Skip to content

How a halt on international travel is helping my family complete our 50-state challenge

Jan. 03, 2021
4 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

For many families, 2020 was the year when time stood still. With growing international travel restrictions and safer-at-home initiatives, families like mine spent a ton of time at home in the first half of the year.

Like many others last January, our family thought that 2020 would be our year and that we would spend time exploring more destinations on our ever-growing bucket list. While that may not have gone as planned, the one benefit that came about during our time at home is our desire to explore more off-the-beaten-path destinations around the United States.

We focused on outdoor adventures and worked toward achieving our goal of visiting all 50 states. Here’s how ever-changing travel restrictions steered our family toward our 50-state challenge.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

International restrictions forced us to appreciate our own country

Photo by Sierra Redmond

A July military move across the country forced us out of the comfort of our home and into a multi-state road trip from Missouri to Nevada. By the summer, we were pretty much itching to be anywhere except home and the mandatory road trip was exciting for us to embark on.

When you're on a mission to travel the world, it’s easy to forget what opportunities are right in front of you. They don’t call it “America the Beautiful” for no reason. One of the best things about the United States is how diverse the country is and the unique attributes that make each state different. In our experience, no one state is like another -- regardless of region.

Because we were unable to travel internationally as planned, we gained an appreciation for the United States and added more states and attractions to the top of our bucket list. Even ones that we hadn’t previously considered. What we found in this new travel revelation is that you don’t have to travel internationally to experience different cultures, scenic views or gain meaningful experiences. All those things can happen right here at home without a passport.

We explored popular tourist attractions -- without the crowds

Have you ever wanted to visit a touristy destination but the crowds were a turn-off? During our travels, we experienced some of the most touristy destinations without feeling crowded or overwhelmed. Plus, it was easier to capture the million-dollar photography shot of our dreams. We’ve been able to safely explore destinations like Zion National Park, Cadillac Ranch, Sedona Red Rocks and Las Vegas without having to deal with crowds and inflated prices. It was quite refreshing to gain a new perspective on classic destinations.

Photo by Sierra Redmond

Related: Route 66 road trip planner: The best stops along the way

We’ve created a bucket list in our state and surrounding areas

It struck us that while we’ve traveled across the U.S., we've spent so much time in the last few years trying to travel to dreamy international destinations that we have never given our surrounding states the time that they deserve.

The military gives us the unique opportunity to live in different locations every two years, but our recent travels made us question if we were really taking advantage of these nearby travel opportunities. Maybe you have never visited a state near your home base. Because of travel restrictions, we’ve now added a ton of in-state and surrounding state attractions to our list of things to explore.

We spent our first free weekend in our new town visiting Southern Utah and Arizona and hope to continue to do so any time we have a free or extended weekend available to do so. Some of our weekend getaways beat experiences that cost far more and took a ton more planning to execute.

Bottom line

If your family, like ours, has a desire to explore this big beautiful country in its entirety, there is no time better than the present (with safety precautions) to do so. We set out on this journey to explore the world after our son was born. Now he’s 4-years-old and has explored more than a dozen states.

Look around your state to determine what attractions may be a good bet for a socially distance visit. Check out state and national parks, wilderness preserves and open-air monuments. You'll be surprised how many cool places you can visit that are close to home.

Featured image by Photo by Sierra Redmond

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases