11 Podcasts for Family Summer Car Trips

From the producer of “Screenagers” | Delaney Ruston, MD | June 17, 2019

Recently I went to my 30-year-old cousin’s wedding. It was an unbelievable event with about 30 fun events organized over 2 days and run by the couple’s friends and family. There was Kick the Can, Eye Gazing, Cutting Board Crafting, dance classes, yoga, ultimate frisbee, the list goes on and on. But here is the real kicker—since the wedding was in Northern California and that required several hours of driving for all attendees, the couple made a 1.5-hour long podcast for people to listen to on the drive. How cool is that? The podcast included the couple’s friends talking about the activities they were hosting, the history of the place of the wedding, a little lesson on the music that would be at the wedding, and so much more. Needless to say, it was a super fun podcast.

I have been an avid podcast listener for the past 15 years. I primarily listen when I exercise or on car rides with the family. In medical school, I would listen to audio tapes on medicine topics while running.

These days podcasts can be incredibly engaging. This week I was inspired by the wedding podcast to do another list—particularly because summer is here and podcasts are perfect for road trips with the family. Who knows, maybe your family, or kids, or students will be inspired to create their own podcast this summer.

I realize that the best podcast suggestions give specific episodes, so for each of these podcast shows I have done just that.

Here are some suggestions from some very cool podcasts:

  1. How I Built This: Springfree Trampoline
    If you and your kids have ever jumped on a trampoline, you will enjoy this detailed story of how a man decided to become an engineer and how he got the idea to create a safe trampoline for his kids—and the unexpected successes this led to.

  2. Freakonomics: Notes From An Imperfect Paradise
    This is a really entertaining and funny episode, and I am so impressed with how eloquent all the speakers are. You learn about space and earthquakes from scientists and insights from a mayor who, no matter what your politics are, is very engaging. He pushes us to think about ways we each want to participate (or not) in our democracy.

  3. Freakonomics: How To Be Creative
    This is actually 6 episodes on creativity that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I am excited to listen to all of them again with my teens on a road trip. From their website, here are some of the people included: “contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, inventor James Dyson, musician Elvis Costello, author Jennifer Egan, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, illustrator Maira Kalman, filmmaker Seth Gordon, graphic designer Michael Bierut, and many more. You’ll also hear from economists and psychologists who study creativity.”

  4. Hidden Brain: Me, Myself and Ikea
    This one looks at the subtle ways bias may control us more than we think. For instance, how we are slightly more likely to become friends with someone if our birthdays are the same? Also, it addresses the subtle power of making something oneself. Maybe this will inspire a birdhouse making project with your child this summer–or something else cool.

  5. Hidden Brain: Yum and Yuck
    This episode explores surprising things about food and disgusting things like sharing toothbrushes. But, you might well want to stop 31:30 minutes in because then it goes into a story about an airplane crash and cannibalism. Very intense. But up to that point, it is full of interesting science and great conversation topics.

  6. Outside In: Pants on Fire
    Pants on Fire is about the clothes industry and people working to decrease waste. The numbers will shock your family. The burning of brand new clothes to prevent surplus is sure to inspire conversation.

  7. Oprah’s Master Class: Ellen DeGeneres
    It is so fun to hear about how she started doing comedy—it includes eating a meal on stage. And then it gets very personal as she tells the story of finally deciding to tell the world about her sexuality and the backlash that ensued.

  8. Oprah’s Master Class: Justin Timberlake
    This episode has all the details of his early days, business problems, and then his bold move to go off on his own. This will likely resonate with many young people.

  9. Oprah’s Master Class: Tyler Perry
    This episode is for older teens because it deals with his abuse by a family member.  Perry’s resilience and creativity are very inspirational but what is most impressive is his commitment to forgiveness.

  10. There are so many other episodes in Oprah’s Master Class with people sharing their lives and insights… including, Diane Sawyer.

  11. The Making Sense Podcast: The Trouble With Facebook
    This is an almost 2-hour interview—and it is dense—so perhaps just listen to part of it. There are so many topics that will spur discussion, such as how Google tracks our thoughts by scanning Gmail, Bing knows your interests from your internet searches, and Facebook knows your passions from your social media. Data is the new gold and the lengths by which they go to get it is intense. This is a major phenomenon that has occurred right under our noses for the past two decades


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