Podcasts to pack: Load up and lighten the journey

Perfectly packaged podcasts are wonders for the traveller.

Perfectly packaged podcasts are wonders for the traveller. Photo: Getty

Long-haul flights, airport layovers, epic road trips, or maybe just when you’re kicking back under the palms on a tropical beach – once you start travelling, there’s always time to fill in.

If you want to relax, be inspired, shocked, scared, amused, intrigued or just catch a little culture – and not stare at a screen – podcasts are the perfect travel companion.

Download them before you head off, so that you can listen off line, because you might not have reliable Wi-Fi (even when it’s promised!).

Here are a few favourites to get you on your way.

Innovators and stuff for the curious

How I Built This with Guy Raz is a US podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists and the story behind their success.

They’re often ordinary people with a good idea and unwavering determination – the guy who made multimillions selling computer cables, the artist who created Burt’s Bees, and Australia’s own millennial Melanie Perkins, who started online design platform Canva, now valued at more than $1 billion. It’s inspirational stuff. Most podcasts run about an hour.

Favourite episode: Away: Jen Rubio When your suitcase breaks you buy a new one. Don’t you? Not Jen Rubio. She designed a new line of suitcases, marketed them online and has sold more than a million since 2015.

best travel podcasts

Jen Rubio turned herself into a luggage entrepreneur – hear her story on How I Built This With Guy Raz. Photo: Getty

99% Invisible, presented by podcast pioneer and icon Roman Mars, is mainly about architecture and design in the everyday world, and is often quirky. (Ever wondered how inflatable men came to be fixtures in car parks? Listen to Inflatable Men). There’s more serious stuff, too. Podcasts run 20–30 minutes.

Favourite episode: Palm Reading on how and why palm trees came to signify luxury and leisure, why so many were planted in California and why they’re so valuable they’re stolen.

True crime, murder and mystery

Perhaps the most popular of all podcast genres and some are seriously scary.

Australian standouts include Claremont Serial Killings, the story of three young girls, all victims of a serial killer in one of Perth’s most well-to-do suburbs. More than two decades after their deaths, Bradley Edwards was charged with murder. His trial is scheduled for July 2019. Gripping.

The ABC radio true crime series Trace also has some riveting stories, such as The Cold Case Murder of Maria James.

On the road

The Rough Guide to Everywhere is informative, practical and it’s kind of nice to hear British, as opposed to American, accents. History, food, wildlife, sea shanties – lots of angles, lots of destinations.

Favourite episode: Galapagos: the human story.

Women Who Travel: Interviews and stories about women who travel (from Mongolia to Antarctica) and work in travel (from chefs to ships’ captains); plus plenty of travel hacks for everyone. Compiled by two editors from Condé Nast Traveler. Most podcasts run 40–50 minutes.

Favourite episode: Why Travel Only Gets Better As We Get Older


If you like a really long listen, try Moby Dick: Big Read. This is Herman Melville’s entire 135 chapters, each chapter read by a different person, including actors and celebrities such as Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, even Rick Stein. Fantastic.

best podcasts travel

Stephen Fry reads one of the chapters in Moby Dick: Big Read. Photo: Getty

Inspiration and mindfulness

Wild Ideas Worth Living has adventures, crazy ideas and brilliant stories. These aren’t all about travel but they are about people journeying outside their comfort zone adding a little, or a lot, of adventure to their daily lives (from high-altitude rock climbing to writing a book).

Favourite episode: The Story of the Last True Hermit

1GiantMind has interviews and talks about how and why you meditate, how meditation cultivates creativity and more. They’re thoughtful but not too intense. There’s also a free app on how to meditate. Podcasts run about 20 minutes.

Favourite episode: Has meditation been ruined by the mainstream?

Other genres

There are plenty of other genres – comedy (spoiler – not all are funny), sport, conspiracy theory, politics, health and wellness, learn a language (or at least how to say hello in another country). Then there are always Ted Talks – 3000 and counting.

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