The Bucket List Family on Why It's OK to Dream About Future Vacations Even When You're Stuck at Home

Garrett and Jessica Gee are famous for traveling to over 75 countries in the past four years with their kids. Their trips are now on pause, but this family will never stop promoting kindness and hope.

It's not without irony that family-travel influencers Garrett and Jessica Gee hit the milestone of 1 million subscribers to their YouTube channel The Bucket List Family while self-quarantining at their home in Hawaii. The couple, along with their mini-mes, Dorothy, 7, Manilla, 5, and Calihan, 2, came back from Australia just before the country closed its borders, keeping the family in one place for the longest stretch in nearly five years.

They kicked off their journey in August 2015, intending to travel for five months with their two toddlers, after Garrett sold the app Scan to Snapchat. While the couple loved the new cultures and experiences in their first few trips (Tonga, New Zealand, Singapore, and Bali among them), the kids were actually the driving force to keep going. "I realized that if we went home and I got a traditional job, I would be spending so much time away from them," says Garrett. "Luckily, our channel started to take off." They grew their YouTube and Instagram following in 2017 when they partnered with Walt Disney World Resort for "30 Stays in 30 Days," moving to a different hotel daily. It's also when they announced another bump: The couple were expecting their third child in 2018.

Parents photographed and interviewed the family before their Australia trip, planning to share their travel tips and nominations for our Family Travel Awards. In these uncertain times, we went back to Jessica and Garrett and asked them to reflect on their past adventures and how they're paying forward their good fortune.

Family walking on beach
From left: Jessica with Calihan, 2, Dorothy, 7, Manilla, 5, and Garrett. Photo: Erin Kunkel.

They treasure the milestones.

"Manilla's first time snorkeling and Cali's first time swimming in the ocean happened on an island called Ray Caye, in Belize," says Jessica. "The water was crystal clear and smoother than we've ever seen. I'll never forget how perfect those moments seemed with just our little family experiencing firsts together."

Kids are the best travel companions.

"We often get asked if our kids slow us down," says Garrett, who explored more than 30 countries as a kid with his mom, a travel journalist. "We actually see so much more, thanks to the kids. They notice things that we don't, such as the little fairy homes in the forests of New Zealand, and they make experiences more magical, like the time they rubbed every single lamp in Turkey's Grand Bazaar looking for a genie. Plus, they're so good at socializing, you meet many other families through their introductions."

Jessica Gee

While there is so much unknown, we remain optimistic. Meanwhile, we're embracing little things like family dance parties and making them grand. You can create bucket-list moments every day.

— Jessica Gee

Meeting locals makes their day.

"When we're exploring other countries, we first go to a local grocery store and then head to a park to play with other families," says Jessica. "We visited Vienna for a week, and I can't suggest anything to do there, except Stadtpark." Adds Garrett: "If we're at an attraction like Walt Disney World, we go at the pace of the kids and keep a positive attitude."

They have a secret for taking exceptional family photos.

"I set my iPhone on a tripod and record a video," says Garrett. "I'll take a screenshot from the video to use for a photo. The photo on our feed of us hopping like kangaroos across a road in Australia is a great example from video I took."

Helping people is a priority.

"We have started a Kindness vs. Coronavirus campaign," says Garrett. "We invite you to message us if you're helping someone in your community who is struggling financially because of the pandemic. We read through the messages daily and select a donation to match."

Bucket-list moments are all around.

"We had to postpone trips to the Middle East, South Korea, and Russia, so we're hoping to reschedule them when it's safe to travel again," says Jessica. "While there is so much unknown, we remain optimistic. Meanwhile, we're embracing little things like family dance parties and making them grand. You can create bucket-list moments every day."

Mom and dad together in tree
Erin Kunkel

Everything You Need to Know About the Bucket List Family

Favorite Family Dinner At Home Chicken teriyaki

Who Is The Early Bird? All of us!

Who Is The Night Owl? Dorothy. She'll do anything to not go to bed!

Movie Or TV Show You All Like We love to watch episodes of the Planet Earth mini-series together.

No. 1 Bedtime Book The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Best Family Game Cover Your Assets

Phrase You Overuse With The Kids "I'm brave like a [insert animal]!"

Family's Made-Up Game Pillow pool

Key Piece Of Baby Gear Babyzen YOYO+ stroller. It fits in the overhead compartment on the plane.

Best Toys Ever Invented Disney Princess Magiclip Dolls and Hot Wheels

Thing That Helps A Hotel Feel Like Home Just us

What Makes A Trip A Vacation? The ocean!

Favorite Destination So Far Tonga (Garrett), New Zealand (Jessica), Japan (Dorothy), Hawaii (Manilla)

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's June 2020 issue as "The Bucket List Family Steps Up." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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