The 10 Best Road Trip Podcasts of 2023

Not only do podcasts help you pass the time more quickly, they'll even teach you a thing or two

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

Here are 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.

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Sci-Fi Political Satire Afrofuturistic Buddy Comedy: Adventures in New America

Adventures in New America artwork
What We Like
  • A densely realized alternate world that feels uncannily like the here and now.

  • It revels in the absurd while making a social statement.

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to find your footing at the beginning. 

  • Is it meant to be funny? Over-dramatic? Ironic? 

An odd couple plans heists to pay for health care 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, AiNW has the weekly serial feel that pulled families together around the radio through the first half of the 20th century.

of 10

Current Events Discussed by Smart People: It's Been a Minute With Sam Sanders

It's Been a Minute With Sam Sanders podcast art
What We Like
  • The host and panel never fail to engage the listener.

  • The on-air chemistry makes listening a delight.

What We Don't Like
  • Conversations sometimes turn into preaching to the choir.

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.

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Word Nerdery From Two Former Dictionary Editors: Fiat Lex

Fiat Lex co-hosts Kory Stamper and Steve Kleinedler
What We Like
  • A geeky guilty pleaure for language lovers.

  • Intriguing conversations on obscure topics.

What We Don't Like
  • Sometimes the word geeks try to out-nerd each other.

  • The promised Season 2 never happened.

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.

The announced Season 2 never happened due to job and life changes encountered by the hosts.

of 10

Straight-Up Documentary Podcast: Serial, Season 3

External shot of a bar with Serial mural
What We Like
  • The production is flawless.

  • Host Sarah Keonig stays out of the way of the story.

  • Compelling one-hour story-telling.

What We Don't Like
  • Production values that make Serial stand out can wear thin.

  • Multiple stories are hard to connect with.

Season 3 of Serial breaks form with the "one story—a true story—over the course of a season" formula. Instead, it tells one year's worth of stories from inside the Cleveland, Ohio, criminal justice system.

of 10

True-Crime Parody: A Very Fatal Murder

The Onion's Very Fatal Murder Podcast
What We Like
  • The Onion delivers humor just north of Mad Magazine.

  • Portrays middle-America flawlessly.

  • On-point parady of real true crime podcasts.

What We Don't Like
  • Not as funny as The Onion meant it to be.

  • The script could have used more work.

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.

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An Absorbing Take on the American Classic: The Moby-Dick Big Read

Moby Dick Big Read graphic
What We Like
  • Listening to the classic is an eye-opening experience.

  • Talented cast of 136 well-known and obscure (to some) readers.

What We Don't Like
  • Occasionally, a chapter has too many sound effects.

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 book comes together as a surprisingly unified whole.

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Freewheeling Nerdery: The Adventure Zone

The Adventure Zone podcast season four Ethersea art
What We Like
  • The McElroys have a great time playing the game with each other.

  • Hosts fully aware how silly some role-playing game concepts can be.

What We Don't Like
  • The storylines can be a little confusing if you start listening in the middle.

Launched in 2014 and still going strong, The Adventure Zone follows three brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy) and their Dad (Clint) on a lengthy Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It's strangely engaging.

Season four of the McElroy brothers' listen-while-we-play-RPG-games podcast launched in May 2021 and is as much fun as its predecessors. The new campaign, Ethersea, is played in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

of 10

Deep Dives on Lifetime Original Movies: Mother, May I Sleep With Podcast

Cover art shows show title with image of host Molly McAleer
What We Like
  • The host pulls you in with attention to details.

  • It's the ultimate guilty pleasure.

  • You don't need to see the movie to enjoy the podcast.

What We Don't Like
  • The host's overuse of the word "like."

  • You either love it or hate it. There's no middle ground.

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 five seasons, it feels like MMISWP? has the staying power to get through all 640.

of 10

Radio Drama for the Age of Siri: Sandra

Sandra podcast website graphic
What We Like
  • A well-produced podcast.

  • Clear story-telling and a breezy plot.

  • Kristen Wiig is a perfect choice for Sandra.

What We Don't Like
  • Only seven episodes.

  • Lacks a satisfactory ending.

Gimlet Media's Sandra is a well-produced and 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.

At only seven episodes, the podcast is short, maybe because Sandra was in development for TV.

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Dystopian Monster Hunter Comedy: Bubble

Bubble podcast
What We Like
  • Great production and an engaging story.

  • Easy to binge-listen.

  • Contains more jokes than you can count.

What We Don't Like
  • You only get eight episodes.

  • Sometimes, it feels like the writers are doing more ridiculing than satirizing.

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

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