Summertime often means road trips! While vacations are awesome, long trips in the car can be brutal: MOM, he won’t stop poking me, what’s that smell, I’ve gotta go, are we there yet? For our family, audiobooks are a great way to get everyone engaged in a shared experience and make those long hours on the road fly by a lot faster. We started playing audiobooks on car trips when our older boys were very young, and it’s become a family tradition that everyone looks forward to.
Today I’m sharing a list of audiobooks our family has loved over the years, as well as some tips for selecting great picks for your own family. We have listened to everything on this list at least once, and some of these have been on repeat for years.
Our Family’s Favorite Audiobooks for Road Trips
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#1 – Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is a sci-fi classic about a young prodigy named Ender Wiggin who is selected to essentially save the world from a dangerous alien race. Set in the future, Ender has to go through trials and testing, each time demonstrating his intelligence, leadership, along with his compassion. This is an action-packed story that will have you hanging on the edge of your seat. I would not recommend it for young children since there is some of the more violent parts may be too much for them; that said, my boys all listened to this story for the first time around the ages of 6-8. This is one we’ve listened to over and over again.
#2 – Hank the Cowdog, by John R. Erickson
ANY of the Hank the Cowdog series books are so entertaining and fun to listen to, but it helps if you start at the beginning with The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog, the first in the series. These books are narrated by John R. Erickson, the author of the series, and he has this wonderful, authentic Texas accent that is absolutely perfect for Hank, the main character. These stories are told from the perspective of Hank (the Cowdog), a dog who is “Head of Ranch Security” on a ranch in Texas. These stories will make you laugh out loud, especially when Hank, who thinks pretty highly of himself, ends up not knowing or being able to do everything as well as he thought. But you also find yourself cheering for Hank as he fights to save the ranch from all kinds of perils. I HIGHLY recommend these books for all ages.
#3 – Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island is the classic tale of young Jim Hawkins’s adventures on the high seas with Long John Silver himself. If you’ve read it before, you know it’s a swashbuckling, rip-roaring adventure packed with mutiny, bravery, and treasure. My boys all love this story, and they started listening to it around the ages of 6-8.
#4 – The BFG, by Roald Dahl
Anything by Roald Dahl makes for a great audiobook: Dahl’s stories are funny, heart-warming, and full of fun and adventure. My family and I love everything Dahl has ever written, but our favorite for car trips has to be The BFG. In this book, an orphan named Sophie befriends a big, friendly giant who lives in a land with some bigger and not-so-friendly giants who love to eat children. Together, Sophie and the BFG work out a plan to stop the bad giants and save the children of the world. What we love about listening to this story on audiobook is all of the wonderful nonsense words the BFG uses when he talks. We continue to listen to this one over and over again, even though my two older sons are high school age and beyond.
#5 – Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer
This epic Norse mythological adventure knocked our socks off. It’s a story of magic, a dangerous quest, Vikings, and trolls. The story blends Norse mythology (and if your kids are familiar with Thor, Oden, and Loki, they will have heard some of these names before). We listened to this one the first time when my youngest son was 7, and he went bananas for it right along with the rest of us. My youngest went on to read the second and third book in the series on his own over the past few years. It might be a little scary for kids under 6-7, though. If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, you’ll love this.
Other Great Audiobooks for Family Road Trips
Here are a few other audiobooks our family has listened to and enjoyed on the road over the years.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
- Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald
- The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan
- Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman
- Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Tips for Audiobooking on a Family Trip
Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years:
- You can get audiobooks for free from your library! Most libraries have books on CD or mp3 that you can check out and take with you. Many libraries also offer ebook and audiobook checkouts that you can download to your phone or tablet and take along for the ride. See if you can get the book you want for free before you buy!
- Listen to a snippet of the audiobook before you rent or buy to make sure you like the narrator. Most audiobooks have wonderful narrators, but we’ve gotten a few over the years that are a little irritating to listen to and make the story not as enjoyable.
- If you haven’t read the book first, read as many reviews as you can to see if it will be appropriate for your kids. I like to google the title of the book and add “Christian review” or “parent recommendation” type tags onto my search to come up with as much information as I can. If you did end up picking something that’s a little bit much for your kids, you can always skip through parts or even stop and switch to a different story.
- We have a “no headphones” rule when audiobooks are on. Although, the only time anyone ever asked to put headphones on when we were listening to an audiobook on a trip was the time I tried to make the family listen to A Tale of of Two Cities. It’s my favorite story of all time! But my grade school aged boys really were not into it. Boo. Bet they’d have liked it more if they were a little older.
Our 2018 Picks
We will be heading out on a road trip to Florida and Universal Orlando (HARRY POTTER — so excited!!!!) this summer, and here are the audiobooks we have scheduled for this trip. Now that our youngest is 9 and the older two are pretty much adults, we’re listening to some different sorts of books.
- And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie – I’m a huge Agatha Christie fan, and we had taken the older two boys to see this play and they really enjoyed it. Earlier this year we all went to see the Murder on the Orient Express movie and everyone loved it, so we’re all kind of excited to hear this story again in the car.
- Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson – My husband and all 3 sons are huge science and astrophysics nerds, so they are foaming at the mouth to listen to this one. I think I will enjoy it too, but not as much as them. 🙂
- The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch – Tear-jerker, I know, but this is probably the last “just us” vacation my family will take together since my oldest is on his own now and my middle one is leaving for college in the fall. I thought it would be good to get a few “life lesson” type hits in on the road.
- Then we’ll probably also throw in some old favorites if we have extra time: most likely one of the top 5 listed above.
What are some audiobooks your family has enjoyed?