Travel games to keep everyone entertained

Travel games to keep everyone entertained

 · 11 min read
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Travel games can really get things moving. We’ve chosen the very best ones, including UNO, Dobble, Guess Who? Scrabble, Monopoly, Ludo, Yahtzee, Top Trumps and, er, Pass the Pigs. There’s something for everyone in this selection, and you can even play them at home, too!

  • Travel games can make journeys quicker and prevent passengers from becoming bored and stressed.
  • There’s a huge range available, such as strategy games, games of chance and games of utter nonsense.
  • Many travel games can also be played at home, so are excellent value for money.
  • Travel games exercise the mind, teach valuable lessons about life and help everyone have a happier journey.

Travel games: FAQs

  • What is a travel game?

    Travel games come in all kinds of shapes, from activity books to trivia challenges to educational toys. They can often be classic games in a special travel version. This means a reduction in size and perhaps magnetised pieces. The one thing all the best travel games have in common is the power to entertain those for whom the journey would otherwise be a bore.

  • What are some games you can play with friends while travelling?

    You can play a vast range of games, even if you don’t have an actual travel board game in the car. You can play word games such as word association or memory games such as ‘I went shopping and I bought…’. If, on the other hand, you’ve had foresight enough to pack a travel card game like UNO, then that trip will fly by.

  • What are some inexpensive travel games?

    Happily, most travel-size games are not very expensive, and family travel can be made stress-free for around £10 or even less, which makes them ideal as stocking fillers. Particularly good value are the compendium sets that have a range of games like chess and draughts and which are therefore good for entertaining the whole family.

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Driving home for Christmas, oh I can’t wait to see those faces, sang soppy old Chris Rea as he gaily chugged his way back up to Geordieland. What he doesn’t mention is the faces of Little Christine and Chris Junior in the rearview mirror of the Reamobile, looking every bit as sour as children on a long journey are wont to. 

What to do? Here’s what. Crack out the travel games that will keep your young fellow travellers entertained. Not just them, mind you: most of these entrancing entertainments are good for all ages. All that’s required is a game personality and an agreement not to lose badly. Nothing worse than a tantrum in a confined space. So, get your game face on, lift the lid and let’s play. Game on! 

Pass the Pigs

OK, we’re going to get a bit high-brow and reference Start the Week on Radio 4. Why? Because they’re talking about what makes a game a game. It turns out it’s actually quite tricky to define it, as everyone’s favourite philosopher of language, Wittgenstein, used to harp on about. One definition is this: playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles. 

If anything sums up the spirit of voluntarily attempting to overcome unnecessary obstacles, it’s Pass the Pigs. It involves tossing two miniature model porkers and scoring various amounts depending on their configuration when they land. So, it’s a porcine update on Guys and Dolls style crap-shooting, with less possibility of puerile giggling over the name of the game. 

What Pass the Pigs does have is animal appeal, which is always handy with younger players. And it’s easy to understand, which is an absolute must. It does need a flat surface, so a hardback book or a large tablet will be required. Aside from that, it’s ideal for when you’re snout and about. 

Actually, as with a lot of the games we’re talking about here, it’s also great fun when you’re not travelling - you can play Pass the Pigs on a family game night in the lounge. That’s right, you can bring home the bacon. 

Yahtzee 

Hasbro’s classic dice game has a huge amount of fans, both using real dice and online. We like the Yahtzee to Go as it's a beautifully simple encapsulation of what makes the bigger version so darned addictive. 

Think of it a bit like a dice-version of poker, with less chance of being fleeced blind by Victoria Coren-Mitchell. You throw five dice, then decide from what you end up with what you’re going to go for - a run, five of a kind, etc. Then throw the dice you don’t want to keep again. Repeat. Then you’ve got your hand, which you hope will beat your opponent’s. It’s simple, fun, and it’ll keep everyone entertained no matter how far-flung your destination is. We love Yahtzee. 

UNO

Anyone thinking this might be something related to the United Nations Organisation needs to have their idea of what makes a game a game funned up a little. For this is the classic card game of UNO, called such because you have to shout that very word when you have only one card left. Scholars of language among you will realise that it’s Italian and Spanish for one, so it all makes sense.

What else does it involve? Well, it’s remarkably simple, which might be the main reason for its success. That, and the insane amounts of fun it’s possible to have while playing. Here’s what to do. Cards are dealt out, and players take turns laying a card down that matches the colour or number of the card previously laid. The winner is the one who gets rid of their cards first. 

That’s it. Easy. Just what you need in a travel game. Mind you, there are little twists that we won’t go into now that can really spice things up. What we will mention is that you can have up to 10 players, which should be enough for most family outings.

Bananagrams

This one’s a fruity little number. Bananagrams is a ludicrously fast-paced pursuit wherein the start is indicated by the shouted word ‘split’, following which everyone has to use their allotted letter tiles to come up with a word grid. The fastest person to do so shouts ‘peel’, whereupon everyone has to take on a new tile and is required then to reassemble their word grid. 

Hmmm… this description has made it sound an awful lot less fun than it is. But, once you get into the swing of it and the monkeying around really starts, Bananagrams is the gift that keeps on gibbon. Er.. giving. 

Would You Rather

Taking its name from the nonsensical challenges posed by irritating types since ancient times, Would You Rather is a book full of hypothetical scenarios that players have to choose between. Less a standard game and more of a series of stimulating conversation starters, this book is primarily designed for 6-12-year-olds, but it’s fair to say that adults too, will get a lot out of it. 

Adults may get more out of just listening to their children and grandchildren play it, because the answers given to the silly situations posited reveal an awful lot about who’s answering. So, for those who’d like an insight into their child’s current cognitive and emotional state should definitely lend an ear to the responses given to questions like this one:

Would you rather….have a clone who goes to school and does all your chores, or have the ability to mind control other people’s thoughts?

The book comes with a handy contact list of child psychology professionals should you hear something that piques your concern. It doesn’t really, but maybe it should.

Dobble

This card game requires players to scrutinise two cards to see the one element they both have in common. This takes some doing, and the challenge is to do it before your opponent does. And brag about it lots afterwards. 

Like a lot of successful games (see Top Trumps later), Dobble is available in a whole bunch of special editions. Our favourite might be the Minions version, a perfect showcase for the titular tiny tykes anarchic characters. 

Connect 4

There are lots of Connect 4 variants that are, well, not actually Connect 4, but pretty much do the same thing, ie require you to play a version of noughts and crosses in a vertical grid. One of the best we’ve seen is this wooden Four in a Row Game, that gives you all those connection conniptions in the shape of an eco-friendly wooden frame and counter set. 

Battleship

For what seems like centuries, possibly going back to the days of Nelson or even Themistocles, children have loved the combination of mystery, strategy, and just blowing things up that characterises this game. Travel Battleship brings the thrill of seeking and destroying on the high seas to the confines of the back seat, miniaturising things nicely and enjoying the benefits of peg-driven action that lends itself so well to fun on the move. 

Those of you who don’t know what Battleship is all about - are there any of you? - need only know that it involves two players who lay out their fleet in a secret array. The other player then has to work out where the ships are, and obliterate them with a sustained battery of cannon fire before they lose their own fleet in much the same manner. 

It’s a great way to teach children the value of systematic action, as well as (possibly) the colossal price of attritional conflict.

Guess Who?

And while we’re on the subject of being systematic, this is the game that requires such systematic and deductive reasoning that it makes Sherlock Holmes look like a lucky chancer. Each player has to use eliminative reasoning as they try to work out who their opponent’s mystery person is. 

The beauty of the version we’re looking at, the Grab-and-Go Guess Who, is that everything comes in one compact package, eminently ready for some choice in-car action. 

Scrabble

OK, bonafide classic alert. Anyone who’s never played Scrabble in their lives is unlikely to have lived in a civilised society. Bear this in mind in all subsequent dealings with them: they will need careful and wary treatment.

The problem with Scrabble, in general, is that the pieces are many, and their static position on the board once played is absolutely crucial to the ensuing gameplay. So, unless you’re travelling on a road like one of those dead-straight American highways that turn one corner every thousand miles or so, the chances are there’s going to be some tile-sliding and some serious upset afoot. 

That’s why every family outing shouldn’t leave the drive without a copy of Travel Scrabble safely stowed on board. The game boffins at Mattel have solved the transient tile problem by fitting the board with a grid, that you clip the tiles into. Hey presto! Scrabble with stickability. 

Top Trumps

Here’s the game that has spawned more special editions than any other in history. Whatever you’re into, you can usually find a version of Top Trumps to suit, decency and legality notwithstanding. Our fave is Top Trumps Supercars, as the cars version is what we grew up with (and can still remember lots of the salient scores within: Porsche 911 Turbo, 0-60 in 5 seconds, to name but one of far too many). 

Other versions are legion, such as Top Trumps Horrible Histories, Top Trumps Disney Princesses and Top Trumps Best Members of the 45th President’s Family.

Monopoly

We know what you’re thinking - surely Monopoly has too many fiddly bits and pieces to even consider an in-car airing. Well, that issue’s been taken care of with Road Trip Monopoly. The pieces stay in place on the board, and the whole thing can be folded up, so if the car trip is shorter than the game, that’s not a bother: fold it up and finish your property-based wheeling and dealing once you’ve arrived. 

If our experience of Monopoly is anything to go by, a trip to the sun and back wouldn’t be long enough to finish a game, so this is a very handy feature indeed. 

Ludo

Still popular after all these years, Ludo is an infuriating but enormously fun game where each player has to get all four of their counters around the board before their opponent does. 

This Ludo Magnetic Travel Game comes in an 18cm tin, which unfolds to reveal a nicely designed board. Ludo has the advantage of being easy to learn but offers a depth of playing experience that can take a lifetime to master. What’s more, lots of children will be new to it, so it’ll have novelty value too. 

Compendium

We’re going to finish with a seriously trad option: a good old 5 in 1 Mini Board Games Set: chess, checkers, dominoes, backgammon and playing cards. The pieces are magnetic, so they’ll stay exactly where they’re put, and there’s plenty of variety on offer - just think of how many games you can play with just the cards: rummy, snap, or if it’s just the one child in the back, there’s always patience. It did the trick for us. 

Come on, play the game

Games are great for keeping family relationships healthy. They’re a truly excellent way of defusing simmering tension, and there’s no hotbed of simmering tension quite like the interior of a family car. Luckily, all the games we’ve listed here are available from Amazon, so you can easily get your hands on them. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a local toys and games shop in your town, pop in and see what they’ve got. 

The important thing with any game is to make sure that everyone’s happy to play by the rules and that they understand Mr Kipling’s exceedingly good quote, to wit: …meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.

Games are terrific for teaching us how to win, but crucially, how to lose. And, even better than all that, the little minds involved might end up so engrossed that they completely miss all those McDonald’s signs.

Image Credit: Pixabay at Pexels

Martin Jennings-Wright
Martin Jennings-Wright
Martin joined AgeGroup in 2023 after over twenty years running cinemas, making him something of a cine-bore! He’s well-versed in classic musicals and what he doesn’t know about Hitchcock is strictly for the birds.