Mario Lopez Talks Road Trips, the Great Outdoors, and His Favorite Packing Strategy

"The best memories we have are from our travels," the actor told TripSavvy

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We’re dedicating our May features to the outdoors and adventure. In 2020, we saw more people get outside, eager for a breath of fresh air after challenging spring, taking up new activities and blazing new trails. Now, in 2021, read our features to learn more about 15 outdoor skills you should masterthe best state parks across the country, a new trend of hotels opening near formerly remote national parks, and one person’s quest to make outdoor experiences accessible for all.

It feels like Mario Lopez has been on our televisions his whole life. From his role as A.C. Slater on "Saved By the Bell," including its spin-off and recent sequel series, to his entertainment news hosting gig on "Access Hollywood," Lopez has done it all—and that same zeal for new challenges is evident in his passion for travel. Now a father of three, Lopez is learning new and exciting ways to share a love of travel with family. In the midst of a digital promotional tour for the new United Quest travel credit card (“I love using my points to either upgrade on flights or hotel rooms”), Lopez sat down with TripSavvy to talk about his new appreciation for destinations close to home, traveling with his children, and his love of the great outdoors.

It’s been a challenging year. How have you and your family been keeping the spirit of travel alive during the pandemic?

We’ve been doing a lot of hiking and beach trips. A lot of dance parties. TikToks! That kept [the kids] pretty busy.

This month, TripSavvy is highlighting the best things to do in the great outdoors. Would you consider yourself an outdoor enthusiast?

Absolutely! I love running outside, going on hikes, bike riding, being at the beach. I love all that. Being a Southern California kid, we’re spoiled with a perfect climate. It’s always sunny and 75. Which is perfect—I’m a person of the sun. [Laughs] When I travel, I love a tropical place where I can go surfing and do all of that fun stuff.

Over the past year, have you found a new appreciation for any spots close to home?

Well, all of our travel adventures are always based around where we’re going to eat. We’re big foodies. So even just going a couple of hours north to Santa Barbara or a couple of hours south to San Diego, you have so many little hole in the wall, cool places that we’ve discovered. We did a bunch of those quick little road trips this past year, and they really made a huge difference. 

Are you a big road-tripping family?

You know, we haven’t done too many because my kids are all small. Many parents will tell you it’s hard. They can only take so much. But we went for it this year. Aside from Santa Barbara and San Diego, we did a road trip to Arizona because my son had a wrestling tournament. That was fun. But that’s about as far as I’ll go because it’s tough when they’re little.

What are some of your favorite travel tips that you’ve passed on to your kids?

I’ve become very good at getting the family to pack military style. I try to get them to fit everything into a carry-on because I’ve experienced the whole missing luggage deal, and it’s not fun.

Everything in a carry-on?

Oh, yeah. I can go two weeks with a carry-on! A couple of pairs of pants, I’ll wear them over and over again. [Laughs] And I don’t mind doing laundry when I’m there. Having that peace of mind, you know, and minimizing the risk of things getting lost, for me personally, is worth it.

Do you roll or fold?

I’m a roller! I like to roll.

It’s always such a big debate.

I feel like you can fit a lot more in, and clothes never seem to get as wrinkled.

Millions had to put off their travel plans in 2020. Do you think people are excited to dust off their suitcases and get back at it again?

I do. I really believe travel will be back. I think people are tired of being cooped up at home, being locked down. They have cabin fever. They’re going to want to go out and explore and create all of these wonderful memories with their families. For us, the best memories that we have as a family are from our travels. Those are the pictures we always look back on. It’s just so important to get that time to disconnect and recharge. Those experiences have helped us grow together. And of course, you get to learn things too.

What’s one travel trend that you really think is going to blow up this year?

I think people who are still feeling a little reluctant about traveling far distances but still want to get away will take a road trip this year. I don’t think the road trip trend is going away anytime soon.

Is there a future trip that you’re really looking forward to?

Oh, there’s a lot! There are family trips, and there are trips I just want to do with my wife. My son is pretty good at handling flights of about five hours, which I think is his limit right now, but you don’t want to attempt too far of a destination with a 1-year-old. But we’re definitely looking forward to going overseas, to Europe. That’s what I’m really excited about.