Jennifer Garner Talks Family Travel, Working on Planes, and Her Go-To Snack Bar

The actor and mom of three shares a few of her favorite travel memories—and what she’s packing in her bag.

Jennifer Garner
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist
Have you ever wondered how celebrities pack for vacation? What go-to snacks are tucked away in famous people’s carry-ons? Or what beauty products they swear by to combat jet-lagged skin? Wander Musts takes up residence behind the security X-ray machine to give you an inside look at celebrities’ travel tips, tricks, and can’t-live-without essentials.

In this installment, actress Jennifer Garner tells Meg St-Esprit about exploring the world with her family, what she likes to pack, and how she makes time for solo travel as a mom.

Garner has been busy recently, starring in Netflix family comedy Family Switch. She found a few moments to share some of her favorite jet setting tips.

My family loves a good road trip. Long car rides can be tricky with little ones, but now that they’re all officially big kids at 11, 14, and 18, it’s gotten a lot easier. In fact, I would say my kids are awesome on a road trip.

We recently explored a new route in the Pacific Northwest and it did not disappoint. Our family already loves Seattle and has spent time in the Yakima Valley working with Save the Children. I jumped at the chance to explore Portland. Then we piled in the car to journey to Montana. Friends, I had no idea what adventure awaited us.

While our car had all-weather tires, we quickly found out that “all” weather does not include Rocky Mountain winter storms. We found ourselves going through mountain passes during white-out snowstorms. As a parent, I try to remain calm for my kids, but I was petrified. I woke up at 4 am somewhere in rural Idaho so that I could be the first person in line when the Walmart tire center opened. I purchased tire chains and we set off to continue the last leg of our journey.

Despite the peril of being unprepared for the weather, the mountains remain my favorite place to travel. I find myself going back to the snow, over and over. I didn't start skiing until I was 40, and while I do love learning new things, I am often in the middle of a production over Christmas and the winter months. Because of that, I’ve taken up snowshoeing every day when I can. I love being in the quiet woods, talking to a group of women, enjoying nature.

When we aren’t seeking out mountains, my family is exploring in other ways; we rarely lounge around. One of our favorite stops was Sir John Soane's Museum in London, an architectural marvel full of fascinating antiques and artifacts.

While in the UK, I also decided to take my children to Stonehenge. I remember being blown away the first time I visited the ruins and I wanted my kids to have the same memorable experience. Unfortunately, it was so cold and windy that my middle child spent the entire visit hiding under an informational sign. Travel with kids is unpredictable, to say the least.

Rapid Fire

Window, middle, or aisle seat?

Window, always. I like to be tucked away.

Pack light or overpack?

Pack just right, which may look like overpacking, but compared to so many people I know, I’m packing quite economically.

Favorite way to pass time on a plane?

I almost always work on every flight, the entire time I'm flying—even if I'm going 12 hours, the backlog of things I am supposed to do is always insane. It's the one place that you can be totally quiet and turn off Wi-Fi for a couple hours.

Biggest travel fear?

My travel is always so carefully orchestrated. I’m always landing and skating right into a kid’s performance or bedtime. So my biggest fear is delays that could get in the way of making it to something for my kids. But those are part of life.

Best tip for fighting jet lag?

Work out first thing.

Favorite travel snack?

Once Upon a Farm Refrigerated Oat Bar. Any of the flavors—you can’t go wrong. Also, anyone who follows me knows that my favorite snack to take is nuts; I don't care about the brand.

Go-to drink order on a plane?

Sparkling water with a side of cranberry juice. I do drink sometimes, but I definitely have downshifted so that it is not my total go-to. I just kind of realized, “Why am I having wine on a plane? It is dehydrating; it doesn't do anything for me.”

Must-have travel items

Tumi backpack

When I'm traveling, I'm a backpack person. I think Tumi backpacks are great for travel. It feels so slick when you know where the gum is and where your chargers are.

Graphic Image datebook
Graphic Image

I usually travel with my iPad that has a keyboard because it's easy, but I'm very analog; I have my date book. I have a traditional favorite date book called Graphic Images. I do use Google Calendar, but then on Sundays or on planes, I transfer it to my date books so that I can see what's coming up in the week. Because I have a lot of jobs, and trying to keep track of what I owe to whom and when, and how each day is getting split up, makes my head spin sometimes.

Once Upon a Farm oat bars
Once Upon a Farm

I co-founded this brand and it’s inspired by my family’s farm in Oklahoma. Not only are all of our snacks delicious and approved by my own kids, but my adult self is obsessed with them. The oat bars are perfectly safe for up to a week without refrigeration.

Apple AirPods Max

I like an over-ear headphone, so I went with the AirPods Max. I am a podcast listener, and have some favorites. I love the Kelly Corrigan Wonders podcast, and of course  I’ll do a little Andrew Huberman. I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s new podcast, Wiser Than Me, too.

Mother jeans

I pretty much wear jeans and a sweater when I fly. I love a lot of different brands of jeans, but on my most recent flight I wore Mother jeans, one of my favorites. 

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Meg St-Esprit (she/her) is a freelance writer chasing down and covering the most interesting and quirky ideas about parenting, home design, education and travel. She lives with her husband, four kids, and way too many pets in Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including The New York Times, Washington Post, Romper, Fodor's, and more. Meg studied counseling and human development during her higher education journey, and applies that knowledge and expertise to her writing as well. When she's not writing, she's definitely camping.