As far as I’m concerned, podcasts are a must-have item for travel. They’re great for long flights and boring bus rides, but they can also help you get to sleep in a noisy hostel or kill some time while you’re waiting in line without getting all distracted and missing your turn.
There’s just something about listening to a great comedy podcast or an informative deep dive into a topic I’m curious about that keeps me relaxed and engaged all at the same time. And that’s huge for long travel days.
And the best part is that I don’t have to stare at a screen to enjoy a good podcast. I can unwind and dial in on a podcast without taking my eyes off the sunset or mountain lake out the train window. Plus, they’re free to download and don’t take up a ton of room on your phone. Win-win.
The right podcast can be your new travel wingman, but there’s a lot to choose from. So to help you out, I’ve listed a few of my favorite comedy podcasts, a couple of guilty pleasure podcasts, the best informative deep-dive podcasts, and even a few travel-specific podcasts to get you excited about your next adventure.
Best Comedy Podcasts
Ok, I’m kicking this list off with one of my weirdest podcast recommendations. It’s a podcast where three brothers play Dungeons & Dragons (D&D if you’re hip) with their Dad. And it’s amazing.
The Adventure Zone started as a one-off bonus episode in 2014, but it was so popular that they’ve made several hundred since then.
The McElroys are funny, sincere, and great storytellers, and you learn what the heck D&D is right alongside them (they’d never played before) as they bumble through adventure after adventure. TAZ is a serialized podcast with several unique stand-alone arcs, so you need to listen to them in order to really enjoy it, so start with episode one and get ready to start indulging in your newest guilty pleasure.
Honestly, everyone I’ve personally told about this podcast has become a fan, even if they’ve never played D&D before. Give it a try.
Yup, it’s the same three McElroy Brothers from The Adventure Zone, but this time they’re answering “advice” questions from Yahoo Answers. Again, the premise is ridiculous, but the results are wildly entertaining.
This is an hour-long podcast with a predictable format—multiple questions and answers with the occasional “segment” to break things up—but that’s what makes it so great for long travel days. You know what you’re going to get.
And it’s always funny.
They just recorded their 500th episode (March 2020) so there’s plenty of backlog to download. Settle in with those McEl-boys and chuckle your way through the next 10-hour flight. The time will seriously fly.
Best Storytelling Podcasts
Easily the weirdest and most wonderful podcast in my library is Welcome to Night Vale. I stumbled onto it thanks to a few recommendations, and within hours it became a staple podcast that I’ve now been listening to for years.
Cecil Baldwin is an incredibly talented performer and his voice just sucks you into this tiny desert town where anything can happen. Spawned from the brilliant minds of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor and recorded in the classic 1940’s radio drama style, Cecil plays a small-town public radio newscaster reporting on the events of the day which include Lovecraftian monsters, secret police, rampant librarians, interdimensional invasions, and PTA meetings.
The “weather” segment of the show is a constant highlight where Cecil kicks to the “weather report” which is always a weird and wonderful song performed by a different musician or artist each episode. The selection is fantastic and full of music I’d never consciously choose, but I’m now obsessed with it.
I usually listen to Night Vale as I’m drifting off to sleep, since Cecil is the perfect soothing lullaby, but the storytelling is also complex, intelligent, and riveting enough for wide awake listening on overnight flights and long bus rides.
Best Informative Podcasts
Stuff You Should Know (SYSK with Josh and Chuck)
Josh & Chuck are considered by many to be the cool dads of modern podcasting, which makes sense since they’ve been kicking out the hits since 2008. This show is exactly what the name promises—fun factual topic-based episodes that teach you a thing or two about…everything—but it’s grown into a wonderful show filled with easy rapport, fun moments of discovery, and an ever-widening perspective on the world.
Basically, it’s one of the most pleasurable and interesting podcasts you can listen to these days.
The easy give and take style and obvious friendship and respect between Josh and Chuck powers the show alongside rock-solid research, inclusive conversations, and a surprising number of “huh” moments where you learn at least one thing you “should know” in every episode.
Seriously, their episode “How Public Relations Works” is still to this day one of the most insightful and eye-opening things I’ve ever listened to. Yeah. You read that right. A podcast episode about PR changed the way I see the modern world. That’s a wild thing to say.
It’s a wonderful grab bag of smart fun episodes. Browse and download a few topics that pique your interest and you’ll be part of the SYSK army in no time.
If you like your podcasts well-researched, impeccibly recorded, and incisively curated, you are going to love 99% Invisible.
Produced and recorded by the inimitable Roman Mars, each episode of 99pi takes a deep dive look at the fascinating world of design that lies right behind the everyday world,
Roman’s decades of broadcasting and recording experience make 99pi an absolute pleasure to listen to.
Each topic is chosen with care, researched to the last detail, and woven together in a tapestry that makes you appreciate and scrutinize the little things that make up the world around you.
This podcast will change the way you see the world, and that’s always a good thing—especially when you’re traveling.
I’ll admit it—I’m a history buff. So I was always going to like a show like Hardcore History. However, that doesn’t explain how a podcast with sporadic, random episodes about history became one of the most popular podcasts online.
I mean…who wants to listen to some guy talk about Genghis Khan for four straight hours? You do. I promise.
Unlike other podcasters, Dan Carlin created his iconic show without a formula. He records for as long as it takes and releases episodes when they’re ready. Sometimes he’ll go months between episodes. And that’s fine because each episode is literally packed with information, expertise, and context about some of the most important and pivotal events in human history.
I loved the episodes about the Mongols and WWI, but there’s plenty on here to get you hooked.
Best Travel Podcasts
The Camino de Santiago is a pretty niche subject to base a podcast around, but if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of interested travelers that have either hiked “The Way” or are dreaming about one day setting off on foot to cross Spain, this is the podcast for you.
Avid hiker and Camino historian, Dave Whitson, delivers useful, compelling information about the several of the Camino routes, but also about the history and the people that have hiked the Camino. It’s a pleasure to listen to, and useful if you’re at all interested in the Camino de Santiago or other thru-hikes.
I’ve actually been a guest on Jason’s podcast a few years back to tell one of my “Travel Horror Stories.” Jason has launched an entire travel business for digital nomads off the back of his podcast, and he still delivers some of the best travel information and interviews with travel icons and influencers who have truly inspiring stories.
If you’re interested in learning more about better, longer, more interesting travel, this is well worth a listen.
Podcasts are Perfect for Travel
The right podcast might be the best thing you can bring along for your next adventure. It doesn’t weigh anything, doesn’t cost anything, and provides hours and hours of entertainment, information, and relaxation without distracting you from the scenery rolling by outside your window.
Load up a few of these episodes before you hit the road. You’ll be glad you did.
And leave a comment below if there’s a podcast not on this list that I absolutely have to check out.
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