UNO is the best travel game ever

Traveling is a thrilling, exciting, non-stop tour de force that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Except for when you’re waiting at the airport, stuck on a train, killing time in a hotel room until a monsoon stops or waiting for the bathroom at your hostel to have five fewer white kids with dreadlocks hogging the toilets.

It’s times like those that you need the perfect time filler. It needs to be a) fun, b) inclusive, c) easy to pack and d) easy to explain to newcomers. One game possesses all of these qualities. One game can turn a boring flight delay into an epic showdown. One game is the perfect storm of form, function, egalitarianism and pretty colors. Ladies and gentleman, UNO is the best travel game ever.

Let’s take a look at why that’s just a plain and simple fact.Inclusive – UNO can be played with two to ten players. TEN! You could have half of your hostel throwing down brightly colored cards, laughing hysterically and teaching each other how to say “Draw Four” in any number of languages.

No Language Barriers – Speaking of languages, can your friends count? Are they not color blind? Congratulations, you have the perfect UNO partners.

Easy to Pack – Ever brought a deck of cards with you on a trip? Then you also know how to pack UNO! If you can’t fit UNO into your suitcase, you’ve packed too many condoms.

Perfect Timing – A game of UNO never goes on for hours. If you bust out the Travel Scrabble, you can kiss that whole afternoon goodbye. And good luck playing that with your local friends in Russia, China or anywhere else where English is scarce. UNO is perfect for airports, planes, waiting for your friends to get ready for a night on the town and any other downtime you may encounter on a trip.

Sweet Revenge – Did your friend steal the window seat on the plane? Did she “forget her wallet” when you went out for drinks? UNO is all about screwing people over. Rather than fighting over how much someone owes you for the hotel room, why not just throw down a series of Reverse and Draw Four cards until they beg for mercy?

I’ve played UNO in Iceland. I’ve played UNO in Spain. I’ve yelled at a friend for not bringing UNO to Rome. I’ve been shooed onto a flight by impatient airline employees while trying to complete the final hand of a one-on-one UNO match on a trip to Sweden. I’ve played UNO as a child and I’ve played UNO as an adult. UNO is the same everywhere you go. And UNO is fun every single time.

So, rather than trying to pack Mouse Trap or The Game of Life, do yourself (and your friends) a favor and bring UNO with you on your next trip. Your trip, like the cards, will be wild.

Agree that UNO is the best travel game ever? Share your UNO stories in the comments. Disagree? Well, I guess you can try to make a case for Yahtzee if you really want to embarrass yourself.

Photo by Flickr user Natecull.

Do you collect souvenirs? Or “youvenirs?”

Upon returning from many trips abroad, I find I am unable to part with what many would consider the “garbage” that accumulates during your travels. I’m not talking about banana peels or tissues – more like readily disposable items such as mass transit tickets, nightclub flyers and entrance passes to monuments.

For example, I have a used subway ticket from Stockholm that I like to keep in my messenger bag. Or there’s the pack of playing cards I picked up in Buenos Aires. Each item is relatively mundane and not really worth displaying, yet it holds a highly personal story.

Every time I stumble upon these items again during my day-to-day life, it causes me to pause for a moment, remembering where the item came from and how I acquired it. For instance, I remember the 20 random minutes I spent in the crowded Stockholm subway station office trying to buy the tickets pictured above. Or that rainy day in Buenos Aires where we had nothing to do and decided to play poker, wandering around for about an hour in search of cards and trying to explain the concept of “playing cards” to local store owners in Spanish.

What do you do with these items? The more ambitious put them in scrapbooks, but I like to think of these disposable travel items as something altogether different – as “youvenirs.” What is a youvenir you might ask? For me, it’s any highly personal travel memento with little monetary value – that fleeting item that you’ve managed to hold onto because of a memorable experience or highly personal anecdote.
It’s for this reason that a youvenir is fundamentally different than a souvenir. Souvenirs are items you purchased with the intention of remembering and commemorating your trip – that beautiful colored glass bottle, an embroided sweatshirt that says “San Francisco” or a jar of Spanish olives you bought in Madrid.

I find myself collecting fewer and fewer souvenirs these days – there’s something about artificially buying an item just to remind me of a place that rings false. But a youvenir on the other hand is grounded in my personal experiences. As artists like Marcel Duchamp or Robert Rauschenberg have demonstrated, there is something profoundly interesting about everyday objects – something mundane and disposable yet incredibly meaningful depending on your personal context and experience with it.

I like to think that the more each of us travel, the less we acquire souvenirs so we can “brag” or give gifts to our friends and instead begin collecting youvenirs – items that have little monetary value but speak specifically to the unique emotions and experiences each of us attaches to travel.

What do you think about the concept of youvenirs? Do you have any memorable items you’ve acquired that would qualfiy? Click below to see our gallery of examples of “youvenirs” and leave some comments about your own favorite youvenirs below.


SkyMall Monday: Floating Blackjack

It’s a new year and time for new SkyMall Monday goodness! Are you an avid gambler who can quit anytime but who chooses not to and sees nothing wrong with gambling 22 hours a day? Do enjoy gambling even when pursuing other leisure activities? Do you like standing still in large bodies of water? Well, my friends, then the Floating Blackjack Game is the product for you!

Sure, you could certainly jump into a pool and play volleyball, float on a raft or, I don’t know, swim. But would you be making money? No (unless, of course, you’re betting on who will win said volleyball game and/or butterfly relay). What better way to kill a gorgeous afternoon than to stand in one place in the pool and play a card game? And I’m sure the kids will have no problem following your instructions not to swim near the table or splash daddy and his lady friends.

As always, no one can sell a product better than the folks at SkyMall, so let’s take a look at the product description:

Guaranteed to provide hours of enjoyment in your swimming pool or Jacuzzi, the kit includes everything you need for a rousing game of blackjack…

What better place to rest a card table than a pool with jets that create constant and aggressive water movement? And there will certainly be no negative effects on your body from spending a couple of hours in a heated Jacuzzi playing blackjack. Heck, why not drop in a few bouillon cubes while you’re at it?

Not convinced that blackjack can be played in the pool? Well, I dug deeper (because I’m a journalist) and explored the official website of this fine product.

There I learned that these are the “world’s first patented playing cards that are able to be played and shuffled in water without the cards sticking together or destroyed by water.” Sure, it’s reassuring to learn that the cards won’t be destroyed by playing with them near the water. But it’s mind-blowing to learn that you can SHUFFLE them “in water.” Not just near water. Not only adjacent to water. Not simply juxtaposed to water. IN WATER! Look, if you can shuffle cards underwater, then I’ll let you play any game you want in the pool. Just keep your freakish hands away from me!

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.