Our first family road trip took place when Hannah was just four weeks old. We made the three-plus hour drive down to New York for a family bridal shower. At that time, we hadn’t discovered audiobooks for family road trips and our listening enjoyment consisted of Hannah crying or the grating sound of a vacuum cleaner that a friend had recorded and given to us on CD, as it was supposed to comfort colicky babies. Glenn nearly lost his cool.
Since then, we have managed to get a little smarter about our road trip audio entertainment. Since watching movies tended to cause motion sickness, we soon discovered the joys of audio books. Over the years, we have managed to find quite a few audio books for family road trips that made the whole family happy and helped the hours fly by. One of my “must do” errands before any road trip used to be a visit to our local library to pick up some books on CD. Now, we usually just download them, but the routine is still the same.
Our Favorite Audiobooks for Family Road Trips
I’ve listed our favorite audiobooks for family road trips, starting with those for younger kids first.
- Skippy Jon Jones – You may need the whole collection to get you through a longer drive, but we used to listen to the adventures of this Siamese cat who thought he was a Chihuahua all the time. Each hard cover picture book came with a CD, which I would keep in the car until I burnt them all to my iPod. He is still our favorite of the small ones and you just can’t fully appreciate Skippy Jon Jones until you have heard his stories read by the author.
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle – Beverly Cleary was one of my favorite authors as a kid and her books have largely stood the test of time. I can still hear the narrator entertaining us with his motorcycle sounds, and we could just picture the little mouse zooming along on his adventures.
- Charlotte’s Web – This heart-warming story keeps you engaged as you wait to learn the fate of both Charlotte and the pig. We started with Charlotte’s Web and later added The Trumpet of the Swan. When we arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo, Hannah was disappointed that she couldn’t find a Trumpeter swan anywhere.
- Cricket in Times Square – I tend to gravitate to the classics because I find that in the car, you can overcome any objections to “old” books, which may not be as fashionable today. I’ve always loved this story about the tiny cricket and it is a great intro for a trip to New York City.
- How to Eat Fried Worms – Don’t underestimate the entertainment value of the gross factor. Will he? Won’t he? How will he? It is a short but fun story.
- Harry Potter – The Harry Potter series must be one of the best-narrated audio books ever. If you haven’t yet jumped into this series, it is a great way to enjoy it (or re-enjoy them) as a family.
- Percy Jackson – Once your kid gets hooked on Percy Jackson or any of the Rick Riordan books, you will have a new addition to the series to keep you going through many a long car ride.
- The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – Like Harry Potter, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are exceptionally well-narrated audio books. It may seem intimidating in book form but The Hobbit when narrated is very accessible to kids about eight and up. The Lord of the Rings can be a hard book to read, even though the story is so beloved. The narrator brings tunes to the songs, helps the names start to make sense and will captive you for hours and hours. Just make sure you save this one for a long road trip! We got through 18 hours of driving to and through Canada and back with this one.
- The Book Thief – Better for kids 12 and up (depending on your child’s sensitivities), this was one of our favorites and an introduction to some of our more troubling history.
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Now that we are moving into the teen years, finding books that we all enjoy can be harder. We have listened to quite a few dystopian fiction audio books that we have enjoyed, but they get a bit repetitive after a while. I again turn to the classics, which might otherwise be overlooked in daily pleasure reading. On mother-daughter road trip last summer, we listened to To Kill a Mockingbird and it led to some great discussions along our drive – much better than electronics-fed silence. We both loved it (me for the second time) and when we found out it was assigned reading for seventh grade, all the better that she was a step ahead.