Dale Yu: Travel Gaming (circa 2012)

Dale Yu: Traveling with Games (for the Kids)

 [Note from editor – this piece was written back in the summer of 2012… and somehow, the Draft was never published!  So, the piece is 2 years old, and sadly, the pictures that went with it have been lost to the sands of time, but I think it’s still an interesting piece, and something that we will write an updated version of – very soon!  But, there’s no reason to waste the electrons already used to compose this piece, so I’ll run it about 20 months too late…]

Well, summer vacation is almost over, and my family managed to survive through a number of trips without any extended periods of boredom. I’d like to think that my wife and I chose stimulating and exciting locations to visit (Los Angeles and San Diego this year), but I think it was also due in part to my ever present travel gaming kit.

The size and contents of the travel kit change with each trip, but one is always packed up for a family vacation.  Now, when we travel, I’ll be honest. I’d just as soon never have to pull the box of games out of the luggage.  I’d much prefer it if we were having so much fun exploring our new location that we wouldn’t need to play games while there.


In the summer of 2012, I’ve made my travel kit conform to a uniform size, a Carcassone-sized box.  In the past, I packed as many games as I could into two of the small Gryphon Games boxes (For Sale and Incan Gold).  My very first travel kit was the Original Carcassone box with extra games thrown into that box once the tiles were compressed as much as possible. Later, I switched to the travel Carcassone tiles because they took up even less space!

You’d be surprised how many games you can get to fit in that single box once you eliminate packaging, rules and all the other extras.  Why do I keep the volume to the Carc box?  Mostly because I know that the Carc box easily fits into my carryon bag, and this bag is never weighed for the airplane.  That’s probably a good thing because I think that I’ve had my travel box come in at 6 or 7 pounds before.  Also, it’s a bit of nostalgia because my first travel kit, as I mentioned earlier, was Carcassonne.

Now, the games I choose are mostly focused on games that my boys (ages 11 and 9 at the time) like to play as well as games that are accessible to non-gamers.  I’ve found that I end up playing a lot more with non-gamers while on vacation than when I’m at home.  I also make sure that I bring games that I like to play.  Just because a game is portable isn’t enough to make the cut – because if I don’t want to play it, it’s a guaranteed waste of space!

So, my criteria for choosing games for the travel kit include:

  • Games we know all know the rules for – this saves a lot of space because then we don’t need to pack any of the rules.  And, if we’re ever in doubt, usually BGG on my smartphone can save the day

  • Card Games – this is the bulk of the games because they simply don’t take up a lot of room

  • Games easily broken down into components – but not everything can be a card game.  There are many board games that actually have a ton of air in the box

  • Specific Travel Sized Games – the Ravensburger mitbringspiel series has come in key here

  • Exception: at least One new Game – my kids have not fallen far from the tree, they definitely are members of the Cult of the New.  It’s not really a game night with my boys if I haven’t shown them a game they’ve never played before

  • Deck of Cards – sometimes poker or crazy 8s is what we’re looking for…

  • Games I have multiple copies of – games played while traveling have a pretty high casualty rate… cards get bent in storage, components get spilled on, and sometimes pieces get lost on hotel carpet.  I’ll never bring something that is irreplaceable in the travel box

  • Games my kids can play – while many of the games might be too complex for a non-gamer, I want all of them to be accessible to my kids

  • Try to get variety – like to have different weights, styles, and genres if possible.  Usually trying to include at least one party game is a good idea as well as one gateway game.

So, what was in the 2012 travel kit?

Just about all of the game components are in baggies to save space.  I try to keep all the components to a single game together in a single outer bag if possible.

The list of games:

  1. Carcassonne the dice game

  2. Climb!

  3. Deck of cards

  4. Famous 500

  5. Famous Fairways

  6. Famous Fastballs

  7. Famous First Downs

  8. Famous Forehand

  9. For Sale

  10. Fruit Ninja card game

  11. Heckmeck das Kultspiel

  12. High Society

  13. Interurban

  14. Keltis Wurfelspiel

  15. Kleine Fotosafari

  16. Password (1968 edition)

  17. Pictionary Card Game

  18. San Juan

  19. Town Center

  20. Verflixxt Kompakt

  21. Wurfel Bingo* (well sheet with grid and scoring)

  22. Wurfel Bohnanza

Not so bad – and clearly enough entertainment to get a family through a single week!  Some of the usual suspects that often are included in the kit, but weren’t in this particular version include:

    • Carcassone travel bag

    • Fits mitbringspiel

    • Zooloretto wurfelspiel

    • Liar’s Dice

    • Dominion (sometimes only 10-15 kingdom cards)

    • Hanabi

    • Tichu (I’m trying to teach the boys how to play)

At that time, I asked the other OG writers to give me their travel kits…

Jeff Allers:

Usually, during our travels, we have opportunities to teach new games to our hosts.  Following is a list of games taken from my “Introduction to Games” article on my blog.  I’ve selected one game from each arbitrary category, in most cases, it’s one of the most compact ones in that category.









DEDUCTION GAME: Three of a Crime

RACING GAME: Cartagena




CARD GAME: Korsar/Loot

PARTY GAME: Freeze/Buhne Frei!


Matt Carlson:

I’ll cheat and bring my iPad….  piles of games on there that I could use easily for 2 players and up to 4 in a pinch.  With two almost pre-gamer boys I mainly bring along things I can get others to pick up… typically No Thanks! (may always standby), a deckbuilder of the moment, and some cult of the new.  I’ll have a much more interesting list when my boys are a few years older.  However, if I wanted sheer number of options I’d include my copies of the travel version of HeckMeck and FITS.  With that list I’d have everything fitting in a somewhat bulging pocket.


Larry Levy:

I’m tempted to say I’d take just one game, whatever is the latest and hottest title:  Cult of the New, baby!  But since I can’t guarantee there will be such a game at the time of my trip, let me go with the following:


  • Louis XIV, my favorite mid-sized Alea

  • San Juan, my favorite small-sized Alea

  • A bunch of Time’s Up cards (original version, please!)

  • Friday–a great solo game is a no-brainer

  • For two-player gaming, pick two of the following:

    • Medici vs. Strozzi

    • Jambo

    • Babel

    • Jaipur

    • Famiglia

  • For three-player gaming, either:

    • Schnappchen Jagd or

    • Flaschenteufel

  • Everybody loves Bohnanza!

  • Some small box classics – I’m taking all of these!

    • For Sale

    • Geschenkt

    • Money

    • Mamma Mia

    • Get the Goods

    • Mystery Rummy 4 – Al Capone

    • Pickomino

  • How about the new compact version of Intrige?

  • Need at least one Adlung game, just on general principals.  How about Vom Kap bis Kairo?

  • A Tichu deck (but only for the other gamers in the group)

  • The letter cubes from Boggle

  • And, of course, several decks of ordinary playing cards!


Will all of that fit in the prescribed box?  Who knows?  I’m a gamer, not a packer!


Greg Schloesser:  Now that my daughter is married, I generally travel only with my wife on long vacations.  For these occasions, I usually pack a few 2-player games.  Like Dale, we are usually so busy on these long, overseas vacations that we rarely have time to play a game.  By the time we are settling in for the evening, we are just too tired to play a game.  till, I always bring along a few games … just in case!  Here are some of the ones I tend to bring, all of which are my wife’s favorites:

Lost Cities

Schotten Totten

Pyramid of the Jaguars

Day Lilly Rummy

Mystery Rummy


We do occasionally take a longer vacation with friends, many of whom are not into gaming as much as me.  Also, I have traveled on several mission trips and retreats with our church.  I always bring along some games for those occasions, too.  These tend to be games that are easy to teach and play, so that just about anyone present can join in and have fun.  Here are some of the games I bring along on these excursions:

Who’s the Ass?

The Great Dalmuti



David & Goliath

Mit List und Tucke


Fill or Bust

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Dale Yu: Travel Gaming (circa 2012)

  1. DLE says:

    Was so pleased to see Password on this list. That venerable game remains excellent and never gets enough love. Still one of the best word games and always tense. Those of us with some gray in the hair will remember the Password game show. Now ask yourself how many games today could sustain a show where people watched others play it for more than 2,500 episodes!

    • jeffinberlin says:

      Agree–I pick this up whenever I see a copy at a thrift store in the U.S. It’s also one of the few TV Game Shows that translates well to a play-at-home board game.

  2. jeffinberlin says:

    I also forgot to mention: Travel Carcassonne. It’s a classic tile-laying game, and this version has smaller tiles (fits nicely on a small cafe table) and the scoring track is printed on the cloth bag!

  3. Dale Yu says:

    1) Dan – agreed, I think password doesn’t get enough love. And there is no home version of Match Game as far as I know ;)

    2) Jeff – Travel Carc is in the new set… Don’t worry, you’ll be hearing about that this summer when I try to re-do this article with 2014 games (and hopefully publish it before 2016)

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