Top Travel Books for Kids

Estimated reading time 10 min

Books are extraordinary objects. Entire worlds exist between their covers, bringing to life new adventures and bold, brave ideas with the turn of every page. For children, who may have limited exposure to international travel, books are a way to open their eyes to cultures very different from their own. Reading sparks curiosity and enhances imagination, giving kids a foundation on which to base their travel expectations. Before heading out on your next family adventure, encourage your child to dive into your destination with one of these top travel books for kids.

INTERACTIVE

Mission Series
Catherine Aragon
Ages 8–14
The mission: Complete a series of top secret investigations, earning points to become a special agent with the Secret International Agency (SIA). The rules: Be respectful to team members and remember that “Case Officers” (grown-ups) serve as the official scorekeepers. With this highly interactive series, your child will never want to go home! The books include “Pre-Arrival Briefs” of each international location and scavenger hunts at major historical landmarks. There’s even a page for your child, a “Future Special Agent,” to create a spy code name. The series urges kids to try new foods, admire local art, and appreciate the stories behind local monuments.

Leap & Hop Series
By Isabelle Demenge, illustrated by Emilie Sarnel
Ages 8+
With countless activities and games and plenty of space for writing and drawing, these books become travel scrapbooks for your child during and after each international adventure. Puzzles, word searches, scavenger hunts, “I-Spy” games, and more help readers learn about the history, geography, currency, food, architecture, and religious customs of each featured destination. The series comprises explorations to Bali, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, and Paris.

LEARNING THE LANGUAGE

Around the World with Cantinflas – Alrededor del Mundo con Cantinflas
By Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein, illustrated by Citlali Reyes
Ages 4 and under
Inspired by iconic Mexican comedian Mario Moreno (better known as Cantinflas), this bilingual board book introduces readers to countries around the world in English and Spanish. Your child can join Cantinflas as he flies through the French skies in a hot air balloon and meets the monkeys who soak in hot springs in Japan.

PICTURE BOOKS

AGES 3+

A Dublin Fairytale
Nicola Colton
Ages 3+
Fiona’s grandmother has fallen ill, and Fiona must set out through the streets of Dublin to gather ingredients for a special “witches brew” to make her granny feel better. Equipped with her red raincoat and a map of the city, Fiona passes such sites as Trinity College and the duck pond in St. Stephen’s Green—she even meets a troll at the Ha’penny Bridge! Despite her bag being stolen by the Big Bag Wolf, she arrives safely at her granny’s house with a group of new friends. This book was shortlisted for the Children’s Book of the Year in 2015 and won the White Raven Award in 2016 and the Literacy Association of Ireland Children’s Book Award in 2017.

Everywhere, Wonder
By Matthew Swanson, illustrated by Robbi Behr
Ages 3+
This heartwarming story takes readers though the imagination of a young boy as he discovers the wonders of our world. As they’re transported from the Egyptian pyramids to the savannas of Kenya, readers are encouraged to open their eyes, be curious, and find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Olivia Goes to Venice
Ian Falconer
Ages 3–7
Everyone’s favorite precocious piglet is back! In this adventure, Olivia and her family head to Venice for spring break. Olivia explores the canals in a gondola, runs from hordes of pigeons in Piazza San Marco, and takes every opportunity to stop for a gelato…or three.

The Airport Book
Lisa Brown
Ages 4+
Follow this family of four as they prepare for their flight. Your child will learn what to expect at a busy modern-day airport, from watching checked bags disappear down the conveyor belt to the moment the plane lifts off. There’s even a missing sock monkey, whose memorable journey your child can follow at the bottom of the page.

Wabi Sabi
By Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young
Ages 4+
Wabi Sabi the cat lives a quiet, peaceful life in Kyoto. That is, until a question about the meaning of her name inspires a citywide search for truth. Her journey takes her across Kyoto, leading her to such sites as Mt. Hiei and Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion). Along her travels she learns that beauty is often found in unexpected places.

AGES 5+

Dodsworth Series
Tim Egan
Ages 5+
Join Dodsworth the mouse and his silly duck sidekick as they explore the sites of London, Paris, Tokyo, and Rome. There’s so much to see, but with a mischievous duck in tow, the duo are destined for some outrageous antics.

A Ticket Around the World
By Natalia Diaz and Melissa Owens, illustrated by Kim Smith
Ages 5+
Ride along with this young boy as he travels the world and learns about the lives of children just like him! Join him as he shares a meal with a family in Morocco, visits the hot springs near the Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano, and rides in an auto-rickshaw through the streets of Mumbai. Each country includes a map and facts about culture, language, food, wildlife, geography, important landmarks, and more.

Hamish the Hairy Haggis
By A.K. Paterson, illustrated by Stuart Martin
Ages 5+
It’s haggis-bashing season in the Scottish highlands, and everyone in the town of Inverhaggis is enjoying a big Hogmanay (New Year’s) celebration. Everyone, that is, except Hamish the haggis, who’s on the run from the Bashers and Mashers! This humorous introduction to Scottish traditions will have your children begging to experience Hogmanay for themselves.

Mirror
Jeannie Baker
Ages 5–7
This wordless book lets your child make side-by-side comparisons of the daily lives of children around the world. Detailed collage illustrations highlight experiences that may seem unalike at first, but upon closer look reveal a multitude of similarities.

A Bear Called Paddington
By Michael Bond, illustrated by Peggy Fortnum
Ages 6+
This beloved tale of a journeying bear in a red hat and blue coat has been enchanting readers since its publication in 1958. With the success of its recent film adaptation, your child likely knows the story—or at least the image of Paddington hunkered down on his old suitcase—by heart. It’s hard not to fall in love with this gentle, adventurous, marmalade-loving bear as he searches for a home—and a family—in bustling London.

Katie in London
James Mayhew
Ages 6+
When Katie and her cousin Jack arrive in London with their grandma, they’re sure they won’t find anything to do. That is, until they meet a talking stone lion in Trafalgar Square who takes them on a whirlwind tour of the city! This is just one installment of a 13-book series that follows Katie as she meets the dinosaurs, heads to Scotland, and learns about masterpieces by some of the most renowned painters in the world.

Atlas of Adventures
By Rachel Williams, illustrated by Lucy Letherland
Ages 6–9
Did you know that the red fox has whiskers on its legs to help it navigate deep snowdrifts? Or that drivers of London’s iconic black cabs must memorize 320 routes and 25,000 streets before they earn their licenses? These are just some of the numerous country- and city-based facts that fill the pages of this richly illustrated atlas. Your child can ride with the gauchos in Patagonia, fall asleep under the Northern Lights, and play the bagpipes in Scotland’s Highland Games. This book was recognized as the 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.

AGES 7+

Maps
Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Ages 7+
This collection of beautifully illustrated maps highlight major cities, rivers, mountains, landmarks, plants, animals, cultural events, and prominent personalities from each featured country. By the time you leave on your adventure, your child will know all about the famous bridges of Switzerland and the wildlife of Poland.

This Is ____ Series
Miroslav Sasek
Ages 7+
First published in the 1960s but updated for the 21st century, this treasured series delights readers with its depictions of daily life around the world. Stroll across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, explore the gardens and cafes of Paris, and snap photos at Munich’s Frauenkirche Cathedral. Sasek’s vibrant illustrations and witty, playful narrative will entrance your little reader from the very first page.

Spin the Globe: The Incredible Adventures of Frederick von Wigglebottom
Edward Moldenhauer
Ages 8+
Meet Frederick von Wigglebottom, a globetrotting explorer who loves making friends and learning new things. Based on Moldenhauer’s time as a military intelligence agent, this series introduces readers to lesser-known destinations around the world. What began as a way for Moldenhauer to entertain his children at bedtime is now a popular series with titles like Alpacas in the Andes and Fjords, Vikings, and Reindeer.

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid
By Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco, illustrated by Joy Ang
Ages 8–12
Our world is full of strange and miraculous sights. There’s the underwater spacecraft cemetery off the coast of New Zealand, and the mysterious lake in India that’s filled with human skeletons. This illuminating guide will introduce your child to some of the weirdest wonders of the universe. Descend into the depths of Iceland’s Thrihnukagigar Volcano, learn about the self-mummifying monks in Japan, and visit Vietnam’s abandoned Ho Thuy Tien Water Park.

YOUNG ADULT

Journey to Jo’burg: A South African Story
By Beverly Naidoo, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
When their baby sister gets sick, 13-year-old Naledi and her younger brother, Tiro, leave their South African village to find their mother in Johannesburg. Their journey reveals the culture and landscape of the country, as well as the struggle of its citizens for respect and freedom.

Love & Gelato
Jenna Evans Welch
Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, fulfilling her mother’s dying wish that Lina get to know her father. Lina wants nothing more than to go home—until she’s given her mother’s journal and begins to unravel a secret that’s been kept for far too long. This novel features an array of Florentine landmarks that will make the city instantly recognizable to your traveling teen.

In a Perfect World
Trish Doller
Caroline can’t wait for summer in Ohio—working at the local amusement park with her best friend, going to soccer camp, and exploring the city with her boyfriend. But when her mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo, Caroline is forced to spend her summer—and senior year—navigating a foreign country.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Rick Riordan
Ages 10–14
Chock full of mystery, risk, and a whole lot of Greek mythology, this captivating series will instill in your child a sense of adventure and thirst for knowledge. Together with Magnus Chase (Egyptian mythology) and The Kane Chronicles (Norse mythology), Riordan’s writing helps children connect with the history of the places they visit while allowing them the freedom to explore the realm of unreality.

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