Kristen Bell Shares Her Secret to Traveling With Kids and Keeping Her Wanderlust Alive During the Pandemic

Travel + Leisure sat down with The Good Place actress to talk family travel, exploring locally during the pandemic, and more.

I don’t fangirl over many celebrities, but I had to do some deep breathing exercises before logging into my Zoom call with actress, activist, entrepreneur, and mom Kristen Bell. As I had hoped, she was every bit as optimistic, bubbly, and funny as I imagined her to be from her many leading roles in The Good Place, the Frozen series, and of course, Veronica Mars. Although, like the rest of us, she’s been grounded from her former jet-setting routine due to the pandemic, she’s kept busy and recently released a new line of CBD skincare products, Happy Dance. We chatted from our respective homes in chilly Boston and sunny Los Angeles to discuss how she’s explored locally while being quarantined, her top tips and tricks for traveling with kids, the importance of travel buddies, and more.

On How Her Family Has Kept Wanderlust Alive During the Quarantine:

In terms of travel, 2020 is the year of rediscovering your backyard — and that’s exactly what Bell and her husband, Dax Shepard, have done with their two daughters, Delta and Lincoln. They’ve had picnics and pitched tents in the great outdoors behind their home and in the suburban alley nearby. And in an effort to escape the same routine between the same four walls, they’ve also booked many Airbnbs within a few hour's drive.

To date, they’ve ventured to Lake Arrowhead, Indio, Fallbrook, and Temecula, California — all of which were brand-new spots to them. Not only has this provided a much-needed adventure and change of scenery, but it’s been a safe way to travel during the threat of COVID-19 and to shop local. “It has been such a saving grace, and also knowing you’re putting a little bit of money into the economy, sort of keeping things moving and having a great time with your family,” Bell told Travel + Leisure.

On How She Picks an Airbnb:

Bell and another family have created a pod, so they travel together when visiting nearby California towns. To choose the right Airbnb, she considers the size to fit everyone. She also browses options until she lands on a house that’s inspiring. Their Lake Arrowhead house, for example, was a 100-year-old mansion that had trapdoors and places to crawl through to other rooms. In Indio, they booked a spot that was sometimes used as a wedding venue, providing more privacy. “It had little rooms situated outside around a little community swimming pool that all the apartment areas could use,” Bell shared.

Kristen Bell at Build Studios on February 21, 2020 in New York City.
Gotham/GC Images

On How She Keeps Kids Busy on Planes:

Back when hopping on a plane was a frequent activity, Bell had to come up with a way to occupy her two kiddos. The solution? Two words, she says: stickers and snacks. In fact, she goes as far as to say “nothing else matters but stickers and snacks.”

Rather than eating the cookies given on the plane, Bell packs less sugar-filled options and a bunch of stickers to keep them entertained while flying the friendly skies. “I found stickers to be my go-to on a flight because markers and crayons get lost, or they roll out. For young kids who can’t stay in their seats, stickers provide enough of a tactile experience,” she explained. Her pro tip is to shy away from the super-tacky ones, and instead, opt for ones that easily peel off, so you can remove them for the flight attendants before exiting the plane.

On How She Keeps Calm During Travel Days:

Between unpredictable delays, red-eye flights, and plenty of work demands that take her all over the globe, Bell developed a few strategies for combating stress on travel days. She relies on two must-haves: an eye mask, even if she isn’t going to sleep, since it cuts out the stimulus of the airplane and acts a way to politely tell her neighbor she’s not in the mood to chat. Her second favorite is CBD. Before she begins any journey, she uses her Happy Dance products on her shoulders, temples, and legs to help feel lighter before chaos ensues.

On Her Travel Plans After the Pandemic:

It may feel impossible right now, but the borders will be open again one day. For Bell, the first stop will be Michigan to visit family. And secondly, another edition of her girls' trip tradition. This started when she was shooting the last episode of The Good Place in Paris and Greece. Intrigued, she asked her two mom friends if they wanted to come along to explore together. They agreed — and off the trio went. They all had young kids at the time, and it was their first girls-only getaway. At first, Bell said they were nervous, commiserating: “What are they going to do without us?” But once they were on the airplane, it became a trip they all treasured — and needed. “We wore coordinating outfits. We wore matching Suzie Kondi terry cloth sweatsuits. We had the freaking time of our lives,” Bell shared.

Then, earlier this year, before COVID-19 spread across the world, Bell was traveling to Vienna to speak at a women’s peace and humanitarian conference. She proposed the same question to the same friends, and they had another vacation. “We come back from those trips having seen the world, having felt like autonomous women, so invigorated, and much happier to be with our families,” Bell shared. “It’s a game-changer when you have great travel buddies — people who want to see the world and get out of their echo chamber, meet different people, taste different foods, and see the sights. It’s so lovely.”

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