Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trans & Automobiles - components photo
Planes, Trans & Automobiles - components photo

“If they told you wolverines would make good house pets, would you believe them?” – Del

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a classic holiday film. Directed by John Hughes, starring comedy legends Steven Martin and the late John Candy. I grew up watching all the movies from these actors. John Candy holds a special place in my heart for movies like Uncle Buck and The Great Outdoors. So I jumped at the chance to play a game that pulled at my nostalgia bone.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a two-player cooperative game where players take on the roles of Del and Neal working to overcome challenges as they try to get back to Chicago by Thanksgiving. Its’ published by Funko Games, for ages 12+ to play in about 20 minutes.

Game Setup


The aim of the game is to get Neal and Del back to Chicago by completing four challenges. Each challenge starts by flipping over a card from each challenge deck and reading the challenge aloud. The card on the left shows how the challenge is set up and played. The right card shows the Journey cards you need to play to travel on the Mileage track. The number created at the bottom is the Goal Mileage, the exact number of miles you must travel together to win the challenge.

Challenge card and mileage tracker
To win this challenge Neil & Del must exactly travel 325 miles.

Playing the Challenge

On each turn, each player plays one Journey card according to the challenge’s rules. These two cards make a “set.” When a set counts towards the goal (as specified by the challenge rules) set them aside face-up and move the Mileage Marker the total of the two cards. If the set doesn’t match discard them face down.

Ending the Challenge

Players continue taking turns until they reach the exact miles required by the challenge. If Neal and Del are successful, slide the transit card to reveal the next destination. Reset the play area by re-shuffling the Journey cards and flipping over two new Challenge cards.

Revealing the Chicago destination wins the game; Neal and Del celebrate the holidays together with family!

A challenge fails if either player runs out of Journey cards or the Mileage Marker blows past the exact Goal Mileage. Flip the Transit card over to the delayed side (pink with burning car). Two failed challenges brings the game to an end: Neal and Del miss their holiday festivities.


Planes Trains and Automobiles has mass-market appeal, aiming towards fans of the comedic road trip movie. Its low price and stocking-stuffer size make it quite giftable. And I think that’s what this game is truly aimed at: a gift under ten bucks that someone will get a kick out simply for its namesake.

I had high expectations due to nostalgia, but quickly swerved into oncoming traffic when I discovered there was a dexterity element.

At first glance I was hoping that Planes Trains and Automobiles was a trick-taking game or had clever hand management. But alas, that wasn’t the case. Past the first game or two, the nostalgia wears off quickly.

Sky High Gridlock: Pulling cards of a stack of destination cards
Slow and steady, don’t let the card pile touch the table or you’ll lose the challenge!

Please. Have mercy. I’ve been wearing the same underwear since Tuesday!

Many challenges of Planes, Trains and Automobiles require dexterity, which soured the experience for me. Tossing a shower curtain into a grid of Journey cards felt like carnival game, simply hoping to have it land on the card we needed. Sure, it could take skill and practice to accurately toss the curtain ring, but it isn’t something I look for in game.

Shower ring overlapping four cards in a 12 card grid
Ouch! Only one of the four cards the shower curtain ring is touching can be used. The rest are tossed out.

Kids and teens usually enjoy playing games with dexterity – but unless they’ve seen the movie, they won’t appreciate the theme of this game either.

The aesthetics of this game match the goofiness of Planes, Trains and Automobiles; but it still fell flat for our family. The dexterity felt forced, and there aren’t enough challenge cards to make repeated plays feel different.

I strongly disliked spinning the shower curtain as a timer while discussing what to play that turn with your partner.

The concept of flipping over two challenge cards to create a random mini-game is cool; sadly most mini-games weren’t fun. Planes, Trains and Automobiles could work for those who like party games with a dexterity element. It certainly could make for a silly pub game with beverages. But if you’re looking for strategy, look elsewhere.

Ready to take on the role of Neal and Dell and travel cross country to get home for the holidays? Fly on over to Amazon or your friendly local game store to pick up a copy today.

Near-death Authority: On each turn, each player tosses the shower curtain ring at the other player's cards. The other player must play one of hte cards the ring lands on and discard any other cards the ring is touching. To count toward your goal, Neal's mileage must be equal or higher than Del's mileage.
Frantic Tracks: On each turn, one player spins the shower curtain ring. Players can only discuss their cards and play while the ring is spinning ... to count toward your goal, each set must have at least one Train or Luggage card.
Memorable Pillows: Before he first turn, one player spins the shower curtain ring. Both players pick up their cards and try to memorize them. When the ring stops, replace the cards face down... On each turn, play both cards at the same time by flipping them face up. To count toward your goal, each set must have the same suit or the same mileage.
Sky High Individual: (make a pile) On each turn, each player pulls a card out of the pile and plays it.... You cannot pull the top card. If a card from the pile touches the table you lose the challenge. To count toward your goal, each set must have two different suits.

The Family Gamers received a review copy of Planes, Trains and Automobiles from Funko Games.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • 6.5/10
    Art - 6.5/10
  • 5/10
    Mechanics - 5/10
  • 5/10
    Family Fun - 5/10


Age Range: 12+
Number of Players: 2
Playtime: 20 minutes or less