One of the best pieces of advice for traveling with children is to involve them in the planning process. If you are embarking on a family trip, reading age-appropriate books about the destination is a great way to prepare them and get them excited about the journey ahead. Older kids can even have a hand in deciding where you go and what you do (and don’t do) when you get there.
There are lots of global-minded titles to your engage and inspire your budding bibliophile. Even pre-readers can look at picture books and enjoy simple stories about new places, cultures and experiences. It’s important to expose all ages to images, stories and information about the world at large, but especially about places you are going to visit first-hand
There are a growing number of travel guide books on the market that have been specifically written for children – after all, what captures their curiosity and interest may be different than grown-ups. Here are a some stocking stuffer suggestions if you are planning on journeying with the kids this year.
101 Paces You Gotta See Before You’re 12, by Joanne Sullivan. Although this book is geared towards young readers themselves, it’s one of my favorite sources of travel inspiration. Rather than specifying locations, it offers general suggestions that prompt the imagination – see a lighthouse, a space place, a ghost town, an ancient city, a haunted place – and leaves it up to you fill in the geographic details. It makes exploring your community, country and world feel like one big scavenger hunt. The book includes stickers such as “wish list”, “yawn fest” and “top 20” so you and the kids can plan, rate and check off the kind of places you manage to get to.
ABC City Guides for Kids let your kids explore a handful of urban American destinations one letter at a time. They are chock full of factoids, photos, trivia and kid-friendly attractions for each city, making them great guide books and souvenirs for pre and post trip. There’s even a colorful map pinpointing the items mentioned throughout the book so the kids can get a sense of the lay of the land. Titles currently include Atlantic City, Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, New York, San Diego and Washington DC, with St. Louis coming soon.
Kids Go Europe, by Ellen and Marvin Mouchawar, is a fun and educational series if you’re lucky to be heading to Italy. They’ve written two interactive treasure-hunt guides to Florence and Venice that make exploring historical and artistic points of interest around these culture-rich cities feel like a quest. These pocket-sized spiral-bound notebooks are filled with engaging questions that prompt kids to note observations, comparisons and impressions, making these part guide book, part Q & A and part travel journal. Upcoming titles include treasure-hunt guides to Rome, Berlin and Prague.
Go2Guides China by teacher Linda Wolin, is a fresh concept in children’s travel guides. She’s written three different educational guides to China, each one geared to capture the interest of a particular age group: 5-7, 8-11 and 12+. Along with outlining kid-friendly places to see, these are filled with fun facts about the country’s animals, food, language, schools, inventions, celebrations and family life. Each colorful, compact guide is made of laminate fold-out pages – lightweight but sturdy for taking along and consulting on your trip. I hope she comes up with new titles on other destinations in the future.
Fodor’s Around the City with Kids series has titles for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Montreal, London, Paris and Rome. Each book is written by local resident experts and outlines 68 attractions and excursions around the city that will appeal to all ages. Every listing includes a blurb of fun facts, tips and trivia about each item, plus a couple of suggestions for nearby kid-friendly eateries. It includes all the pertinent info for parents (addresses, contact info, admission prices, hours, age appropriateness etc.) plus some whimsical illustrations for the younger audience. There’s even a few game suggestions at the back. Both adults and children will find these guide books useful and enjoyable. (Note, Fodor’s Family is coming out with a new series of “with kids” city guides in 2009).
DK Kids’ Travel Guides include Eyewitness Kids’ Travel Guides: New York. Although this is a bit out-of-date (last updated in 2000, so the World Trade Center is still in there), it’s a good resources for parents and children who are visiting NYC – or just want to learn about it. The fun format is perfect for a young audience aged 9 to 12, with lots of eye-catching pictures and short snappy snippets rather than long, drawn out information. They are full of kid-appeal, including trivia, treasure hunts, quizzes and I-Spy games to add pizazz to your urban exploration. There’s a London edition too.
I think I found your post too late–some of these look great for our upcoming trip!