Gift Guide: Travel Games For Kids
A flight attendant on British Airways once complimented me for playing Go Fish with Tiny Traveler instead of letting her bury her nose in videos while I did the same (which I am guilty of, too, sometimes).
I don’t mind playing games when we travel. Long Flights, car trips, layovers or just waiting for a slow table server can be hard on everyone. Games help the time pass for me, too. And my daughter loves the distraction-free one-on-one time with me and her dad.
Here are 26 Games that we have found work really well for travel because of their portability. You can put them under the tree or use them as stocking stuffers. Your kids will like them so much they’ll want to play them at home, too!
Tip: Sometimes portable games come in very unportable boxes. Read how we use Ziplock bags to get around this.
26 Family Games That Travel Well
Table of contents
Classic Card Games
Conveniently, Melissa & Doug (one of my favorite toy makers) sells a travel pack that includes Go Fish!, Old Maid and Rummy which all feature colorful gender-neutral graphics.
Updating Those Classics
• If you like Uno but want to take things up a notch and practice a little arithmetic, try 7 Ate 9 for your 6-9YOs.
• Twisted Fish from McNeil Designs offers a twist on Go Fish with “zinger” cards that help you get more matches or trip up the other players.
It also has fish cards with crazy names and ridiculous drawings, which Tiny Traveler and her friends found extremely funny when they were younger.
We got it when she was 6. We took the zingers out and reduced the size of the fish to make it more like the traditional game she knew. As she got older we added the cards back in and at 11YO she still plays it!
This is one of those games where the box is twice the size of the card deck, so we don’t travel with the box.
• Wuzzits is Blue Orange’s quirky twist on Go Fish! Instead of matching identical sets players have to create monsters by matching up head and body cards. Another pick for preschool and young school-age kids
• Also from Blue Orange, Niya is a card-based strategy game set in Imperial Japan. The cards are pretty and the goal is to take over the Emperor’s Garden. We haven’t had a chance to try it, but it looks interesting and very portable. Try it with older school-age kids, tweens and maybe teens.
• Spot it! We’ve been hooked on this game for a while. The tiny tins are portable, the rules are simple and there a few variations to the rules to mix things up a bit.
Plus, they seem to come out with a new themed Spot It! every year, including sports teams and Disney characters. Play this throughout the preschool and elementary school years.
• Asmodee’s Dobble is identical to Spot It! and comes in a Harry Potter theme, which will please a variety of ages.
Innovative Card Games
• Coup has been my daughter’s favorite game for a while now. It’s a strategy game that begins with each player getting two cards. Players try to acquire money, keep opponents from acquiring money and take each other. The last person left holding a card wins.
You can play this game for tweens and teens with two people but it’s better with three or more. Rounds can go quickly. You don’t need to put cards down or see each other so it works in a car.
• The popular strategy game Settlers of Catan has a two-player Rivals for Catan card game, where rivals vie for control of the newly settled colony. Two expansion packs mean you won’t get board. And gold sacks let you leave the box home when you go on vacation. Another good choice for tweens and teens.
• If you haven’t played Exploding Kittens, you really need to. It’s another game older kids and tweens love because of the ridiculous drawings and characters on the cards, like TacoCat: a Palindrome.
This is the game you want to have your backpack when you’ve just discovered your flight has been delayed for two hours. It will get you laughing and kill a lot of time. Older school-age kids and tweens.
Other Portable Games
• This or That has been on my wishlist for road-trips for a while now. This game from Peaceable Kingdom/Mindware poses questions: chocolate or vanilla, pool or lake, pizza or pasta and so on. You can guess at each others’ answers or just use the choices to spur discussion. It’s the one game on the list that really works with every age.
Note: I just learned that Mindware isn’t making this game at the moment. Highly disappointing! Hopefully this is a temporary thing. In the meantime, if you find it online, either used or new, scoop it up!
• We forgot to pack games for our trip to the Pacific Northwest, so we picked up Tofu Kingdom in a Portland book store.
After dealing out character tiles, the dealer has to figure out which player is the real Princess Tofu among palace denizens who lie and try to mislead him or her.
It’s the most compact game we own and perfect for tweens and teens. And a round goes very quickly. We play it a lot in restaurants. It’s best with four or more people though.
• The purple Cow’s collection of travel-size games inludes bingo and tic-tac-toe for little kids and chess, backgammon and code-breaking for older kids and teens. They’re all magnetic and all come in slim, light cases you can tuck into bag.
• Blue Orange makes Nada, a dice-based picture-matching game that fits in the palm of your hand and can be adapted for older or younger kids. Another one for preschool to school-age kids.
• Hasbro has a series of mini travel-size versions of its best-sellers. Most of them need a table for play, but they’re handy when you want an easy game everyone is familiar with.
Try compact versions of Boggle, or Yahtzee. Or buy a four-pack that includes surprisingly complete compact versions of Clue, Monopoly, Connect 4 and Hungry Hippos, which cover just about any age kid traveling with you.
It also has a very compact “roadtrip” edition of Battleship for two people sitting next to each other on a plane, train or the backseat of a car. Younger school-age kids usually like it best.
• The Purple Cow has put Memo memory games in assorted themes – dinosaurs, animals, faces and robots – in slim packable tubes you can slip into a suitcase or carry-on.
You need more space to play than a car or plane provides. But they’re so packable it’s worth bringing it along for a rainy day, to fill that downtime between the day’s activities and dinner or to spread out on the floor at the airport. Best with school-age kids.
Gamewright has several clever card games that we’ve gotten a lot of mileage from, including Frog Juice and Sleeping Queens. The challenge is that their games often require spreading cards out, which isn’t always easy when you’re traveling. Most of their games are great for older school-age kids and tweens.
• I’ve never brought Zingo on a plane. It’s an awkward shape but it is small, and an ideal size for a tray table and can kill a lot of time. If your kids really likes it and will play it for a while it might be worth packing. Preschoolers and younger school-age kids love it.
I wouldn’t play it on a plane. But I think it could be fun with a crowd at a beach house. And it’s ideal for picnics, camping, and maybe a beer garden. For school-age and up.