We’re getting close to the holidays, which for many families means road trips with the kids. And there’s nothing more fun, right?
I recently did 16 hours in the car with my three kids — each way — and lived to tell the tale. If there’s one thing I learned on that trip (other than that I’ll never do it again) it’s that movies are an easy way to pass the time, but at some point the kids need their alone time. And books are great for that.
So, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite travel books for kids of all ages. Whether they’re learning about the city you’re traveling to, or they’re just getting inspired by the idea of adventure and a new destination, hopefully these will keep them from asking if you’re there yet. For at least a good ten minutes.
Find all these books at our affiliate Amazon, or support your local neighborhood bookseller.
Related: Family road trip tips: Tons of sanity-savers, tricks, and essential products to keep the back seat under control
The All Aboard series (also at very top) by Haily and Kevin Meyers comes from the creators of the clever and quirky BabyLit books which are some of my very favorites. These books take kids through California, New York, and Paris showing important parts of each location’s culture and landscape. Toddlers will love the art, even if all the travel details go over their heads. These are those rare but wonderful baby books that parents actually enjoy reading too.
The Hello, World series by Ashley Evanston is so great for kids, because it doesn’t just show them cool cities like London, San Francisco, New York, and Paris, but also teaches them about concepts like opposites, numbers, colors, and shapes through the chic illustrations that fill the pages.
The brand-new book Skylines: A Journey Through the Skylines of the 50 Greatest Cities, written by Yolanda Zappaterra and Jan Fuscoe and illustrated by Jenny Seddon, gives kids a glimpse into the architecture of big cities. 50, as you might have guessed. The book shows the most iconic buildings — not actual skylines– from cities as diverse as Dubai, Rome, Berlin, and Sydney. This book should spark some fun conversations to help families pass the time too; ask your kids to pick a favorite building, or make up a story about what happens there. Or, if drawing is their thing, hand over some crayons and paper and ask them to recreate a famous building or design their own.
Related: Bella and Harry: Books that take children around the world in 35 pages
Miroslav Sasek’s cool, mid-century travel books have become modern classics. What I love about his This Is . . . series is that it goes beyond the big cities everyone else covers, like New York, London, and Paris (although he has those too), and explores more unexpected places, like This is Greece, This is Hong Kong, This is Texas, This is Ireland, and about a dozen others. If you can’t pick just one, go ahead and order This is the World: A Global Treasury. Or if even that’s too limiting, you can go beyond our atmosphere with This is the Way to the Moon. That should cover pretty much all your bases.
Related: The coolest travel journals for kids
The huge, colorful pages of the brand new The 50 States: Explore the USA with 50 Fact-Filled Maps by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sol Linero are packed with tons of information about every state. They cover key facts like state capitals and mottos, but in addition to the historical info that makes it educational, the book also has a fun, pop-culture point of view. Like including Emma Stone as one of the famous people from Arizona. In other words, The 50 States is fun enough that you won’t even mind if the kids read out loud in the car. Provided they don’t get car sick.
Once they’ve read everything about the 50 states, learn about the rest of the world with MAPS by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński. Even non-readers will love looking at illustrations that show off each country’s important cultural icons. Germany highlights Mozart, beer, and Snow White. India notes tigers, chicken tikka masala, and lotus flowers. And the author’s home of Poland depicts skiing, witches over Bald Mountain, and gingerbread. It’s these little details that make this book so fascinating.
When you’re headed back after the holidays are over, hand your kids a copy of Home by Carson Ellis. It’s a simple, poetic reminder that everyone lives in different types of homes, and not just houses. The world is filled with apartments, castles, mud huts, and even pods on the moon. (Well, not really, but we can imagine!) If your kids are sad to leave family and friends when vacation comes to an end, this is a nice reminder that home is actually pretty cool too.