Our family loves to play board games at home and I frequently pull them out when I need a quick activity to do with my kids. Games promote social-emotional development and lots of reasoning and language skills so I love it when we can work on those skills through play. Many traditional board games involve a large box and lots of little pieces, making them less than ideal for traveling, but I also don’t love a lot of the travel versions of classic games since they don’t tend to be very player-friendly.
The best of both worlds is a game we can play at home but also take on the road with us. I’ve put together a list of some of our favorites. These aren’t games that I would necessarily unpack on the plane or in the car but they are perfect for filling in some downtime as we wait to check in or need to keep everyone fairly quiet during an early morning in a hotel room. They’re small and don’t have many pieces and, for the most part, can be played independently by both my 4 and 7-year-olds.
Best Games to Pack When You Travel With Kids
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links which allow a small portion of your purchase (at no cost to you) to go towards keeping the blog running. Thank you so much for your support!
Gobblet Gobbler – This version of tic-tac-toe is surprisingly difficult and a game where I legitimately lose to my kids quite often. The strategy required to think ahead is complex enough for my older son but my younger son can still play with the basic knowledge of normal tic-tac-toe. This is the only game on the list that doesn’t stay in its own packaging. All the pieces fit easily inside a gallon Ziploc and are easy to pack.
Uno Dare – We have several different versions of this game but our family almost always reaches for this one. Instead of picking up extra cards, players can choose one of the “dares”. My kids are endlessly entertained by watching me have to talk like a robot or balance on one foot until my next turn. The silliness is what makes this game so fun. You can even create your own dares for the house rules card. [Note: I’m not sure if this version is still being sold, but this and this look like they’d be perfect for traveling.]
Spot It – This game is small enough that I sometimes even slip this into our day bag to use in case we need a little bit of downtime while we explore. There are several different games you can play with the same set of cards and even though we have to go a bit slower, my four-year-old can still join in on this visual recognition game. There are lots of specialty versions of this but I think you can skip the Junior varieties and just get one the whole family will enjoy.
Sleeping Queens – A blogger recommended this game and my older son received it a few years ago. It’s from Gamewright, whose products we have always enjoyed, and while it’s a bit more complex in its rules, once you play a few times, it’s easy to catch on. You’ll need some floor or table space for this one so it’s best for someplace you can spread out. My younger son can play along but needs some prompting. The metal case makes sure that there aren’t any bent cards or smashed boxes.
Story Cubes – While this isn’t technically a board game because you’re not competing, my kids are endlessly entertained by these picture dice that are used to help tell stories. I love that they use their imagination and practice storytelling literacy skills and they love coming up with silly stories to tell each other. This is so small it can easily fit in a purse or backpack. There are also several add-on kits that can expand storytelling as well. I’m thinking about picking up this one for our next trip.
So what are your family’s favorite portable games? What do you pack to fill the time when you’re traveling as a family? I’d love to check out some new games, so leave your suggestion in the comments below!