Brilliant travel books for kids of all ages

Travel books for kids

I’m really enjoying my current stage of parenthood for the wonderful books I’m able to read with my children. I’m covering some old ground – re-reading Enid Blyton and Harry Potter but there’s a multitude of books I’m visiting for the first time and they’re fantastic. I try to offer a wide variety of books to my children but I can see certain genres starting to win favour with my older son (aged nine). Adventure and travel keep popping up so I thought I’d compile some of our favourite travel books for kids. I’ve also reached out to a few other travel-obsessed families to see what they enjoy reading – I’m always after new recommendations.

Now that shops are reopening, it’s a good idea to get out there and support our local high streets – including book shops. However, if you do need to order online, I have placed some links in this article to Bookshop.org and to Amazon.

If you haven’t heard of Bookshop.org, it started up back in January 2020 in the US and launched its UK site in November 2020. Bookshop.org pays a percentage of profits to independent book stores. If you click on a link on Smudged Postcard and go on to make a purchase, I will also receive a small commission – at no additional cost to you.

This is an ongoing project so I’ll update this list of kids travel books as and when we have another good recommendation. Please feel free to contact me if you have your own favourite travel book for children which you’d like to share.

I’ve organised the kids’ travel books by age – this is just a rough guide so you may find some of the books suit older or younger children.

Travel books for babies and little ones

It’s never too young to start looking at books with your children. Indeed, in those sleep deprived days of early parenthood, sitting down and sharing a book with your baby is a good way to pass the hours. When my second child came along, I used to read books with my older son while I was feeding the baby – it was a great way for us all to share something together.

Baby Faces board book series by Roberta Grobel

Babies enjoy looking at other babies so this collection of books featuring babies smiling, sleeping, eating and playing peek-a-boo is perfect for little ones. The babies in the books are from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds so children can learn from an early age about the different faces they’ll meet around the world.

Littleland Around the World by Marion Billet

Recommended by Rai from Rai of Light

Littleland Around the World, written and illustrated by Marion Billet, is a delightful children’s fiction story that follows 10 friends on a trip around the world. From London to the US and a number of countries in between, it is designed as a picture book for very young children. Featuring a colourful scene on each double-page spread along with a friendly narrative, kids are encouraged to explore different languages, cultures and customs. The digitally produced illustrations in the spirit of travel are light-hearted, imaginative, and full of detail while showcasing the visual elements of the different sights. A distinctive story that is sure to be enjoyed by all.

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson

I feel really sad that my children are now too old for the Julia Donaldson stories – they were such a big part of our reading journey together. The Snail and the Whale is perfect for exploring the wider world with little children and introducing them to the idea of travel.

The two animals set off on an adventure together – tackling storms, witnessing volcanoes and avoiding other more dangerous sea creatures. After some noisy motorboats cause the whale to become beached, the snail brings children to aid the whale’s rescue and they set off once again into the sea. The Snail and the Whale is a lovely story of friendship and adventure which children will love.

The Travelling Child series by Monet Hambrick

Recommended by Corritta from It’s a Family Thing

One of our favourite activities for our toddler when we travel is books. He loves to pretend read and we love reading travel books to him.

One of our all-time favourite books is The Traveling Child Goes to Rio. It is the first instalment in a book series by Monet Hambrick. The series is inspired by her real-life adventure around the world with her family. What makes this book unique is that it follows the adventures of a Black family around Brazil. This book is all about sisters Jordyn and Kennedy as they make their way around Rio de Janeiro.

Kids can learn fun facts about Rio and complete activities along the way. This book is an inspiration to Black kids who aren’t represented within the travel industry. They have the chance to see kids who look like them travelling the world. How inspiring is that to a kid dreaming to see the world?

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

Recommended by Dani from Diapers in Paradise

In this classic children’s book, the narrator takes a trip around the world to compare how people live in different cultures. While homes and languages and skin colours are different, “joys are the same, and love is the same. Pain is the same, and blood is the same.” Whoever You Are is a perfect book to read to children to prepare for a trip to a different part of the world where they might encounter children who seem very different from themselves. With its bright, beautiful illustrations, it is perfect to bring along when you travel with a baby or toddler, as well.

Travel books for children aged 3-8

There’s a huge difference between what a three year old will listen to and what an eight year old can happily read to him or herself – it’s amazing how quickly children learn in these few short years.

There are so many fantastic stories for children in this age range – from simple picture books to wonderful adventures for slightly older kids to get really immersed in.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

This classic tale is a wonderful journey into a fantastical world of beasts and faraway lands. Following a tantrum, Max is sent to bed without dinner. In his imagination, he sets off in a boat and becomes the king of the wild things – beautifully illustrated creatures with impressive teeth. Max enjoys his adventure but eventually becomes lonely and returns home to discover his dinner – still hot – is waiting for him.

Where the Wild Things Are is a great reminder of the power of a child’s imagination – this is where our children go when they’re not tied to a screen or engaged in the many pursuits of modern childhood.

Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett

Somewhere in the World Right Now kids travel book
Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett

If you have family living in another part of the world and your child struggles with the concept of time differences, this gentle little book is a great help. Each page describes what might be happening at a given moment across the world. In India it is day break and a rooster crows, elsewhere people shop for their midday meal, while somewhere in the world friends are saying goodnight and children are having a bedtime story.

Somewhere in the World Right Now is beautifully illustrated and simple to follow – even for little children. For older children, there’s a map of the world at the front of the book showing the time zones across each continent.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Recommended by Lena of Salut from Paris

The book series Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans is perfect if you are looking for a book that is set in Paris to inspire your child to travel to the French capital. The story evolves around Madeline, a little girl who attends a boarding school in Paris. She is a courageous and cheerful person who is not afraid of anything.

Reading this book, your child is not only experiencing all sorts of adventures along with the heroine, but also gets to set off on a dream trip to all the beautiful and famous locations of Paris. Have your child travel with Madeline to the Eiffel Tower, the Seine river banks and the Jardin de Plantes, not only through the story, but also through the beautiful drawings which illustrate her adventures. 

The Katie series of books by James Mayhew

Katie and the Sunflowers book
Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew

I’m a really big fan of author-illustrator James Mayhew. Not only does he produce fabulous children’s books but he also brings art and live classical music together in particularly child-friendly fashion (you can read more about that in my review of his Vivaldi concert here).

James Mayhew’s Katie books follow the antics of a little girl and her grandmother who make regular trips to the art galleries of London. Whilst her grandmother has a convenient snooze, Katie sets off on a magical adventure into the famous paintings she sees around the galleries. One of my favourite books in the series is Katie and the Sunflowers which sees the protagonist clambering into a number of French artworks – she upends tables in Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night and befriends French farm workers in Breton Girls Dancing by Gauguin.

Meanwhile, the book Katie in London will appeal to children who have visited the capital. With her brother in tow, Katie travels across London on the back of one of the Trafalgar Square lions, visiting all the usual iconic sights – the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and so forth.

I highly recommend the James Mayhew books to anyone looking to instil an appreciation of art and travel into their children.

I’m hoping that James Mayhew will continue his live art and music concerts once lockdown is over. Check out his website for further details: James Mayhew.

Paddington’s London Treasury

Recommended by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple 

Paddington Bear is such an attractive character not just for children, but for adults alike.  Known for his humour and misadventures, this timeless classic tale brings together a collection of Paddington’s adventures in London – Paddington’s London Treasury. 

The book consists of four short stories – Paddington at the Zoo, Paddington at the Palace, Paddington and the Marmalade Maze, Paddington and the Grand Tour. Written by Michael Bond and Illustrated by R.W.Alley, the book is sure to be an instant favourite to any kid who reads it. Appealing illustrations are certainly a big plus, for it keeps the children glued to the book. 

Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester

Recommended by Natalie from Curious Campers

Are we there yet? Is a beautifully illustrated picture book by Alison Lester. When our family was planning a 6 month road trip around Australia we bought this book to share with our children. It was a wonderful way to get the kids excited about living in a camper trailer and some of the things we would see and do. The family in the story journeys around Australia stopping in at many landmarks along the way such as Uluru, The Pinnacles, The Flinders Ranges and Great Barrier Reef. As we were travelling around it was wonderful to see how excited the kids would get when we saw each of these landmarks, it was like we were living the story. 

Choose Your Own Journey by Susie Brooks

Choose your own journey travel book for kids
Choose your own Journey by Susie Brooks

My children used to love looking at this book – it follows several different vehicles on the same journey across the course of a day. Who will reach their destination first – the bicycle, the train or the car?

Little children will enjoy using their finger to trace where the vehicles go – across bridges, through parks, into tunnels. There’s plenty of detail, lovely illustrations and so much going on that the book can be enjoyed over and over again.

A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbinos

Recommended by Martina and Jürgen from PlacesofJuma

A highly recommended travel book for children is A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbinos. A mother and her young daughter explore the busy streets and sights of London. The story reads easily, has lots of character, and is beautifully illustrated with vivid pictures. As you read, you are taken on an exciting child’s-eye view sightseeing tour of London on a red double-decker bus to the most beautiful landmarks of the city.

The stone lions in Trafalgar Square, the ritual changing of the guard, the whispering gallery in St. Paul’s and Big Ben are just a few of the highlights. In the process, little ones will learn plenty about London’s history and adults will also find one or two interesting things to learn.

A Walk in London is part of a series of books which also covers New York and Paris.

A Passport for Bun-Bun by Lauren Covino-Smith 

Recommended by Lauren from the Expat Chronicle

Children who love travel or are getting ready to embark on moving someplace unfamiliar will thoroughly enjoy this heart-warming story about a little girl and her beloved stuffed bunny. When seven year old Anna learns that she and Bun-Bun will move to a foreign country with the family, their world is turned upside down. They must pack up their belongings, say goodbye to friends and move to a scary new place. 

The food is different. The language is different. Even the TV shows are different! Anna and Bun-Bun feel like they are on another planet most days. But the journey is one they are taking together and soon enough this scary new place starts to feel like the home they love. 

Parents will love this story told from the perspective of Anna as she shares the emotional ups and downs of moving abroad. And children will especially love the My Very Own Passport activity at the back, which allows them to create a special passport for his or her beloved stuffed animal or toy. 

While the story is light and sweet, appropriate for ages three to eight, it also addresses important life lessons such as embracing diversity, accepting change and being open to new possibilities!  

The Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky

Recommended by Victoria at Guide Your Travel

The Girl on a Motorcycle by Amy Novesky is a fantastic book about girl power. It features a girl who rides a motorcycle around the world and has to face problems like flat tyres and all sorts of adventures. Along the way, she meets different people and has fantastic experiences that teach her big life lessons. Not only is the Girl on a Motorcycle a true story but it’s also a fantastic way to teach both young girls and boys that anything is possible in life. This wanderlust-evoking book is highly recommended.

Greetings from Somewhere series by Harper Paris

Recommended by Maggie from Milana’s Travels

One of the best travel-themed book series for kids is the Greetings from Somewhere series by Harper Paris. After finding out their mother has accepted a position as a travel writer, twins Ethan and Ella travel to a different country in each of the series’ ten books. In each city they visit, the twins must solve a mystery and make it back in time before their plane, train, or boat leaves for the next city.

The books offer realistic facts about the city/country they are visiting, including things like food, culture, landmarks, etc. If your kids love mystery and travel, this is a great series for them!

Bear Grylls Adventures series

Bear Grylls adventure book
Bear Grylls Adventures

This series of easy to read books by the UK’s Chief Scout might not be up there with the greatest works of fiction but the books are a good way to get children reading. Each book follows a child on an adventure through a particular terrain – desert, rainforest, mountain – as they seek to overcome, with Bear’s assistance, a particular fear or issue.

Young children with a love of the outdoors will enjoy following the adventures- there’s plenty of bug eating, dangerous animals and tricky situations which the pair overcome during the story. Perfect for budding boy and girl scouts.

The Jack Stalwart secret agent series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt

This is another easy-reading set of books which really helped one of my boys on his journey to reading fluency. The books follow nine year old Jack, a secret agent, as he battles villains in each country he visits. The books are fast paced and full of adventure and cover a good range of destinations including Cambodia, the Arctic and Japan.

Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne

Contributed by Erica at Trip Scholars

School age children delight in joining Jack and Annie in their adventures throughout history and around the world in the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. The books have just the right level of excitement to captivate young readers and excite them about different destinations. There are currently 35 books in the main series. There are additional titles in the more advanced Merlin Adventures and the related nonfiction Fast Tracker series.  

Travel planning as a family offers many exciting ways to engage children in learning, allowing them to better understand their travel destinations. The Magic Treehouse series has such a wide range of destinations you are likely to find one related to your trip.

Children’s travel books for kids aged 9-12

Adventures on Trains series by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman

Murder on the Safari Star book
Murder on the Safari Star by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgman

This series of three books (another is due to be published later this year) is one of the biggest hits in recent months for my book worm nine year old. Each story follows the escapades of Harrison Beck and his Uncle Nat as they solve mysteries whilst on an exciting train trip. The first in the series, the Highland Falcon Thief, sees the duo enjoying a trip from London to Scotland while subsequent books involve a journey across the USA and a trip through Southern Africa.

The books are real page turners and introduce readers to plenty of interesting characters. The Murder on the Safari Star is certainly a nod to Agatha Christie’s Orient Express offering kids an absorbing introduction to the whodunnit genre.

I was hoping to read these books to my son but they’re so gripping that he read them cover to cover before I had a chance to read more than a couple of chapters to him.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

Recommended by Maggie from Books like This One

If you’re looking for a perfect book to inspire travel for children, then look no further than Anne of Green Gables. Originally published in 1908, LM Montgomery’s classic tale of spirited, red-headed orphan Anne is a timeless one that is sure to charm readers no matter their age.

Anne Shirley is a young orphan who is adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. The problem is, they planned on adopting a boy to help Matthew on the farm and, through a clerical error, Anne was sent to live with them instead. Anne’s nature, personality and mishaps eventually charm the Cuthberts and she is permitted to live with them on their farm (Green Gables) in the fictional town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island.

The Canadian province of Prince Edward Island is as much of a character in this series of novels as any of the people and reading about Anne’s antics is sure to inspire young readers to travel to this beautiful area themselves one day.

So if you’re looking for a charming tale to inspire a generation of young travellers, then look no further than Anne of Green Gables.

The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé

Recommended by Rosie at Flying Fluskey

The Adventures of Tintin is a series of 24 illustrated books penned by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Tintin is a young journalist, taken on escapades in exotic locations from Egypt to Russia, America to Tibet. He is always accompanied by his devoted and utterly adorable wire fox terrier, Snowy.

The comics were originally published in French but are now sold in over 70 languages. The drawings are bold, bright and wonderfully expressive. The detective stories inspire young minds to crave far flung adventures through the books’ vintage charm and the engaging, daring exploits of the young protagonist. New generations now have the choice of reading the delightfully colourful classics, older animations or watching the new, beautiful films.

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Billan

This debut novel about a young girl living in the foothills of the Himalayas is a great way to introduce children to India. The story follows Asha and her friend Jeevan as they set out in search of Asha’s father who has mysteriously stopped sending money home to the family from his job in the city. Asha has the belief that the spirit of her grandmother – her nanijee – is watching over them as they travel. The children face plenty of challenges during their journey – high mountains, wild animals and various unsavoury characters.

The book paints a vivid picture of life in rural India – its religion, culture and beliefs. I’m currently reading this to my son and although it took him a couple of chapters to get into it, he’s now hooked. It’s really refreshing to read him something set in a totally unfamiliar environment.

The Laura Marlin mysteries by Lauren St John

If your children have enjoyed Famous Five, this series of adventure mysteries is a great next step. I picked up Rendez-Vous in Russia (it’s the fourth of six books) from the library the other day and my son was immediately hooked so I’ll need to get hold of the rest now.

The first in the series is Dead Man’s Cove which introduces readers to Laura Marlin, an orphan-turned-amateur detective who goes to live with her uncle in Cornwall. There, she meets her soon to be best friend Tariq and picks up a three-legged Siberian husky named Skye and together they tackle a string of mysteries.

Rendez-vous in Russia sees them jetting off to St Petersburg after a film director insists Skye should be the star of his next movie. Other stories whisk the heroine off to the Caribbean, the US and Australia – what would Enid Blyton think of this evolution of her genre I wonder.

The Awesome Egyptians (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary, Peter Hepplewhite

Recommended by Sarah from Away with the Steiners

There is always something fascinating about mummies, the Great Pyramids and the Ancient Egyptian civilisation.  Terry Deary’s series of Horrible Histories takes boring history lessons to a new level of fascination and the children’s book, The Awesome Egyptians is especially popular.  The book is full of comic style illustrations, facts, stories and trivia quizzes to keep children engaged.

If you have kids who are curious about the Ancient Egyptians or you are considering travel to Egypt, this book is a great source of information and inspiration about this fascinating time.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

This is a really gripping tale of friendship and survival against the odds. The Explorer follows Fred and three other children who have to survive in the Amazon Rainforest following a plane crash. As well as bringing to life the sights and sounds of the rainforest, the book delves deep into the differing personalities of the children – who readers will warm to.

The Explorer is a great read for budding adventurers – there are many challenges to overcome from deadly animals to raft building as well as the journey of friendship to enjoy.

Katherine Rundell has also written novels set in New York, Paris and Russia.

Darwin’s Dragons by Lindsay Galvin

I really enjoyed reading this book with my son – it’s the type of novel which leaves you feeling slightly bereft when it’s finished (but don’t worry, the ending is happy and heart-warming). The story, a mix of fact and fiction (there’s a useful section at the end to explain which is which) follows the life of Syms Covington who takes to the seas at the tender age of nine as cabin boy and fiddler on board Charles Darwin’s Beagle.

Set partly in the Galapagos Islands and partly in London, the story is a fascinating introduction for children into the world of Charles Darwin. It’s also a gripping adventure featuring volcanoes, dragons and a stern Queen Victoria.

*****

Do you or your children have any recommendations for travel books for kids? Let me know your favourite children’s travel books in the comments below.

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