The 10 Best Travel Games
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? ARE WE THERE YET? Keep your children happy, relaxed, and amused (instead of cranky, noisy, and irritable) on your next road trip, rail trip, or airplane journey with one of these highly portable travel games. We've included options great for both kids and adults, ranked here by entertainment value and ease of gameplay when on the move. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 16, 2019:
To adhere to a stricter definition of the travel game, we ruled out the portable table tennis setup by Trademark Innovations, as it couldn't be played until you arrived at your destination. We also saw the travel Connect 4 fall out of the ranking for issues related to its ability to release its checkers at the end of the game, as well as overall durability.
Among new additions, we've included a very addictive game called Spot It, which leverages alterations in the way human vision perceives the size and orientation of images to create a highly competitive matching game. We also brought in Monopoly Deal, which captures a lot of what's great about the board game and translates it into a card game that plays much more quickly. We updated our Battleship entry to the game's latest variant, as well, which introduces airplanes to the classic battlefield.
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Fun For The Whole Trip
Now, these don’t have to actually enlist all the members of a traveling party as players in order to be successful.
If you’ve ever traveled with a group — be it with friends or family — you know that long hours spent together in a confined space can be hazardous to your relationships. That’s not just anecdotally supported, either. NASA has conducted research for decades into the psychological effects of social isolation and limited social groups for long periods. That research as been renewed with great vigor in recent years, as we attempt to send humans to Mars.
Consistently over the course of the research, individuals became more depressed, less emotionally stable, and prone to disengage from one another as a way of coping. While a long car ride or an extended layover might not be the stuff of intergalactic nightmares, miniature versions of these disorders naturally crop up; passengers become tired, moody, and disengaged rather quickly.
The real tragedy here is that all it would take to keep that social stress from occurring is a little curating, a little organization to keep the trip as lively and engaging as possible throughout. This usually starts with a good playlist, ideally comprised of songs not just for the driver, but that have an emotional and even a nostalgic resonance with the group. If you have a good portable DVD player, you can also put a movie on for the kids in the backseat and spend some quality time up front with your spouse.
To get the whole group involved, however, you need a good travel game. Now, these don’t have to actually enlist all the members of a traveling party as players in order to be successful. The gameplay itself will raise the morale in the vehicle or at the terminal as a whole. Of course, if the game can directly involve all of the travelers, this is ideal.
Classic travel games required no additional components. These were games like I Spy and License Plate, which travelers could play by just looking out the window. These games have their limitations, however. I Spy gets old fast when driving across the empty plains of Nebraska. License Plate is tough to play when you’re the only car on the road, or you’re stuck in a terminal or hotel room.
That’s why a good travel game — many of which are smaller versions of classic board games — are so useful. They can get everyone involved in a rousing game that has more variety than the type of games mentioned above. You can also play them anywhere, from the back seat of your car and the floor of an airport terminal to the beach or the hotel room.
The Best Travel Games For Your Journey
The first and best thing to realize when evaluating potential travel games for a given journey is that you don’t need to limit yourself to just one. Sure, packing space may be somewhat limited, but these games are generally built as small as they can be without sacrificing their playability, so you should be able to invest in several. That becomes a particularly important feature when you account for the fact that not everyone’s taste in games is the same. If you have two kids that love one style of play, and a third that absolutely hates it, that child’s mood can sink the entire trip. The best thing to do is to make sure there are games available that everyone will like, and to enforce a cold, scientific rotation that is impermeable to the wavering logic of children.
This part of the selection process comes down to knowing the personalities of your fellow travelers, as well as the total count of potential players. As we mentioned above, the more people you can get directly involved in the game, the better. If you’ve got a bunch of brainiacs traveling with you, then games that engage the mind will be most welcome — think chess or scrabble. These have the adverse effect of dramatically alienating anyone who harbors feelings of intellectual inferiority, however, so make sure you have something on hand that’s a little simpler. Whatever you do, though, don’t outwardly label the activities based on their required intelligence.
Simpler games usually have the added benefit of including more players. When I was a kid, my mother would print up Bingo sheets based on landmarks and other things she knew we’d probably run into on the road. You can buy such games premade now, so you can save yourself the effort. Simple word or card games are also great ways to include everyone, regardless of their brainpower.
Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Travel Games
Once you’ve amassed a good collection of travel games, you’ll want to maximize your efficiency in packing and deploying them to ensure you get the most out of them. If your collection has become rather large, it might be a good idea to lay the games out on your bed and consider devoting a bag for their transport. A backpack or small piece of luggage dedicated to the transportation of your travel games will make them easy to access at any point in the trip. You can keep the bag in the backseat between two kids, or (if the collection is small enough) fit the whole set into a kids’ backpack and have one of the little monsters carry it.
Some travel games are acutely aware of how easy it is to lose pieces that are vital to gameplay, and these games will often include secure, space-saving storage options.
While you’re getting organized for the trip, completely open each game and investigate its built-in storage. Some travel games are acutely aware of how easy it is to lose pieces that are vital to gameplay, and these games will often include secure, space-saving storage options. Others, however, leave you to your own devices, and it will behoove you to organize these pieces yourself before you leave. The best device for the task? Tackle boxes.
A tackle box has a slew of small, easily labeled compartments of varying size, allowing you to organize and store small game pieces in one convenient location. There are even fishing backpacks out there that have large internal compartments for bigger games and game pieces, but that also fit tackle box drawers into additional pockets. A fishing backpack might be the perfect bag to dedicate to your travel games.