The Best Travel Board Games for Adults to Play

What makes a great travel board game?

Board games are a great way to spend quality time with friends, family, and even strangers. These days, you can find a board game for any party size, age group, and general interests!

While some board games are massive undertakings, like Gloomhaven, others make for the perfect travel game. A great travel board game is both portable and usually has simple rules.

Many of the best games are smaller adaptations of an original game that you know and love. Whether you’re going on a road trip, traveling to different countries, or just need a fun way to spend time in your hotel room, here are the best travel board games for adults!

Exploding Kittens - Great Board Games for Adults

Exploding Kittens

Given the need for games to travel well, many of the games on this list take elements of a classic game and implement them in card form. Exploding Kittens does this in a unique way that combines luck with skill in a fast-paced multiplayer match.

As the name suggests, this game is all about avoiding the exploding kitten cards in the deck. If you are unlucky enough to draw one of these cards, you immediately lose.

Thankfully, there are many other cards in the deck to protect you against these detonating felines! Players can shuffle the deck, skip a turn, and even defuse a bomb if they have the corresponding card.

Exploding Kittens is easy to learn and games go by quickly! The premise is quite simple, but it’ll take a few rounds to understand what each card does (and when to use them).

You can play with anywhere from 2 to 5 players, and I’ve found that having more players makes things more exciting. The last person to avoid detonation wins!

Exploding Kittens has won awards, sold more than 10 million copies, and is one of the games you should pack on your next trip.

Here are some beginner tips for new players who want to pick up Exploding Kittens:

  • Try to save high-impact cards for when the draw deck gets small. These include Attacks, Shuffles, and Skips. You need to be able to protect yourself from that final Exploding Kitten and these cards are a great defense.
  • Play mind games with your opponents when they have a card that allows them to steal from your deck. I like to raise one card slightly in my hand when presenting the cards to an opponent. I vary the type of card that I raise (high- vs low-impact) to keep people guessing about my tactics.
  • Try to sort your hand so you know where everything is. After several rounds, you will have many cards in your hand. At a certain point, it can be tough to remember exactly what you have available without glancing at the cards every few seconds. By organizing them, you’ll have an easier time refreshing your memory about the types of cards in your hand.
  • Go after the players who have a small hand size. If you see anyone with 3 or fewer cards, this is typically an easy target. By minimizing their defense, you make them more susceptible to getting blown up by a kitten!
  • Mix up your strategy when it comes to placing the Exploding Kittens. The most common placement is on the top of the deck, but savvy players will catch on to this quickly and just skip their turn. Change where you put it in the deck, including within the top 4 cards, to keep players guessing. Separately, placing it as the last card in the deck will often lead to opponents wasting valuable cards trying to avoid the kitten early.

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Catan Dice Game - Great Travel Game for Younger Kids

Catan Dice Game

Catan Dice Game takes the award-winning board game and simplifies things by about 95%. The goal of the game is straightforward – settle the world of Catan by acquiring resources and building structures.

The dice version is a bit more casual than the original board game. Instead of the classic 2 dice with numbers on them, Catan Dice Game features 6 dice sporting colorful resources. This mechanic makes large board tiles obsolete and greatly reduces the amount of space you need to play. 

Since this is more luck-based, you don’t need to use as much brain power as the full board game version. Players use score sheets to keep track of their progress and games only take about 15-30 minutes.

Catan Dice Game is perfect for 1-4 players. It’s really cool that you can play it solo to get your Catan fix! Make sure to bring your pen or pencil on your trip since the game doesn’t include any writing utensils.

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Tic Tac Toe Travel-size Games

Tic Tac Toe

This is probably the easiest game on the list. The aim of the game is to get three of your shape in a row, either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. It may be an old game, but there’s a reason why Tic Tac Toe boards are still selling well on Amazon in 2022.

The best part of this game is how quickly you can finish a match! Two players take turns placing an individual piece, and the game is usually over in a matter of minutes.

For adults, you may want to switch things up a bit by playing a Tic Tac Toe variant. For example, 5 x 5 Tic Tac Toe is the same game except the winner is the player with the highest number of three-in-a-rows. Alternatively, you can get really crazy and pick up a three-dimensional Tic Tac Toe set.

One other nice thing about this game is that you don’t necessarily need a board to play. Some of my best Tic Tac Toe memories are using a pencil and paper. If you’re looking for low-cost, friendly games, look no further than Tic Tac Toe! 

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Sushi Go - Quick and Simple Game

Sushi Go

This is a cute little game that may also make you hungry! Sushi Go is all about scoring points by collecting combinations of cards. You are rewarded for acquiring sets of the same card, and there are even modifier cards to further boost your score.

Sushi Go was created for 2-5 players, but I found the sweet spot to be 3-4. With this party size, you take out some of the randomness while still allowing plenty of room for strategizing.

Games are fairly short, with an average match lasting about 20 minutes. Whoever has the highest point total at the end of three rounds wins!

Interestingly, players select cards at the same time, instead of taking turns like in other card games. As a pick-and-pass game, players need to consider which card their opponents might need as they select for their own hand. If you’ve got a larger party, you should consider picking up Sushi Go Party. Up to 8 people can play this variant.

Even though Sushi Go is marketed toward a younger audience, it’s also a blast to play as adults!

If you’re looking to get better at Sushi Go, try some of these tactics:

  • Cards move around quickly and you need to pay attention to which ones are available each round. It’s common that a card that you pass to the next player will come back around to you. Use this knowledge to make informed decisions about which card to keep and which ones to let go to someone else.
  • Don’t go after the same set as other players! It can be tempting to try to compete, but more often than not you will end up with an incomplete set when you could have completed a full set of another card. This is especially the case for Maki Rolls which can often cost you 4-5 cards.
  • Squid Nigiri is OP when it comes to point combos. Go after these if possible!
  • Dumplings are high risk/high reward. If other people aren’t targeting Dumplings, try to sneakily get these in your deck for a huge points boost at the end of the game.

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Bananagrams

This is the perfect game for people who like Scrabble but want something faster and more compact. Bananagrams is both entertaining and educational, with easy-to-follow instructions and fast-paced gameplay.

Players must form words using tiles from the ‘bunch’ of letters in the center of the table. The game begins with a “split” and ends with a “peel”, as players shout out banana-related terminology throughout the match. The first player to use all their tiles and call out “bananas” is the winner!

Since Banagrams is all about speed and word formation, it rewards quick thinking and a decent vocabulary. The website suggests anyone over 7 years old can play, but adults will have an easier time forming complex words.

Banagrams is great because of its small form factor and not needing a board. I’ve found that you still need a good amount of space to spread out your tiles, especially when you have 4+ players, but traveling with this game is very easy.

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Chess can be a great travel board game for adults

Chess

Chess is one of the most strategic 2-player games out there. The basics of chess are fairly straightforward, but the skill ceiling is incredibly high.

While chess is capped by the lowest number of players out of the games on this list, it can be the ideal choice for traveling duos who enjoy strategic thinking. Many available chess boards fold in half for easy transportation and are lightweight enough to toss in your backpack.

The goal of chess is clear – capture the opponent’s king. By understanding how each piece moves and the nuances of special moves, you can force a ‘checkmate’ on the other player. In this win scenario, the king cannot escape from being captured with any legal move.

Since we’re in a digital age, chess can also be played easily on a phone, tablet, or computer. By downloading an app, you and a partner can enjoy this fantastic game without having to even pack a board!

One of the best parts of the game is your ability to experiment. There are many common openings with several branching lines that you can learn to set yourself up for success, but just knowing the basics allows you to get started.

If you want a game to test your mind on your next trip, chess is a great option!

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Monopoly Deal - Fun Travel Game

Monopoly Deal

Monopoly Deal is a great game for larger groups, with a suggested player count of 2-6. This is a pure card game, where players take turns drawing, playing, and discarding cards. The goal of the game is to be the first player to acquire three monopolies on the board.

Monopoly Deal may also be one of the most contentious travel games on this list. There are several cards in the deck which target a single opponent, resulting in a very aggressive style of play. There’s even a card that lets you steal an entire monopoly set for an opposing player!

This game comes in a compact size and has great replay value. The box suggests games should be quick, in the 15-minute range, but games can last much longer depending on the audience. If you have a big group who like to spend a long time contemplating their next move, games can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

Another thing to note is that you’ll need a good bit of tabletop space to play if you want things to be comfortable. At any given point, there are likely to be dozens of cards on the table, a discard pile, and a draw pile. I’ve made it work in more confined places, but I definitely prefer to have a flat surface nearby that can accommodate all the cards.

Lastly, Monopoly Deal isn’t explicit about the behavior of certain cards in the rule book. You may find yourself googling specific actions as you get up to speed, but the learning curve is well worth it.

Here are some quick tips for winning more in Monopoly Deal:

  • Try not to put down any property cards until you’ve built up a reserve of funds in your bank. The cash on the table is used to pay out other players for rent and action cards, so this is good protection against having to forfeit a property.
  • Don’t be afraid to deposit non-cash cards in your bank. It can be tempting to hold on to all the rent cards and actions that you draw, but they may be better served as ‘cash’ if you don’t have an immediate need to play the action.
  • Houses and hotels are very situational! It’s rare that you will ever put them on a monopoly, so I find the best use to be as cash in the bank.
  • Keep track of what has been played, especially the ‘Just Say No’ and ‘Dealbreaker’ cards. These are two of the most powerful cards in the game. In any deck of Monopoly Deal there are 3 Just Say No’s and 2 Deal Breakers.
  • Remember that the discard pile will come back into play once you’ve gone through the initial draw pile. This means that any action that has already been used earlier in the game may be used again!
  • Since the point of the game is to get three monopolies, you can accomplish with the fewest cards possible by going after 2-card monopolies. This includes the Brown Cards (Baltic Avenue and Mediterranean Avenue), Dark Blue Cards (Boardwalk and Park Place), and Utilities (Water Works and Electric Company).
  • There are two Property Wild Cards in the deck. These can be used as any color but have no monetary value. Try to use these on your final turn to pull out a sneaky win by completing a monopoly. 
  • If possible, use action cards that take money from other players when everyone at the table has cash or property on the board. This way, you can maximize the value you get from those actions.
  • It can be advantageous to go after a player with no cash in the bank that also has properties in play. In some cases, you’ll be able to acquire multiple property cards by playing one action card.
  • Don’t be afraid to play many “Pass Go” action cards in one turn. This is a great way to get a card that you need quickly, and you can discard less valuable cards from your hand before ending your turn.
  • Prioritize having lower dollar value cards ($1 and $2 million) to give you flexibility when having to play other players. It’s rough when you have to give up more cash than required when you don’t have smaller money cards in your bank.

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Uno - A great competitive travel game

Uno

Uno is another game that can ruin friendships but is always a great time! The instructions are straightforward – get rid of all the cards in your hand as soon as possible. Players need to match the color or number of the current card that is displayed to the group.

Like Exploding Kittens, there are all kinds of action cards that allow you to protect yourself against your foes. You can be rewarded with a solid strategy in Uno even though there is some element of luck to the game. Just make sure to yell “Uno” when you’re down to one card!

It’s a fun game for up to 10 people and Uno is highly portable. Since you only need the deck of cards, there aren’t any additional pieces to clean up after you’ve played. Finally, it requires very little room to play, making it great for confined spaces.

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Forbidden Sky - Great Game for Larger Groups

Forbidden Sky

Now that we’ve gone through eight competitive games that are great for travel, let’s turn to the other side of the table. Cooperative games are the perfect way to unwind while spending quality time with friends and family. 

Forbidden Sky is a race against the clock, as you and your team scurry to build and explore. You’re tasked with launching a rocket before you meet your doom via electric shock.

I really like that this game has varying difficulty levels. Depending on how familiar your group is with the game, you can adjust the challenge.

It’s also neat that each person gets a role with specific stats and abilities. In this sense, it mimics a classic RPG and makes each player unique. 

One thing to note: the rocket is battery-powered so make sure you have fresh batteries before embarking on an adventure. You don’t want to travel to your destination only to find that one of the coolest parts of the game won’t work!

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Forbidden Dessert - Survival Board Game

Forbidden Desert

From the same folks who brought you Forbidden Sky comes Forbidden Desert. Both of these games are on the pricier side compared to the earlier games. Either one is roughly $30, but they each are fantastic cooperative board games that travel well.

In this game, sand piles up over time, creating potential blockades for your party. You need to stay hydrated to survive and can take refuge in tunnels for extra protection.

As in its Sky-counterpart, Forbidden Desert gives each player a specific role on the team. You can be anything from an explorer to an archeologist as your group ventures out to recover a legendary flying machine.

The archaeologist can clear 2 sand markers from 1 tile per action. Explorers can move, clear sand, and use Dune Blasters diagonally. Check out the Forbidden Desert Wikipedia to get a full breakdown of the player roles.

Forbidden Desert also features a time element, where your party must complete the task before the desert takes you. You can play with 2-5 players and the game will usually last around 45 minutes.

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Our Recommendations for Fun Travel Board Games for Adults

The best travel games are often as simple as a deck of cards. The objective of the game should be easy to understand and, ideally, it will fit in a small package. Travel-sized games can still be a lot of fun, and the entire game can be carried easily on your road trips!

While this list of the best travel board games is great for adults, most of them can also be enjoyed with younger kids. Each one can be a good way to have a lot of fun when you only have a little bit of space. The important thing is that you and your fellow players test out a few options to see what works best for the group.

What are some of your best travel board games for adults? Is there a perfect travel game that I forgot on this list? Join the conversation in the comments section!

2 Comments
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Anima A.
Anima A.
1 year ago

I love Monopoly Deal! And Code Names!

Two Average Gamers
Reply to  Anima A.
1 year ago

Code Names is another great travel game that could be on this list!

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