With Covid cases down and temperatures up, America is on the move. But as we joyously pile back into cars and planes to begin traveling again, we’re going to need something to entertain us on all those long trips. Lengthy, gripping, available on basically every subject under the sun, and guaranteed not to make you motion sick, podcasts are the perfect choice.
But with approximately a million available, which should you choose to keep you entertained this summer? (I admit this is a personally motivated question — my family is planning two long road trips in August.) To find out I scoured lists of podcast recommendations looking for repeat recommendations to create a short list of likely winners. Here’s what I found.
Let’s get started with a surefire bet. Serial, a celebrated podcast which investigates a different real-life crime in each of its three seasons, is recommended by Time Out, which calls it “a great (and binge-worthy) introduction to the medium.” It’s also recommended by me. The first season got me, my husband, and my cranky kid from New York to southern Virginia without killing each other a few summers back. It’s utterly gripping.
Another option I personally tested and approved. This profanity filled and delightfully unpredictable mini-series starts out like any other true crime podcast. John, an oddball resident of a small Alabama town he nicknames Sh**town, asks host Brian Reed to investigate an alleged murder. But when Reed ventures down to S-town, things go wildly off the rails. Check it out if “nasty feuds, treasure hunts, and unearthed secrets of the town and its people” sounds appealing, suggests The Everygirl.
3. You’re Wrong About
The single most recommended podcast was indisputably You’re Wrong About in which journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall debunk popular myths and historical misconceptions. “From Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky to Yoko Ono being blamed for breaking up the Beatles, they’re obsessed with putting the past to right,” says Vogue. “Come for the thorough research and thoughtful analysis, and stay for the funny digressions and repartee,” concurs Esquire.
4. Dolly Parton’s America
Conde Nast Traveler crowned this podcast about the life of the beloved country music icon one of the best podcasts for long road trips, but it’s not just for those on driving to Nashville. The podcast goes beyond examining Parton’s rise from humble beginnings to American legend to examine “how Ms Parton has shaped American culture as we know it,” according to Time Out.
5. The NoSleep Podcast
Prefer your distractions fictional? Then how about The NoSleep Podcast. The audio drama series might not help you doze off on that long flight, but according to several ‘best of’ lists it is guaranteed to keep you riveted. “While creepiness is a constant theme, subjects range from paranormal events to monsters to tales of stalkers and shadowy figures,” explains The Manual. And with the show currently in its tenth season, “there’s plenty of content to make you regret that choice to drive through the night,” the site adds.
6. Ear Hustle
The Manual also recommends this nonfiction podcast about life inside America’s prison system co-founded by two men formerly incarcerated at San Quentin. So does travel site Afar. “Each 30-minute episode of Ear Hustle tells stories that are intimate and funny, as well as heartrending and difficult. Above all, their stories are human,” claims the site.
7. Welcome to Your Fantasy
If that sounds a little too somber for your summer vacation, then how about this steamier take on the ever popular true crime genre? This eight-part podcast from historian Natalia Petrzela “explores how an immigrant from India and a children’s TV producer from New Jersey built the notorious male exotic dancers empire known as Chippendales, and the greed and corruption that ultimately led to a dark, deadly downfall,” says Esquire. Oprah Daily also recommends it.
8. Where Should We Begin
Take a breather from deep dive investigations with this ground-breaking podcast from world renowned couples therapist Esther Perel. Its unique format “lets you listen in to real couples talking through the tricky parts of their relationship with her in this revolutionary podcast – from a mother and son trying to establish boundaries to a husband and wife coming to the end of their marriage,” Vogue explains. I find it mesmerizing.
9. The Sporkful
If your vacation includes deliciousness, The Sporkful might be the perfect choice to get your appetite up. “There are plenty of food podcasts out there, but ‘The Sporkful’ is the piece de la resistance – it has even won a prestigious James Beard award,” says Time Out. Conde Nast Traveler raves it’s “the smartest and most awarded foodcasts ever recorded.”
10. Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby
I’ll be honest, the last thing I expected to encounter checking out podcast recommendations was a show focused on Greek and Roman mythology, but Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! cropped up again and again. “Host Liv Albert, the author of a forthcoming book about Greek mythology, recounts ancient stories while examining them through a modern lens,” explains Esquire. The Everygirl insists that if you liked myths as a child, this podcast is definitely for you.
11. The Laverne Cox Show
As the name implies, the much recommended Laverne Cox Show features candid, thought-provoking interviews with actor and activist Laverne Cox. “Don’t miss the very first episode, an aha-moment-packed conversation between Cox and vulnerability researcher and author Brene Brown,” urges Oprah Daily. Esquire says listeners should expect “topics ranging from fatphobia to dating in mid-life.”
Click the links to any of the lists above for an incredible number of additional options. Or, if you’re looking for more business focused fare, check out this list of podcasts that will make you smarter this summer.