- 16 Classic & New Tabletop Games For Absolutely Everyone in Your Family
- Small Games With Tiles
- Innovative Card Games
- Classic Games To Go
- Pin it for later!
Our game cabinet is full of compact, portable card games and travel board games. We like to play game. And when we’re on our family vacation we have time to enjoy them that we don’t always find at home.
Games help pass the time for all of us on long flights, during layovers, in the car or just waiting for a slow table server. We play them at night in our hotel room or the lounge if the hotel has one. We keep one with us to play in bars and cafés over afternoon drinks and snacks or while waiting for meals.
They’re part of our vacation bonding experience. And they have been since we began bringing Old Maid cards on airplanes to play with our tiny preschooler.
Here are 16 card, tile and board games that we have found work really well for travel because of their portability and easy-to-learn rules. Most of them don’t take very long, either.
As gifts, you can put some under the tree or use others as stocking stuffers.
16 Classic & New Tabletop Games For Absolutely Everyone in Your Family
Small Games With Tiles
The Best Game For Restaurants
After dealing one character tile to each player, 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. We play it a lot in restaurants because a round goes very quickly and it takes up no space.
It’s a fun game even with three players, but it’s better with four or more people.
The Best Game for Big Groups
Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow is another compact and portable social deduction game.
People are dealt cards assigning them to be either a villager or a werewolf. The villagers need to suss out the creatures before the creatures kill them all.
This is definitely a beach house or family reunion kind of game. People can get enthusiastic with their accusations. And 8 to 18 people can play it.
The Fastest Social Deduction Game
• Coup was my daughter’s favorite game from about 4th to 7th grade and it’s still the game we travel with most.
You can play with two people but it’s better with three or more. Rounds go quickly.
You don’t need to put cards down or see each other, so it works anywhere, including in the car. And it’s as light and compact as a game could possibly be.
The game begins with each player getting two cards.
Players try to acquire money, keep opponents from acquiring money and take each other out while staying alive themselves. The last person left holding a card wins.
The Best Compact Tile Game
Niya is a card-based strategy game set in Imperial Japan. The cards are pretty and it’s very portable. The goal is to take over the Emperor’s Garden. Try it with older school-age kids and tweens.
The Publisher is Blue Orange, which produces a lot of creative and quirky games that are compact and easy to learn.
The Best Game for Mixing Up The Rules
Spot it! is one of my perennial recommendations for 4 to 8YOs. We took this game everywhere we went for a few years.
The tiny tins are portable, the rules are simple and there a few variations to the rules to mix things up.
Plus, there are a dozen variations, including ones with emoji, Minions and Disney characters. Play this through preschool and well into the elementary school years.
Innovative Card Games
The Best Fantasy Game for People Who Don’t Love Fantasy Games
We’ve taken Here To Slay on our last several vacations. They consider it a card-based roll-playing game. I’m not a fan of fantasy games and I like playing it.
Your goal is to amass a band of warriors and some handy weapons that you can use to slay monsters. Once you start playing, it makes sense quickly and games never take more than half an hour.
There’s a Christmas-themed expansion pack, Here to Sleigh, which is ideal for gift-giving.
The publisher, Unstable Games, has a lot of quirky, portable strategy games, but most are definitely for teens and adults.
The Most Portable Asset-Acquisition Game
Players are still vying for assets and control in a newly settled colony.
But these are simpler and quicker than the board game.
The card game has two expansion packs to keep the game fresh. Use the gold sacks to leave the box home when you go on vacation.
Another good choice for tweens and teens.
The Most Entertaining Luck-of-the-Draw Game
If you haven’t played Exploding Kittens, you really need to. Kids like the action and suspense.
But the real draw are the ridiculous drawings and characters in this explosive deck of cards, like “TacoCat: a Palindrome.”
This is the game you want to have in your backpack when you’ve just discovered your flight has been delayed for three hours. It will get you laughing and kill a lot of time. Great for older kids to teens.
The Best Mystery-Solving Games
Thames & Kosmos has a whole line of Exit the Game games. They are escape room or mystery games and are meant to be played only once. The novelty is as much a part of the appeal as the clues and puzzles players have to figure out.
These are the kinds of games I love to bring when we’re spending vacation time with another family and we want something that will entertain the kids on their own for a few hours.
They can also keep a family entertained on a long drive or flight.
The Best Game for Groups With a Quirky Sense of Humor
We played a print-at-home version of Kids Against Maturity when they were developing it and had a blast.
In this PG-rated alternative to Cards Against Humanity, players hold several cards with words and phrases and use them to complete sentences begun on other cards. The person with the funniest, most absurd or most sarcastic sentence wins the hand. Best for tweens and teens.
There are three expansion decks to buy when you start repeating sentences too often.
Kids Create Absurdity is a G-rated alternative for younger kids. But it won’t be quite as entertaining as the teen game for adults who are playing, too.
It’s too heavy to take on a plane but easy to pack on a car trip. It’s ideal to bring people together when a few families are vacationing together, especially if the kids might not know each other well and need an ice-breaker.
Classic Games To Go
A Classic Card Game With a New Twist
Uno is perhaps the best travel card game in the world. It’s compact. Everyone knows how to place, which makes it handy for making friends.
And you can adjust the rules to make it simpler for a preschooler and more competitive for teens.
Mattel is shaking up the game with the new Uno Flip. The playing cards have two sides with contrasting color schemes.
A “flip” card tells players to flip to the other set, instantly changing the numbers and color-count in each person’s hand. It’s new enough to make the game interesting and doesn’t feel contrived.
You can gift a combination set of original Uno and the Flip game to have the best of both at your fingertips.
Simon Says ‘Take Me With You’
This is the Goldilocks Simon game: small enough to pack in a carry-on bag or backpack but big enough for two or three people to play comfortably.
It’s a bit more than ten inches in diameter and less than two inches thick, making it just right for travel.
Kids ages 8 and up can play solo or with others. It’s simple and addictive on long car trips.
There is a volume control and a silent mode, which lets you play on airplanes without bugging other people. And the kids can play it on a long drives without the beeping making you crazy.
The Best Board Games for a Wide Age Range
Hasbro has mini, travel-size versions of its bestselling board games. They’re handy when you want an easy game everyone is familiar with, say at a family reunion or on vacation with friends.
Or buy a four-pack that includes surprisingly complete compact versions of Clue, Monopoly, Connect 4 and Hungry Hippos. It should offer something for every age you’re traveling with.
The Best Guessing Game on the Go
Hasbro also has a very compact “road-trip” edition of Battleship for two people sitting next to each other on a plane, train or the backseat of a car. Kids up to age 10 or so like this guessing and strategy game.
The Skinniest Travel Board Games
The purple Cow’s collection of travel-size classic games includes 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 a bag.
The Best Classic Games for Preschoolers
Conveniently, Melissa & Doug sells a travel pack that includes Go Fish!, Old Maid and Rummy all featuring colorful and fun graphics.