This article was written by Jesse from Pigtail Pals.

You may absolutely love traveling and being on the road, but your children won’t necessarily do the same. What could you do to ensure that your kids have an as enjoyable experience as you do, especially during long trips?

There are many ways to do so, one of them being bringing along a travel book for your kids to read.

TIP: Check out more ideas here: Essentials when travelling with a toddler on a planeTips for flying with a toddler or older kidsTravel gifts for kidsTravel gifts for tweensTravel gifts for teenagers

With that being said, today, we are going to give you directions on picking the best travel book for long journeys.

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THE BEST TRAVEL BOOKS FOR KIDS: SHORT OVERVIEW

IMAGETITLEAGE GROUPBUY ONLINE
New York, a book of colors
Paris, a book of shapes
London, a book of opposites
Rio de Janeiro, a book of sounds
[etc]
toddler
All Aboard! National Parks: a wildlife primer
All Aboard! London: a travel primer
All Aboard! Pacific Northwest: a recreation primer
[etc]
toddler
Little Kids First Big Book of the World4-8y
A Walk in London
A Walk in New York
A Walk in Paris
5-8y
Journey
Quest
Return
4-8y
Go! Travel Journal4-8y
This is Rome
This is New York
This is London
This is Ireland
[etc]
7+
The Adventurous Mailbox Series:
Finland: the mysterious triplets
Thailand: the right kind of tiger
Tanzania: a scream in the night
[etc]
8-12y
Diary of a Tokyo Teen12+
Peak12+

WHY BRING ALONG A TRAVEL BOOK FOR YOUR KID?

Before overviewing the specific things that you would want to consider in kids’ travel books, let’s try to understand why you would even want to bring along a travel book for your kid to read.

We see two goals that parents would want to accomplish by having their kids read travel books, or any books for that matter, in a journey:

  1. Keeping children engaged
  2. Educating children

These two goals are crucial – when picking a travel book, you need to ensure that it fulfils these two goals. One thing to note here is that these two goals aren’t specific for travel books – they could apply to any kind of book, be it a science book or a compilation of poems.

Keeping children engaged

As mentioned above, your children probably won’t perceive travel in the same way you do. You may find it as an opportunity to know the world and add a little excitement to your life, while your kids might view it as boring. They may even dislike it sometimes and would rather prefer to spend their free time at home playing with their toys or on the tablet.

This may get more aggravated during long journeys.

Reading could be the one thing that would keep your children entertained and engaged in your touristic activities. Furthermore, it may also awaken an adventurer in them, which is important because they need to explore the world and ask questions to grow and develop.

Educating children

Keeping your children engaged during a long trip is a short-term goal, while education is a long-term goal. Both are important, but education is going to play a more crucial role as your children grow and as their interests change.

An educational travel book doesn’t have to contain a lot of facts or math – in fact, for some children (especially when young), books with raw knowledge may be overwhelming.

A travel book shouldn’t provide your children with only raw information – it should deliver a moral message as well. For example, a travel book could encourage children to explore and know the world, but it at the same time could show that curiosity isn’t always to be succumbed to.

Some books may even encourage kids to write by documenting their journey! An example of such a book is the Go! travel diary and journal series. Click here to check them out!

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KIDS’ TRAVEL BOOK FOR A LONG JOURNEY?

Now, let’s get down to the specifics of picking the best kids’ travel book for long journeys.

Below, we are going to overview some general things that you would want to look for in a kids’ book, as well as things specific to travel books. The guidelines below may be used for any other book type as well, albeit with some changes.

The P.I.C.K Approach

While researching, you may stumble upon this thing called P.I.C.K. And it may be able to greatly help you in your search for the best travel books.

Books are very subjective, and it’s often difficult to make a decision on subjective grounds. P.I.C.K. allows you to bring travel books to a more objective plain by introducing 4 key criteria that you should keep in mind.

P.I.C.K. isn’t specific to travel books – you can use it anytime you are looking for a kids’ book. But in spite of being general, it can indeed help you pick the right travel book for your kid.

So, P.I.C.K. stands for Purpose, Interest, Comprehend and Know the Words. These are among the criteria that you should consider when looking for children’s books about travel. Let’s overview them a little more in-depth.

Purpose

What’s the purpose of the reading?

Well, we’ve established 2 primary goals above – keeping your children engaged and educating them. With that being said, a book’s purpose will vary from parent to parent and kid to kid, so you are free to pick goals whichever way you want.

Interest

The best travel book for your child is going to be the one that sparks interest in them. Unless your kid is interested in a particular book, they aren’t really going to enjoy it or read it at all.

Pick a travel book that would connect with your kid – for example, if your child is intrigued by magic, then pick travel books with magic trick or magicians. Examples of such books are Journey by Aaron Becker, Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne, or Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Comprehend

This is a pretty important one.

Children need to understand what they read – otherwise, the book won’t be able to engage them, let alone be educational. If the topic of the book is too complex for them, the grammar is beyond anything they have seen, or there are many unfamiliar words, then the book won’t serve its purpose well.

Here, also consider whether your child will read the book independently or with you. If they are going to read it independently, then it will be more important for them to understand it. If you will be there with them, then the book may be a bit more complex since you will be able to explain it.

Know the Words

Finally, we have Know the Words.

As mentioned above, a good travel book shouldn’t have too many unfamiliar words. The so-called Five Finger Rule dictates that:

  • If each page of the book has 0-1 unfamiliar words, then the book may be too easy.
  • If each page of the book has 2-3 unfamiliar words, then the book should be just right.
  • If each page contains 4-5 or more unfamiliar words, then the book probably is too difficult.

It Doesn’t Have to be a Travel Guide

The best travel book for your child doesn’t necessarily have to be a travel guide. In fact, unless your kid has specifically shown interest to travel guides or is old enough for them, you probably shouldn’t give them a travel guide.

Travel guides are great for older children since they are not only interesting but also add a little bit of practicality to your kid’s experience. Containing directions, descriptions, or whatnot, a good travel guide may be able to help your kid navigate and orient themselves in the world.

This indeed is a very important skill, but don’t force your kid into a travel guide if they don’t like it or aren’t ready for it.

Consider Your Kid’s Age

Some children develop a bit slower, while others seem to have a mind that has far surpassed their age. With that being said, the age of your kid can be a solid guideline when choosing a travel book.

Younger children should read something more vivid, easy to comprehend, and imaginative, while older kids maybe should read something more practical, “serious”, and closer to real life. Aside from that, a rule of thumb is that younger children’s books have less text and more images, while older children’s books are the other way around.

Let Your Children Pick on Their Own

You may have never thought about this, but maybe you should let your children pick a travel book on their own.

Remember we talked about Interest and Comprehension above? Well, who can give a better assessment of these criteria in a travel book than your kid?

Children often can pick a book that interests them even if they have a short amount of time. They can do this by:

  • Looking at the book’s cover.
  • Reading the book’s back.
  • Reading the book’s chapter titles.
  • Looking through the pages to glance at photos or pictures.

While a book can’t be judged by its cover, children are more likely to read what they like at first sight than something that didn’t spark an interest in them.

As for comprehension, your children should open a book and choose a page – if they are able to understand what they read, then the book is appropriate for them. Remember the Five Finger Rule – 0-1 unfamiliar words may show that the book is too easy, 2-3 unfamiliar words are ideal, while 4-5 unfamiliar words show that the book may be too hard for your kid.

Don’t Limit Your Kid to Just the Travel Topic

We also strongly suggest that you don’t limit your child to just travel books. It may be a good idea to allow them to have whatever they are interested in. Mixing in some other books may help them stay entertained throughout the journey, as well as will provide them with more reading options while on the road.

Don’t Focus on Just One Book

Don’t limit yourself and your kid to just one travel book – instead, pick a few for your children to read. This is important because:

  • Your child may get bored with one book quickly.
  • One book may be insufficient for the entire duration of the journey.

The attention span of children can be rather short, especially with younger kids. Even if they seemed to be very interested in some book in the store, they may quickly get bored after reading a couple of pages. It simply may turn out not what they’ve expected. Don’t judge a book by its cover indeed.

Your kid won’t necessarily permanently lose interest in one book – they may switch to another book and soon return to the first one.

As for the second reason, your child will probably read through one book during a very long journey, or they may be so interested that they chew through a few hundred pages in a couple of days.

To recap, by bringing along more than one travel book, you will ensure that your kid has something to read throughout the entire journey, as well as that they have spare options in case they get bored.

Pick a Travel Book with a Durable Cover

During a long journey, the book needs to engage, educate, and entertain your kid. But the best travel books aren’t just about their contents. Their physical aspect – namely, durability – is very important as well.

Kids probably won’t be too considerate of the book – they may jump into their adventure right after eating some sweets. Not only that, they may throw the book around, not to mention that it may be simply unable to withstand the whole journey.

The best books for travel are probably hardcover books. Hardcover books are built to last, and their covers won’t get bent and deformed like the covers of paperback books.

With that being said, hardcover books tend to be more expensive than other book types.

A big concern with hardcover books may also be their weight – hardcover books can be heavy, which is not ideal for younger children. You can just get a shorter book though – with fewer pages, a shorter book is going to be a bit easier on your kid.

EXAMPLES OF GREAT TRAVEL BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

Travel books for Toddlers

Hello, World is a brightly colored board book series for very young children by Ashley Evanson.

Each book is centred on a cosmopolitan city and a concept (colors, opposites, shapes,…).


The board books All Aboard! by Haily and Kevin Meyers are a travel-themed series for very young children.

Through cute drawings, you can get acquainted with the discussed region. The themes are mainly US-centered.

Travel books for young kids (4-6)

The first part of the trilogy Journey/Quest/Return tells the story of a lonely girl that creates a magical adventure by her own hand.

This wordless book by Aaron Becker is suitable for children from age 4 to 8.


Salvatore Rubbino brings a series of children’s books that offer a sightseeing tour through a big city (London, Paris & New York).

As you follow along with a child and their caregiver, you’ll get tons of entertaining information about the place.


National Geographic’s Little Kids First Big Book of the World is a wonderful interactive introduction into the many faces of our world.

With attention to geography, languages, animals and weather.

Travel books for older children (7+) and tweens

Although there are many popular and well-designed travel diaries for kids, we especially like the Go! series.

The journal is available in blue, red and yellow and offers your kid a hilarious way to keep track of their travels. This includes waiting time games and sharing stickers.


The This is… travel book classics by Miroslav Sasek are a treat for both young and old. Many parents and even grandparents might recognise them from their childhoods.

The series has been reissued into facsimile editions as regards to the drawings, while the facts have been updated for today.


The Adventurous Mailbox books are a wonderful way for your 4th or 5th grader to get to know the world.

The books are written as letters by the main character, Crameye Junker, a 12-year-old boy. His family travels a lot because of his father secret job. In each country, Crameye, his sister and his best friend get in a lot of adventurous situations.

The series is exciting, funny and mysterious, but they will also teach a lot about world cultures and geography.

These are excellent books when you are world or home schooling your child(ren).

Travel books for teenagers

The graphic novel Diary of a Tokyo Teen tells the story of Japanese-American girl who visits the country on her own right before her 16th birthday.


The first book in the Peak-series tells the story of 14-year-old Peak whose father wants him to be the youngest climber ever to reach the top of the Mount Everest.

FINAL WORDS

Children have varying interests, and it’s very difficult to give specific recommendations on what may be the best travel book for them.

Above, we’ve tried to give you some general tips and guidelines on picking the best kids’ book for long travel. They are as specific as they can get for an online guide, and it will be up to you to find out the interests of your children, as well as to pick the right book for their age and comprehension level.


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