Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.
While many of us aren’t traveling nearly as much as we once were, but are simultaneously looking for ways to keep our kids busy and engaged at home, various activity subscription services have gotten our attention. For a traveling family missing life on the road, none are more on-brand than Little Passports.
I first heard about Little Passports when my oldest child was a toddler. I was excited to sign her up as I wanted her to be curious about places around the world and thought this might inspire conversations about places she’d never been to. So, when she was 3-years-old, I registered her for a one-year subscription. The signature bright suitcase arrived in early 2018, and we’re now happy to share how it went.
After 12 packages of the Early Explorer kits focused around themes from homes to sports, I learned a few things about how to maximize a subscription service with young kids. TPG has also now tried out the USA Edition for kids aged 7–12 years of age.
What is a Little Passports subscription?
Little Passports offers subscription-based deliveries that focus on travel-related themes for children in the following age groups: 3 to 5 (Early Explorers), 6 to 10 (World Edition) and 7 to 12 for the USA Edition. They also have other science, summer camp and non-travel focused kits and subscriptions available.
You can subscribe monthly at a slightly more expensive per package rate or opt for 6- or 12-month plans that typically come at a discount and potentially with some bonus months included. There are add-on products — like dolls, books and activity games — that you can purchase for an additional fee.
For the Early Explorer subscription kit, the delivery begins with the arrival of a suitcase that’s packed with a few items. In the case of the Early Explorers’ suitcase, there is a wall-sized world map, luggage tag, stickers, activity booklet and welcome letter. Throughout the subscription, additional packages will arrive that include other fun souvenirs, activity booklets, stickers for dressing up the suitcase and map, and more.
Testing the Early Explorers kit
The Little Passports map is bright, colorful and easy for my kids to understand. We talked a lot about places both related to the Little Passports kits (Where do people like to play soccer?) and other topics (Where does Peppa Pig live?). This will stay in our playroom for a long time.
The kits provided stuff (cards, games, activity books) around topics that I don’t usually think to talk about. So, in that way, it did inspire conversations.
A mixed bag
Each kit we received in the Early Explorers collection contained a toy, playing cards, a sticker for your suitcase, two activity books (one with little puzzles to solve and one “flashlight adventure,” where you find different pictures related to the topic) and stickers to add to your map. My daughter liked the stickers, the flashlight adventure, the activity books and the toy. She didn’t care about the cards. This may have been her age. At 4, she’s not into collections yet, so the cards may go over better with older kids.
Some of the activities in the books were not challenging and were color-coded. By this, I mean that the house with the orange outline in column one matched with the orange continent in column two. So, while my 4-year-old completed the activity books mostly independently, was she actually thinking about what kind of house would be in Europe versus Africa? I don’t think so.
The conversations that the kits did inspire were limited to the 15 minutes, or so, that my daughter spent looking at the materials and completing the activity book and rarely came up again. It did not inspire the general curiosity about the world that I’d hoped for. That said, she was only 4.
There are some things that I could have done to make the subscription a bigger part of our year, so that isn’t totally on the kit itself. Since this series was reviewed in a busy pre-pandemic world, it might be easier now to put more emphasis on the kits.
TPG’s Summer Hull tested the USA Edition, geared to kids aged 7–12 and focused exclusively on the states across the U.S. With this subscription, each month you’ll receive a two-sided workbook that features two different states.
Inside the books, that are likely pretty self-explanatory for many independent readers in this age range, you’ll find facts, quizzes, games, crossword puzzles and more that all relate to the state at hand. The book is probably too much to do in one sitting but could be finished over multiple days.
Our 10-year-old tester had fun doing the books but did grumble a bit at times that it felt like school … which makes it a great social studies or geography lesson to work in some of this current schooling at home life.
Tips for maximizing Little Passports
Little Passports may be a really good fit for your kids, especially right now while many of us are mostly at home instead of on the road. If you do subscribe, here are some tips:
Pick the right subscription
In our TPG Family Facebook group, multiple families praised Little Passports for their kids, but note those kids were all in the 3–7 age range. Pay close attention to the recommended ages for each type of subscription so you don’t end up with something that your older child thinks is “for babies.”
Conversely, don’t expect your young children to independently make the most of the subscriptions by themselves, at least until probably around age 7 or so.
Use the map
This is one thing we did right. Post the map in a place that you’ll see it daily and can refer to it often. If you’re really good, you can add your own stickers to show where your family is from, where you’ve visited and any other ideas to make the map more relevant to your child’s life.
Set aside one-on-one time, if you can
The times when I liked the subscription the best were when I saved the package for a rainy day and we took time to open it and explore it together. For my 4-year-old, with two younger siblings, this was one thing that she got that was just hers, and that was valuable.
The benefit of subscription services like Little Passports is the opportunity to connect. If you can take time to read about upcoming themes (reading books about places around the world, for example), your child will have more to connect with when their Little Passports package about homes or sports arrives.
The idea is that the kids keep everything in their little suitcase, but this did not happen in my house. (Our orange suitcase, quite beat up from use, is in the kid’s dress-up area.) If you want to help your kid prioritize a subscription, create a way to keep and organize the materials (like the playing cards) so you can revisit everything they’ve gotten over the subscription year.
Get your kids a real passport
As your children learn about the world through their Little Passports subscription, you may decide it’s the right time to get them their own real passports. Here are tips for getting a U.S. passport for your children.
Best way to pay for your Little Passports subscription
There are different types of subscriptions, but to give you an idea of cost, most price at around $15–$18 per month plus shipping.
Little Passports isn’t listed at any of the miles or points online shopping sites at the moment, but you can currently get a 2% cash rebate from Ebates and a 4% rebate from TopCashBack. Otherwise, use the best credit card you have for everyday spending or charge the purchase to a card where you are working toward the minimum spending requirement. Right now, promo code ENJOYSUMMER adds free months to a six- or 12-month new subscription, but search around to see if you can find an even better code.
For us, a full year of Little Passports was a good amount of time and learning. However, I could see us signing up for a different round in the future as the kids get older. With most of us learning at home for now, Little Passports can be a great monthly mailbox treat to look forward to that will both entertain and educate your kiddos.
Have you done Little Passports? What did your kids think about the toys and activities?
Featured image courtesy of Little Passports
Additional reporting by Summer Hull