18 Podcasts to Listen to While You’re Stuck in Thanksgiving Travel Hell


Nothing comes easy, so before you get to see your fam or eat melted cheese masquerading as a “side dish” for Thanksgiving, one must often traverse long distances in the torture vessels formerly known as cars, buses, planes, or…sometimes boats? (IDK.)

In order to keep your mind occupied while you travel, we asked some of our favorite podcast hosts to recommend a primo episode to consume this holiday season.

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“Ibeyi,” Song Exploder

For years, I appreciated the music of Naomi Diaz and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz, the French-Cuban twin sisters who make up the band Ibeyi, without knowing much about their backstory. But this episode of Song Exploder revealed depths to me about the political motivations behind one of their most popular tracks, “Deathless.” It’s an anthem against implicit biases, abuse of power, and injustice—as it turns out, so is a lot of their music. I already loved this song, but now I love it even more and play it in solidarity any time I feel discouraged by the world or let down by society. Jenna Wortham, Still Processing

“Ms. Entitlement and Mr. Sacrifice Out on a Date,” Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel

This show is perfect in its simplicity—you get to eavesdrop on a couple’s therapy session. A real one! This particular episode shows the truly remarkable lengths we’ll go to inside a relationship to avoid a broken heart. Humans are wild! Jane Marie, The Dream

“Soraya,” Heavyweight

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One of my favorite recent podcast episodes was “Soraya” from Heavyweight. In it, a young woman revisits a chapter in her life she thinks she totally fumbled. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but it’s one of the most realistic, relatable, funny, and surprisingly hopeful depictions of depression I’ve ever seen (heard?). Listening to it felt like giving a long, squeeze-y hug to my younger self, and it also reminded me to go a bit easier on the me of today. Brittany Luse, The Nod

If you want to know what makes my podcast-loving heart sing, it’s usually the latest episode of Heavyweight from Gimlet Media. The show is irreverent but heartfelt, corny yet earnest. It’s got spunk. “Soraya” had me tearing up as I walked home from the subway. It’s a story about how depression can skew how we understand ourselves and all that we have to offer. Tobin Low, Nancy from WNYC Studios

“Queenie,” No Man’s Land by the Wing

This podcast is exquisitely produced, painstakingly researched, and so very necessary. It’s hosted by my favorite herstorian and one of the yummiest voices in radio, Alexis Coe. This episode immediately grabbed me. Queenie was an iconic 1920s Harlem gangster who ruled the illegal numbers game until she disappeared. Alexis finds the missing pieces and tells the story of this woman we should be taught about in school. Aminatou Sow, Call Your Girlfriend

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“Points of Egress,” Love + Radio

I have my podcast player set up so it just plays episodes in a queue when they arrive, which means sometimes I don’t check if something is fiction or not. So the newest episode of Love + Radio took me completely by surprise. It’s so real, I bought it up until the very end. Maybe that’s because it’s based on a true story, one that was told on another podcast—but the L+R version takes a spooky turn. Podcast-based fiction tends to focus on already popular podcast topics like cults or Black Mirror–like futures, and this story is quite different. If you’re looking to dip into audio fiction, but haven’t had the time to take on a long series like Homecoming or Limetown, this episode of L+R is a really good start. Lindsey Weber, Who? Weekly

“Sex Hurts,” Bodies

Sex Hurts,” the first episode from the podcast Bodies, starts as a searing personal story about how pain during sex can affect a relationship. Then, it broadens into a history of the birth control pill and women’s healthcare that I can’t believe I’d never heard before and wish I’d known earlier. Anna Sale, Death, Sex & Money from WNYC Studios

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“Mesh Shorts,” Dr. Gameshow

Whether you’re holiday road-tripping with fam or friends, or just need a good LOL, Dr. Gameshow is an unadulterated, safe-for-all-earbuds delight. Host and comic Jo Firestone manages to be awkwardly hilarious while masterfully wrangling guests and live callers through ridiculous, listener-submitted games—she’s the Alex Trebek you never knew you wanted! (Also, there’s no real trivia involved, which is even better!) This episode is extra fun since Jo and Michelle Buteau (shout out Late Night Whenever) are a comedy dream team. Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, Unladylike

“Destination Amazing,” The Dream

If you’re looking for a holiday-length binge, cannonball into the bizarre (maybe evil??) world of multilevel marketing, or MLM. Host, producer, and This American Life alum Jane Marie scours these sprawling pyramid scheme-ish companies and why they especially thrive among women. And if you don’t think a podcast about MLMs can be riveting, just take a trip to “Destination Amazing” for a direct sales convention that literally made me gasp. Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, Unladylike

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I’ve been looking forward to Mondays for the last few weeks because of Jane Marie’s superb podcast The Dream about multi-level marketing. Episode 9, “Leave a Message,” was heartbreaking—it featured voicemails from people who had been taken in by MLMs, or whose family members had—and it reinforced the human toll that these companies take on people. —Doree Shafrir, Forever35

“All the Gory Details,” The Horror of Dolores Roach

I’m going to suggest The Horror of Dolores Roach because I just listened to the first episode and loved it. It’s like a movie for your ears. It’s pretty macabre and covers a lot of ground—gentrification, love, loss—and has some beautiful performances. It also reminds you of the power and intimacy of the medium. It’s fresh and new “radio fiction,” but hearkens back to the old-timey radio-drama thing of sitting around a radio, staring into space, and wondering what will happen next. Jonathan Goldstein, Heavyweight

“Louis, Can of Cola,” Everything Is Alive

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If you are tired of the usual suspects and you’re looking for something COMPLETELY different (and funny), I recommend Everything Is Alive. It’s a podcast about the emotional lives of inanimate objects and it’s strangely astute. I think the one everyone likes is “Louis, Can of Cola,” which I think is pretty great and funny, but there’s a scene at the end of “Tara, Bar of Soap” (which I actually listened to while I was in my bathroom washing my face, so it was super meta) that almost made me cry. Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia

“The Crime Machine,” Reply All

I loved the recent two-part Reply All episode, “The Crime Machine.” It’s about the creation of CompStat—the system widely used by police departments to track crime. It’s an epic story, with ambition, egos, a larger-than-life protagonist, and the battle between a genuine desire to make the world a better place and the people who benefit from leaving a broken system broken. Hrishikesh Hirway, Song Exploder

“Tracey Ullman,” WTF with Marc Maron

I mostly listen to interview podcasts, and especially like Stay Tuned with Preet Bharara, How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black, and WTF with Marc Maron. One of my favorite interviews from the last on that list is a 2017 interview Maron did with Tracey Ullman (requires Stitcher Premium subscription). Ullman is not only incredibly funny and talented, but in this interview, she comes across as having one of the healthiest, most positive attitudes in show business. She is so smart and sane, and appropriately for Thanksgiving, seems to have a fine sense of gratitude for everything she has in her life. —Pamela Paul, The New York Times Book Review podcast

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“Hide and Seek,” Bear Brook

Bear Brook has all the pulse-pounding thrills of a true crime podcast, without making you feel gross or exploitative. Plus, you get to watch enormous strides in the case play out. But be careful with this one: By the end of episode 2, you’re addicted, you’re walking around the house with your earbuds in, shhhing your husband when he tries to talk to you. —Kate Wells, Believed

“S.E.I.N.F.E.L.D.,” Imaginary Advice

Imaginary Advice is one of the most beautiful, witty, wistful podcasts out there. In the “S.E.I.N.F.E.L.D” episode, host Ross Sutherland attempts to teach a robot to do stand-up comedy and precipitates an existential crisis. —Helen Zaltzman, The Allusionist

“Strong Verbs, Short Sentences,” Revisionist History

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Malcolm Gladwell’s third season of Revisionist History has been a gem. If you want to be truly inspired, check out “Strong Verbs, Short Sentences.” It’s about a truly remarkable woman, Bernadine Healy, the former director of the National Institute of Health. As someone who knew her well said about her, “She is a mix of Joan of Arc, Madame Curie, and Florence Nightingale…in Escada.” Gladwell does a beautiful job of capturing all that made Healy remarkable, and you will be blown away by her intellectual—and emotional—congressional hearing victory over former House member John Dingell. Warning: Be prepared to be a bit sad after the episode is over; I found myself wishing she was still alive, because Lord knows, we need her now more than ever. —James Andrew Miller, Origins

“But That’s What Happened,” This American Life

This is a very personal story by Elna Baker—I like personal stories, and she’s a great writer. Elna is realizing something specific in her past had gone wrong. And it’s not just her. She reveals a larger pattern of abuse by the Mormon Church, which she once belonged to. She is able to report about abuse within the Church, while also telling her own suffocating and beautiful story. —Andrew Jenks, What Really Happened?

“Buttermilk Waitress,” Jen Gotch Is OK…Sometimes

I’ve loved listening to ban.do founder Jen Gotch’s podcast Jen Gotch Is OK…Sometimes, and the episode “Buttermilk Waitress”—about figuring out her career path and the ups and downs of the jobs that got her there—is funny and poignant in all the right ways. —Kate Spencer, Forever35


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