Life

17 Catchy Podcasts That'll Make Long Flights Fly By

izusek/E+/Getty Images

While you're preparing for a big trip, making sure you've got a great way to kill time is a must. After all, you know you have to plan for the worst case scenario on a flight — aka the inevitable five-hour delay, TV monitor that doesn't work for your seat, or wi-fi power outage. Really, being bored on a plane is a special kind of torture, which is why you should make sure you download a bunch of podcasts for your next long flight.

It's crucial to remember to actually download the podcasts you want to listen to before you fly, since you can't really rely on the power of an in-flight wi-fi signal. Luckily, it's super easy, not to mention free to download them from the Podcast app on your phone. All you have to do is choose a podcast episode, press the little "add" button (represented by a purple plus sign), then press the download button next (represented by a purple cloud and downward-facing arrow).

But you also have one other challenge: trying to figure out which podcast is interesting enough to keep you captivated for hours at a time. Here are some catchy podcast options for your next flight:

1
Slate's 'Slow Burn' Podcast Series

Ever find yourself wondering how the Bill Clinton impeachment trial actually went down, or what Watergate really meant for American history, or even if Tupac is still alive? This is the podcast for you. In each season of Slow Burn, a podcast produced by Slate, host Joel Anderson does a deep dive into one particular moment in time.

The first season covers the larger-than-life story of Watergate, the second season covers Bill Clinton's impeachment trial and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and the third upcoming season will cover topics related to Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

2
'Black Tapes'

The Black Tapes is a fictional, weekly podcast from Northwest Pacific Stories. Per its own site, the show is a "serialized docudrama about one journalist's search for truth, her enigmatic subject's mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both." If you love mysterious, occasionally spooky podcasts, this could be the one for you. The show is hosted by Alex Reagan, and has three seasons ready for your next cross-continental flight.

3
'Sincerely, X'

Sincerely, X is a podcast that features anonymous TED Talks — i.e., talks about ideas that "can't be shared in the open," which often include stories that are "too risky, painful, or controversial" for an open stage. The podcast describes its own content as "stories that deserve to be heard, from people who deserve to be hidden." Talk about enticing.

4
'Revisionist History'

Revisionist History is hosted by famed author Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote The Tipping Point and Talking to Strangers, among others. Gladwell describes the podcast as a "journey through the overlooked and the misunderstood." In each 30-minute episode, he "goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea," per the site.

Revisionist History has four seasons, so far — and if you love the podcast so much you move through all of them, you can consider listening to one of Gladwell's audiobooks next. He personally narrates all of them.

5
'Where Should We Begin?'

If you love listening to couples argue (or make up) at the charging kiosk next to you while you're killing time on a layover, then Where Should We Begin? is the podcast for you. Narrated by world-renowned couples therapist Esther Perel, the three-season podcast offers up dozens of different real-life relationships for you to dissect, with each episode featuring a new couple who attends a recorded therapy session with Perel.

6
'Welcome To Night Vale'

For those who are interested in hearing community updates on a small, fake desert town called Night Vale, this is your podcast, Welcome to Night Vale. For what it's worth, this isn't your typical fictionalized desert town. Per its site, these community updates "feature local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events," among other things. Casual, right?

7
'The Only One In The Room'

The Only One in the Room was inspired by a singular moment: host Laura Cathcart Robbins attended a famous writer's retreat and realized she was the only black woman in the room. This experience led to an article in HuffPost, which led to an outpouring of messages to Robbins from people who had shared similar experiences. This podcast explores those experiences, as shared by "people from all races, ethnicities, creeds, and nationalities who had felt 'othered.'"

8
'Limetown'

Limetown is a fictional podcast that aims to solve a fictional mystery. Per the site, here is the compelling premise:

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. American Public Radio reporter Lia Haddock asks the question once more, "What happened to the people of Limetown?"

The podcast has two seasons, and was so popular that it led to a television show, released on Facebook Watch.

9
'Hello From Magic Tavern'

The premise of Hello From Magic Tavern is about as meta as a fictional podcast series can get: It's hosted by a fictional person named Arnie, who is hosting a weekly podcast from a fictional land called Foon. Per the site, you can check out this message from Arnie:

"I fell through a magical portal behind a Burger King in Chicago and found myself in a strange magical land called Foon. I’m still somehow getting a weak wi-fi signal so I host a weekly podcast, interviewing creatures, wizards, and adventurers. If you’re just getting started, I recommend listening from the beginning. But hey, you do you."

If you're interested in the idea of a weekly podcast that interviews various types of totally-made-up magical beings, then this is the time-killer for you.

10
'My Favorite Murder'

My Favorite Murder is kind of like Serial in that it's slowly garnered a cult-like following of support. The show bills itself as a "true crime comedy podcast," in which hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark dissect a new murder mystery, crime, or similar topic each week. The difference between this show and every other true crime podcast you've listened to is one single factor: humor. The whole purpose of the podcast is how these hosts approach a true crime analysis with a sense of humor, making each story exponentially more interesting along the way.

11
'The Killing of JonBenét: The Final Suspects'

The murder of 6-year-old pageant participant JonBenét Ramsey has captivated a global interest for over two decades, now. It has inspired numerous investigations, multiple television spectacles, and all of the details of the mystery are now available in an utterly compelling podcast, called The Killing of JonBenét: The Final Suspects. If you plow through this entire season and want more, you can always listen to the other season for this podcast, which covers the equally mysterious death of Marilyn Monroe.

12
'Invisibilia'

Invisibilia, the NPR podcast, is named after the Latin word for "invisible" and seeks to "fuse narrative storytelling with science" by talking about the various "unseen forces" that shape human behavior. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, from an episode about a story of a young boy who claims to have memories that don't feasibly seem to make sense, to the examination of global empathy, and who does and doesn't deserve it. If you like hopping around topics while sticking to a general theme, then this is the show for you.

13
'Reply All'

The premise of Reply All is one that many people will likely find personally interesting. The goal of the self-proclaimed "podcast about the internet" is to explore human life, "and how to survive it," per a review by The Guardian. Each episode is structured slightly differently. One episode might tackle one topic at length, while another might contain a number of smaller topics.

For example, the description for one episode reads: "A scandal at Teen Vogue, a mysteriously disappeared TikTok star, and the competing viral dances of Mayor Pete and Mayor Bloomberg." What else do you need to know?

14
'Radiolab'

Radiolab is another top-shelf podcast from NPR, which "weaves stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries," per its site. This might sound a little mysterious. So to get more concrete: Like Reply All or Invisibilia, each episode covers a new topic, and the topics tend to be pretty wide-ranging. One episode answers the question of whether there are more people living right now than have ever lived on the planet in human history, while another episode answers the question of where animals go when they seemingly disappear in the winter.

15
'This American Life'

If you're a podcast afficionado, then it's likely that you've already listened to an episode or two of NPR's This American Life. The hit show has garnered a cult following kind of like Serial, except it's not (usually) talking about a murder mystery.

Rather, This American Life explores, well, American lives. Each episode has a topic, or a general theme, and looks into multiple stories of Americans grappling with this theme. For example, one recent episode covers the topic of "people looking everywhere to find a place — any place — where, for once, they don't have to be the odd man out."

16
'Terrible, Thanks For Asking'

Terrible, Thanks for Asking is a sometimes humorous, sometimes sad, always compelling podcast that aims to answer the question, "How are you?" Specifically, it shares various stories where people in challenging or grief-stricken positions were asked, again and again, how they were. This show aims to give people the space to honestly answer that question.

A review from The Atlantic that's featured on the podcast site reads, “The show continuously, unapologetically, ferociously plows into subjects most people are too uncomfortable to touch.”

17
'The Dream'

The Dream is a podcast that explores the dark unberbelly of capitalist exploitation. Season 1 of the show looks into mid-level marketing schemes, and Season 2 explores the wellness industry. The summary for the wellness season on Apple Podcasts asks the following questions: "What is [wellness]? Who sells it? And will it bring you eternal happiness…and, perhaps, eternal life?"

If you're a gold star frequent flier and want even more recommendations, you can always check out this list of podcasts to listen to on your next road trip. They're sure to keep you satiated for the next few trips around the world.