Movies That Inspire Kids to Travel

Movies are great escapes but they also educate and inspire. Whether it’s animated or not, some of their sceneries are enough to ignite our wanderlust. It’s always heartwarming to hear my kids ask “Can we go there?” when watching movies. Movies teach foreign culture, show us languages and food, and also make for great previews to upcoming trips. They make great gifts, but also make winter breaks tolerable by daydreaming of faraway places. Here are some of our favorite movies that inspire kids to travel.

The Sound of Music
This classic musical has been a family favorite for years. As a child, I longed to visit Salzburg, Austria, the stunning backdrop of the movie. We finally visited Salzburg last summer and enjoyed seeing some of the areas used in the movie. My kids loved re-creating some of the movie scenes.

Mirabell Gardens salzburg
The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria.

Lilo & Stitch
We can’t forget Disney’s movie about a girl befriending an alien tied to beautiful Hawaiian scenery. Hula, surfing and Elvis made this an instant favorite with my kids. We’ve watched this movie before a trip to the islands for some inspiration and some “ohana” time. Hawaii never looked more dazzling in watercolor scenes.

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series
Though the story may get a bit complicated for younger kids, JRR Tolkiens’s classics the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its prequel The Hobbit are quite entertaining, and feature New Zealand’s gorgeous, magical landscape prominently in these movies. Visiting the Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand and the real middle-earth is now on our family’s travel wish list.

Karate Kid
I grew up with a different set of Karate Kid movies, but the newest version in 2010 is set in China. It showcased Beijing’s landmarks like temples, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.  The movie may have encouraged some kids to learn some karate, but also a desire to explore China.

Happy Feet
The dancing penguins are adorable with a touching story in this animated film. Kids are inspired to see the marine wildlife featured in the movie and travel to a far-flung place like Antarctica. These expeditions are entirely possible but quite expensive much to my kids’ disappointment. But, there’s also an environmental message about preserving this endangered region and learn more and protect the wildlife.

Miyazaki Classics
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most admired movie makers of our time. If you haven’t seen Totoro, Spirited Away, or any of his other classics, go and watch it now. These movies are at a different level of visual imagery. But, some of them also portray Japan’s breathtaking scenery, language and customs. We visited the Studio Ghibli Museum near Tokyo based on these movies that was an unforgettable experience.

Totoro at the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.
Totoro at the Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo.

Mamma Mia
For kids who like musicals, Mamma Mia is filled with gleeful songs but with some adult themes. The Greek islands provided crystal clear waters and dramatic cliffs as backdrops to this fun movie. My daughter and I love this movie. Dreams of a mother-daughter trip to Greece moves up the travel wish list after watching it every time.

Indiana Jones Series
This classic series was the ultimate travel inspiration of fun and wild adventures for many of us who grew up with it. Who didn’t want to hunt treasures after watching these movies? Indy introduced us to exotic lands, jungles and deserts. It’s a wonderful series to introduce to kids of this generation to get out there and explore.

Ratatouille
Disney’s animated movie was enough to inspire young culinarians and my daughter for some Parisian adventures when it came out in 2007. Paris is featured beautifully in the background and its French cuisine is the heart of the movie. Kids can now follow Remy’s adventures through Parisian streets and sites with the free Ratatouille self-guided walking tour trail maps available at tourist information centers (link prompts you to download a PDF). It’s a unique and wonderful way to explore the City of Lights.

Harry Potter
The boy wizard book series came alive in the Harry Potter movies. Kids can now enter this magical world through Hogsmeade Street, try butterbeer and see Hogwarts Castle at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We had a day in Orlando a couple of years ago and there was no question which park my kids wanted to visit despite being huge Disney fans.

London also serves as a backdrop to the movie.  The studio where the movies were filmed was an easy day trip. One of the things my kids looked forward to visiting in London was the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter (buy tickets in advance). Various Harry Potter tours are also available for fans to see film locations.

Hogwart's Great Hall at The Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter in London.
Hogwart’s Great Hall at The Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter in London.

Recommendation from Robyn D:

Rio
As the title suggests, the 2011 animated film Rio is set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The story features two blue macaws who find themselves captured in a bird smuggling operations and highlights this fabulous South American city during their adventures to find freedom. From the city scenes to the rhythmic soundtrack, you might find yourself shaking your hips to a samba while you book your flights to experience the real-life version of this animated destination.

Recommendation from Tricia P:

Night at the Museum
My kids saw Night at the Museum and asked where they could see such amazing exhibits. There is not a museum in Phoenix as impressive as the American Museum of Natural History where the film was based. We finally took a trip to New York City last year and knew that a visit to that museum was top on our list.

Do you have any movies to add to this list?

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This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Mary S. Are you interested in traveling to ? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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