Preparing Kids for a Trip: Read! Read! Read!

It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the behind-the-scenes details for family trips, like planning the itinerary, pre-trip shopping and packing. However, when the time to take a trip approaches, it’s beneficial to prepare the main characters — the kids. When people ask what we do to prepare our kids before trips, my answer is always a resounding Read! Read! Read!

Photo by John-Morgan on Flickr

Reading destination related books and involving the kids in small parts of the research not only helps generate excitement, but also helps determine which activities to choose while at the destination. Additionally, the knowledge about local sites and history provides a comfortable background for children as they explore unfamiliar areas. The historical knowledge is especially important because it provides insight about the culture.

Because our children vary in age, we need a variety of books ranging from “The Goodnight” series to more complex historical fiction. We also combine reference books and fiction to keep it interesting. Don’t worry if they don’t seem all that into it, they are still absorbing something and it will pay off when you get to the destination.

As I read to my children, it provides a refresher on my history and helpful information about the destination.

Trip Preparation Tips: Reading with Kids

For suggestions, check out my book list on Amazon where I have posted recommendations for a handful of destinations we’ve visited lately: Italy, France, England, Ireland, Boston, San Diego, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia.

If you have favorite books you like to read with your kids, please comment and we’ll add them to this post.

Family Travel Blogger Recommendations

Fiona from TravelMuse: Dr. Suess “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” and Julia Donaldson “The Snail and the Whale”

MudslideMama from TravelingMamas: (New York City) E.L. Konigsburg “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler.”

Jody from HaveKidWillTravel: (Ireland) Eve Bunting “S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet”

Elizabeth from TravelForKids: (Italy) Alan Armstrong “Looking for Marco Polo”

Debbie from DeliciousBaby: Byron Barton “Airplanes” and Judy and Ron Barrett “Pickles to Pittsburgh”

Jamie from TravelSavvyMom: (New York) George Selden “The Cricket in Times Square,” (England) Frances Hodgson Burnett “The Secret Garden,” (England) Roald Dahl “Mathida,” (Spain) Munro Leaf “The Story of Ferdinand,” (China) Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent “Rikki Tikki Tembo,” (Italy) Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca “Vacation Under the Volcano” (Jamie’s kids love the audio version of this)

Mara from Mother of All Trips: (Paris) Brian Selznick “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and (France) Cristina Bjork “Linnea In Monet’s Garden”

Michelle from Wandermom: (Ireland) Tomie De Paolo “Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka”

Colleen from TravelMamas: (New York) Peter Sis “Madlenka” and (Paris) Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight “Eloise in Paris”



  1. We just love reading the Dr Suess book: Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

    Great on a many levels!

  2. We are currently on one of our tri-annual family trips to NYC and thereabouts. This is the first time I didn’t have to drag my daughters kicking and screaming to one of the big art museums: My older kid recently read “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler.” It’s an older book, but for those who don’t remember the basic outline, a sister and brother run away from home and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    We went to The Met yesterday, and my older daughter grabbed a brochure, running excitedly from the Victorian furniture exhibit, to the mummies, and other exhibits featured in the book. Her younger sister got caught up in the excitement too. It was great. They had a fantastic time – which means, of course, that I did, too.

  3. We travel to Ireland every two years or so and prepare by reading S is for Shamrock: An Ireland Alphabet. Depending on where we plan to visit I will pull out back issues of Ireland of the Welcomes. It usually has amazing photos and articles I can translate easily to a 2 and 4 year old.

  4. Our favorite new chapter book, perfect for a trip to Venice, is Looking for Marco Polo, by Alan Armstrong.

    It’s a marvelous adventure story, a boy’s explorations of Venice, interwoven with tales of Marco Polo. After reading it, we all wanted to set sail ourselves.

  5. The only (and I mean ONLY) thing we love around here more than travel is books.

    Some recent travelish favorites include:

    The Cricket in Times Square (for New York).

    The Secret Garden (for England).

    Mathilda (for England).

    The Story of Ferndinand (Spain)

    Rikki Tikki Tembo (China)

    I could probably go on and on…

    Also, although I loathe the Magic Treehouse books (especially the audio versions, which are read by the author), my kids don’t. They listened breathlessly to “Vacation under the Volcano” (all about Pompeii) for hours while I rolled my eyes in the front seat.

  6. Not one of you are ALLOWED go to Ireland unless you’ve read Tomie De Paolo’s ‘Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka’ out loud to your kids before you go. In your best Irish accent. I can give lessons if you ask nicely.


    p.s. Corneila Funke’s The Thief Lord is a great read before visiting Venice. Ditto for the Magic Treehouse Carnival At Candlelight.

  7. I LOVE Madlenka for an imaginary tour around the world through the neighborhoods of New York and Eloise in Paris is just fahwbulous, darling!

  8. I heard once somebody say : Remember while you go on a trip abroad with kids to take half clothes you first have planned to and twice money you have planned !

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