The 46 Best Podcasts for Your Next Road Trip or Long Flight

The podcasts to listen to on your next long drive or plane ride, whether you’re a history nerd, traveling with kids, or just in need of a true-crime fix.

Podcasts to download for your next road trip

What takes a road trip from good to great? Hours and hours of top-notch podcasts.

Design by Elizabeth See

Summer is made for long leisurely travels: road trips, week-long beach sojourns, multi-country hops. It’s also made for binge-listening some of the most creative, funniest, and thought-provoking podcasts being produced right now.

But there are a lot of podcasts out there. And the big podcast players only surface a handful, based on algorithms and newsworthiness, not necessarily what best suits you, your friends, or your family.

So we’ve done the work for you. Now that you’ve planned your adventure (or maybe not!), here are some of the best podcasts out there, all perfect for your next extended road trip or plane ride, whether you love a good murder mystery, need a family-friendly listen, or want to laugh for miles.

If you like going to unexpected places

Explore curiosities of the world, download the AFAR podcast, and more.

Explore curiosities of the world, download the AFAR podcast, and more.

Images courtesy National Park After Dark and AFAR

1. The Atlas Obscura Podcast

Did you know you can visit Hitler’s toilet in a New Jersey car repair shop? Or that there’s a 7-Eleven convenience store in Baltimore, Maryland, marking where the Ouija board was invented? These are the strange facts you’ll glean from the 15-minute-or-less episodes of the daily Atlas Obscura podcast, which also ties classic episodes to current events and does the occasional deep dive into travel’s obscurities.

2. Travel Tales by AFAR

In season five of Travel Tales by AFAR, we hit the road again. Travel to northern Canada with a polar bear expert, learn what it was like to cycle across the United States with no money or food, and explore the world of rewilding in Argentina. Our podcast is your ticket to the world—no passport required.

3. Unpacked

In Unpacked by AFAR—our second podcast—we explore life’s big questions. In season three, we unpack eclipse travel, budgeting, building confidence around foreign languages, and much more. Watch for our new series, “Unpacking,” where we dive into cities around the world, including Toronto, Albuquerque, and Madison, Wisconsin. Through a mix of interviews and personal stories, we delve into your deepest travel dilemmas. Because the world is complicated. We’re here to help you unpack it.

4. Outside Podcast

Adventurers yearning to learn about epic rescues, endurance athletes, and what it’s really like to be on Naked and Afraid should tune into this weekly podcast from the team at Outside magazine. In the most recent season, the podcast asks if whales are really gentle giants, why cats are taking over New York City, and if golf can be an endurance sport, among many other fascinating topics.

5. Jump With Traveling Jackie

Jackie is the vivacious host of this long-running podcast, on which she discusses her own travel and brings in guests for tips and conversation. Some of Jackie’s most powerful episodes feature unpolished narration from outside the studio in which she explores her own feelings and experiences on the road, whether walking through Jordan or exploring the truck camper life. Dedicating an hour to each topic allows for a deep and expansive dive.

6. National Park After Dark

If Lore was only about stories that had taken place in U.S. national parks, it would sound like this. Hosts Danielle and Cassie are friends who tell each other true tales set in the parks, such as the horrific medical care given at the Battle of Gettysburg, a runner who mysteriously disappeared in Shoshone National Forest, and Diana of the Dunes, a woman who left society to live off the land in what is now Indiana Dunes National Park.

7. Wander Your Way

A classic weekly podcast with a host (Lynne Nieman) who seems to have been everywhere across the pond. She shares excellent travel tips, but her specialty is pointing listeners to the off-the-beaten-path destinations. With Lynn, you’ll visit the Scottish stone circle site Killmartin Glen instead of Stonehenge, and Umbria instead of Tuscany in Italy. A particularly great listen for those who’ve already been to the tourist traps.

If you like fiction

Dive into fictional worlds, from a world where sleep kills to a desert town where every conspiracy theory is true.

Dive into fictional worlds, from a world where sleep kills to a desert town where every conspiracy theory is true.

Images courtesy Welcome to Night Vale and the Edge of Sleep

8. Welcome to Night Vale

One of the best-known fiction podcasts, about a desert town where every conspiracy theory is true, Welcome to Night Vale has been described as “Lake Woebegone as told by Stephen King.” Twelve years in, the series—which has spawned several books and a fervent fan base—is still going strong at almost 250 episodes! Two drop each month.

9. Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books

Zibby Owens is a publishing powerhouse who posts author interviews five times a week. She focuses on books that will appeal to the mom demographic but she casts a wide net, showcasing historical fiction, general interest nonfiction, and self-help as well as the big events in publishing. Each episode introduces listeners to an author and their process, sparking interest in books widely available, making that next to trip to the library or bookstore even more fun.

10. LeVar Burton Reads

Lovers of short fiction should check out LeVar Burton Reads. Yes, THE LeVar Burton, of Reading Rainbow, Roots, Jeopardy!, and Star Trek fame, whose velvety warm voice encouraged youngster millennials and Gen Z-ers to embrace their love of reading. For each of his 150-plus episodes, he selects a short story he loves and reads it, in episodes that last up to an hour, with immersive audio effects: the snaps of twigs in the woods, the snarl of traffic on a New York City street.

11. Birds of Empire

From Qcode Media comes a fictional podcast set in New Dakota in 15,000 C.E., thousands of years after the fall of human civilization. Four heroes arise, from the tribes of what was once South Dakota, one each from the Wolves, the Bears, the Rams, and the Birds, powered by the myths of the world as it was, seeking what it could come to be. As that description implies, this podcast, now entering its second season, is perfect for fantasy lovers.

If it’s all about the comedy (and culture)

12. Don’t Ask Tig

Beloved comedian Tig Notaro offers a kind of anti-advice show: She constantly reminds listeners not to ask her for advice and yet they continue to do so, asking questions that range from the silly (Help! I don’t like tea—how do I turn it down?) to the more profound (Help! My mother wants to move in with us. What do I do?). Then she and her celebrity guests give answering them their best shot, anyway.

13. Las Culturistas

Powered by a recent viral Tina Fey appearance, Las Culturistas is hipper than ever. Since 2016, comedians Matt Rogers and SNL’s Bowen Yang have hosted hundreds of episodes, mixing deep dives into pop culture, fun bickering, celebrity guests, and plenty of criticism (such as the recurring minute-long game “I Don’t Think So, Honey!” about frustrating social and cultural phenomena).

14. Pop Culture Happy Hour

When you need a quick hit of cultural insight, whether it’s an overview of a new movie or TV show, or a read on the newest Taylor Swift re-recording, NPR’s weekday review show will help. A rotating array of hosts with unexpected opinions keeps it fresh, and they shake up the round-table format often enough to keep it an engaging daily listen. Episodes never top 30 minutes.

15. You Are Good

Hosts Sarah Marshall (of You’re Wrong About fame) and Alex Steed discuss popular movies of the last 50 years from a fan’s perspective, leading to thoughtful (and funny) discussions of topics that are cultural, personal, and metaphysical. Marshall and Steed are joined by a writer or fellow podcaster who chooses a favorite film to discuss—topics have included Everything Everywhere All at Once, Newsies, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

16. How Did This Get Made?

In this Earwolf podcast, three popular comedians (Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas) ask the titular question about recent films. Their famous, funny friends, like Nicole Byer, Cameron Esposito, and Joel Kim Booster, stop by to help analyze “classics” like Road House and Fifty Shades of Grey. Let’s just say that these folks don’t talk like they want to keep working in Hollywood.

17. Talk Art

British actor Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament talk to artists, art fans, and other folks connected to visual art, including big names like Ryan Murphy and Judy Chicago, in hour-long episodes. The unique combination of Tovey’s appreciation for artists of another genre and Diament’s art world experience makes for a winning and educational show.

18. Go Fact Yourself

This hilarious podcast is also a game show that’s recorded live twice a month. Hosts J. Keith Van Strataan and Helen Hong quiz a visiting celebrity (such as Drew Carey) on their self-proclaimed area of expertise (in Carey’s case, the conversation drills down on game shows). In about an hour, you’ll be charmed by the quick wit and erudition. There are some 150 episodes to keep you entertained.

19. If Books Could Kill

Ever wonder if those airport pop-psychology bestsellers are worth your time? Hosts Michael Hobbes (Maintenance Phase) and Peter Shamshiri (5-4 Podcast) are here to tell you that those books are most definitely not. Each episode is a witheringly smart and funny read of such tomes as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. While their obvious hatred for these books drives the show, Hobbes and Shamshiri’s hilarious, discursive, and digressive banter is what makes the trip fun.

If you like interviews

Listen to conversations about earworms from the 1990s and navigating the world as women of color.

Listen to conversations about earworms from the 1990s and navigating the world as women of color.

Images courtesy Latina to Latina and 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s

20. Ologies

Tune in to science journalist Alie Ward’s fascinating conversations with various researchers who specialize in the “-ology” of each episode. Lately, they’ve delved into ancient Rome, black holes, and capybaras! She also includes “Smologies” in the feed, which are 15 to 30–minute bite-size shows (compared to the hour-plus full episodes) and a good way for new listeners to dig in.

21. Latina to Latina

Journalist and host Alicia Menendez welcomes Latinas like activist Paula Ávila-Guillén, actor Gina Rodriguez, and former U.N. General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces to talk about life, challenges, and successes while navigating the world as women of color. Latina to Latinas weekly half-hour episodes have been running since April 2018 so there are plenty to choose from.

22. WTF with Marc Maron

Launched all the way back in 2009, this OG podcast remains vital. Comedian Maron’s in-depth interviews with famous guests are funny, compelling, and revealing. The guest list is more diverse these days: Hong Chau, Michelle Yeoh, Lily Gladstone, and Radhika Jones have appeared on the show in recent seasons.

23. 60 Songs That Explain the ’90s

The Ringer staff writer Rob Harvilla wrapped up his exploration into the music that made the 1990s earlier this year. Each episode focused on a classic, like “Whoop! There It Is!” or “Semi-Charmed Life.” (Sorry for the earworms!) Harvilla always included an interview with someone connected to the song, from super-fans who love the artist to music producers who explained why a song is particularly compelling. But the real appeal remains Harvilla’s own heartfelt memories of how these songs shaped him.

24. Queery

Host Cameron Esposito is a comedian and queer activist. In each episode of this now-concluded podcast, they sit down with a fascinating guest to discuss LGBTQ+ issues. From figure skater Adam Rippon to actor/comedian Mae Martin, the guest list is wide-ranging and touches on most aspects of queer identity. Stand-out episodes include a visit from astrologer Chani Nicholas (who discusses Esposito’s birth chart) and drag queen Trixie Mattel (who talks about Provincetown and peeing while dressed in drag). Because the show has finished its run, it feels like a completed body of work.

25. Normal Gossip

Host Kelsey McKinney welcomes a guest to share, discuss, debate, and laugh at a story of utterly banal (and yet somehow deeply juicy) reader-submitted gossip, such as a years-long family contretemps over . . . what to call Grandma? Each episode is equal parts hilarious and confounding and truly leaves no aspect of the gossip undiscussed.

If You’re Traveling With Kids

Among the top podcast for kids are two that place girls firmly at the center, including Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and the Story Seeds Podcast.

Among the top podcast for kids are two that place girls firmly at the center, including Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and the Story Seeds Podcast.

Images courtesy Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and Story Seeds

26. WOW in the World

From Tinkercast, and supported by NPR, WOW in the World is an educational kids show cohosted by Guy Raz and author Mindy Thomas. Learn about black holes, supergerms, AI, and more in every episode, which hits the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of the day’s theme in a tone best suited for elementary grades.

27. The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd

This very long-running series—it launched in 2004 and now has 800 episodes—is like an old-timey radio program crossed with Mystery Science Theater 3000, then given an educational spin. In every episode, Dr. Floyd tries to foil the villain Dr. Steve . . . and laughs (and learning) happen along the way. The evocation of radio sound effects from another era is particularly delightful. And it’s fun for all ages!

28. Who, When, Wow!

An engaging look at obscure historical stories, hosted by “aspiring time travel detective” Carly Q. Recent episodes dug deep into the mysterious disappearance of bank robber D. B. Cooper and why the pineapple is a symbol of welcome. Episodes run about a half-hour and are perfect for kids ages eight and up. The podcast website provides additional activities, too.

29. A Way with Words

Slang, new words, dialects, grammar, and word games are a few of the topics that journalist Martha Barnette and lexicographer Grant Barrett discuss on their long-running podcast. They answer callers’ questions about words, discuss vocabulary that’s appeared in the news, and ponder linguistic curiosities from around the world. While not specifically designed for children, the pair have created a fun, educational, and family-friendly show.

30. Ear Snacks

Roughly once a month, Andrew and Polly pick a topic (fruit! space!) and write a 30-minute episode around it, including original songs. A recent episode exploring colors, rainbows, and the Holi holiday is a true standout. The New York Times says this is one of the best podcasts for kids, and it’s hard to argue with the guaranteed happy ear worms the duo produces—there’s a reason why they’ve been nominated for Grammys.

31. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

These 20-minute-ish episodes featuring narration about the lives of inspiring women are a good listen for kids ages six and up and for grown-ups, too. It’s a self-described “fairy-tale podcast” that explores famous figures like Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, and Celia Cruz. A recent miniseries called “Growing Up Powerful” teaches wellness through several lenses.

32. Brains On!

American Public Media’s science podcast is for curious kids (and adults). Each episode poses an intriguing question—Do plants sleep? How do hearing aids work? Why do we have friends?—and spends a half-hour or so answering it. The series does a good job of publishing in tune with current events, such as a solar eclipse episode this past April.

If you like true crime

33. Think Twice

This 10-episode podcast exploring Michael Jackson’s complicated life and myriad controversies is hosted by journalist Leon Neyfakh and hip-hop commentator Jay Smooth, who work through their own complex feelings about the artist and accused child molester. Managing to be both compassionate and hard-hitting, the series will shake your convictions about Jackson, whatever they may be.

34. Last Seen

After spending their first season exploring the famous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in Boston, the hosts of Last Seen (all Boston Globe or WBUR journalists) have turned their attention to other mysterious local cases. Each episode takes a deep dive into a particular event or person, from a murder in Haitian Boston to the “Jesse James of New England Community Theatre.” No prior knowledge of Boston is required. Just listen.

35. Morbid

As concepts for podcasts go, a show in which a hairstylist and an autopsy technician poke around crime and its many related topics is already a winner. Hosts Ash and Alaina are relatives and friends, both obsessed with the, well, morbid. Each episode is a spellbinding mix of goofy humor, genuine creepiness, and assertive knowledge. Check out the recent episode about the death of Steven Robards for proof. Turns out, his teenage daughter killed him. But was it an accident—or murder?

36. Stuff the British Stole

This popular Australian podcast from the CBC has the tagline: “Throughout its reign, the British Empire stole a lot of stuff.” From that winning premise, the completed series explains why so many treasures from so many other countries ended up in the British Museum and other sites throughout the United Kingdom. Journalist Marc Fennell digs into stories as varied as the real life of Pocahontas (who was infamously stolen by the British, in a sense, from the then-American colonies) and that of an Ethiopian prince—buried on the grounds of Windsor Castle, after he was kidnapped from his home country—with a delightfully cheeky tone.

37. The Murder in My Family

For a different perspective on true crime, try this powerful show, which focuses on the families of murder victims. In each episode, a family member shares the story of how their loved one’s death has affected them. Their ongoing attempts to understand and accept what has happened makes for riveting listening, and the hour-long episodes allow for a more nuanced view.

38. Ridiculous Crime

For those who prefer true crime without all that murder business, we have a podcast for you. Hosts Zaron Burnett and Elizabeth Dutton share hour-long episodes of, yes, ridiculous crimes. Con artists, jewelry thieves, and bank robbers all get their hilarious due. Recent episodes unpacked the weird reasons musicians get arrested and the tiger king of Harlem, who raised a tiger (and a few other wild animals) in his fifth-floor New York City apartment.

If you like stories about famous people

39. Comments by Celebs

Specializing in people who are famous (and famous for being famous), this podcast thrives on of-the-moment celebrity gossip, with a heavy emphasis on the Kardashians and any breaking news in the world of Taylor Swift. Hosts Emma Diamond and Julie Kramer are experts on these celebs and provide context and even nuance around the doings of the Vanderpumps, Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, and many other people whose names you know even if you don’t quite know why.

40. Super Soul

Still miss Oprah on your TV? Well, great news: she’s got a podcast, and it feels pretty perfect to listen to her soulful explorations in audio form. The show is meant to help listeners connect with their inner lives and the world around them. Oprah personally selects episodes from her collection of interviews with celebrities, authors, wellness experts, and world leaders—such as Deepak Chopra and Shirley MacLaine—to help you access your best self.

41. Office Ladies

Angela Kinsey and Jenna Fischer (who played Angela and Pam, respectively, on the sitcom The Office) are also real-life BFFs. On this warm, cozy show, they discuss each episode of the series—they’re now on Season 9!—sharing both behind-the-scenes details and thoughtful analysis. Their banter is warm and delightful, making this a fun choice even for folks who never got into the show, and the occasional guest star from the series dials up the fun.

If you’re a history buff

Dive into the archives of the Smithsonian, dig into juicy scandals, and explore historical events with comedians.

Dive into the archives of the Smithsonian, dig into juicy scandals, and explore historical events with comedians.

Images courtesy Crash Course Black American History and Sidedoor

42. You’re Wrong About

Hindsight is 20/20—and it’s particularly interesting to revisit the events and public figures of the past with a modern perspective. That’s how host Sarah Marshall approaches her podcast, which reconsiders topics like the Terry Schiavo case, Yoko Ono and the Beatles, and an ongoing, discursive exploration of the O.J. Simpson case. Adventurer Blair Braverman is their “survival correspondent,” and in a recent episode, they took a close look at the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed into the Andes—it’s spellbinding listening.

43. Sidedoor

The Smithsonian has more than 157 million artifacts in its collection, and its Sidedoor podcast offers the best possible insider access. Host Lizzie Peabody invites listeners in, speaking with scientists, artists, historians, and others to explore topics like the world’s oldest winery, the life of hip-hop artist J Dilla, and an ingenious machine that harvests algae and converts it to biomass—which could one day power your iPhone. Another plus? It’s family friendly.

44. Slow Burn

Slate’s astoundingly well-researched long-form narrative series has looked at Watergate, the Clinton impeachment, the Biggie-Tupac beef, and the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings. Each season, a different host builds a fascinating, multi-layered look at the topic, bringing in key voices through interviews. No matter what you think you already know about the subject, you’re sure to learn more. Next up? The Briggs Initiative (season nine, launching in May) and the rise of Fox News (season 10, out in late 2024).

45. Crash Course Black American History

Writer Clint Smith hosts this 50-episode podcast, which wrapped at the end of 2022. It provides a nuanced and comprehensive history class on Black America in relatively short (15 minutes long) episodes. Smith starts with the arrival of the first enslaved people to what would become the United States and concludes with the Black Lives Matter movement.

46. The British History Podcast

Setting out on a lengthy road trip? Start at the beginning of this 430-plus-episode (and growing) podcast. Host and writer Jamie Jeffers continues to make his stately, and fascinating, way through British history. He began with the end of the last ice age and recently arrived at Prince Robert’s rebellion against his father, William the Conqueror, in the 11th century. In other words: There are miles to go before the sun sets on the British Empire.

This story originally published in 2018. It was most recently on May 1, 2024, to include current information.

Aislyn Greene is the associate director of podacsts at AFAR, where she produces the Unpacked by AFAR podcast and hosts AFAR’s Travel Tales podcast. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.
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