Best Travel Books for Kids: Great Reads to Inspire Wanderlust in Tiny Travelers
There’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book and your little one in your lap. Reading with our children has so many wonderful benefits from helping them learn language and boosting academic readiness to bonding together and creating a safe place where your child can feel comforted and loved. Reading teaches children that books can take us to new places and help us discover new worlds. Reading together can also help prepare children for new experiences by introducing concepts and helping make them familiar. This is especially true of travel books for kids. Traveling is wonderful and exciting but with so many new experiences and unknowns- it can also be overwhelming for little travelers. We’ve compiled a list of the best travel books for kids that can help introduce different aspects of travel for new travelers as well as wonderful books that help inspire wanderlust in our little readers. We’ll start with board books for our tiniest travelers and work our way up to some middle grade novels for older travelers. Let’s get reading!
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The “Good Night Our World” Series by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper
The “Good Night” series written by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper is an incredible board book series for young children. These fun travel books cover everything from basic travel with “Good Night Planes“, general destinations such as “Good Night Beach” and “Good Night Campsite” as well as destination specific locations including most major cities and states in the USA and many international destinations. Whether you’re preparing your little one for a visit to a museum or a trip to Paris, the “Good Night” series has a board book just for you!
“Hello World” Series by Ashley Evanson
Not only does Ashley Evanson’s “Hello World” series cover a wide range of destinations- each book is also designed around fun learning concepts such as counting, colors, shapes, sounds, and senses. New York: A Book of Colors and San Francisco: A Book of Numbers cover cities in the US while the series also covers cities most other board book series miss, such as Tokyo: A Book of Senses and Rio de Janeiro: A Book of Sounds. Little ones will love discovering new places while also practicing familiar concepts such as numbers, colors and shapes.
“My Little Cities” Series by Jennifer Adams
The “My Little Cities” series is another destination specific board book series that can help introduce little ones to new places they’re going to be visiting! From New York City and San Francisco to Paris and London, introduce your tiny traveler to the sights they’ll see around the world with these delightful picture books written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Pizzoli.
“Through the Town” and “Around the World” by Katie Howarth
These interactive board books allow children to trace their way through town and around the world! “Through the Town” features a different vehicle on each page, making it’s way through the city. It’s a great way to introduce young children to city life! “Around the World” follows different animals through different habitats found throughout the world, introducing little ones to various types of landscapes they may discover in their travels.
“All Aboard!” Series by Hailey Meyers and Kevin Meyers
The “All Aboard!” series is another delightful board book series that introduce kids to different locations through delightful illustrations. We love the All Aboard! National Parks: Wildlife Primer that explores the US National Parks. The series also covers major US cities such as Washington DC and New York City as well as international locations such as Paris and London.
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler
The Snail and the Whale comes recommended by our friends at Well Travelled Munchkins. Our three year old daughter “loves reading about the snail’s epic adventure around the world on the tail of the friendly and accommodating whale. She often says ‘The snail sees the world with the whale like I do with you on holiday!’ It’s a rhyming story of friendship, kindness and exploration and really enjoyable and easy to read night after night after night!”
Line 135 by Germano Zullo
This is hands-down, without a doubt our family’s favorite travel book. Line 135 is about a young child taking a train ride from the city to the country to visit their grandmother. Along the way, the changes in the landscape lead the child to feel as if they are traveling across the world, which inspires their sense of wonder and independence. The young child dreams of someday seeing the whole wide world, though their mother and grandmother tell them the world is too big. The young traveler comes to realize that wanderlust can be bigger than any worldly limits. It’s a truly remarkable story that inspires children and adults alike to set out to see the whole entire world!
Journey by Aaron Becker
Journey comes recommended by our friends The Elusive Family. “Journey is a travel-adventure book that allows children to dive into a world filled with captivating and unique scenes, all while using their imagination. This word-free, picture adventure book inspires children of all ages to come up with their own story based on the illustrations in the book. It follows a girl with a magic red crayon while she draws images that take her to new places and adventures. It’s a wonderful book for families as each time it is read, it provides another opportunity for the story to be recreated in a different way. Our 5-year-old energetic storyteller loves reinventing the story and describing new details that make the book more fascinating with every new read.”
How To Make and Apple Pie and See the World by Marjory Priceman
This whimsical picture book starts with making a delicious apple pie- which is an easy task when the market is open. But when the market is closed, readers must journey across the globe collecting the finest ingredients for the pie! From Italy to Vermont, young readers will delight in the journey of gathering everything needed to bake an apple pie while also being introduced to wonderful locations around the world.
Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
A true children’s classic, Oh the Places You’ll Go is the perfect picture book for inspiring people of all ages to travel and explore! With its fantastical rhyming of fun new words to its whimsical illustrations, Oh the Places You’ll Go is a great story for those setting off on a new adventure. It’s message of keeping an open mind and trying new things helps readers realize that there is much fun to be discovered in new places! Not only do we love the original book, but there’s a “Read It! Write It!” travel journal version for kids to write and draw about their own travel adventures and plans! There’s also a beautiful “Graduation Keepsake Edition” that makes a perfect gift for graduates headed into the next adventure of life!
Madlenka by Peter Sis
During a walk down her block in New York City, Madlenka takes readers on a trip around the world. As Madlenka explores her own NYC block sharing the news that she just lost a tooth, she meets her neighbors who come from all over the world to share their culture’s gifts. From the French baker and Latin American grocer to the German opera singer and Asian shopkeeper, Madlenka shows readers the wonders of travel while also highlighting the diversity we can find in our own hometowns! There are additional Madlenka stories in this series and as a great bonus, many of them are also published in Spanish.
A Day at the Airport by Richard Scarry
Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport is a wonderful way to introduce young children to all they will see and experience at the airport! The busy illustrations captivate kids’ attention while familiarizing them with the inner workings of the airport. Explore the terminal, see how luggage is loaded, and visit the control tower with Huckle Cat, Sally, and Lowly the Worm while preparing your child for their first flight.
Busy, Busy World by Richard Scarry
Kids love Richard Scarry and we do too! Busy, Busy World is another travel book that has our beloved Huckle Cat, Sally, and Lowly the Worm exploring the globe as they visit big, busy cities. This book introduces children to multiple major cities as well as the inner workings of city life in general. The illustrations are so detailed and whimsical that kids will want to read this over and over, each time discovering something new in each city!
Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley
World For a Girl highly recommends Children Just Like Me, a book that helps make the unfamiliar familiar by exploring how children around the world are alike in so many ways. “My son absolutely loves dipping in and out of this gorgeous book. We use it to talk about the places we’ve been to and also to introduce new cultures we’re going to explore. I’ve also used it many, many times in my classroom over the years to help bring topics about other countries to life. Whilst the book features children from places as diverse as the Amazon rain-forest, an orphanage in Ethiopia and the hill tribes of Vietnam, what it excels at is emphasizing the similarities between children’s lives everywhere. All children eat, all children play, most go to school!”
One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley
This beautiful book has a wonderful message shared through stunning photographs: We are all one global family. The book follows the course of one day- from sunrise to sunset- across the world. Discover what children around the world eat for breakfast and see how kids in different cultures spend their days. One World, One Day is a fantastic book that inspires us to be global citizens by highlighting the many similarities we share with people who may seem so different on the surface. The photographs are truly captivating and can spark many important conversations with older children.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Another children’s classic, our friends at BabyVine simply love Where the Wild Things Are. “After his mother sends him to bed with no dinner, a young boy, Max, watches as his room transforms into an ocean and he sails across the seas to where the wild things are. Max becomes their leader and parties into the night before he realizes that being King is harder than he thought and something is missing. My three-year-old Cassie can’t get enough of this story and asks for it every night before bed. As Max crosses the seas and we find the wild things, it is easy to watch Cassie be transported right along with him. In fact, the pages with no words are her favorite, as she points out all the things she notices without being distracted by my reading. It’s a great book about adventure and coming back to the comfort of and familiarity of home at the end of it all. Such a sweet message to send kids, as Max wants to be where someone loves him ‘best of all’. This is something we can all relate to when it comes to travel and returning home after a trip!”
There’s an Ouch in My Pouch by Jeanne Willis and Garry Parsons
Recommended by our friends at Smart Steps to Australia, There’s an Ouch in My Pouch is a picture book that helps introduce kids to the Land Down Under. “It’s a rhyming story about Willaby Wallaby who is feeling uncomfortable in his mum’s pouch so goes off to explore and meets lots of other Australian animals. We bought the book for our four-year-old twins and two-year-old when we were preparing to move to Australia from the UK. They had never heard of possums, dingos, billabongs or wombats before! It is such a fun book to read and our daughter loved it so much she made us read it every night for years. We’ve since gone on to buy it for our nephews in the UK to give them a little taste of Australia.”
Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester
Marco Polo Junior: By Land to Xanadu by Sheldon Moldoff
This is a classic book first published in 1972, brought to us by our friends at Gadsventure. “I was fortunate to inherit a stack of classic vintage books as a child, and these were the very same stories I read to my children as well!One of our very favorites was Marco Polo Junior.It’s pages full of beautiful illustrations of far off lands, elicited a wanderlust for those far eastern exotic destinations.Lands of monkeys, temples, magical medallions and evil emperors all threw our imaginations into overdrive.You felt like you were right there with Marco Polo Junior as he negotiated with the snake charmer in the souk or faced the terrible sorcerer on his journey to seek his father who was held captive.The funny thing is that the story doesn’t actually end!So you were always left wondering what happens next!And maybe that is the reason we loved it so much.As a bedtime story, it followed you into your dreams”
Early Elementary Readers
“The Magic Tree House” Series by Mary Pope Osborn
I’ve yet to meet a young reader who isn’t captivated by Mary Pop Osborn’s Magic Tree House series. Not only are these books perfect for kids just beginning to read chapter books, but they are also perfect for inspiring kids to explore the world- both through travel to new places and travel through time! Jack and Annie use their magic tree house in the woods to be transported to places in different books they find in their tree house library. Whether you’re just looking to inspire wanderlust or looking to introduce your kids to a specific location- there’s sure to be a Magic Tree House book that matches up with your next trip! Though our own boys are reading more complex books, they still pick up their Magic Tree House books on a regular basis for a quick afternoon adventure with Jack and Annie!
The “Where Is?” Series, various authors
The “Where Is” series is a fantastic early elementary reading series that highlights major landmarks around the world. If you have a specific destination planned, check to see if there’s a “Where Is” book to help your child learn about that location. These books are fun to read but are packed full of great information. Popular titles in the series include Where is the Colosseum, Where is the Grand Canyon, Where is Machu Piccu, Where is the Great Wall, and Where is the Great Barrier Reef.
Our friend Jenn from One Hoppy Mama highly recommends this series for the early elementary crowd. “One of the great things about traveling with kids is their curiosity. They always want to know where we’re going, what will we see there, the history, the culture, etc. This is why we love the “Where is” & “What is” book series! They are perfect books for young readers age 8+ that want to learn specific historical details about the places they will be visiting with their family.”
Amelia’s Are We There Yet Longest Ever Car Trip by Marissa Moss
Middle Grade Literature
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jane Birdsall
This is the first in a series of five books about the Penderwick sisters- a fantastic series for middle grade readers and also appropriate for parents to read to younger children. Our family absolutely loves The Penderwicks. We first read these to our boys when they were five and six years old and they’ve since re-read the entire series by themselves.
The Penderwicks series follows four sisters- Rosaline, Skye, Jane and Batty- as they adventure with their father, a bookish professor who loves to speak in Latin, to a new summer vacation rental. Getting lost on the way there is just the beginning of their grand adventures. The summer will bring not only adventure but also a heartwarming story of friendship as the sister’s spend their summer at Arundel. It’s a wonderful story about giving new places a try and realizing that adventure awaits in the most unsuspecting places. With each of the sister’s (as well as their new friend Jeffrey) having different personalities and strengths, everyone is sure to find a character in this series that they relate to. The remaining four books in the series are also about travel and adventure, so it’s a fantastic series to grow with!
York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
A captivating mystery for middle grade readers, York explores travel in two dimensions- both time and place. The book follows the Morningstar twins, beginning in 1798 in New York City. But this is not just a trip back in time- in this story New York City in 1798 is a futuristic world full of towering skyscrapers and dazzling machines. More than 50 years later the city’s architects disappeared, leaving behind a mystery that leaves Tess and Theo Biedermann scrambling to save their home in one of the last remaining Morningstar buildings in the city. My only warning about this book is that it’s ending leaves a lot left unexplained. I was extremely disappointed at the end of this book until our son pointed out that it is actually meant to be a series! Now we are all waiting anxiously for the next book so the adventure can continue!
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Sisters is a graphic novel that follows a family road trip from California to Colorado for a family reunion. Raina, who always wanted a sister,finally gets her wish but realizes having a sister is not what she expected. Told through flashbacks to the family’s road trip, this book explores both travel and family relationships as two sisters discover the true meaning of family.