Podcasts are a great way to stave off the boredom of the open road.
Let’s be honest. Road trips can be chock full of beautiful views, tasty food, and interesting roadside attractions, but they don’t often have a thing worth listening to — spouse and children aside, of course.
You need something to tickle your eardrums while you’re out there crushing highway miles en route to your far off destination. Hunting for radio stations can be tedious, and the aging playlist of your favorite songs from high school can only last you for so long. It’s time to add some fresh audio to your road trip rotation.
Best Road Trip Podcasts
Listening to podcasts can help to keep you alert and attentive while driving — and maybe even boost morale during a long road trip too. The best podcasts for road trips will keep you entertained for hours while you let multiple episodes play through without pause.
1. The Best Road Trip Podcast Overall: Outside Podcast
What we dig: Outside Podcast is a fascinating mix of adventure-focused material that will hold your interest for hours on end.
Combining an outdoorsy theme with high production values and well-developed content from multiple non-fiction genres, Outside Podcast has solidified its standing as our favorite podcast for long road trips. It’s the best show out there for those stricken with wanderlust.
The mission of Outside Podcast is to “entertain, inspire, and inform” its listeners. Its production style is reminiscent of the highly-praised public radio podcasts This American Life and Radiolab, but with adventurous and sporty topics directing the flow of each episode.
The show has four different ongoing programs that serve to mix up the content. It all started years ago with the Science of Survival, a captivating study of what it takes to be self-reliant in extreme circumstances.
Since that initial run, the podcast has branched out with several other popular programs including The Outside Interview, in which Outside Editor Christopher Keyes interviews big names in sports and adventure, Dispatch, which focuses on newsworthy storytelling, and Sweat Science, which dissects the world of extreme athletes.
2. The Best Story-Driven Road Trip Podcast: Serial
What we dig: Each season contains a gripping narrative from end to end.
You’ve likely heard of Serial, and you may have already listened to it. This is arguably the podcast that brought podcasts into the mainstream media. Each season of the show has an engrossing narrative that’ll have you on the edge of your seat throughout each and every episode.
The first season aired in 2014. Its 12 episodes are each about 30 to 60 minutes in length. The story is broken down into digestible segments and each one provides more questions than it does answers, leaving you wanting more as the show’s iconic piano tune signifies the end of each episode.
What’s great about this show is that each season provides a provocative story that can be totally consumed throughout the course of a long road trip. The following two seasons focus on different stories, but they’re produced in the same easy-to-consume fashion.
If you haven’t listened to Serial before, now is your chance to dive into the story that turned the world onto podcasts. And if you have listened before, you know it’s worth another go, especially if you’re road tripping with a friend who has never heard it before.
Those who crave even more Serial will be happy to hear that HBO put together the docu-series The Case Against Adnan Syed to recap the popular podcast’s first season and provide a follow-up to the story.
3. The Best Road Trip Podcast for Outdoor Enthusiasts: America’s National Park Podcast
What we dig: Each episode is jam-packed with the history, stories, and people of the National Parks.
Consider America’s National Park Podcast to be your personal tour guide to the national parks. The couple who run the show weave area history with entertaining stories, politics, visitor and employee opinions, fun facts, and their own experiences in the national parks to create well-rounded overviews of each park.
In fact, this podcast is as informative taking a guided hike with a park ranger. Timely context helps to build a narrative around each park’s history. The juxtaposition of past versus present shows how both politics and nature have shaped each park over the years.
The contemporary stories and opinions provided by park rangers, visitor center staff, and vacationers offer different perspectives, not all of which are positive, about the current status of the national parks.
While this show mostly focuses on providing entertainment and insight for its listeners, many episodes contain logistical information as well. You’ll still want to plan further before you visit a featured park on the show, but you’ll get a good introductory taste of the park’s highlights.
The podcast is managed by the RV Miles Network, and so RV camping is another aspect that is briefly discussed about the parks. The hosts tend to provide useful tips and tricks relative to National Park campgrounds and the nearby amenities.
4. The Best Comedy Road Trip Podcast: My Brother, My Brother, and Me
What we dig: Laugh out loud commentary and advice doled out by three cockamamie brothers.
Each week the three McElroy brothers of My Brother, My Brother, and Me respond to listener questions or the perplexing queries found deep in the trenches of Yahoo! Answers. The chemistry between these brothers is outlandish and outstanding. A simple question can lead them down a spiraling abyss of hilarity.
This podcast is a lot like listening to your best friends banter about stupid stuff. The conversation rarely turns serious, or intelligent, but it is always a riot.
The show has won multiple awards for its comedy, and it even spawned a short-lived television series starring the trio. They often venture into adult themes and spout crude language, so you may want to reserve this podcast for when the kids aren’t around.
The question-and-answer format repeats every episode, but there are a dozen or so recurring segments that break up the monotony and change up the rhythm of each episode. If you need a giggle to help get you through those long hours on the road, this is the show for you.
5. The Best Road Trip Podcast for Kids: Sesame Street with Foley & Friends
What we dig: It’s a Sesame Street podcast! Young tykes will love it.
This podcast has not been released yet as of the date of this article’s publication, but from the samples we’ve listened to, Sesame Street with Foley & Friends is going to be a top choice podcast for parents with young children.
The show stars a new muppet named Foley, who is most interested in making weird sounds, and her sidekick Mikee the Microphone. Every one of the 15-minute episodes will focus on an educational theme, such as the alphabet or animal noises.
Though the host is new to Sesame Street, famous guest stars like Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird will make regular appearances. Recurring segments like Elmo’s Joke of the Day and original songs will mirror the appeal of the venerable children’s television show.
Podcasts for children is a burgeoning genre, and Sesame Street is sure to be a forerunner of even greater programs to come. It’s hard to beat the reliability of Sesame Street’s educational programming, though, and we think adults will have fun singing along and mimicking Foley’s weird sounds as well.
The Best of the Rest
Though these podcasts didn’t grab a “best of” label from us, they’re still binge-worthy shows that deserve a listen. Load up your playlist so that you never run short of episodes to listen to.
6. Dirtbag Diaries
Dirtbag Diaries started out as a modest outdoor storytelling podcast by a young writer over 12 years ago. Since then, the show has evolved into a conglomeration of outdoor enthusiasts from all ilks sharing their stories of the trail, the slopes, the open sea, and wherever else their wanderings have taken them.
Each episode delves into a grand story, or a series of short stories, that span the range of human emotion and endurance. This show will inspire you, hit you with humor when you least expect it, and showcase both the struggles and triumphs of intrepid explorers from around the globe.
7. Freakonomics Radio
Freakanomics Radio is an ancient program in the podcasting world. There are hundreds of episodes in its archive, all of which dissect the socioeconomic issues of our modern world.
The show’s tagline “Discover the hidden side of everything…” does well to explain what the show is all about, because its broadness makes it difficult to define. You’ll learn lots of interesting things about topics you’ve never even thought about. It’s a great show for building up your trivia bank, and it will lead to some interesting conversations with your car mates.
8. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate podcast for us fiction-loving nerds. The show is sponsored by WIRED Magazine, hosted by fiction author David Barr Kirtley, and produced by John Joseph Adams of Lightspeed Magazine.
Topics range from video game-inspired cartoons to epic fantasy films to science fiction conventions. The episodes range from one to several hours in length, making this a great show for long stretches of highway cruising. Panel guests frequent the show, including notable sci-fi and fantasy legends like Neil Gaimen, Wil Wheaton, and N. K. Jemisin.
9. Philosophize This!
The be all end all of philosophy podcasts, Philosophize This! breaks down philosophers and their ideas to their building blocks. Host Stephen West does well to whittle down grandiose concepts into laymen’s terms so that we all can understand what the world’s greatest thinkers were trying to get at.
Each episode, starting with the very first, follows the evolution of philosophy chronologically, making it exceptionally friendly to beginners in the field who wish to start from its genesis. As the episodes progress, so do the depth of the ideas. It’s a remarkable journey.
To keep it brief, S-Town is an investigative journalism piece in the same style and format as Serial. It was created by the producers of Serial and This American Life.
Fans of Serial will absolutely become fans of S-Town. The setting is ominous, the characters are quirky, and the story is exciting. Host Brian Reed lets the drama of the tale hold its own as his matter-of-fact way of speaking, and interviewing, unveils the truth hidden between the words.
11. Stuff You Should Know
In each episode of Stuff You Should Know, the offbeat hosting duo digs deep into a specific topic and reveal the answers to just about every question an average person would wish to know about the subject. You can browse through the hundreds of episodes for the topics that interest you or listen to them all to learn something completely new to you.
The show works well for those who want a show they can intently listen to, and for those who want some background noise that doesn’t require their full attention.
12. The Habitat
The Habitat is a seven-episode docu-series that follows the lives of six well-qualified volunteers who are left to their own devices in a faux Mars-like habitat on a remote mountain in Hawaii. If you’ve ever wondered how people would cope in an off-world biodome, this podcast explores that fantasy in reality.
Humans are humans, even when they’re pretending to be on another planet. The relationships between the individuals are the most compelling part of this experiment. Frustration, love, and toilet troubles are all recurring themes.
13. The Moth Podcast
Highlighting storytellers from all walks of life and from all over the world, The Moth Podcast is a menagerie of tales both bright and dark. These are the real tales of real people, told live without scripts.
This series debuted live in 2009 as The Moth Radio Hour, putting storytellers on stage to speak their raw, unedited truths. It has since won a Peabody Award and is now broadcasted on over 500 radio stations. The podcast is available wherever you get your podcasts from and will provide untold hours of entertainment.
14. The No Sleep Podcast
A grassroots podcast built from a small community of horror fiction writers on Reddit, The No Sleep Podcast is an anthology of all things that go bump in the night. Each episode features one or several hair-raising tales that can serve as the perfect road trip pre-game to your campfire stories.
Most of the stories feature a terrifying realism that pulls you into their prose. Eerie music and sound effects add to the podcast’s spooky atmosphere.
15. This American Life
The content of This American Life varies from episode to episode. Non-fiction stories are overwhelmingly featured, though short fiction does make it on to the show every so often. A mix of writers and storytellers present a thematic tale, or series of tales, each episode.
These stories are presented through investigative journalism, memoirs, found footage, and all sorts of other mediums that mix up the pacing to keep listeners interested. The stories feel unfiltered and factual, giving the show credence since its inception as a radio show in the mid-1990s.
16. Wild Thing
Wild Thing is a podcast about “wild places, wild people, and wild ideas” featuring campy topics like Bigfoot, extraterrestrials, and other mysteries that science has left unexplained. The show explores the relationship between science, fiction, and society, and it goes deeper than you would expect.
One reviewer on Stitcher summed up this podcast with a simple question — “What if Serial went hunting for Sasquatch?” This podcast mixes investigative journalism with a bit of imagination. It’s sure to scratch an itch for those who love mystery, folklore, and superstition.
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Seen in: Road Trips