This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on December 13th, 2021
When prepping for a road trip across America or another country, there are four indispensable items you’ll need on hand for your trip:
- Excellent snacks
- Dynamite playlists
- BÉIS Travel Fanny Pack
- Podcasts par excellence
These days it seems like there’s a podcast episode for everything, from comedy to a true crime podcast to podcasts about podcasts. No matter how meta you’re willing to get, fording your way through the weeds of audio entertainment can feel like an odyssey in itself—so we’ve taken care of some of the legwork for you.
Here are our top picks in 15 categories that are sure to entertain, educate, and inspire you while you’re cruising down the open road.
The Best Podcasts for Travelers
One of the best parts of traveling is discovering the hidden wonders of new locales, from unsung monuments to hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
If you’re looking to whet your wanderlust palette, check out one of the following podcasts or choose from our list of the best travel books.
- The Atlas Obscura Travel Podcast – If Atlas Obscura’s best-selling book, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders won’t fit in your suitcase, you’re in luck. 1This audio series offers short episodes averaging around 15 minutes for roadrunners who are craving adventures off the beaten track. Need fodder for a Wikipedia deep dive when you’re spending the night at a roadside motel? Look no further than this intrepid audio series.
- A.L.T. Lab Radio – S.A.L.T. Lab Radio follows gastronomic whiz kid Adam Sachs through lands near and far to explore the world through the lens of cuisine. This podcast is a tour de force when it comes to meshing food and faraway places. Whether your road trip includes Michelin-starred foodie exploits or a steady diet of Burger King, this series is guaranteed to elevate your experience of chowing down on the road.
The Best Podcast for Arts & Culture
Terry Gross was a radio icon long before the days of smartphones and on-demand audio entertainment, but somehow NPR’s Fresh Air still manages to stay on top of current events and ahead of the curb.
This program hosts intimate conversations with culture makers across the media spectrum. Whether you’re sussing out candidates running for office, or hunting for a new TV series to binge when you get to your hotel, Fresh Air is a perfect easy-listening choice.
The Best Podcasts for Conversation Starters
There’s no shame in it: when it comes to road trips, all of us have had to endure and forge past the inevitable awkward silence with our carmate during the long road trip.
But there are plenty of good road trip podcasts that can get the conversation going again. Ours include:
- Ted Talks Daily and Sincerely, Ted – When you’re dedicated to keeping your eyes on the road, you really shouldn’t be lending your viewership to Ted Talk YouTube videos—which is where the Ted Talks Daily podcast comes in. Like its visual counterpart, Ted Talks Daily is a great podcast that gives you a taste of interesting ideas from innovators and changemakers across the gamut of human industries.
Bonus: if you’ve got the stomach for it, give the Ted Talk spin-off, Sincerely, Ted a try—a racier pick for travelers with a taste for the taboo.
- Ear Hustle – If you’re looking to fill a lapse in conversation, Ear Hustle is a foolproof pick. This roadtrip pod takes you inside the lives of people experiencing life under incarceration and can be considered an educational podcast. While the context will inevitably spark conversation, you’ll also be surprised, heartened, and inspired by the spirit and the relatability of interviewees.
The Best Podcast You Can Talk Over
Is conversation flowing freely? Sometimes, the best Podcast provides background noise rather than a deep dive.
Our pick for casual listening? Reply All.
Reply All has been serving stories about life in the age of the internet since 2014. The beloved series exalts podcasting to a true art form, hosted by internet enthusiasts and endearing autodidacts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. If you’re new to the world of podcasts, this classic series is a perfect place to start.
The Best Podcasts to Learn Something New
Want to catch up on your training for trivia night while on the road?
Radiolab was created in 2002, back in the days before you could download radio to your phone. No subject is beyond the insatiable curiosity of hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, from science to pop culture to sentimental stories of normal folks like you.
We recommend this storytelling podcast for travelers who are looking to learn about experiences with the unexpected, the uncovered, and the unconventional. Plenty of episodes are PG-rated, making them perfect for rides with little ones in tow.
The Best Podcasts for True Crime Fanatics
If you’re a true True Crime fan, you’ve probably heard of cult-followed podcasts:
- Dirty John
But if you’re looking for an interactive experience where you and your backseat drivers can play detective, tune in to Solve. This amazing podcast series challenges you to solve the mysteries for yourself for a sleuthy, interactive experience a la Nancy Drew if you’ve hit a lull in your road trip experience.
The Best Podcast for Audiophiles
If you’re looking for an excuse to take a break from your traveling companion’s weird taste in music on your long drive, look no further than the Song Exploder podcast.
This series puts the spotlight on musicians from all genres of the industry, choosing one song and taking the deepest dive possible into what inspired it, how it was made, and the meaning it holds for each musical artist. No matter how obscure your backseat driver’s taste in music, you’re sure to find an episode to pique both your music preferences.
The Best Podcast for Lovers
Are you traveling with your special someone?
If you haven’t heard of relationship guru Esther Perel, Where Should We Begin is a worthy introduction to her work. Each episode is like being a fly on the wall during couple’s therapy, where you’re treated to the private lives of couples from the heights of dysfunction to peak love.
Whether you’re single, dating, or in a relationship, eavesdropping on the lovelorn trials and tribulations of couples is sure to be a source of bottomless entertainment–and, if you’re lucky, love advice from a charming expert.
The Best Podcasts for Girl Talk
Whether you’re traveling with your bestie or sneaking in text messages at rest stops, the following podcasts are worthy fodder for female friends.
- Unladylike – Billed as a favorite podcast for modern feminists, this podcast is bound to be relatable no matter what gender you identify with. If you’re on the road and missing your best friends, Unladylike is a venerable substitute for topics with anything and everything to do with being a modern woman. Topical conversations cover everything from how to make friends as a grown-up to how to ride a bike.
- Second Life – For some, taking a road trip can be a way of hitting the reset button on your life. Second Life is an interesting podcast about just that: stories of women taking control of their destiny and starting over from scratch. Tough as nails, unafraid of failure, and braving the unknown, this series is sure to inspire you to begin again, no matter where you are on your own life’s journey. As an added bonus, it’s the perfect choice for a girls’ trip.
The Best Podcast to Calm Down
We’ve all read the studies (or, at least, the headlines for the studies): when it comes to your health, meditation is one of the top-billed ways of improving your physical, mental, and overall well-being. 2
If you’re travel-stressed or prone to road rage, becoming a listener of Ten Percent Happier With Dan Harris can serve as a sage guide for establishing a meditation practice and finding your bliss–on the road, and long after you’ve made it back home safe and sound.
The Best Podcast for Radio Art
For podcast connoisseurs with high expectations for audio entertainment, Love & Radio can do no wrong. Every story is expertly curated and engineered to be an immersive aural experience that’s sure to sweep you away no matter how boring the landscape outside your windows.
Our recommendation: any episode from the Secrets Hotline sequence, where listeners phone in and leave anonymous messages detailing the most scandalous and dramatic aspects of their inner lives.3
The Best Podcast for Tech Junkies
If you’ve been having trouble putting down your phone lately, try out The Rabbit Hole. This podcast may have you thinking twice about how much time you spent online versus IRL. This timely, immersive series is ideal for binge-listening while you’re speeding down the highway, and sure to be a superlative conversation starter if you have driving buddies on deck during your trip.
Pack Light with BÉIS
Whether you’re dedicated to learning how to become a digital nomad, consider yourself a seasoned traveler, or you are on your first long distance road trip, we can all agree that spending hours in the car can wear on your nerves and your patience.
To minimize any travel stress and keep you in the best possible spirits for the journey ahead, it’s critical to have travel essentials designed with maximum functionality while meeting your aesthetic expectations to keep you feeling inspired for all of your upcoming travel itineraries.
This means stocking your phone with the best podcasts for road trips and stocking your closet with the right luggage and travel accessories. And no matter whether you’re traveling light or prepping for an Eat, Pray, Love-worthy trek, BÉIS travel accessories from our travel fanny pack to our luggage to our 2 piece luggage set and so on, can carry the weight for whatever trip you have planned.
- Atlas Obscura. About. https://www.atlasobscura.com/about
- Harvard Health Publishing. What meditation can do for your mind, mood, and health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/what-meditation-can-do-for-your-mind-mood-and-health-
- Love and Radio. The Secrets Hotline. http://loveandradio.org/2017/04/the-secrets-hotline/