Traveling with Games

A Guide to Hobby Boardgaming and Travel

Whether you are packing for a weekend getaway, holiday, or family gathering, deciding what games to bring and the logistics are a large part of many gamers’ mindset—the anticipation of free time with loved ones that you can share your devotion for gaming. Bringing your passion and hobby to others through gaming is a great goal and a skill to be polished and mastered. There will be many mistakes along the way. Learning from them and conquering them is the objective.

You need to know your audience to select the suitable games to bring. Then, you need to pack them so they can make the trip without damage. Finally, you need to break the ice, read the room, and get some games to the table. Each game has its own minutiae, which we will cover in this article. 

Choosing the Right Games for Your Trip

image by Tom Reuhl

In our experience, every trip is different. Here is the thought process when choosing what games will see play time and keep your group engaged.

Location, Location, Location

Sea Salt and Paper at the beach
image by Tom Reuhl

Packing for a weekend getaway with your spouse will look a lot different than packing for a holiday trip with friends. You need to consider where these games will be played, the table space, and how many people the location can accommodate. You are not going to be playing Twilight Imperium on a fold-out cartable. 

Player Considerations

Azul in the Pool
image by Tom Reuhl

Grasping the general idea of your audience of players in attendance will help significantly with your decisions on what to bring. A sixteen-year-old and a sixty-year-old may have very different ideas of what ‘fun’ can be. Still, some games transcend age and player count and can keep everyone socially engaged and/or laughing for hours. 

Here are some examples of highly rated-travel-friendly games:

General Crowd Pleasers

Azul, No Thanks, Patchwork, Welcome To…, Cartographers, That’s Pretty Clever!, Jaipur, Codenames, Splendor, Fantasy Realms, Sushi Go Party!, Love Letter, For Sale, Lost Cities, Seas Salt & Paper, Monikers, Werewords, Werewolf, That’s Not a Hat, Strike, Skull, The Crew, Scout, Long Shot: the Dice Game, Cat in the Box, Skull King, and Diamonds.


Air, land, and sea Portability
image by Tom Reuhl

Look for games that will travel well. Some games on the market have leaned into this, creating mini or component-light versions. You want to have a whole game experience that is half the size. Some franchises have taken the opposite route and created larger full-table games to accommodate a party atmosphere. 

Here are some examples of highly rated, less travel-friendly games that may be worth packing an extra bag:

Party Games

Just One, So Clover!, Camel Up, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Telestrations, Ready Set Bet, Dixit, Secret Hitler, Junk Art, Wavelength, Pitch Car, Time’s Up, Tumblin’ Dice, and Wits and Wagers Vegas Edition.

Family Strategy Games

Wingspan, Heat: Pedal to the Metal, Cascadia, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, Clank!, 7 Wonders, Parks, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Downforce, and Mysterium.

Packing Strategies

Packing Strategies
image by Tom Reuhl

A great place to start is a dedicated eco-friendly bag like the ones you can pick up at your local grocery store. If you want to get even more bang on the totes, Ikea offers a fan favorite that can hold almost your entire collection.

Next Level Packing

There are some slim and portable options out there. Quiver makes an amazingly durable side bag that can house many small/slim games. Always having a ‘Go Bag’ for games is clutch and allows more time for planning/packing. Another option is picking up a backpack designed specifically for board games. 

PRO TIP: Always pack a deck of waterproof cards and some bits. Whether they are generic tokens or tokens to another game that can be stand-ins, you open up the ability to play a vast array of games with a single deck and some cubes/chips.

Getting the Games to the Table


Sea Salt and Paper at the beach
image by Tom Reuhl

The hardest lesson to learn is to read the room and not push. Only some people’s holidays consist of sitting down and playing games, especially in locations where unique activities prevail.

Take the Temp

The easiest way to do this is just to come out and ask, “Anyone up for a game?” If dinner is planned in an hour, it is probably not the most optimal time to pitch. However, it could be a great time to start setting up a game in a nearby location for an activity after eating. Communication is key when finding out everyone’s interests. 

Read the Room

Grandma is most likely not interested in the theme or mechanics of Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, while you may have too many people to play Sea Salt & Paper. Each scenario is going to be unique. Since you are the game master, it is your job to pick something that will be a hit with the most people. You will never please everyone, but if you win the majority, the rest will follow. 

Practice What You Preach

I am the one who always shows up to the party with far too many games. Whether it’s friends or family, unless the evening’s expectations were set to play games, it is an uphill battle. I think one of my greatest fears is everyone sitting around the table bored and unanimously saying, “Tom, why didn’t you bring any games?!”

Games and Quiver
image by Tom Reuhl

I wanted to pack various travel games for my wife’s 40th birthday in Cancun. We were going with some friends our age to an all-inclusive resort, and luckily for me, I was aware of the audience and the setting. My expectations were tempered, but I overpacked.

I have no regrets.

I chose a diverse, friendly group of games. A mix of multiplayer, two-player, party, and group games. Luckily, my wife and friends play frequently. We would have additional guests who are not as familiar with modern board games as the rest. Everything to be put in my custom quiver:

Welcome to …
No Thanks
That’s Not a Hat
Vegas Dice
Sea Salt & Paper
Deck of cards
Mahjong Cards
Bag of Chips
The Crew
The Fox in the Forest
Air, Land, & Sea
Fantasy Realms (custom)

Quiver contents
image by Tom Reuhl

I was able to fit the majority of the games in the Quiver. Knowing I wanted to avoid bringing the larger Quiver down to the pool, I also opted for a smaller travel deck-size box packed with a sleeved Sea Salt & Paper copy. I also threw some extra bits (one-inch colored squares) for keeping track of points and betting with the other games. 

I chose not to stuff ‘Bag of Chips’ into the Quiver since it took up the same footprint, whether in its own bag or not, and added Azul to the trip. Since I was now carrying a few games in addition to the Quiver, travel went smoothly, and all the games made it through customs untouched and intact. I utilized the Quiver as my carry-on and stuffed the rest in my backpack, which also came on the flight with me. 

We kicked off some games by playing Booray in the pool using waterproof cards and rocks as chips for betting. A trick-taking game that has weaseled its way into our hearts and comes out whenever a deck is available. Margarita was in hand, lounging in the pool playing cards. We taught the newbies how to play, and everyone had a great time. Over the next couple of days, we were able to play Azul, Sea Salt & Paper, and Air, Land, & Sea.

We did plan for a big group game called That’s Not a Hat. After libations, we sat down in a courtyard and explained the rules. Everyone understood the game and the next steps. However, 10 people outside was just too many. You could not hear from one end of the table to the other. It led to confusion and ended up being a bust. The weekend before the trip, we had a very successful 7 person game with nearly the same audience. This game was an anticipated slam dunk and goes to show you that ‘you can’t win them all.’

Creating Lasting Memories

As a hobbyist, you want to maximize your leisure time by gaming. You will invest time planning, prepping, and packing these games to ensure they make it to the table. You need to scope out where you are going, who will be playing, and how you will transport those games. You can plan everything meticulously, but there may not be an opportunity to get playing. Even the most experienced travel gamers pick up new insights along their journey. Stay positive, keep organized, and always be prepared!