Your family doesn't need to leave home to be transported to another place when you watch movies together that focus on traveling or that take place in a dreamy destination. As a travel enthusiast who loves to explore the world through cinema with my children, here are my picks for the ten best travel movies for kids that parents will love too.
1. Finding Nemo
This is the ultimate “road trip” movie even though Finding Nemo‘s journey takes place under the sea. When clown fish Nemo is scooped from the sea and plopped in to a dentist's aquarium, he sets his sights on returning to his dad, Marlin, in the ocean. Comic relief is provided by forgetful fish Dory as Marlin travels from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney, Australia to find his boy, encountering obstacles and dangers along the way.
Whereas earlier Disney movies showed princesses as pretty females awaiting savior from their princes, Pixar's Brave is about an independent and brave young princess, Merida, fighting for her right to choose her own destiny. When Merida's wish to turn her mother into a bear comes true, this cautionary tale demonstrates the importance of appreciating your parents. The story takes place in Scotland with much plaid, kilts, gorgeous green scenery and lilting accents. All mothers should watch this movie with their daughters.
This musical, created in 1965, still enraptures audiences of all ages today. Set in Salzburg, Austria before World War II, the von Trapp family and their nanny, Sister Maria, sing their way into our hearts against the backdrop of gorgeous, sweeping views of the Austrian Alps. It's a long movie and can be slow-moving at times for young viewers, but my children love to sing along with its famous songs like “Do-Re-Mi” and “My Favorite Things.” The Sound of Music enthusiasts can even sign up for a Sound of Music Tour in Austria to visit firsthand the beautiful sites featured in this movie.
I have never been to Rio de Janeiro, but every time I watch this movie I want to samba off to Brazil. My family's favorite part is the introduction scene with a kaleidoscope of colorful birds flying in unison to upbeat music. The story moves from Minnesota to Rio, with Blu the male Blue Macaw and his owner Linda. These two main characters find love with counterparts of their own species after much drama caused by a bird-stealing thug and his own mean bird. The movie takes place during Carnival, with plenty of samba dance scenes, feathered costumes and decorated floats.
The artwork, music and characters of this movie impart an authentic Hawaiian feel even though it has an otherworldly storyline with an alien, Stitch, being chased by the CIA. Lilo & Stitch takes place on Kauai and stars Lilo, a rambunctious little girl, who is an excellent hula dancer and surfer that is a bit of an outcast amongst her peers. She bonds with Stitch, whom she and her 19-year-old sister, Nani adopt from an animal shelter. The sisters' parents are deceased and the two girls fight like, well, sisters. The theme of this story is all about “ohana.” As Lilo says, “Ohana means family, family means no one gets left behind. Or forgotten.”
As a lover of all things French, Ratatouille is my cup of café au lait. In Paris, a rat name Remy longs to become a French chef. He befriends a young restaurant worker, Linguini, and “mentors” his human friend in the ways of preparing fine French cuisine. Although it is a rat who is doing the cooking, by the end of the movie you will be craving French cheese, soup, omelets, and, of course, ratatouille (a Provencal dish made from tomatoes, garlic, onions, egg plant, bell peppers, and spices).
The best part of this movie is the first scene, which depicts main character Carl Fredricksen as an 8-year-old boy meeting his future wife, Ellie. His wife-to-be is a tomboy who teaches Carl about a renowned world explorer and the vast adventures available to those willing to dream. In a matter of minutes, we watch these two sweet children meet, fall in love with each other and with the idea of travel, marry, attempt (unsuccessfully) to start a family, grow old…and then Ellie dies, breaking poor Carl's heart. Enter Wilderness Explorer Russell, a little boy who flies with now elderly Fredricksen to South America, via a house lifted aloft by thousands of small helium balloons. They reach the fictional South American Paradise Falls, for which Ellie had longed to visit her whole life. This story is about letting go of things you cannot change and following your passions today, before it's too late.
The second in a series of two movies about African bushman Xixo, this movie focuses primarily on his children. His adorable tots, Xiri and Xisa climb aboard a truck in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, mistakenly thinking it is an animal of some sort since they had never before seen such a vehicle. When they are transported far from home, their father chases after them, encountering and saving dullard Westerners along the way. The only PG movie of the bunch, The Gods Must Be Crazy II is so rated for some mild violence and a couple of scenes where the female lead is shown in her bra and underpants (for comedic affect more than titillation). The movie's message about the importance of family provides a great learning lesson for youngsters.
Inspired by “The Snow Queen” story by Hans Christian Andersen, Frozen will melt your heart with its endearing princess sisters, Elsa and Anna, and their lovable snowman friend, Olaf. The story takes place in the fictional town of Arendelle, which was designed by Disney to resemble the port town of 19th century Bergen, Norway. The traditional Norwegian costumes and architecture will transport viewers to Scandinavia as they sing along to the movie's inspirational song, “Let it Go.”
10. White Fang
Based on the novel by American novelist Jack London, White Fang is named for the story's main animal character, a wolf-dog who is often mistreated by humans. Eventually he is adopted by Jack, a young man who earns the wary canine's trust and affection. The movie is filmed beautifully in Alaska's Yukon. White Fang shows children the importance of being kind to animals.
What are your family's favorite travel movies for kids? Let us know in the comments!
A Note from the Travel Mama: This post contains links to the Travel Mamas Store. This story was originally published in 2012 and then updated in 2016.