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16 Best Podcasts to Keep You Occupied During Holiday Travel

Tune in and tune out

'Tis the season for long flights and never-ending car rides. Whether the captain has just turned on the fasten seatbelt sign or the airline announced another delay, sometimes the best way to while away the hours is to tune out with a pair of noise-canceling headphones and a compelling podcast. Here are some of our favorite podcasts that are so good, they just might make you wish the travel time was a little longer.  

1. America's Test Kitchen

"I am so in love with the America’s Test Kitchen podcasts. They may only appeal to food nerds, but if you belong to that tribe, you’ll get product reviews, real-deal interviews with food celebrities (like Ina Garten), and funky little kitchen tips. There’s also this part in the podcast when host Christopher Kimball and food editor Bridget Lancaster take listener phone calls. Their responses are always informative and delivered with a side of this funny, ever-so-slightly cantankerous interplay between Chris and Bridget."—Aislyn Greene, Associate Editor

 2. Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

"Not only does Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me keep the listener engaged in the conversation via trivia and comedic relief, but it offers a lot of political and topical news information in an organic way. AND if you happen to be traveling from New York City to New Canaan, CT by car (as I do for every holiday) this podcast is the exact length of the drive. I know that if the podcast ends prior to parking my car in the driveway that there was a traffic delay somewhere along the way." —Kate Hovey Hornsby, Luxury Sales Director

3. StartUp

"StartUp is a podcast about starting a podcast company — so meta! It’s inspiring and comforting in that it shows that taking the leap to start something for yourself can be scary but very rewarding." —Michaela Trimble, Brand Manager

4. As It Happens (CBC)

"The show has been around for decades and while it’s not the coolest or most experimental podcast around, there’s something wonderful about the hour of news and interviews from Canada. Even here in New York, I enjoy hearing about Canada's elections, literary prize winners, and occasional stories about a Chase-the-Ace game in Nova Scotia or a mysterious glowing fish caught in the Northwest Territories. Also, it's always a good thing for Americans to hear how other nations view us, and the CBC provides a thoughtful outside perspective on what is happening here at home." —John Newton, Branded Content Advisor

5. Radiolab

"On 'The (Multi) Universes,' an episode of the “science-in-layman’s-terms” show Radiolab, a physicist and mathematician breakdown the likelihood and implications of the multiverse hypothesis. If this theory, which is supported by scientists including Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson, is true, then I’m recommending this same podcast to you in a quantum dimension but in fluent Esperanto, wearing a kimono."—Andrew Richdale, Senior Editor

6. Criminal

"For all the Serial fans who found themselves at a loss when the season ended, I'd highly recommend Criminal. In each episode, host Phoebe Judge breaks down a different story about crime. But rather than focus only on the big-ticket murder stories, the show delves into stories that illustrate different aspects of crime - historic cold cases, online scams, rare-book thieves, and transgender rights in prison, to name a few."—Maggie Fuller, Digital Content Intern


10 quick-picks from senior editor and resident podcast expert, Derk Richardson

7. & 8. All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts — Host Bob Boilen’s two shows are great ways to keep up on new sounds in (mostly) popular music. Both are recorded and performed live in his intimate NPR studio.  

9. Whad'ya Know? — Michael Feldman is a kind of 21st century Groucho Marx who interviews audience members, hosts musical and literary guests, and conducts silly quizzes.

10. This American Life — Great thematic storytelling.  

11. The World — From Public Radio International, host Marco Werman rounds up the latest international news and throws in a “Global Hit” of world music you might not hear elsewhere. 

12. Afropop Worldwide — The producers, including author Banning Eyre, dig more deeply than anyone else into various musical traditions, but the musicology never overwhelms the terrific sounds. 

13. KCRW’s Morning Become Eclectic — Indeed, one of the most eclectic and up-to-the-minute music radio shows on the planet. 

14. Fresh Air  Terry Gross may be an uneven interviewer, but she’s on point more often than not and her producers bring in the best variety of guests from public affairs, literature, music, and more.

15. Sound Opinions — Chicago-based rock critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot survey current trends and explore pop music history in a relaxed format, in the vein of Rolling Stone when it was a great music magazine. 

16. The Leap — The Leap is not a radio show, but a pure podcast, and is produced out of KQED in San Francisco by radio veterans Amy Standen and Judy Campbell. It is fresh and edgy and features storytelling from a unique angle, focusing on people in “life-defining moments."

>> Next: 5 Quick Reads for Those Long Days of Thanksgiving Travel