Every time I jump on a plane with my kids I learn more about them. Maybe even understand them a little better. It’s part of the beauty of travel. But the fun isn’t limited to airport departure and arrival gates. The weeks and sometime months spent planning the trip is an adventure in its own right. The more involved the kids are, the more excited they get. And though I’d never admit it to my girls, the more they help plan activities on vacations, the more they learn.

Before visiting Madrid with kids, I wasn’t what you’d call an art history scholar, but the Museo Reina Sofia won me over. Even better, it won my kids over and made them into the Picasso aficionados they are today. While some questioned my sanity about going to China with kids, my family brushed up on some ancient history. What we learned made the Terra Cotta Warriors come to life! The more you go, the more you and your kids learn. Just ask my 7th grader — she is already reaping the benefits in history class.

There are all sorts of ways to sneak in the learning stuff. My kids love reading anything they can get their hands on about wherever we’re going. It doesn’t matter how old you kids are, there’s great stuff to be found. If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh with kids, young ones will love reading, or having you read them, the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Older kids will light up when they learn J.K. Rowling worked on the first two Harry Potter novels in a coffee shop that overlooks Greyfriars cemetery and Edinburgh castle. (See Nancy’s kids’ travel book list for more ideas.)


Books never disappoint. But sometimes kids get wind of the whole learning idea, and stop well-intentioned parents in their tracks. That’s when I turn on the television and start loading in dvds. Movies are a great way to get kids ready to travel. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a kid-friendly movie, loaded with a good script and scenery can lead to endless exciting vacation conversations.

Finding movies is as easy as doing a quick search on the internet. The bigger the location, the more flicks you’ll have to choose from. I did a little searching on some of our readers’ favorite locations, and, well, let’s just say I’ve already stocked up on popcorn.

These movies will help get the whole family ready to take a bite out of New York City.

Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Rated: G

Have you introduced your kids to the Muppets yet? What are you waiting for? Tour Manhattan with Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and all their loveable, but loony friends.

An American Tail (1986)

Rated: G

A cuddly, cartoon Russian mouse immigrates to New York, but is separated from his family when he arrives. This was Steven Spielberg’s first animated feature.

Stuart Little (1999)

Rated: PG

Another mouse tale inspired by the book of the same name by E.B. White. Maybe the movie will leave your little one wanting to read the book?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Rated: PG

Take a trip back in time with this classic movie starring Audrey Hepburn.

Ghost Busters (1984)

Rated: PG

Scientists turned ghost exterminators save the Big Apple from a 100-foot marshmellow and it’s army of apparitions.

Superman (1978)

Rated:  PG

New York City doubles for Metropolis, in the series that made Christopher Reeve famous. Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, Ned Beatty and Margot Kidder round out a great cast.

Night at the Museum (2006)

Rated: PG

Ben Stiller plays the security guard at the Museum of Natural History who nearly loses his mind when all of the exhibits come to life. Parents are bound to smile as they recognize many familiar faces such as Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney.

Crocodile Dundee (1986)

Rated: PG-13

Have a “g’day” seeing New York City through the eyes of Australian “Mick” Crocodile Dundee.

Spider-Man (2002)

Rated: PG-13

Shy high school student Peter Parker, played by Tobey Maguire, becomes the Big Apple’s hero after being bitten by a radioactive spider.

These flicks are worth a look before taking the kids to San Francisco.

What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

Rated: PG

Did you know Volkswagen Beetle’s can float? The cast of characters, including Barbra Streisand, Ryan O’Neal and Madeline Kahn, find out after a wild, but scenic ride through San Francisco.

Homeward Bound II – Lost in San Francisco (1996)

Rated: G

Dogs, cats and the Golden Gate Bridge. Need I say more?

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Rated: PG

Clint Eastwood stars in the true story of the mysterious escape from the famous San Francisco prison.

The Parent Trap (1998)

Rated: PG

A remake of a Disney hit in 1961, girls meet at summer camp and discover they’re actually twins. A little San Francisco, a little wine country, and a little London. You can’t go wrong.

Sister Act (1992)

Rated: PG

A lounge singer played by Whoopi Goldberg, is sent to live in a San Francisco Convent when she’s put in the witness protection program.  Next thing you know, she’s directing the church choir.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Rated: PG-13

Starring San Francisco’s own Robin Williams.  After getting a divorce, Williams passes himself off as a British nanny to see his kids.   There are great shots of the city throughout the movie.

Filmmakers like working their magic in the Windy City. Give your kids a taste of Chicago with some of these oldies, but goodies.

Home Alone (1990)

Rated: PG

A young boy fends off robbers after accidentally being left home alone.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

Rated: PG

John Hughes’s first movie about middle-class high-school kids. A girl turns 16 and everyone in her family forgets her birthday.

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Rated: PG

This romantic comedy will get the kids ready to ride the ‘L’, Chicago’s rapid transit system.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Rated: PG-13

You never know what will happen when kids cut school to goof off.

The Fugitive (1993)

Rated: PG-13

Catch-him-if-you-can. A man is on the run through Chicago after being falsely accused of killing his wife.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Rated: PG-13

Chicago takes on the role of Batman’s beloved Gotham City.

A landmark hunt is the perfect way to explore Philadelphia with the kids. After watching these movies, they’ll known exactly what they’re looking for.

Rocky (1976)

Rated: PG

The film may be more than 30 years old, but not-so-smart boxer Rocky Balboa, still holds a special place in the hearts of Philadelphia natives.


Rated: PG

The true story of a man who earned a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles football team, after showing up for an open tryout.

National Treasure (2004)

Rated: PG

A treasure hunter defends the Declaration of Independence by stealing it.

Mannequin (1987)

Rated: PG

A department store mannequin magically comes to life in the City of Brotherly Love.

Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)

Rated: PG

Rumors lead to the hunt for an unreleased album of a deceased rocker. The soundtrack may strike a chord with many parents.

If a trip to the Sunshine State is in your future, and your tweens are too tall for Disney, don’t worry, Mickey isn’t the only star to think about.

Apollo 13 (1995)

Rated: PG

The remarkable true story of the moon bound mission that developed life threatening troubles.

Marley & Me (2008)

Rated: PG

A young couple moves to Florida and adopts a lovable but destructive Labrador puppy.

Hoot (2006)

Rated: PG

A Montana kid moves to Florida and becomes determined to protect a cluster of endangered owls from some greedy adults that could destroy them.

The list could go on and on. I couldn’t believe the titles that popped up when I started searching. Some of them I’ve never seen. Some I can’t wait to watch again with my kids. Got any favorites of you own? Let me know.

I’m ready to plan another trip to Europe, and I bet Hollywood can help. I wonder how many films have been filmed in Paris. Sounds like another post.  Stay tuned.

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