One question I hear over and over again in family travel forums is the question – what can I do (in a place) that’s fun for my kids? I like to think that MOST vacation-worthy things parents want to do, kids will want to do, too. Yes, the walking tours. And the museums. Yes to almost everything. The key is understanding. And to help, I like to use children’s books to enhance a vacation with kids.
Why is it so important?
I recently came across this quote from an article Ciaran Blumenfeld wrote for Babble:
A good friend once told me that travel is one of the best family investments that you can make. There is the anticipation which can make you happy for months, there is the experience which can change your life, and then there are the memories, which bind and sustain your family for years to come. There is no flat screen tv or wardrobe piece that has that effect.
I whole-heartedly agree.
I’ve always just naturally gravitated towards books with a strong sense of place. It’s my passion. I wanted a resource of cultural children’s books organized by country (or city) so that I could find books I wanted to share with my kids. And as I started to look at all of these books in our directory, I realized it’s much more than that. There are so many varieties of kids travel books, and so many ways for them to be used.
To start things off, let’s talk about traveling with kids.
Using books to plan for a family trip: the AnticipationPrepare kids for trips with books. Click To Tweet
As adults, even if we pick our next travel destination by random draw, there’s a chance that we’re going to know SOMETHING about the place we’re visiting.
And even though we know a lot, and even if we don’t want to plan everything in advance, we’ll still find ourselves drawn to the travel section of the local bookstore. Or reading travel blogs. Or asking our friends questions about it.
Often, kids don’t have that convenience. They’re usually not picking the next trip, (though, as they get older and if you have the means, give them some more planning control – you’ll be pleasantly surprised). Their level of knowledge may be low. They’re likely not looking up blog posts. They’re probably not having conversations at recess. It’s hard to get excited for this awesome vacation. And even if they are excited, how do you focus it?
Travel Books for Lids
Books help everyone – kids and adults – start preparing mentally for what they’ll see and do. They help with the anticipation that builds in the months leading to the trip.
There are so many types of books parents can use to help kids prepare. There are reference books. The books that kids used before there was the internet to write a paper for school. They can pick up some basic history and fast facts.
Travel guides made specifically with kids in mind are perfect at this stage. These focus more on the attractions kids will find fun and the entertaining highlights.
Photo books are one of my favorites. Who doesn’t love seeing something they’ve seen in a book?
Folktales reflect more on the culture. It’s one of those preparation steps that may help them understand the place they are visiting more.
And then there’s the fictional stories, the fun stories set in the place that can set the tone of what to expect.
Keep in mind that these books do more than just help prepare, but actually also to plan. Michele at Malaysian Meanders used one of her kid’s books about Japan as a jumping-off point when planning their trip.
Using books while on a family trip: the ExperienceUse children's books during trips to help connect kids to the place they're visiting. Click To Tweet
Traveling with a book is a must.
Traveling with a book set in the same place you’re visiting is the best.
I have so many memories of reading books while on vacation about the place I was visiting. It simply enhances the trip.
Even guide books. Yep. Guide books. I remember sitting on a bus on my way to Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica. We were going along the Pacific Coast in Quepos and I hadn’t booked a hotel in advance. The person sitting in front of me let me look at her Lonely Planet guidebook. I flipped to hotels and watched as the hotels we passed were listed in the guide book. I know that’s the whole point of the guide book, but it was cool!
More so, though, I like fiction and non-fiction books about the region. Sitting on a train watching the Italian countryside race by and hearing somebody yell in “bambini!” and there’s no mistaking where I am. Reading The Name of the Rose while all this happens elevates both the book and my trip.
Kids appreciate that, too. What they’re hearing while touring around the city is reflected in their bedtime books. They’re making that connection. They’re getting it.
Using books after a family trip: the MemoriesChildren's books make great souvenirs and reminders of the fun times they had. Click To Tweet
Before you leave any city, stop at a bookstore and find the local books. Often these books are next to impossible to find once you leave. (Though, truth be told, part of my mission is to bring as many of them as I can into this website’s directory.)
Even picture books with no words in English are worth the investment.
There’s a very popular excuse parents who don’t travel with their kids give when asked why they don’t travel. It’s because “the kids won’t remember it.” I don’t agree with that. Even if kids don’t remember, there are lots of things I do with them that they won’t remember. I’m still going to travel.
But, having a book you picked up on vacation WILL help them remember.
Often these books are stories written by local authors. Or cookbooks that you can use once you’re in your own kitchen making a meal that you loved on vacation. Or an activity book that puts the landmarks front and center for kids.
They double as souvenirs. As reminders. They’ll likely make their way to the family’s favorite books list. These are the most important travel books.