The 10 Best Road Trip Podcasts of 2018

When you're tired of the scenery, listen to one of these

Black & white photo, family of 7 riding in a convertible circa 1918

Samuel J. Hood Studio Collection/Australian National Maritime Museum/Flickr

 

When the whole car's had enough purple mountain majesties, and you hear the backseat plotting mutiny, interesting podcasts can quell the uprising and keep everyone happy. 

Here are 10 of the best podcasts for road trips. No matter who's riding along, one of these is bound to be the perfect listen as the miles roll by.

Large building with the abstract picture of a man whose head is an array of checkerboard squares.

Season 3 of Serial breaks form with the "one story - a true story - over the course of a season" formula, and instead tells one year's worth of stories from inside the Cleveland, OH criminal justice system. 

What We Like:

  • As a This American Life stablemate, the production is flawless, and reporter/host Sarah Keonig's stays largely out of the way of the story.

What We Don't Like:

  • The same polish and production values that make Serial stand out can wear thin if you binge-listen to the entire season in one trip.
The Onion's Very Fatal Murder Podcast

A Very Fatal Murder sends up the entire true crime podcast genre.  It's all here: a small Midwest town rocked by a mysterious murder, a well-meaning but self-centered host, digressions on the "crime" as a reflection on American society. And it's all served up with tongue firmly in cheek, just as you'd expect from The Onion.

What We Like:

  • The Onion always manages to deliver humor whose brow is just north of Mad Magazine. VFM is no different.

What We Don't Like:

  • While it's clearly meant to poke fun at the listener's willingness to tune in and listen to horrible things happen to normal people, VFM's subject matter – the murder of a popular high school cheerleader – felt a bit on the nose at times.
The face of a woman, with the top half of her head replaced with the title text.

Gimlet Media's Sandra is a well-produced scripted podcast that asks questions like "What if the artificial intelligence powering the voice assistants we've all gone cuckoo bonkers for wasn't artificial at all?" and "What if that cute little box is always listening?" 

Sandra is a tautly written, all-too-plausible look at the tech that has a deeper, more pervasive hold on us than anyone would like to admit.  Of note, Kristen Wiig as the Voice of Sandra is pitch-perfect.

What We Like:

  • A well-produced podcast with an intriguing storyline and a talented cast.

What We Don't Like:

  • We only get seven episodes. Which is either a really short season, or the whole thing was just a proof of concept and we're not going to get anymore because it's currently in development for TV.
Cover art for podcast, yellow banner with NPR's logo and the show title in a stylized talk bubble

Perhaps no media outlet has leaned more completely into producing interesting podcasts than NPR. Great weekly shows like It's Been A Minute do what NPR does best: assemble an interesting group of people around a mic, bring in guests, and together, they discuss the intersection of news, media, pop culture, and how we as a nation are responding to it.

What We Like:

  • The panel of contributors assembled by show host Sam Sanders never fails to engage the listener, and their combined on-air chemistry makes listening a delight.

What We Don't Like:

  • While rare, the conversation sometimes turns into preaching to the choir, as the panel trips over itself agreeing with each other. 
Fiat Lex co-hosts Kory Stamper and Steve Kleinedler

Fresh off the success of "Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries," author Kory Stamper and her co-host Steve Kleinedler deliver a surprisingly engaging discussion on dictionaries, words, and the ways in which language constantly changes.

What We Like:

  • Fiat Lux proves podcasting has the ability to deliver intriguing conversations on even the most obscure topics and bring them to life.

What We Don't Like:

  • Listening sometimes feels like you've stumbled onto a couple of word geeks who are trying to out-nerd each other.
The head of a blue whale

Chris Jordan/ChrisJordan.com

The entirety of Melville's novel about the big one that got away read aloud, one chapter per episode, by the likes of Tilda Swinton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Steven Fry, Fiona Shaw, John Waters, former British PM David Cameron, China Miéville, and 129 others. Every chapter has its own feel and personality, but the entire 136-chapter masterwork comes together as a surprisingly unified whole.

What We Like:

  • Having it read to you makes it much easier to learn Moby-Dick is gripping, mind-expanding, and actually very, very funny. 

What We Don't Like:

  • Occasionally, a chapter will be slightly overproduced, such as utilizing too many sound effects.
Adventures in New America

An odd couple plans heists to pay for healthcare while attempting to survive the wilds of New York City and "a secret cabal of Tetchy Terrorist Vampire Zombies from outer space. "

Though it's set in the not-too-distant dystopian future, Adventures has the weekly serial feel that pulled families together around the radio through the first half of the 20th century.

What We Like

  • Produced by Night Vale Presents, the lovely folks who brought you Welcome to Night Vale. Which means we'll be ushered into a densely realized world that feels uncannily like the here and now, but not completely.

What We Don't Like

  • In the opening five minutes of Episode One, it's a bit difficult to find your footing.  Is this meant to be funny? Over-dramatic? Ironic? 
Header art for The Adventure Zone featuring illustrated scenes from games that they've played.

Launched back in 2014, The Adventure Zone follows three brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy) and their Dad (Clint) on a 69-episode-long Dungeons & Dragons campaign; it's strangely engaging.

Season Two of the McElroy Brothers' listen-while-we-play-RPG-games podcast sets the band off on a new campaign in Evil Hat Productions' Monster of the Week.

What We Like:

  • The McElroys have a great time playing the game with each other and are fully jacked into how silly some of the conceits of role-playing games are.

What We Don't Like:

  • The storylines can be a little confusing if you start listening in the middle.
Cover art shows show title with image of host Molly McAleer

Lifetime's Original Movies. Implausible plots, stars on the downsides of their career trajectories, and so much scene chewing the actors have dental riders on their contracts.

Hosted by Hello Giggles co-founder Molly McAleer, Mother, May I Sleep With Podcast? breaks down every Lifetime movie and discusses the plot, actors, dialogue, and everything else that makes Lifetime Originals the deep-fried Twinkies of junk television.

IMDB's Lifetime Movies/Originals Movies List shows 640 titles. Over the course of 3 seasons and 42 episodes (so far), it feels like MMISWP? has the staying power to get through all 640.

What We Like:

  • While the snark is plentiful, McAleer and her guests pull you in with the attention to detail that can only come from people who've logged the hours in front of the screen.

What We Don't Like:

  • You know that thing where everyone else is laughing about something they watched on TV, and it's clear that whatever they're laughing about would be really funny if you'd actually seen the show? Yeah, that.
Black and white photo of city skyline under a multi-colored arch. The show name Bubble is in a futuristic typeface.

Something's not right in Fairhaven, ​an idyllic enviro-bubble with an awesome music scene, all the best new restaurants, and the beautiful people. They're just trying to live their lives, make a living, and avoid destruction by bloodthirsty psychic aliens. 

What We Like:

  • The perfect listen for a long car trip. Great production and an engaging story makes Bubble easy to binge-listen.

What We Don't Like:

  • You only get eight episodes. And sometimes, it feels like the writers are just working their way through a list of neo-hipster mannerisms and doing more ridiculing than satirization.