The best screen-free activity of all time, books–especially ones about travel–offer a great way to teach kids about a new destination or culture, either before, during or after your family vacation. Here are ten of our favorite travel-inspired books for younger kids.
1. Peter the Cruise Ship series by Capt. Hans Mateboer
Written by a Holland America Line cruise ship captain, the Peter the Cruise Ship picture books are terrific for kids about to go on their first cruise. The series features Peter the Cruise Ship, who explores childhood issues including teamwork, friendship, cooperation, and overcoming fear. As he travels the open sea, Peter meets fun characters like Fluke the Whale and Rusty the old cargo ship. Other books in the series feature a voyage to Alaska and a Caribbean pirates adventure.
2. Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport
When Sally, Huckle and Lowly’s sailing day gets rained out, their friend Rudolf whisks them off to a sightseeing adventure in A Day at the Airport. Children will learn about the terminal, the runway, the control tower and more in this book, which features a sticker sheet and 70 airport-related words to discover. If your brood is traveling for the first time, this story will cover what they can expect before boarding the plane.
3. There’s a Map on my Lap: All About Maps by Tish Rabe
Using the very Dr. Seuss-like playful rhyming story, The Cat in the Hat teaches young readers how to read different kinds of maps in There’s a Map on My Lap such as city, state, world, topographic, temperature and terrain. It also explores the tools required to read them including compasses, scales, grids and symbols and the different formats like atlas, globe and roadmaps. Bonus: the book includes games and fun facts such as how Michigan looks like a scarf and a mitten, and Louisiana looks like an easy chair.
4. Missing Gems of the Taj Mahal: A time-travel historical fiction book by Lyndon Cerejo
In Missing Gems of the Taj Mahal, fifth grade history buff Sid Cooper is about to visit the Taj Mahal when he and friend Raj are then transported hundreds of years back into the past. Young readers will love the magical journey through ancient India as the boys learn about the history of the iconic Taj Mahal and one of the world’s oldest civilizations. This book is the first in the Mysteries in History series.
5. The Boxcar Children: The Mystery Cruise by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Everyone loves the Alden kids and the classic The Boxcar Children series. The Mystery Cruise has the family sailing on a Caribbean cruise, where they encounter Max Greene, a mysterious professor set to inherit his great-aunt’s large estate, and a fake “man overboard” incident. The Alden children investigate, and as always, get to the bottom of things.
6. Let’s Explore North America by Baby Professor
An ideal choice for a road trip across the U.S., Let’s Explore North America features gorgeous photographs of famous attractions, including Banff National Park, Niagara Falls, The Golden Gate Bridge, Big Sur and the Statue of Liberty. Kids will learn about geography and culture while visually exploring many sites, from Yellowstone National Park to Alcatraz.
7. Recipes for Adventure (boxed set) by Giada De Laurentiis
Families who love eating their way through a new destination will love Recipes for Adventure, four books authored by celebrity TV chef Giada De Laurentiis that feature Naples, Paris, Hong Kong and New Orleans. Bonus: The books include yummy recipes and a chef’s hat for your budding foodie.
8. My Monster Travels the World by Kaz Campbell
What’s more fun than joining Monty the Monster as he explores Egypt, Africa, England, France, The North Pole, China, Japan, Italy, Australia and Hawaii? My Monster Travels the World has easy text and lots of pictures for younger readers who are also curious about the animals who live in different parts of the globe.
9. Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures #3: The Japanese Ninja Surprise by Jeff Brown
Brothers and ninja movie fans Stanley and Arthur travel to Japan to meet their favorite star ninja, Oda Nobu. In addition to exploring the country, they become true heroes that save the day. The Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures series each focus on a different adventure, including trips to space, an African safari and Mount Rushmore.
10. Mission Florence: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure by Catherine Aragon
If your gang is setting off on an Italian escapade, you’ll want your kids to experience Mission Florence: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure, which explores Florence’s famous artistic, culinary and cultural landmarks through a fun spy-themed scavenger hunt. Bonus: The book features loads of activities where your young jet setters can earn points towards “special agent” status! Other books in the Mission series feature Rome, Paris, London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Washington, D.C., New York, and St. Augustine.
Montreal-based Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist, content strategist and TV producer who writes for dozens of digital and print magazines, as well as many brands. Wendy loves cruising, adventure travel and venturing off the beaten path with her husband and teenage son, and she can pack a carry-on bag like nobody’s business. Follow her @WendyHelfenbaum.