It’s not quite the holiday season yet but as I sit here looking at the ever-growing pile of games that the kids drag out regularly, it strikes me that some of them have been real staples when trying to keep them entertained when we’re out and about. Whenever we go on extended family trips there’s inevitably those moments of downtime where we like to keep them occupied by something other than an iPad. That’s why we always keep a few games in the suitcase.
The ideal travel game is not just about being small enough to pack in a bag. It should be compact, but it should also be quick to setup, quick to play and come in a container robust enough to survive being jostled about without spilling its contents everywhere*.
*Zombie Dice would have made this list except for the fact that both ends of the tube come off which has resulted in me losing count of the number of time we’ve blurted the dice all over the floor.
So here are our current top five favourite games that we recommend for having on hand when you’re off on a family holiday, camping trip or short break.
1. Polar Panic
Polar Panic is a great alternative to traditional pairs or snap. The aim of the game is to look at the cards on the table and identify identical fish scattered across various cards as they are revealed. The cards stay revealed until someone reveals an eskimo, at which point all the cards are flipped back over. Reveal a polar bear and the game is over!
It’s a great game for teaching pattern recognition and learning to quickly identify similarities. The kids love this one, especially the 5yr old as it’s one she can enjoy with her brothers without too many confusing rules.
The game is 100% cards-based and comes in a really handy tin that will easily fit in backpacks and suitcases without bursting open. Check out our full review of it here.
Polar Panic is available from Amazon.
Dobble is another great game that rewards quick visual skills and the ability to spot similar shapes presented in various ways. It’s similar in mechanic to Polar Panic but the varying gametypes really give it a lot of scope and longevity. Dobble’s been around for a good while so if the basic game doesn’t do it for you, you could always have a go at Dobble Junior, Star Wars Dobble, Dobble Animals, Dobble Beach, Dobble 123, Dobble Kids or Dobble Chrono (and breathe)!
Another tin-based card game, Dobble is easily slung in the kids’ rucksacks along with the Shopkins and McDonald’s toys.
Dobble is available from John Lewis.
Grabolo is a quick-paced game where players compete to be the first to spot the randomly selected pieces as quickly as possible. Players use dice to ascertain both colour and shape. As soon as the dice hit the table, it’s time to find the piece and grab it before your opponents can!
Grabolo is a great quick game that can play out over as many rounds as you have time to fill. It comes in a sturdy plastic jar with a firm screw-top so there’s no worry about arriving at your destination with an empty container and a rear footwell full of tiny plastic pieces (in our car that’s reserved for discarded fruit and mangled Happy Meal boxes).
Uno is a timeless classic that never fails to both a) keep the kids busy and b) almost always trigger huge arguments about who did what and when. Still, if you need something where do don’t have a lot of space to spread out and a standard deck of cards isn’t cutting it, then an Uno deck is going to be an essential thing to have to hand on long journeys.
For those that are unfamiliar, Uno is a game where players must place sequential or otherwise similar cards on top of each other with the aim of getting rid of all your cards. Many of the cards can change that basic rule so there’s a lot of to and fro and things are usually pretty interesting the whole way through. There’s a reason this game has survived as a classic for decades and it’s because it’s simple but engaging enough to be quite addictive.
Uno is available from Amazon.
Bananagrams is a fiendishly simple game of words, all held together in a banana-shaped bag with a zipper. It does require a little bit of space to lay it out but the fact it can all be slung back in the banana when you’re done makes it an ideal choice for downtime in a hotel room or tent.
The aim of the game is to create interlocking words in a fashion similar to a sort of rapid Scrabble. Instead of creating a shared word grid, players hurry to use up all their letters creating their own grid. We always make sure to keep our copy in with the camping stuff so we never forget to take it with us!
Bananagrams is available from The Entertainer.
So that’s our list. Let us know if you have any pocket or travel games that you always take away with you and we’ll try to take a look at them!
Like our content? Sign up here to get updated when we post new stuff!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Billions of them.