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How to Play Video Games as You Travel the World

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Planning to go on a trip, but don’t want to miss out on your favorite video games? I feel you on that – gaming’s a big part of our family fun. Luckily, the days of dodgy Wi-Fi connections and bulky gaming consoles that gaming as you travel almost impossible are long gone.

We’re a family that loves to game as we travel: whether that means playing Pokémon Go, packing our Nintendo DS systems, or just enjoying games on our phones. I’ve played Pokémon Go everywhere from Canada to Mexico with the kids, and we’ve played Minecraft almost everywhere as a family.

If you’re taking off on a global adventure like us, or just stepping out for a brief getaway, integrating video gaming into your travels is absolutely doable. That said, it’s not always smooth sailing: gaming can be pretty resource intensive.

Why Play Video Games? Shouldn’t You be Sightseeing Instead?

We absolutely enjoy seeing the sights, and have a blast meeting new people, and trying new foods. That said, the introverts in our family (me included!) definitely need down time to recharge for the next adventure, and that’s where gaming comes in. Instead of watching TV, or scrolling social media, we often wind down our days playing a video game instead.

How to Game as You Travel

Our guide helps make sure that your favorite games can travel with you, no matter where you roam. In this article, I look at the secrets to seamless gaming, from choosing the right gear, to finding the fastest, reliable Wi-Fi around the globe. This is for travelers who live to game – let’s turn your travel downtime into an epic gaming adventure.

First up, let’s look at games you can play as you’re out and about.

Enjoy Augmented Reality Games on the Go

Let’s start with one of the easiest ways to game on the go: augmented reality gaming.

What is Augmented Reality? Augmented reality (AR) games blend virtual quests and characters with your physical surroundings, and let your living room, backyard, or a city park become the backdrop for epic adventures!

Pokémon Go is one of the most popular AR games out there. There are over eight million daily active players on Pokémon Go alone, meaning you’ll always have plenty of (virtual) company.

Imagine battling dragons on your coffee table or chasing mythical creatures through the streets, all thanks to the wizardry of cameras, microphones, and GPS. AR games don’t just see the world around you; they transform it, layering breathtaking visuals and sounds over the real word.

two children playing Pokémon Go in a city square in Madrid, Spain

Here are some of favorite AR games to get you started:

  • Pokémon Go
  • Ingress
  • The Walking Dead: Our World
  • Minecraft Earth

Handheld Gaming Devices for on the Go

Space is a luxury when on the move. Compact gaming devices are crucial for us during long flights or bus rides, or while we wait. A Nintendo Switch, with its flexible play options, or smartphones filled with engaging games, are perfect for those spare moments.

Our favorite handheld gaming devices for travel:

  • Nintendo Switch
  • Smartphone
  • Steam Deck
  • ASUS ROG Ally, or the more affordable Retroid Pocket 4 Pro
  • PlayStation Portable
  • Nintendo DS (old school)

Tip! If you’re gaming on your phone, consider getting a smartphone gaming controller. A phone’s touchscreen often isn’t the best gaming experience, but a controller like the 8BitDo Pro 2 or GuliKit KingKong 2 Pro can make gaming a lot more fun.

Gaming Laptops for PC Gaming

If you’re a PC gamer, you’re in luck: today’s gaming PC’s delivery plenty of power, and great graphics for gaming on vacation. For a lot of PC gamers, bringing your gaming laptop means that your gaming experience isn’t a lot different from gaming at home.

A word of caution: If you bring a top tier, expensive gaming PC on vacation, there’s always the risk of having it stolen or damaged. Of course, it’s up to you, but we generally leave our more expensive gear at home, and take one of our older laptops. The gaming experience isn’t as good, but it’s nice not to have to worry about high end gear being stolen or damaged.

Need more storage? Consider bringing an external hard drive.

Using public Wi-Fi on a laptop on a beach hut in Ko Lanta Thailand
Throwback to playing Minefield on a beach in 2003 in Ko Lanta Thailand

Use Remote Play

Want to play your favorite game on the road? Most popular gaming platforms, including PS5, Steam, and Xbox, have a remote play. Remote play lets you control your home console or PC over the internet with another device, like your smartphone, a tablet or another computer.

To use remote play, you’ll need excellent internet both at home and on vacation. Even with a fast internet connection on both ends, you’ll likely have a bit of latency, so remote gaming isn’t the best for competitive online games.

Want to Game IRL with Friends? Try LAN Parties on the Road

If you’re lucky enough to have (or meet) gaming friends on the road, an IRL (In Real Life) meetup can be a lot of fun. Having a LAN (Local Area Network) party on the road can be a fantastic way to bond and have fun with friends and family.

What’s a LAN party? A LAN party is a gathering where gamers connect their computers over a local area network (LAN) to play multiplayer video games together. You can even run a LAN party without an internet connection, by connecting devices to a router or switch via ethernet cables.

Try Cloud Gaming

With services like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which we use and love!) a stable internet link is really all you need to dive into top-tier games. Game Pass Ultimate lets you play hundreds of high-quality games on console, PC, or cloud.

If Xbox isn’t your thing, try these other cloud gaming services:

  • Nvidia GeForce Now
  • PlayStation Plus Premium
  • Amazon Luna cloud gaming
  • Shadow

Many public spots offer travel Wi-Fi that’s fast enough to connect to these gaming services.

Can you play online games anywhere in the world?

There are exceptions, but generally In most cases, there are no region restrictions on games. This is true for products purchased directly from the Steam store and Nintendo Switch games. If you do run into an issue with playing or downloading games in another country, it’s easy enough to use a use a VPN when you travel to change your IP address to your chosen country.

Group of friends playing video games together Dp

Use an Emulator

Install an emulator on your mobile device, and you can play a wide selection of games on the go. There are plenty of different emulators, including Nintendo DS, PS1, PS2, Gameboy Advance, PSP, and even classic PC gaming emulators.

Tip! We definitely recommend using an emulator on an Android device, rather than Apple, as Android right now has  more emulators and better performance overall. 

Try Local Gaming Spots

Each country has its own unique gaming culture and spots. In South Korea, for instance, PC bangs (a type of internet café or LAN gaming center) are hugely popular. Taking part in a local gaming event or checking out a video game bar in Japan could be a unique, fun experience on your travels.

a young man playing a video game on a handheld device while lying in bed in a hotel room

Tips for gaming as you travel

Want hassle free gaming? Here are a few tips to make gaming easier.

  • A practical piece of advice: always have a power bank and a global travel adapter handy. They are crucial travel essentials for keeping your gadgets powered.
  • Use device-tracking features on your smartphone and tablets (like Find My Phone for Apple) to find lost devices.
  • Use Apple Air Tags or a Tile to track items that don’t have device tracking, like a PS5.
  • Up your password and two factor authentication game. Now’s the time to make sure your passwords are secure.

No matter how well prepared you think you are, plenty of things can throw a wrench into your travel gaming plans. Internet can be slow, cloud services may not work as planned, and there’s always a chance that your equipment could be lost or even stolen. Each trip is a chance to learn from experience, and figure out what strategies work best for you gaming as you travel.

Just remember, you’re definitely not alone gaming on your travels! About 65% of Americans play video games, which equates to about 212.6 million weekly players, as reported by The Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

Do you have any tips for gaming as you travel the world? Let us know?

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