Armchair travels: 7 family-friendly movies to inspire wanderlust

Dreaming of far away lands? Armchair travels have been the only type of travel for many of us for the past couple of years. Take a virtual trip with these wanderlust-inspiring family-friendly movies.

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Armchair travels: Family-friendly movies to inspire wanderlust

Not to get too hippy dippy on you, but Kuki Gallman’s life captured in her phenomenal book ‘I dreamed of Africa’ felt like it spoke to my soul and subsequently inspired my honeymoon – 4 months spent travelling across the African continent.

Unfortunately, I think the movie version fell flat, but this travelling inspired by art is a wonderful way to travel. That and the fact that family travel movies are a fun (and sometimes essential if you’re hungover and in need of some kind of low maintenance kiddy entertainment) way to introduce your kiddos to different countries, cultures, exotic animals and give them itchy feet.

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting some kind of fungal infection, just some good ol’ armchair travels/family home entertainment to get them excited about exploring the world. So plonk yourself in front of a screen – grab the popcorn, snuggle down and prepare for a virtual adventure with these wanderlust-inspiring movies for kids.

Armchair travels - Polynesia


Moana is the daring daughter of the village chief who breaks the rules and responds to her strong desire to explore beyond the reef of her island, Motunui. Descended from voyagers – ancient Polynesians who were phenomenal way-finders and ocean explorers – for years she can’t understand why the sea ‘calls’ her, until she discovers how her ancestors lived  – travelling thousands of miles across the ocean – and determinedly sets sail into the great unknown to find the heart of Te Fiti with demigod Maui.

The music, which includes Samoan and Tokelauan lyrics alongside big beating drums and catchy Disney tunes – will bring the South Pacific into your living room. If this movie is your remedy for a dreary afternoon, the unbelievably realistic clear turquoise waters, idyllic landscapes, vibrant flora and milky sunsets inspired by Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, will have the whole family dreaming of tropical travels.



Pensioner Carl Fredricksen and his late wife shared an unfulfilled wish – to visit Paradise Falls, a place that seems to resemble somewhere in South America. The film poignantly follows Fredricksen’s bid to make honour her memory and make that dream a reality along with a boy called Russell, a rare bird named Kevin and a lot of balloons. It’s said the Pixar animators spent time in Venezuela to draw inspiration for the film and the spectacular Tepui that acts as the backdrop for the movie, plus the underlying message – don’t put off  your dreams before it’s too late – will definitely leave your family longing to jet away on a South American exploration right now.

Up movie poster

Finding Nemo

This movie takes takes place largely beneath the waves, following the adventures of some brave little fish. This family film has probably done wonders for the popularity of clown fish and tang fish all over the world and the gorgeous colours of the tropical sea creatures can’t fail to get youngsters excited about exploring the undersea world. The surfer dude sea turtle riding the East Australian current is sure to have you and your little ones craving some ocean activities.

Thailand snorkelling with fish underwater
Nemo cartoon

The Lion King

“Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! Sithi uhm ingonyama”…I defy anyone who doesn’t feel an instant longing to be transported to the Pride Lands of East Africa with the opening bars of Circle of Life. This Disney classic showcases the beautiful African Savannah and wild, roaming beasts that live within its realm. The catchy soundtrack is a great basic introduction to a bit of Swahili – namely Hakuna Matata (it really does mean no worries) and watching the captivating rural landscapes and abundance of animals will have you itching to save up for a family safari after watching this movie.

From the travel diaries: my scariest travel moment
the lion king movie


Fiery-haired and courageous Merida is an archery aficionado, accomplished horse rider and medieval Celtic princess. A headstrong girl – as is thankfully becoming the norm in recent Disney movies, she wants more to life than just being married off to strange suitors for political clan reasons and sets in motion a series of events to change her destiny.

The rugged, mountainous and breathtaking scenery of the Scottish Highlands make a mesmerising backdrop for the movie, reflecting Scotland in all its glory. The enchanting DunBroch castle, mysterious stone circle and traditional highland games, will have you yearning for a remote Scottish escape (and if you need some inspiration check out my Isle of Skye or Isle of Mull posts!).

Walking in the Isle of Mull
Isle of Mull, Scotland
Brave movie


The age-old story of Rapunzel gets a fresh and chucklesome makeover to make it entertaining watching for both adults and young kids. Aside from the disturbing tale at it’s heart – an old woman stealing a baby girl and locking her in a tower for 18 years – Rapunzel seems remarkably unscathed by this traumatic experience and her ever-optimistic outlook on life and excitement to explore the outside world are infectious. Watching this family movie reminds viewers that the great outdoors and all it has to offer are something we mustn’t take for granted.

Tangled movie

Surf’s Up

In his hometown of Shiverpool in Antartica, penguin Cody (Shia Lebeouf) is totally surf-obsessed. When a talent scout pitches up look for budding wave riders for the ‘Big Z Memorial’, Cody seizes his chance and travels to the idyllic island of Pen Gu – a far cry from his icy home with its jungle, sandy beaches, warm sunshine and perfect waves.

Alongside the voices of Jeff Bridges and Zooey Deschanel, real-life surfers Kelly Slater and Rob Machado also star, giving the film some serious surf legend kudos. As the surf competition unfolds, the captivating glassy waves, hammock-chilling island lifestyle and beautiful beaches can’t fail to get you itching to hop on a board in tropical climes yourself.

Surf Reunion Island
Surf's up movie

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  • Annabel
    September 19, 2018

    I don’t think I’ll ever get to watch any of the movies which feature a girl as the hero, my boys have already decided anything girl-heavy has to be avoided 🙁
    However, I might try Surfs Up, that sounds perfect for parking my four year old in front of!

    • Mama Travels Earth
      September 19, 2018

      Oh no! Maui’s quite cool though in Moana? Surf’s up is a great movie 🙂