30 Best Podcasts for Road Trips to Make the Miles Fly By
Keep your hands at ten and two even during the boring bits with these great podcasts.
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When it comes to the best podcasts, we have to include the best podcasts for road trips to keep your ears company for those long miles. Whether you’re crossing state lines and laughing at the best comedy podcasts, or getting spooked by the best true crime podcasts on an overnight drive, is there anything more American than a road trip? The open road stretching out in front of you for miles upon miles, the landscape changing from forest to mountain to desert and back again… there’s nothing like the beauty of this continent.
With two oceans (and one gulf), five Great Lakes, five major rivers, and 47 national parks in the continental United States, there are plenty of amazing outdoor opportunities as well as exciting cities and adorable towns to visit. There’s history, modernity, and giant balls of twine to see when your children won’t take another moment in the car, even with the best podcasts for kids to entertain them. There’s regional barbecue, pizza, and sandwiches! Not to mention state fairs, seafood, music, wildlife, and your fellow Americans going about their lives. Yes, America has worlds within it, and you can drive through all of them. But sometimes after the fiftieth mile of nothing but corn out the window, you need a diversion. You need the best podcasts for road trips.
Podcasts for history lovers
Dressed: The History of Fashion
From podcast behemoth iHeart Radio comes Dressed: The History of Fashion. Fashion historian hosts April Calahan (a curator and instructor at New York’s esteemed Fashion Institute of Technology) and Cassidy Zachary (who works in film and television costumes and runs the fashion history blog The Art of Dress) present a weekly podcast examining the who, what, where and why of how all seven billion of us get dressed every day. With topics ranging from how changing body ideals have influenced clothing, the politics of wearing pants, and the history of pockets Calahan and Zachary always provide a fascinating perspective on our fashion and dress over centuries, societies, and cultures. This is definitely one of the best podcasts for road trips that will easily fill a few of your miles.
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Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell
You may know Gladwell from his best-selling books, a blend of journalism, social sciences, and self-help. Now he’s co-founded an audio production company, Pushkin Industries, which has an impressive roster of interesting podcasts including Gladwell’s own Revisionist History. Each episode takes something from history, and re-examines the event, idea, person, or artwork to see what we can learn from the misunderstood, overlooked, or assumed. It’s always fascinating and often takes the listener in unexpected directions that will make you see a perspective you may not have thought of before.
This great podcast comes to us from Science Friday, an award-winning producer of science and educational programming. Undiscovered is the story behind important scientific discoveries, mistakes, and unexpected findings, as well as the people involved and affected. Learn why every 19th-century scientist believed in the (not real) ether theory, and how it led to actual advancement, if “six degrees of separation” is real, and how whales sing. It’s a great ride, and that’s what makes Undiscovered one of the best podcasts for road trips.
Although BackStory sadly ended in June of 2020, the acclaimed podcast from Virginia Humanities has an impressive back catalogue (dating back to May of 2008) to listen to. The aim of the show was to give listeners all sides to a story, which makes for a variety of perspectives and an enriched experience of learning about American history. The regular historians (all professors of history) and guest historians link past events in American history to contemporary situations, putting events and ideas that seem purely modern in historical context. Combine one of the best podcasts for road trips with some fun education for a win-win experience.
The Memory Palace
Brought to your ears by the amazing podcast network Radiotopia, which includes such luminary podcasts as 99% Invisible and Song Exploder, The Memory Palace is a podcast like no other. Creator Nate DiMeo is the sole creative force behind the podcast, which comes out every two weeks or so and asks listeners to trust your ears to it for somewhere between ten and thirty minutes. DiMeo doesn’t provide show notes, and each episode is a different snapshot of human history that turns into a beautiful meditation on humanity. Sometimes hilarious, always moving, each episode of The Memory Palace is a real journey, just like your road trip. And the music is always wonderful, too.
Another one from the iHeart Radio network, Committed got started when host and journalist Jo Piazza married her husband, who she’d gotten engaged to just three months after their first meeting on a boat in the Galápagos Islands. Movie-worthy romantic love story? Check! Complete confusion about how to be married after a lifetime of globe-trotting independence? Check! Piazza set out to discover “how to be married,” travelling the world to glean wisdom from married people in different cultures and turning it into her book of the same name. The podcast Committed continues that work, interviewing all sorts of couples about the ups and downs their relationships have weathered, from health scares and navigating cross-cultural partnerships, to opening a business together.
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Myths and Legends
Myths and Legends was started in 2015 by writer, host, and English major Jason Weiser, and two years later added his wife Carissa Weiser as editor and producer. This dynamite husband and wife team makes one of the best mythology and storytelling podcasts around. Episodes come out every two weeks, and cover stories from every continent and many different cultures. Some are completely new and some are familiar, but the Weisers always find a new angle or source to give it a fresh depth. Each episode is capped by a “creature of the week,” which are frequently hilarious. This podcast isn’t just one of the best podcasts for road trips, it’s also generally family-friendly (and Weiser notes in the intro if the themes of that week’s story are not appropriate for little ones).
Podcasts to make you think and learn
Journalist, producer, and editor Laura Krantz is both host and investigator on this science-meets-society podcast from Foxtopus. Season one of Wild Thing explored the cultural phenomenon that is the Bigfoot myth, interviewing true believers (some of whom are respected scientists), and examining why the idea of a Bigfoot has such cultural staying power. Season two, titled “Space Invaders,” takes a look at our obsession with extraterrestrial life. From astrobiologists searching for microbial life in space to UFO conspiracists, humans are fascinated by the possibility of life outside our own planet. Wild Thing is an often amusing, surprisingly moving, and always illuminating look at why we believe the things we do.
A long-running and well-respected NPR podcast, Code Switch calls itself “the fearless conversation about race you’ve been waiting for!” It’s sometimes a hard listen, as many of the subjects are harrowing (like the recent spike in violence against Asian Americans). But it’s the multi-racial cast of journalists who host it that brings the necessary nuance and depth to these important conversations and subjects. You’ll learn something, feel something, and be able to relate to something from each episode, and feel more connected to the world as each episode covers not only issues of race, but also how these issues intersect with every facet of society and individual identity.
This fascinating podcast about linguistics and language is hosted by British linguist Helen Zaltzman and is simultaneously one of the best podcasts for road trips and one of the best to fall asleep to. Special, soothing episodes of The Allusionist, called The Tranquillusionists, are specially designed with words and music to calm your anxiety and help you drop off. Regular episodes involve everything from interviews with people trying to save indigenous languages, to a woman whose brain injury caused her to lose most of her speech. Frequently hilarious and often moving and illuminating, The Allusionist also features a randomly selected word per episode, so you’ll improve your vocabulary too.
This is Love
Another one from Radiotopia, This is Love is brought to you by the incredibly dulcet tones of Phoebe Judge, who you may know from her previous podcast, Criminal. This Is Love follows love stories of all sorts, from a 72-year-old British man who posts pictures of his vegetable garden online to global acclaim and love, to finding a partner later in life, This Is Love is a gorgeous accompaniment to every stage of life.
Twenty Thousand Hertz
A true journey for your ears, Twenty Thousand Hertz takes the sounds that make up our everyday lives and breaks them down in fascinating and oftentimes surprising ways. Creator and host Dallas Taylor (also a sound designer, writer, consultant, and Creative Director of Defacto Sound) brings a learned perspective to each topic. Episode highlights include a discussion of the 20th Century Fox movie fanfare, the neurological condition synesthesia, and the physics of sound with special guest Bill Nye.
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Hosted by award-winning science correspondent Alie Ward, Ologies is a hilarious and informative science podcast. Every week, Ward examines a different “ology” (that is, a discipline such as archaeology or dendrology) by interviewing an expert in that field. While some of the ologies may be familiar, many are much more niche to the layperson (fulminology, anyone?). Ward’s energy and curiosity keep each episode zapping along. You’ll be learning and laughing, which is what makes Ologies one of the best podcasts for road trips.
The Only One In The Room
Writer Laura Cathcart Robbins created and hosts this podcast, in which she interviews people about their experiences of feeling othered—being The Only One In The Room. The idea came when she attended a prestigious writing retreat and found herself the only Black writer there. After she wrote about her experience on HuffPost, she received messages from people of all kinds sharing their stories of being “the only one in the room.” This podcast uses our shared experiences of aloneness to emphasize our connection. It makes for a beautiful listening experience.
How to Citizen with Baratunde
Writer, comedian, and activist Baratunde Thurston is here to inspire change. This podcast takes the noun “citizen” and makes it a verb. Season one askes listeners to consider what it means to citizen, to be an active participant in the community. Season two asks us to consider how we can citizen within the ideological divisions of our society. What emerges is one of the best podcasts for road trips: informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring. Listening to How to Citizen will leave you feeling hopeful to be a part of a community of inextricably connected humans.
This fascinating podcast, produced by This American Life alumna Jane Marie and her partner Dann Gallucci, set out to explore and investigate the place where economic promise, cultural phenomena, and the American Dream meet. The first season of The Dream explored the world of MLMs, multilevel marketing companies (such as Avon or LuLaRoe) that rely on ordinary people to act as sales representatives. The second season is focused on wellness, that vague promise of health that somehow also involves sixty-dollar crystals. Where another show might be cynical and cruel, Marie is always empathetic, focusing more on how people get drawn into these enterprises than judging them for it. It’s a surprisingly moving listen.
Podcasts for pop culture lovers
Soundtracking with Edith Bowman
If you like movies, and if you like movie music, or if you like music in general, Soundtracking is the podcast for you, as well as one of the best podcasts for road trips out there! Each week, veteran BBC Radio DJ Edith Bowman talks to directors, actors, producers, and composers about the music that inspires them, as well as the soundtracks to their movies. It’s an absolutely fascinating journey through the music that can take a scene from heartbreaking to hilarious and vice versa.
This hilarious and insightful weekly podcast is by fans, for fans. Intercontinental friends Gavia Baker-Whitelaw (a Scottish film and TV critic, writer for the Daily Dot, and film costume design blogger at Behind the Seams) and Morgan Leigh Davies (an American writer, film and TV critic, and antiquarian bookseller) spend some time each week discussing a film, TV show, or comic they are Overinvested in (they also do fan-sponsored requests for their equally overinvested listeners). Both hosts are smart and well-informed with real critical chops, as well as charming and hilarious, but as with any good hosting duo, the magic in the chemistry is what makes the show zing. Davies’ weariness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe often stands at odds with Baker-Whitelaw’s lifelong love of comic books and superheroes, but they’re just as good when they agree, such as in the iconic episode on the movie A Knight’s Tale.
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Desert Island Discs
This long-running BBC staple was first broadcast in 1942, and has recorded over 3000 episodes, with every episode from November 29, 2009 (featuring Morrissey) now available in podcast form. Every famous British person of the 20th (and many of the 21st) centuries have appeared on the program, as well as a host of other interesting and worthwhile people from various countries and professions. The format of the show involves the host (currently Lauren Laverne) interviewing a guest (“castaway”) who chooses eight recordings and one luxury to accompany them to a desert island. They are also provided with the Complete Works of Shakespeare and a religious or philosophical text, and they may choose one additional book. Although the musical selections on the podcast are limited to 30 seconds due to rights issues, the real joy of Desert Island Discs is in the discussions of the castaway’s choices, which are always fascinating digressions on their lives and works.
Even the Rich
If you have a soft spot for gossip, family drama, and the antics of the extraordinarily wealthy and / or famous, Even the Rich is the podcast for you. Brought to your ears by Wondery, the podcast network, hosts Aricia Skidmore-Williams and Brooke Siffrinn discuss the inner lives and cultural resonance of the rich and famous. Episode arcs include the story of the Gettys, Versace, JFK and Jackie O, and the connection between Princess Diana and Meghan Markle. If you need a bit of escapism as you’re driving through an endless corridor of trees, Even the Rich is one of the best podcasts for road trips.
If you’re not quite on board with the fact that the year 2000 was over TWENTY YEARS AGO, this is the podcast for you. Twenty Twenty goes back in time to the biggest trends, people, and cultural moments that happened in the aughts and reexamines them with the benefit of twenty/twenty hindsight. Yes, things have changed, but also, have they? Yes. Late-twenty-somethings hosts Tara Joshi and Simran Hans discuss the events of their childhood with knowledgeable guests. It’s an enjoyable nostalgia trip that puts past events in a context you may have missed the first time around.
Another amazing podcast for movie fans, British podcast Script Apart is hosted by journalist Al Horner and produced by filmmaker Kamil Dyek. Every episode of Script Apart features a screenwriter behind a classic or much-loved film, sharing their first draft script for that movie. The discussion is about what changed, what stayed, and how that initial bundle of papers got into your local movie house. With the writers behind movies like Die Hard, Moonlight, and Inside Out in for a chat, the result is a fun and interesting journey through the trials of moviemaking. The other thing that makes it one of the best podcasts for road trips? All proceeds go to charity.
Podcasts for fiction lovers
Phoebe Reads a Mystery
Our friend with the mellifluous voice, Phoebe Judge, is back again with the pandemic-inspired podcast Phoebe Reads a Mystery. It’s a simple concept, but a great one: each episode features Judge reading a chapter of a mystery novel in the public domain. Works from authors like Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Henry James, and Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as lesser-known mystery writers make this podcast well worth listening to. True, it’s essentially a library of audiobooks, but there’s something soothing about all the characters being voiced so serenely by Judge.
If you love British eccentricity and long-form fiction podcasts, Wooden Overcoats is the perfect podcast for you as well as one of the best podcasts for road trips. Rudyard Funn and his dour sister Antigone run the only funeral home on the (fictional) British island of Piffling. Until the day another funeral home moves in, run by a newcomer to the island, the handsome and charismatic Eric Chapman. Due to his popularity, the Funn’s funeral home is soon at risk, and they have to figure out how to keep themselves in business. This podcast is hilarious, charming, there’s three seasons of it to fill your longest driving day and there’s also a mouse called Madeleine. Download immediately.
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The Thrilling Adventure Hour
OK, so The Thrilling Adventure Hour originally ran in podcast form from 2011-2015, and much of that back catalogue is only available via Patreon. Honestly, though, it’s so good that it’s worth listening to anyway. The podcast’s revival in 2018 has meant continuous uploads to Apple Podcasts and the like, and that’s still several years of great content available which makes it one of the best podcasts for road trips! The Thrilling Adventure Hour is still one of the most entertaining fiction podcasts out there. It’s presented in the format of an old-timey radio show, with two main recurring segments: Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars (a Space Western set one thousand years in the future) and its various spinoffs, and Beyond Belief, a couple of 1930s-style married mediums who’d prefer a martini, but are obliged to solve paranormal mysteries instead. All of your favorite actors have guest-starred on the podcast, and you’ll fall in love with the characters, especially Croach the Tracker, Sparks Nevada’s trusty Martian sidekick.
As the name suggests, Amateur Traveler is a DIY affair. However, this is not to say that the content is not high-quality. Created in 2005 by travel nerd Chris Christensen, the podcast has thousands of episodes on what seems like every destination on the globe. If you’re going somewhere and want to hear about it from either a native or someone who has gathered extensive notes on their own trip there, there is most likely an episode for you. Designed with North American travelers (and our comparatively small vacation allowances—looking at you, 30-days-off-per-year-France) in mind, so most trip itineraries are designed for a one- or two-week jaunt. As well as content by country and city, best travel practices and methods for getting around are recommended. It’s like your most organized friend planned a trip for you!
Everybody’s National Parks
This is the best podcast for road trips to National Parks, bar none. Dedicated to family adventure (although it’s still suitable for singles or couples exploring what Ken Burns called “America’s best idea”), Everybody’s National Parks interviews rangers, scientists, and historians to help you plan your National Parks trip. If you’re driving to a National Park, this podcast will not only get you excited about opportunities to explore the park and the activities available, but inspire you to visit other National Parks as well. A highlight episode from March of 2020 spoke with Grandma Joy Ryan and her grandson Brad Ryan of Grandma’s Road Trip. Since the start of their National Park journey five years ago (when Joy was 85) they’ve visited 53 National Parks, and counting!
From Ravel Media, She Explores is a podcast where interviews, listener submissions and field recordings come together to tell the stories of women of all backgrounds who are inspired by the outdoors. From conservation, solo hiking, and motherhood to confronting issues of diversity and inclusion in the outdoors, each episode is an illuminating listen in one way or another. It’s also full of stories of women achieving amazing things! Founded and hosted by Gale Straub and her calm voice, this podcast is perfect for anyone (and especially women) who loves the outdoors and is looking to deepen their connection to nature and get inspired.
Let’s Go Together
Brought to your ears from Travel + Leisure magazine, Let’s Go Together is your inspiration to travel the world. The host is adventure woman Kellee Edwards, a pilot, scuba diver, and explorer who has traveled to over 50 of the world’s countries. Every week, Edwards talks to a one of a diverse group of travelers and boundary-pushers who shares her love of travel. From the female park ranger working in a male-dominated profession, to traveling the world as a deaf person, this podcast will make you want to take a road trip if you aren’t on one already. That’s what makes it one of the best podcasts for road trips!
The First Mile
Presented by sweet British travel journalists and adventure-mad duo Ash Bhardwaj and Pip Stewart, The First Mile combines interviews with other adventurers and discussions of everything from how to break into travel writing to the ethics of tourism. Combined with regular dispatches from Nepal and New Zealand, The First Mile is the ultimate inspiration for adventure. Episode highlights include episode nine, which highlights travel in misunderstood places.