7 Top Travel Podcasts to Explore for Vacation Ideas and Inspiration
Find wonderful storytelling and expert tips from Rick Steves and other pros
Travel with Rick Steves
His voice is soothing, his guests are engaging experts in the travel business, and his advice is relatable and perpetually practical. He’s Rick Steves, 65, the beloved guidebook author and ultimate travel pro, whose show marked its 600th episode in May 2020 and is broadcast to more than 450 stations in the U.S. and Canada (there are now over 625 episodes to peruse). His weekly hour-long shows offer as much for listeners looking for vicarious adventures as for those planning trips. Recent episodes spotlighted a man whose New Year’s resolution was to visit every national park in the U.S. over the course of a single year and an interview with Gloria Steinem. What we love most about Steves’ show, though, is his ability to convey his infectious enthusiasm for exploration as a way to form connections with cultures beyond our own: “Travel helps us gain an empathy for the other 96 percent of humanity,” he says.
Women Who Travel
Two seasoned editors from Conde Nast Traveler — Meredith Carey and Lale Arikoglu — host a weekly show that runs from 30 to 45 minutes and has spawned a Facebook group by the same name some 150,000 women strong. “When we are slating our guests, we’re really looking to women who inspire us to travel smarter or wilder or farther,” says Carey. Recent episodes have spotlighted the experiences of Jessica Nabongo, the first African American woman to visit every country in the world, and Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, CWA.
Deviate with Rolf Potts
Award-winning American travel writer Rolf Potts veers listeners away from the more consumer-oriented and practical topics of travel (where to stay, where to eat) to delve deeply into experiencing a place on a personal level during this approximately hour-long weekly podcast. His inspiring 2003 book, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, explores and instructs on the art of epic independent adventures, and he sets a similar tone in his podcast, interviewing book authors, TV hosts and travel experts along the way. His big-picture topics have included how a sabbatical year can offer a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity and advice on planning an around-the-world trip.
Join Us in France
Whether you’re planning a trip to France or just a Francophile at home longing for some French je ne sais quoi, Annie Sargent's weekly podcast dishes up Gallic escapism while bringing listeners along for family vacations in Provence, road trips through the Loire Valley and more. Sargent started the podcast six years ago, after returning to her homeland from a long stint in the U.S. Her show is a great place to learn about hidden gems — maybe an incredible Airbnb in the Dordogne or a cafe in Bordeaux — that you’d never stumble on tout seul. The best part? Her website is kept up to date with listings of all the spots mentioned in the podcasts, allowing listeners to plan their own French getaways.
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Tips, tricks and hacks you can actually rely on, before and after your travels are delivered with a light tone during this roughly 30-minute podcast from Bloomberg. Hosts Nikki Ekstein and Mark Ellwood interview jet-setters from all walks of life. And when guests impart a particularly useful tip, it’s met with an audible cha-ching button pressed by the hosts, as a running tally of their “genius score” stacks up throughout the chat. Browse some of his 2020 episodes and learn how an ironing board is the most overlooked useful item in hotel rooms (it can double as a standing ergonomic desk or simply additional counter space!), and how claiming your overweight carry-on is camera equipment (make sure there’s some in there) can help you avoid having to check it for a flight. The show went on hiatus in May 2020 due to the pandemic and will return when the travel world returns to normalcy, according to the last mini-episode that posted. Until then, there’s a backlog of 28 shows to keep you smiling and learning.
Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet
This irreverent weekly show featuring “real reviews written by people who just need the world to know what they think,” is perfect for anyone who’s ever gone down the rabbit hole of online reviews, trying their best to discern if a hotel, restaurant or tourist attraction is worthwhile based on a baffling mix of “worst place ever” and “must-see” commentary. The brother and sister hosts, Alex and Christine Schiefer, read aloud and simultaneously dissect one-star reviews from various websites to hilariously dramatic effect (“The Hard Rock has limited my joy,” whines one soured reviewer). Besides cracking you up, it might leave you with a different take on how to digest the endless advice dished out by amateurs online.
You Should Have Been There
British banter abounds during this half-hour podcast helmed by two experienced travel journalists, former BBC producer Simon Calder (the current senior travel editor for the Independent newspaper) and Mick Webb. The pair go back and forth reflecting on their decades of travel in conversations that flow easily from one subject to the next, with tales that both entertain and educate. In a 2019 episode about “Places Glimpsed,” for instance, the duo reminisces about things they’d seen, however briefly, only by happenstance during their travels. Remembered views out plane and car windows carry listeners along island bridges in northwest France and epic flights over Britain and Kazakstan — images made vivid by the hosts’ descriptive storytelling. More recently, the hosts kicked off 2021 by interviewing Tony Wheeler, cofounder of Lonely Planet guidebooks, for his educated guess on what the travel industry has in store for us all this year.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 3, 2020. It's been updated to reflect new information about the podcasts.