Are There Any Really Great Examples of Travel Writing for Kids?

by Tom B.

Lonely Planet Not For Parents Travel Book

This is a fun book about travel for kids, but it’s not actually about kids travelling – which is an important distinction.

One of the most common grade-school writing assignments is the classic “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” However, if you go to a bookstore or library and look for books where real kids actually explain what they did do on their summer vacations, family trips, or any other travel experience… you’re not going to find much. Or at least I didn’t. Maybe I’m just not Googling correctly, but, if there are books out there collecting really superior examples of travel writing for kids, they shouldn’t be this hard to find.

First, let me explain what I’m NOT referring to when I say “travel writing for kids.” I’m not referring to books about geography or other cultures. I’m not referring to nonfiction books that open with “Hello, my name is ____. I am from _____. Let me tell you about my country.” And I’m not referring to maps, atlases, or any kind of reference book. (If you want a particularly good example of a fun, readable geography book for kids, I’m a big fan of the Lonely Planet Not For Parents Travel Book.)

What I am talking about are travel memoirs, first-person accounts of people travelling across the globe and sharing with their readers how those experiences made them feel. And there are so many fantastic travelogues and travel memoirs that are written both by adults and for adults – for example, the nonfiction works of V.S. Naipaul, Alexis de Tocqueville, Paul Theroux, Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing is, technically, travel writing), Bill Bryson, Colin Thubron, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck (and his Travels with Charley) – the list goes on and on.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Michael Palin, the former member of Monty Python-turned-world-explorer, who’s responsible for a remarkable series of BBC travel documentaries and accompanying volumes of travel memoirs. (Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days is a particular favorite.)

But, while the world of adult travel writing is robust and varied, there are almost no works of travel writing that address the experience of children travelling, either coming from the perspective of adults travelling with their children or the perspective of the kids themselves. Which feels like a hugely missed opportunity.

A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Journeys Across America

Wilder’s diaries aren’t just historical nonfiction, but they’re also solid examples of travel writing that’s actually about a young person travelling.

(The only big exceptions to my “no travel writing for kids” argument – that I’m aware of – are Laura Ingalls Wilder’s diaries from her family’s journeys across the American frontier, which, I’ll admit, I haven’t read.)

Personally, I love travelling with my daughter. We’re not an exceptionally well-travelled family, but, whenever I take my daughter somewhere she’s never been before, the best part of the trip is always seeing the place through her eyes. Travelling with a child forces you to adopt an entirely different perspective as a traveler. Because, when you travel with your kid, you have to be both their steadfast travel companion, the person who’s going to lead them out into the big scary world, AND you also have to take on the responsibility of placing that big scary world into context for them.

Because there’s no point in taking your kid to Mount Rushmore if you’re not going to explain who those presidents are. And there’s not much point taking them abroad if you’re not planning on talking with them about the similarities and differences between their home culture and the cultures they’re visiting.

It was after finishing one of Michael Palin’s travelogues that I decided that I wanted to find some travel memoirs to share with my daughter. I wanted to show her that kids travel all the time and I wanted to show her that the kid-perspective on travelling to Paris is probably very different than the experience of a forty-year-old professional travel writer. I imagined sharing with her true stories of families biking across Africa together or a parent’s recollections of a son’s first trip to London or the travel diaries of a ten-year-old Army brat recounting her adventures at military bases across the globe. And… yeah, I didn’t find anything like that.

If you Google “travel writing for kids,” the results aren’t very satisfying. There are a lot of sites with instructions on how to get your kid to keep a travel journal, tips on travelling with kids, blog posts about how travelling with kids sucks, and biographies of travel writers who have kids themselves, but you won’t find any particularly substantial examples of travel memoirs about a kid actually travelling.  The first search result I found for “travel writing for kids” is actually a syllabus for teaching travel writing to 9-12 graders, but the course’s recommended reading list is just a collection of standard adult travel classics.

We’re Doing What for Summer Vacation?

I’m so surprised that there aren’t more memoirs like this available for young readers…

(I did find ONE example of a self-published travel memoir written by a nine-year-old and her mom called We’re Doing WHAT for Summer Vacation, a travelogue that recounts their family’s summer trip across Borneo together. It sounds fascinating and I’m probably going to order it for my daughter on principle alone, but it’s a pretty major outlier.)

If you go to Amazon and do a book search on “travel writing” and then limit your search to the 328 books in the “Children’s Books” category, again, the results leave much to be desired. The first result is Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City’s Most Colorful Neighborhoods by Florent Chavouet, a gorgeous, absolutely BRILLIANT visual travel diary that… has nothing to do with kids. The remaining results are an odd mixture of travel journal workbooks, Magic Tree House titles, and Flat Stanley books.

I KNOW there are children travelling out there in the big scary world and I know there are parents travelling with their kids in the big scary world all the time. I just wish more of them were writing about their experiences in a format that I could share with my daughter. She’s endlessly curious about the world and, I think, would LOVE to hear what it was like for kids, just like her, to journey to new and mysterious lands and how those travels made them think, feel, and experience life differently.

SO I’m really hoping that the problem here is my completely inferior web-searching skills. If you, dear readers, know of ANY examples of wonderful travel writing that either address the experience of travelling with kids OR are written from the perspective of a child, PLEASE share them with me in the comments section BELOW. I’d love to read them and I’d love to make them easier for other curious parents to find as well.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Maureen C Bruschi September 11, 2018 at 11:41 am

I’m in the final stages of a memoir entitled: Istanbul and Beyond in the ’60s: A Kid’s View of Living Overseas”. My story is about my experiences and memories as an eleven year old living overseas with my family during my dad’s two year assignment with the US government. I tell a story about my family learning, growing and adjusting to change together as we faced religious, political and cultural challenges throughout our journey.


Arna February 24, 2016 at 6:20 am

My girls (4 and 6 y.o.) and I spend our summers in Iceland. With tourism growing and people getting more interested in Iceland, I thought last summer ” I have to write a book about -travel to Iceland with kids, what to see, what to do …”


Jackie Clark Mancuso February 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm

I’ve written two travel books for kids, about the experiences of an American dog living in France.


Ann February 8, 2015 at 4:09 pm

I found that the title ‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’ has strands which match travel writing, albeit it is not a travel memoir as such.


Erik K. May 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm

This does sound like a great writing project for kids. Kids have lots of thoughts and ideas they want to share. They just need to get it all down on paper.

Here is a first hand account of a trip to Paris.


Sandy S. December 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels. Out of print, alas, and dated, but a favorite of mine.


neal October 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm

This is a really interesting question, Tom. I’m thinking hard and the only thing that comes to mind is the book “Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure.” I haven’t read it, but it’s on my list. I hope my daughter loves hiking, though we’ve only barely scratched the surface . . .


Tom B. October 7, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Oh, awesome. Thanks for the suggestion, Neal!

I should also mention that I also got a great recommendation via Facebook for “Are We There Yet?” by Alison Lester, a fictional picture book that is based on the author’s real-life travels around Australia with her family. It looks pretty great.


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