoying some time away from home and decompressing from everything, it only illustrates how much we really are living in two different worlds. And I don’t say all of this to spoil your vacation. I’m happy you had a great time. I just wanted to point out a different perspective and experience. Be well. (Can’t wait for the final episode of Supernatural!🥰)

  • Betty

    Very reassuring to read about the precautions you took, setting a positive example for others!

    • Catherine Theriot

      I had to drive back and forth from Louisiana to Florida in March when we were under lockdown. I have breast cancer, am from Florida, so could only go to Florida for treatment so that my travel was medically necessary. I was in Louisiana helping my daughter after her surgery and had given up my apartment. I followed all CDC protocals and since it was a 12 hour drive, rested in rest stops. I masked up and wore gloves whenever I had to stop somewhere. I’m back in Florida now, have been tested twice for COVID-19 which was negative, but I still have my cancer after 2 surgeries. I still follow all the protocols but thankfully made 2 trips there and back with no problems. I also did the bulk of my driving at night as the rest stops had far fewer people then. I’m 69 but I managed.

  • Nazia

    We recently went camping in the Catskills Mountains. Since we are in NY and our numbers are pretty low we felt safe enough to venture out. Still it was nerve wracking! I was particularly worried about public restrooms. I actually have the Bjorn potty seat for my 2 1/2 year old but didn’t think to take it with us but now I wish I did! Instead I took plenty of gloves and disinfecting wipes and disposable toilet seat covers. Which probably wasn’t the most environmentally friendly option but I was too scared not to do something to minimize germ contact. I feel like Hiking and camping is the best getaway right now since you get fresh air and limited contact with other people.

  • Deb Sorrell

    Thanks for sharing details about traveling during this time. I am not so adventurous to date so it is helpful to hear your perspective and tips. Great memories for your children and educational I would think. Glad you’ll got your “batteries” recharged!

  • Marion

    Hi Gen, I love being in the wild especially in the mountains. Me have changed the way I travel, more in nature and avoiding busy places. Fortunately I live in a mountainous region, walking in the mountains, swimming in lakes at altitude, picnicking… Thank you very much for sharing your experiences❤️

  • Charlotte


    I’m from Belgium so things are a bit different here. Me and my friends stayed in a house in a small village surrounded by nature. This meant that we didn’t come in contact with other people outside shopping for groceries or when hiking.
    We decided it was safer to shop with not too many. Usually, only one of us went inside the supermarket.
    Another tip: we had different kinds of sanitizers: we used gel for our hands, a spray for surfaces and wipes for both (if necessary). We also took soap leaves with us (the kind that isn’t harmful for nature) and extra water so we could wash our hands everywhere.
    Love your post and the honesty! Thanks and stay safe

  • Cathy Compton

    Thank you for sharing. I hope you are all refreshed. The clamping looks awesome.

  • Eva Smith

    Beautiful pictures!! Thanks for sharing.

  • Kim Jacobs

    It’s winter time down here so not such a great time to be off communing with nature on such a grand scale, and with our recent upswing in COVID cases, states have shut borders and we are discouraged strongly from travelling. But, I do enjoy outdoor walks and am lucky enough to live on the beautiful New South Wales South Coast where we have amazing beaches and rivers to walk along.

    Thanks for sharing your travel experience with us. Love to you and your family. Stay safe.

    PS. I hope Jared isn’t getting too bored in Quarantine up in Vancouver. He’ll be home soon enough and working in your home town will be such a different experience for you all, having him home every night!

    PPS. I’ve come across a great book for Book Club. It’s called If You Tell by Gregg Olsen. Check it out.

  • Caitlin

    Great tips. Can add a few for those who do choose to or have to fly – I am based in Europe and flew to see my parents in the PNW this July. Had been strictly isolating at home, working in home office, through the early months of the pandemic, saw a few friends who had taken similar precautions in safe settings in May, then three weeks before I was scheduled to fly, I went back into early-pandemic mode and stopped seeing anyone. Masks and gloves on all errands, running outside only at night in parks away from people. When I flew, I hydrated, ate a big breakfast at home, put on an FFP2 mask, a surgical mask over that, sunglasses and a face shield, and resolved not to take them off (except for a split second checking ID at security) for around 22 hours. Flew with tons of gloves.

    The single biggest tip for people who fly is: for godsake abandon the idea that you can eat and drink on the plane and in terminals like in normal times. What good is universal maskwearing if everyone takes them off for an hour or so to eat, multiple times? Ugh. Suck it up and take a nap, watch some movies, you won’t starve. Anyway, arrived, my mom picked me up, sat in the backseat, didn’t touch her or anyone until I could stow my stuff in a corner, not to be touched for a few days, stripped, threw my stuff in the wash and took a looonnggg shower. Then I came down and the vacation began properly. 🙂 It all worked out great in the end, they live in the woods far from people, so we could just hole up with the fam and forget about all this for a while. But that was only possible because I felt like I’d taken every possible precaution not to endanger them. If you’re going to fly, please invest in really good masks (N95, FFP2 or better) and don’t take them off during the journey. Stay safe folks!

  • Leah

    Hi Gen, I’m inspired. That’s quite the trip to make with kiddos. Thanks for sharing your tips! I don’t know if you have ever been to Colorado but there are some pretty fantastic hiking trails and scenery here. Stay safe and have fun. *you change your thoughts, you change your world*

  • Maureen culshaw

    Hi ,what an amazing experience you all had ,I’m not a fan of outdoors lol.,but isn’t mother nature a beautiful sight to behold ,is so sad what we are doing to this beautiful world ,I wish I had the opportunity to travel & soak in all the wondrous things ,thank you for sharing your wonderful trip with us ,you are an amazing family 💛💙💛

  • Eugenia Kennedy

    Wow!! So happy you & your family had a great adventure in nature!!! Thank you for sharing your tips for traveling during this pandemic. I am sheltering in place again, since my state’s Covid cases are increasing. Really appreciate your family following the medical advice based on science!! Lookng forward to the gardening chat this week!!! Our garden has had issues but our local online & drive through pick up Farmer’s Market has been excellent!!! Stay safe!! Best of luck the next weeks while Jared is working & school might start again!! Take care!! Your blogs, Instagram & Twitter have been a wonderful connection during this pandemic period!! Thank you!!!

  • Lisa Reames

    Thank you for sharing your trip. Being an essential worker, I haven’t had a vacation yet. We’ve made a few day trips, but nothing overnight. Our trip to WDW was a bust during Spring break and we are attempting to try it again, the week before Thanksgiving. #FingersCrossed

  • Sherri Ingvarsson

    Thanks for sharing your trip! We are visiting our son and daughter in law in Renton, WA. We also opted to drive this time. So, we drove from Maple Plain, MN to Renton, WA. Gorgeous 2 day drive! Hampton Inn Renton, WA and Kelly Inn Best Western in Billings, MT are doing a great job to make you feel safe!

  • Ryan Nelson

    Hi Gen I know this would not work with the kids and you but my friend and I do overnight paddle board trips to the lake and we do car camping. We both bring our SUV and we have the back set up with foam mattresses, electric lanterns, window bug nets as well as black out window coverings. We of course hang out at the lake all day then do the campfire at night. Bedtime just crawl in the back of my SUV😁

  • Lynn Snyder

    Thank you for your travel tips. Even though we don’t have young children any longer, your suggestions are appreciated. My husband and I have had 3 cruises cancel because of the pandemic, and we have opted for a road trip, later this fall. A trip to the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee is where we are headed, for some R&R. We are renting a private cabin, and the rental company was happy to share their protocols in regards to cleaning/sanitation. Thank you for sharing pictures of your trip.

  • Cristina

    Gen, we are planning a road trip so these tips are so helpful. We’re going to some of the same places too. Definitely trust your instincts when you stay somewhere!

  • Anna

    We had lived through covid here in Italy, me as a nurse on the front line and my husband as my rock. It had been a year since we had had a holiday so we decided to drive through Europe to stay with friends all obviously negative.. . in Belgium. Every service station we stopped at was well equipped with gel and all security measures. We felt safe in our car and always used a mask if we needed to come in contact with people. Like you, there was no way I was flying and in the end driving was a great option. Just seeing dawn over lake Como made it so worth it. Thanks for sharing your adventures and advice with us and continue to stay safe

  • Missy Feeback

    Hi Gen! Thank you for sharing your travel tips. My family is getting ready to drive from Kansas City to Wyoming to visit family and I am very nervous about it.

  • Pamela Colon

    My son lives in Las Vegas and during this time I have been to two hotels. Both took our temperatures and required masks be worn. Also both had sealed cleaned stickers on the rooms. I felt safe and interesting I didn’t see anyone making a fuss. You are right wearing a mask or getting your temperature taken should not be a political issue .

  • Teri Monreal


  • Iva Marinkovic

    I really enjoy reading your blog and watching your YouTube videos! They are very inspiring and it makes me very happy to see you together with your family. I have a channel called Be Gentle To Your Mind and it’s a way for me to spread mental health awarness and fight the stigma against those with mental health affiliations. I think it’s important for all of us to educate ourselves more about mental health especially during these crazy times…Your support would mean the world to me and hopefully together we can all push for change and spread of this important message!

  • Lindsay

    I love this and that you sharing your familys vacation with everyone. It is crazy times right now forsure. Im lucky in the sence that my parents have a seasonal trailer that we can go to,to get away and feel safe there during this time as it in a provincial park yea but our area is like a little community of family and friends. (No Outsiders lol) but still even when going to “town” for food and stuff we mask up and wash hands and sanitize as often as possible. Me and my husband recently stayed in a hotel S well witch i want sure about but like u said they had mask on rooms were clean and no one right beside us and could order takeout to room to eat or hit a patio. Even know here in ontario canada we can eat inside a restaurant im not quite ready for that yet so patio or takeout it is. But still nice to be able to support local businesses. Im glad your all safe and had a great time traveling. Looking foward to more pics and update.

  • Jessie

    Roadtrips are my favorite! Looks like y’all still had a great time considering all the conditions nowadays. Did y’all happen to visit the white sands in new mexico when going through that state??? My sister and I did a roadtrip last yr through the state of new mexico and that place is magical, we felt like we were on a different planet 🌎

  • Catherine

    This was such a great read thanks

Leave a Reply