However, it made me think of how watching movies set in a certain country or city can help get kids interested in, excited about, and maybe even a little prepared for a trip. The movie might show them what the place looks like, something of how people live there, it could drop in some local phrases, mention foods to eat, and places to go. All of this is stuff that I know would help get my kids excited about a trip.
Here are some kids' movies that I think could help get kids ready for a few different destinations:
Destination: an African safari
Suggested movies: The Lion King and Madagascar (especially Madagascar 2)
The Lion King is the obvious choice, because it introduces your kids to a story inspired by African tales, set in Africa, and with a lot of the animals you would see on safari introduced as well. Madagascar 2 takes place in pretty much the exact same place, just with a lot more jokes. My kids love The Lion King and the Madagascar movies, though The Lion King definitely made a bigger impression: Mufasa's death scene will do that.
Destination: Australia, or any trip to tropical waters
Suggested movie: Finding Nemo
This is maybe my favorite Pixar movie, and the way it showcases the underwater world of the coral reef makes it perfect for watching if you're headed anywhere in the world where you might go snorkelling with your kids. If you're visiting Australia and specifically Sydney, you could have fun finding some of the places from the movie.
Destination: Paris, France
Suggested movies: Ratatouille and Madeline
Both of these movies are set in Paris, and as an added bonus, Ratatouille deals with French cooking. Sampling some of the foods mentioned in the movie while you're in France also be a lot of fun. Madeline also takes place in Paris, and shows off several of the places you'd go sightseeing while visiting the city.
Destination: London, England
Suggested movies: all the Harry Potter movies
While most of the action in the Harry Potter stories takes place at Hogwarts and various magical places, a lot of it also plays out in "plain old London". Of course, there are even organized Harry Potter tours in London.
Destination: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Suggested movie: Rio
My kids loved this movie about a parrot who returns to his native Brazil after growing up in the American Midwest. I loved it too, partly because it pained such a vivid image of Rio de Janeiro: samba, the carnival, music, food, and the whole city from the beaches to the favelas.
Suggested movies: My neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away
Both these movies take place partly in the real world of today's Japan, and partly in an imaginary fantasy and spirit realm as imagined by director Hayao Miyazaki. There is a lot of the real Japan in these movies though, for example the way the houses look, the food that's eaten and so on. Both movies also teach any viewer something about Japanese spirituality and folklore. My kids love both of these movies, and right now we're watching Totoro on an almost daily basis.
Destination: Hawaii, specifically the island of Kauai
Suggested movie: Lilo and Stitch
This is such a wonderful, funny, and touching story and it also gives you a look at the way locals live and work in Hawaii, rather than focusing on the touristy side of things. The "tourists" that feature most in this story are aliens from another part of the universe after all... Lots of real places are shown in the movie, and it would definitely be fun to seek them out with the kids.
Destination: road-trip in the United States
Suggested movie: Bolt
This is definitely a road movie, with Bolt having to travel across the entire country, from New York to California, by car, truck, and camper. My kids occasionally try to stick their heads out the car window and stick their tongues out like Bolt does, which I guess is one way to be inspired by this movie.
If you're looking for other ways to connect the world of movies, books and stories to trips you're making, there are also some guidebooks that can help, for example:
- Storied City: A Children's Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City
- Storybook Travels: From Eloise's New York to Harry Potter's London, Visits to 30 of the Best-Loved Landmarks in Children's Literature
- Once Upon a Time in Great Britain: A Travel Guide to the Sights and Settings of Your Favorite Children's Stories