Dive into Rome with Zig Zag City Guides

 In Books and Movies

Before Dek, Ty and I left for Europe I was scouring the web for things to get Dek excited about our upcoming travels. It’s hard to engage a 3 year old and get him to understand that his world is about to be turned upside down.

I found a few books and videos, but nothing that he could really interact with.

That is until I came across the Zig Zag Guide for Rome.

This beautiful new guide series created and written by Alana Zawojskiby, and illustrated by Jayne Cardinalli, was the perfect complement for our ongoing language learning and cultural exploration.

Even though we would not be going to Rome on our trip, so much of the guide applied to our travels I just had to know more.

What are Zig Zag City Guides? 

Zig Zag City Guides are not your average guidebook. It is actually a stack of cards kids can flip through to learn more about a new city. It comes in a great box that hold the cards in a slot on the left while a pop-up map of the city is on the right.

The cards were certainly not created for your average 3 year old, probably more for the 6-10+ set, but that didn’t stop Dek from devouring the images and little factoids. We even learned a few Italian words.

Adults can also get into this guidebook. The images aren’t overly cutesy; I saw each card as a piece of artwork. I am tempted to frame a few in fact.

My favorite card covered the most important part of any trip to Italy- ordering gelato. Other cards discussed what goes into boarding a plane, activities on the plane as you head to Rome, important words and phrases you should learn before you go, and points of interest in the city like the Campo de’ Fiori, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain.

The cards are durable and able to make the long haul flight to Rome without taking up too much space in your carry on or suitcase.

Activities, quizzes and spots to draw on the back of the cards made these an interactive journey that engaged young travelers as their parents dragged them from one historic sight to another. No more bored, “can we go now” whining; your child could lead the way!

Meet the creator

I contacted Alana, the creator of Zig Zag City Guides, and just had to ask her a few questions about why she decided to start this series in the first place. Here’s what she had to say…

What triggered the idea for the ZigZag Guides?  I was in graduate school a few years ago and needed to select a thesis topic. I decided to combine two things that I’m passionate about—travel and kids. I explored what was available for young travelers and came up short. It inspired me to create travel guides specifically for kids.

How did your travel and design background influenced the guides?  My father worked for the airlines when I was young and we traveled often. My parents made our trips as engaging as possible and as a result, memories of these trips are some of the earliest I have. It definitely made an impression and inspired me to explore as much as possible.

What was your favorite place to travel to as a child?  My earliest childhood memories are of a trip I took to London with my parents. I remember counting cars from atop a double-decker bus, attempting to get the guards at Buckingham Palace to crack a smile, and visiting a toy store.

This is quite an extensive set of cards covering a lot of information not only about Rome but about travel in general. How long did it take you to develop what exactly would be on the cards? What didn’t make the cut?  I went through dozens of prototypes to figure out what content I wanted on the cards. As a kid I needed content to be as interesting and engaging as possible so I designed the cards with that in mind.

It’s really difficult to pick a handful of sites and activities for each guide and inevitably things get left out. I make an effort to include a range of free or affordable activities, important landmarks, and historic sites as well as some opportunity to play and experience the local culture.

We’re considering releasing supplemental decks in the future so families can build on what they have and continue learning at home or on their next trip.

How did you decide on the illustrator?  I did a lot of research and was having trouble finding an illustration style that would be a perfect fit. I stumbled across Jayde’s work on a San Francisco blog called The Bold Italic. Her style was exactly what I was looking for—playful yet sophisticated. I wanted it to appeal to both parents and kids and felt like her illustrations did exactly that. I called Jayde out of the blue to see if she was interested and we’ve been collaborating ever since.

What guides are coming up next?  In addition to San Francisco, Paris and New York City are on the short list. We get a lot of feedback about what we should include next so if you have a suggestion, please email me.

What is your favorite Italian treat?  Cinnamon Gelato. It’s not easy to find but it’s delicious.

Favorite sight in Rome?  The Pantheon. It’s history is fascinating and the space is incredible. I hope to visit when it’s raining so I can see water pass through the oculus and onto the floor.

If you could only go to one place in the world where would it be?  Italy. Its combination of bustling cities, beautiful landscapes, incredible food and culture, fascinating history, and appreciation for life keep me coming back for more.

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Showing 12 comments
  • Lisa

    What a creative city guide for kids! I love that travel guides directed at kids are now being published – when Katie was young there was absolutely nothing!

  • Ame

    Love these city guides! They look like they would entertain even if we’re not going to Rome any time soon. We do fly frequently and could use a new interesting airplane activity.

  • Kirsty

    These are fab! I love the look of them, even though my kids are 11 and 12 I think they’d love them too.

    we’re planning to go to Rome, so these would be great for that.

  • AdventureBee

    I LOVE these!!! My 4yo really enjoys travel options on card decks. We currently have several “City Walks” sets where she randomly picks things to do. Now we must get these to try out. We’re going to start off with SF as we live there part-time. It’d be great to try some new adventures!!!

  • Janina

    I’ve been drooling over these for awhile. I’d love to have one and welcome back!

    • Janina

      Oops, didn’t read the question. Any of them would be good, but San Francisco would be great!

      • © Keryn Means/ walkingon travels

        Actually this was my fault. I forgot to change the question on the giveaway! It is just for the Rome guide.

  • Vicki

    Oh I love anything that keeps kids entertained and interested in a location and these look sooooo cute! I particularly want the Rome one because when I was travelling Europe in 2010 we had a death in the family and I had to return home a few days earier meaning I missed out on exploring Rome. My husband has always promised to take me back and I plan on making him keep his word. This time however we will have a munchkin in tow instead of in the belly so I will be keen to know how to keep him entertained and stimulated. Thanks for making this an international comp! 🙂

  • Sue Mines

    Ohhhh. Pick me Pick me!!!

  • Caro

    Would love these for my kids!

  • Jessie

    Such a great idea my kids would love love love these!

  • Jenna

    Love it. I am always looking for books that bring culture and history to children.