Best audiobooks for family road trips Summer 2021

girl listening to headphones in a car

Keeping families entertained on the move

If you’re planning a family road trip with children of any age, you know that it’s best to have a variety of activities on hand. Digital versions of books are an excellent alternative to lugging a bagful for each child.

However, it’s not always possible to sit and read with your child, especially if they’re at the toddler or early grade school age. There’s also the dreaded possibility of your bub getting carsick due to reading, and that’s a mess that everyone wants to avoid!

Our family has come to love listening to audiobooks on our family road trips. The best thing about having the audio versions is that we can listen to them as a family or on our individual devices.

If you’re looking for listening recommendations for your next cross-country journey–or even the next town over–read on to discover our list of Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips. 

This post is part of our tried and tested travel gear series and road trip travel tips


Audiobooks for Road Trips – Tips and Suggestions

Finding and listening to audiobooks for road trips is fairly straightforward, but we do have some advice on how to have the best experience possible.

Family Audiobooks vs. Kids Audiobooks

Your child or children’s ages will ultimately determine what road trip audiobooks you end up choosing, as it’s challenging for a toddler or early grade school to navigate a listening app and select something that’s appropriate. You’ll likely need to plan on playing books for this age group aloud.

If your kids are in the higher elementary through high school ages, they may want to listen to books individually. However, we’ve found many wonderful audiobooks for our whole family to listen to, and it’s fun to discuss what’s happening in each book and what we think will happen next.

Listening Devices and Headphones

The most common way that many people listen to audiobooks is with their smartphone or tablet. One of the most popular and versatile tablets on the market is the Kindle Paperwhite, and several other Kindle variations are great for combining reading and audiobooks.

If your child is too young for a smartphone and doesn’t have a tablet, an MP3 player is an inexpensive alternative. You can download audiobooks for kids from your computer, and no internet connection is necessary.

When it comes to the best headphones for audiobooks, almost any kind will do. We suggest choosing a comfortable wired pair for young children, as it may be a headache when Bluetooth is involved. If you’re in the market for new ones, here are a few solid options:

Best Listening Platform

There are several audiobook listening platforms to choose from, but our family has had the best luck with Audible. The app is very user-friendly, and you gain access to millions of titles with only a small monthly fee. Audible even offers a generous 30-day trial period, which we’ve outlined below:

Audible Premium Plus Membership

  • One credit a month for a premium title that’s yours to keep (2 credits for Amazon Prime members)
  • Full access to the Unlimited Plus Catalog (audiobooks, podcasts, guided wellness, Audible Originals)
  • Email reminder before trial ends
  • A monthly fee of $14.95 is payable after 30 days
  • Simple online cancellation if you don’t want to continue after your free trial

We started our trial last summer and thought we’d later cancel it, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving!


Best Audiobooks for Family Road Trips

We’ve split our guide up into different age groups, plus those we think a family with mixed ages can also enjoy played together.

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Best Audiobooks for Toddlers

One of the best things about Audible’s narrated children’s books is that many of them come with actual illustrations, which your child can enjoy on their Kindle device.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Narrated by Buffy Allen)

Length: 4 minutes

Margaret Wise Brown’s timeless classic about a little rabbit saying goodnight to all of his most-loved possessions is an excellent way to let your toddler know that it’s time for rest. Buffy Allen’s smooth narration is very calming and soothing, making it a good fit for a bedtime story. 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Narrated by Peter Schickele)

Length: 5 minutes

Parents of all toddlers can relate to Sendak’s endearing story of a tantrum-throwing Max and his journey to an island full of Wild Things. Your child will love the background music and Schickele’s different voices as they listen.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle (Narrated by Gwyneth Paltrow)

Length: 11 minutes

Bill Martin’s lyrical and repetitive text perfectly pairs with Gwyneth Paltrow’s voice in this book about Brown Bear and all of the different animals he sees. The Audible book also comes with a “turn the page” version, so your child can follow along with a digital copy of the book.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (Narrated by Owen Jordan)

Length: 6 minutes

The power of one’s imagination is brought to life in the story of young Harold’s nighttime adventures with his purple crayon. The background music can become a distraction with this one, but Owen Jordan’s narration is a treat.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (Narration by Jane Harvey)

Length: 5 minutes

This touching story about a little boy’s excitement over a snowy day can be enjoyed year-round. This should certainly go on your list of best kids audiobooks to listen to over and over again.


Best Audiobooks for Preschoolers

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (Narrated by Jason Alexander)

Length: 5 minutes

If you’re searching for fun audiobooks for road trips, look no further than Seuss’s classic about Sam I Am’s attempt to persuade a picky eater that green eggs and ham are indeed delicious. The sound effects and background music are perfect, and Jason Alexander does a masterful job with the characters’ voices.

Length: 47 minutes

We love it when we can find audiobook bundles like this one, and it includes 20 of Dewdney’s best-loved books about dramatic Baby Llama and his many adventures. These books are just begging to be read aloud, making them ideal for long road trips.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (Narrated by B.J. Novak and Busy Phillips)

Length: 9 minutes

What book is better suited for an audiobook than one without any pictures to begin with? This book is filled with laugh-out-loud stories and sounds, and Novak and Phillips bring the words to life.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin (Narrated by Adam Rubin)

Length: 6 minutes

If your children love dragons, they enjoy this silly book about taco-obsessed dragons and the unfortunate consequences of spicy salsa. Rubin infuses humor and fun into his narration, and the music and sound effects greatly enhance the story.

Pete the Cat’s Super Cool Reading Collection by James Dean (Narrated by Teddy Walsh and Lewis Grosso)

Length: 6 minutes

The cool adventures of Pete the Cat are a fun option for slightly older children, especially when they get to follow along with their own copies of the books. These stories work well as conversation starters about what Pete is doing and feeling, and you’ll arrive at your destination before you know it!


Best Audiobooks for Grade School

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (Narrated by Richard Armitage)

Length: 24 minutes

Your child may just have a renewed interest in their forgotten toys after listening to Williams’s timeless classic about the journey of a snuggly velveteen bunny from beloved toy to the magical world of Rabbitland. Richard Armitage does an outstanding job with the narration and brings each character to life with his different reading voices.

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The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey (Narrated by Len Forgione, Dazjon Freeman, and Ben D’Amico)

Length: 1 hr

Children of all ages will laugh out loud at the antics of fourth-graders George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two silly class clowns. Together, they create the superhero Captain Underpants. Freeman and D’Amico bring the books to life with their energetic narration of Captain Underpants’ adventures.

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne (Narrated by Mary Pope Osborne)

Length: 41 minutes

Immerse your children in the world of The Magic Treehouse, a mysterious place where anything can happen – even travelling back in time to the age of dinosaurs. Join Jack and Annie as they embark on the journey of a lifetime and attempt to make it back to their own time before dark.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo (Narrated by Ron McLarty)

Length: 19 minutes

This early chapter book introduces the reader to Mercy Watson, a one-of-a-kind pig who loves buttered toast and snuggling in bed with her owners. McLarty provides entertaining narration that meshes well with the music and storyline.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao (Narrated by Adam Grupper)

Length: 3 hrs and 46 minutes

Themes of friendship, art, and hope are brought to life through the eyes of Ivan, a gorilla who has spent 27 years of his life in a glass enclosure at a shopping mall. Grupper’s narration tugs at the listener’s heartstrings and is a great conversation starter.


Best Audiobooks for Tweens

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (Narrated by Bailey Carr)

Length: 6 hrs and 12 minutes

Mattie Cook’s struggle to survive the historical impact of yellow fever in Philadelphia is eerily resonant given the current pandemic.  Carr highlights the strengths of Mattie’s character while also echoing the diverse accents in 1793 Philadelphia.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (Narrated by Graeme Malcolm)

Length: 3 hrs and 30 minutes

Sometimes the most unlikely characters become the biggest heroes, as is the case with Despereaux Tilling, an extraordinary mouse. Despereaux, along with several other unique individuals, embarks on unforgettable adventures.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Narrated by Rebecca Soler)

Length: 10 hrs and 36 minutes

The line between reality and illusion is blurred in the story of two sisters who get more than they bargained for when they attend the legendary Caraval performance. Your tween will be on the edge of their seat the entire time, making this one of the best audiobooks for road trips.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Narrated by Tatiana Maslany)

Length: 10 hrs and 35 minutes

Katniss Everdeen’s race for survival will keep your tween listening as she uses her wits, compassion, and determination to win the Hunger Games. Maslany breathes new life into Katniss’s character with her youthful and often lyrical reader of this dystopian hit.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (Narrated by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd)

Length: 8 hrs and 6 minutes

August Pullman’s humorous yet heartwrenching initiation into the world of middle school highlights the necessity of kindness and empathy in everyone’s lives. Auggie’s narrator fully immerses herself into his character and gives the novel absolute authenticity.


Best Audiobooks for Teens

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Narrated by Lauren Fortgang)

Length: 9 hrs and 21 minutes

Good audiobooks for road trips draw the reader into different worlds, and there are few worlds more interesting than the Grishaverse. Alina Starkov discovers an unknown power within herself and suddenly becomes her society’s savior, but nothing is as it seems. Fortgang does well with the voices of different characters, especially the villainous ones.

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (Narrated by Ali Ahn)

Length: 8 hrs and 44 minutes

Your romance-loving teen will enjoy Jean Song’s misadventures in romance and the importance of the written word, making this an entertaining road trip audiobook. The narrator struggles a bit with distinguishing male voices, but not enough to detract from the audiobook’s overall value.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Narrated by Trevor Noah)

Length: 8 hrs and 44 minutes

We believe that nonfiction should always have a place on your list of good audiobooks for road trips, and Trevor Noah’s memoir is an eye-opening account of the injustices of apartheid in South Africa. Noah’s performance earned him the Audie Award for Best Male Narrator in 2018, and after a short listen, you’ll understand why.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus (Narrated by Kim Mai Guest, MacLeod Andrews, Shannon McManus, and Robbie Daymond)

Length: 10 hrs and 43 minutes

We love that this audiobook for teens has different narrators for all of the major characters, giving it an added layer of authenticity and entertainment value. When five strangers come together, and only four make it out alive, you’ll want to keep listening until the mystery is solved.


Best Audiobooks for the Whole Family

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (Narrated by Peter Coyote)

Length: 3 hrs and 42 minutes

Brian Robeson’s unforgettable story of resilience will captivate your whole family as he must use every bit of knowledge he possesses to survive in the Canadian mountains. Peter Coyote’s narration is both brilliant and poignant.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Narrated by Jim Dale)

Length: 8 hrs and 18 minutes

Our list of best audiobooks for families wouldn’t be complete without the magical world of Harry Potter. Jim Dale’s unparalleled voice talent brings every single character to life, no matter how minor. This is an outstanding audiobook choice that every family should invest in.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (Narrated by Michael York)

Length: 4 hrs and 21 minutes

It’s no wonder that C.S. Lewis’s beloved tale of four siblings and their adventures in Narnia is an essential audiobook for family road trips as well. Even though this book is the second instalment in the series, it works well as a stand-alone listen.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (Narrated by Lynn Redgrave)

Length: 15 hrs and 34 minutes

Your family will love this novel where the characters in books actually do jump right off the page! Redgrave’s narration immediately draws the listener into the story, which only works to enhance the novel’s overall message.

You may also look to hop over next and check out our pick of this year’s best PODCASTS FOR FAMILY ROAD TRIPS


Want more road trip tips & inspiration?

We have a bumper collection of road trip tips and recommended travel products over on the road trips section of our website, you may be interested in:

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