30 Sep 6 of the best travel games to pack and play
The very best travel games can make a holiday or even a short getaway. Discover my favourites – compact, easy to play, endlessly competitive and great for friends and families – in this post.
When it comes to things always worth packing, travel games rank surprisingly high on my list. And they should be on yours too.
Staycation or railway station, campsite or hotel night, travel games are the saviour of quiet evenings, wet afternoons, waiting for planes and making new friends. Whether you’re travelling solo, with family or with friends, a great travel game is one of the easiest ways to have fun and make memories. As an added bonus, they’re often the perfect way to fill lost time and rescue situations when plans may have to change – like when bad weather strikes.
The best travel games never get old, and call out to be played time and time again. Sometimes simple, sometimes deceptively challenging, they’re straightforward enough to need few resources and a little space – but punch well above their weight in terms of entertainment and enjoyment.
In this post I’m sharing my absolute favourite travel games. Tried and tested, you’ll find something for everyone here – kids and big kids alike. Pocket-sized fun for family holidays, friendly get-togethers and travelling time. Let’s roll the dice to start…
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What makes a good travel game?
There’s a million and one great games out there, but not all of them cut the mustard when it comes to travel. So before I begin, here’s what I think makes an ideal travel game;
- Compact and easy to pack. Ideally small enough to throw in a rucksack or hand luggage. No complicated components or small parts to cause confusion
- Simple and easy to learn. Because half the fun is in teaching your friends and family and getting everyone involved. If it’s too complicated, you’re less likely to give it a go
- Sociable. You want games that inspire conversation, get you giggling and even better – help you to make new friends or get to know yours better
- Strategic. If you’re looking to pass time and get maximum enjoyment from just one or two games, you want something you can get your teeth into. This doesn’t mean it needs to be complex, but it should inspire some friendly rivalry
- Inexpensive. Let’s face it, we’ve all lost a pack of playing cards somewhere (on an Easyjet flight from Berlin. I rather miss them). Chances are, something might get misplaced if you’re away from home. It also helps if it’s not a big investment, you’re more likely to take a chance on it.
Looking for more packing tips? Don’t forget you can find all my travel packing guides here.
Best for: Families, couples, hand luggage only travel
Easy to stuff in your travel bag, easy to learn, family-friendly and endlessly competitive, Uno is a well-loved classic for all ages and for good reason.
This Italian card game is deceptively simple but can be played strategically for surprise results. The game is played in short rounds which move fast. Play in a pair or with a larger group for more unexpected winners. Keep score and you can challenge one another other the course of an evening or a whole trip. Younger kids will be able to pick this up from the age of 6 or 7, but adults will love it too.
Best for: Older families, small groups of friends, suitcase travels
The ultimate game for wet afternoons when you’re away. Pour yourself a coffee, or a cheeky glass of red, and settle down for word game packed with strategy and creativity.
Large format board games might not be an obvious choice for travel. But I’d strongly recommend investing in a Travel Scrabble board that’s smaller in size and folds to take up less space (and provides secure storage for your Scrabble tiles). It’s well worth the extra effort.
Travel Scrabble is the game of choice in my family, and I have immensely fond memories of playing this together, whiling away wet afternoons or soaking up evening sunsets accompanied by a little light competition and a glass of wine. None of us can spell, but it doesn’t stop us enjoying a little tactical wordplay.
Cards Against Humanity
Best for: Friends, larger groups, anyone not easily offended and those with a darker sense of humour
I had to include Cards Against Humanity. I’ve had too much fun playing this not too. It might be a divisive choice for some – it’s more than a little rude in places. It isn’t one to pick to play with your Nan. But with the right crowd, my goodness it’s funny.
This card game deals out phrases to pair up with unlikely questions. The aim is to find the funniest, most unexpected response. Sometimes surreal, sometimes dark, sometimes laugh out loud hilarious – its very hard to get bored of. And if you do, simply add an expansion pack to broaden your options for obscenity and obscurity.
This is a longer game that’s perfect for a crowd. Best saved for when you’re in your own space as some answers aren’t recommended for younger or more sensitive ears.
Best for: Families, couples, hand luggage only travel
Yahtzee is a super-competitive, easy to learn and surprisingly fun dice game that both kids and adults can enjoy.
A refreshing change from card games, the only ingredients you need to play are five dice and a scoring sheet. You could take notes on a scrap of paper or on your phone at a pinch.
The aim of the game is to roll a series of different number combinations during the game. An hefty element of luck plays into this, but there are strategic choices to be made too, keeping players gripped beyond the first roll. It’s a great game for mixed groups of players – friends or families. Kids can take on grown-ups and groups of adults can play tactically for bragging rights.
Anything you can play with a standard pack of playing cards
Best for: Everyone, almost anywhere
The ultimate standby for every situation, a standard pack of playing cards can provide unlimited fun for any number of players.
Classic easy-to-play games are great for new players, kids and times when you’re looking for something quick and easy to play, like when you’re waiting for a train or plane. Try Snap, Cheat, Spoons or Rummy – and play multiple rounds to crown an overall champion.
For those looking for a little more challenge or strategy, card games like Kings in the corner, Whist or Canasta will get you thinking and plotting against your fellow players.
Solo players can pit their wits against variations on Solitaire and Patience that are surprisingly addictive.
It wasn’t so long ago that you would have relied upon a fellow traveller to teach you the rules to a new card game. If you’re able to teach new card game, you’ll always receive a commendable amount of kudos from those around you. But with the internet at our fingertips, if you fancy trying something new just have a quick search online for the rules and give it a go. You might find a new favourite.
The name game
Best for: Larger families or groups of friends
This last recommendation isn’t one you might expect to see on this list. It’s not possible to pick it up in a shop. It’s also entirely possible that it goes by other names. But The Name Game is my absolute favourite and has provided more evenings of fun that I can begin to count in ski chalets, hostels and bunkhouses. I was introduced to it by friends on a freezing getaway to rural Cornwall many years ago, and it’s never lost it’s shine.
All you need are some slips of paper (four or five per player, or team if there are more than seven or eight of you), pens and a bowl or hat to put the slips in.
Each team or player writes down the name of a famous person or character on each slip of paper given to them. These are placed in the bowl or hat.
Three rounds are played in this order.
Round one: Describe your character
Each team or player is given one minute to pull names from the hat and describe the person without sharing their name. If the other players guess correctly, you get a point and keep the slip. If the others can’t guess, put the name back in the hat. When the minute is up, pass the hat to the next player and repeat. Keep going until all the names have been guessed. Tot up everyone’s scores and put the slips back in the hat.
Round two: One word
Round two works in exactly the same way. You’re guessing the same names again. However, it’s made more fiendish as your description can only be one word. This isn’t as tricky as it sounds, because with luck you’ll have remembered some of the names from the first round. If you’ve had one too many glasses of wine, it can be more challenging.
Round three: Charades
Yes, round three works in the same way, only this time no words are allowed – only actions. Act out the names to earn points, and at the end of the game tot up a total score for players or teams.
This game is a great icebreaker for getting to know people, plus it’s a really good laugh. Players need to be up for having a bit of fun but it’s really adaptable to different ages and audiences. You can even pick a theme – like sportspeople or characters from books – to give things a twist.
Your new favourite travel game
Whilst you could always do a mad dash around duty-free or keep your fingers crossed that your host has great taste in games, I’d recommend picking up a few classics from Amazon before you go;
That’s my favourites, now what about yours?
I’d love to hear of anything new – or new to me. Especially those that are easy to pack and play well time and time again. Share your top picks in the comments below, or hop over to Girl with a Saddle Bag on Facebook.