Holiday Travel Companion: A Year-End Podcast Roundup

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Three of my favorite things in no particular order: going on road trips, making lists, and listening to podcasts. So since we’ve arrived once again at the end of the year, I thought why not combine some of my favorite things into, what else, but a list?! We tend to take stock at the end of every year anyway, remembering everything that we loved and hated about the year.

So as many of us embark on holiday travel, I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite podcasts that I’ve enjoyed listening to that might prove handy for perhaps your last road trip with the family this year. 

Now, having said that, I also wanted to include a list of my favorite podcasts for a solo drive. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am constantly in the car. Between taking my son to school, running errands, picking up my son from school, going to swim lessons, going to the grocery store, going to the gas station to refuel my car from ALL of the going to ALL of the places, I sometimes feel like I spend more time in my car than anywhere else. My second list is for those drives where you can listen to whatever your heart desires without having to worry about the latent effects that your child will be telling the therapist about later in life. I love my child more than anything in this world, but toddlers tend to obsess over very specific things, and only want that one thing over and over again, especially on a boring car ride. My son is currently on a Justin Timberlake kick. Don’t get me wrong, I love JT as much as the next guy, but he really could stop the feeling every once in a while if he really wanted to, and I would be totally okay with it. So here are a few ideas that might just be the remedy for an otherwise dull drive.

Podcasts for Kids (that don’t make me want to pull my hair out)

*Stories Podcast-A Free Children’s Story Podcast for Bedtime, Car Rides, and Kids of All Ages!

The creator/writer, Daniel Hinds, and host, Amanda Weldin, bring to life a different story each episode that is engaging for kids and interesting for parents to revisit. They are usually 15-30 minutes in length, so they definitely tell a full story, but an episode rarely exceeds the attention span of my son. There are classics like “The Tortoise and the Hare” or myths, such as “The Golden Touch of King Midas.” There are even two that would be perfect right now, “The Birth of Christ and Christmas,” and “The Origins of Hanukkah.” 

*But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

This podcast is very polished, like many adult-oriented public radio productions you might already know. As the parent in the car, it’s a great listen, and it’s captivating for the kids. The episodes are usually around 15-20 minutes in length. A recent episode I really enjoyed was “Why Do People Have Different Religions?”

*Brains On! Science Podcast for Kids

What I love about this podcast is that it tackles everything from how airplanes fly to weather to the science of baking, and well, pretty much the science behind anything you can think of. My son and I are currently listening to an episode entitled, “Body Bonanza: Yawns, Hiccups, Goosebumps, and More.”

*Disney Story Central Podcast

My toddler loooooves this podcast. It’s great for younger kids because it’s basically re-tellings of the Disney movies they already know and love, except in a very short format, and told as radio plays. Some episodes approach 20-30 minutes, but most stay in the very easily digestible 6-10 minute range. Our current favorites are the Cars and Toy Story episodes.


Without kids in the car

*Serial, Season 1

Why? Because even though I’ve been listening to podcasts pretty much daily since 2005, Serial is responsible for the recent popularity of the medium, and it has given rise to a lot of great new content. If you haven’t listened to this yet, it’s fantastic radio. The subject matter is dark, heavy, and not for everyone, but if you like true crime, you will like this.

***Other favorite in this genre: My Favorite Murder***

*Mystery Show

The host of Mystery Show is Starlee Kine, an alum from the slickly produced and always reliable This American Life. In each episode, she tackles a mystery, and she has tasked herself with the added challenge of solving the mystery the old-fashioned way. She doesn’t use the internet for any help, and what follows is just pure delight. My favorite episodes are “Case #3: Belt Buckle” and “Case #5: Source Code.”

***Other notable nonfiction storytelling podcasts: This American Life (of course), Lore, Revisionist History***

*Gilmore Guys

For the Gilmore Girls super fans out there, a better podcast simply does not exist. Hosts Kevin and Demi analyze each episode of Gilmore Girls, and the friendship between the two that evolves over the course of the podcast is really fun to follow. It is not for the faint of heart, though. It’s a deep dive, and some episodes have been known to go over six hours.

*You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes

Pete Holmes has a big, lovable personality that translates very well to podcast form. This interview-style series contains a lot of explicit language, a lot of adult subject matter, but if you don’t mind (or enjoy) those things, the interviews are fantastic. Some of my favorites include Aaron Rodgers, Elizabeth Gilbert, Josh Radnor, and Dana Carvey. 

***Other favorites in this genre include: WTF with Marc Maron and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin***

*99 Percent Invisible

Now this is one that you absolutely can listen to with kids in the car. I typically don’t, however, because I like to give it more attention than I possibly could when a toddler is crying for the sippy cup he dropped somewhere in the abyss that is the backseat. This podcast is all about design. The primary focus is architectural design, but product design, advertising, sound design and so many more types are covered. I love this podcast because I feel like I’ve really learned something with each listen, and it helps me to pay more attention to the world around me.

***Other notable podcasts that make me feel as though I’m learning cool stuff: You Must Remember This, and Stuff You Missed in History Class***

There are so many more podcasts that I would love to share, but, like 2016, this list really should end. I hope there are a few in the roundup that you might try, whether it’s on a family road trip, or perhaps just sitting in traffic, waiting to pick your kids up from school. Sure, you could listen to the dj on the radio warn you about the traffic you’re already stuck in, in between a thousand commercials and one song, but a fun podcast might just make the time pass a little bit more easily.

Here’s to safe travels and happy listening!

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