Every year we drive thousands of kilometers across Canada to visit friends and family. Many years, we drive from Kelowna to Winnipeg, and then back again. Within a few weeks, we log in over 40 hours and four thousand kilometers behind the wheel.
That’s why audiobooks are an absolute lifesaver on those trips. When we start a great audiobook, the hours fly by as we drive across our gorgeous country. It’s a great way to keep the kids entertained, and keep us from going stir crazy.
Also, unlike watching movies alone in the backseat, the audio books allow our kids to watch the countryside, play with their things and most of all, not get car sick. It also gives us all something to talk about when we stop to refuel or while grabbing a bite to eat as we drive.
Looking for great audiobooks for adults as well? Check out our new post on the best audiobooks for road trips.
A quick note on Audible
Owned by Amazon, Audible has the largest library of audiobooks in the world and is a great place to get audiobooks for any of your devices. What we love most about them is if you don’t like an audiobook, you can just swap it for another for free.
An Audible membership is FREE for 30 days, and that gives you one credit, which is good for any audiobook.
The best audiobooks for family road trips
We’ve listened to dozens of audiobooks over the years and the kids actually look forward to long drives in the car now since they know we’ll put one on. The trick is having a few to choose from and letting the kids decide which one appeals to them the most.
With audiobooks, we find that the narrator can make or break your experience. Even if the book is fantastic, a poor (or irritating!) narrator can make it miserable. On the other hand, if you love a narrator’s voice you can listen to just about anything they say, so choose wisely.
For example, Charles once got his parents excited to listen to some audiobooks on their yearly 34 hour drive down to southern Texas, but stressed that getting the right narrator was critical. A big fan of westerns, his parents chose a few narrated by a fellow with a slow, heavily accented southern drawl that literally made them pull over and take a nap after listening to him for a few hours.
I’ve included links to the Audible listings for each of these books, because each book offers an audio sample. To listen to the sample, just follow the link to the book, and the sample play button is right below the book image.
I’ve also tried to pick audio books here that adults should enjoy as well, making listening a pleasant family experience. However, everyone’s tastes differ, so check out the samples and read some reviews before making a choice.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Book 1
The whole family really loves the Harry Potter series narrated by either Jim Dale or Stephen Fry. This was our first real foray into family audiobooks, and the 20+ hour car ride to visit family seems to fly when we listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks. Even though the kids have read the entire series and watched all the movies, they still enjoy listening to the audiobooks. We’re almost done book five and plan to keep listening until we reach the conclusion in book seven.
Unlike most audio books, the Harry Potter series has two narrators that do all seven books. Jim Dale reads the US version and Stephen Fry the UK version. Both are English, both are amazing and each excels at different things, however you can’t go wrong with either.
Written by: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Jim Dale
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book 1
This is a fantastic book, and kept us all engaged for the full time we listened. However, some of the themes are a bit dark, and it may not be the best for young children. I had my doubts about letting our eight year old continue to listen, but she made it through OK. That said, she’s a pretty stoic little person, and I’ve never seen her upset by a book or movie.
Written by: Philip Pullman
Narrated by: Philip Pullman however there is a full cast for each character that really makes this audiobook shine.
Series: His Dark Materials
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Chronicles of Narnia, Book 2
There’s a whole series for The Chronicles of Narnia, and the narrators differ. We’ve listened to a few (not in order) and enjoyed them all however that said, I’m excited to try The Last Battle, narrated by Patrick Stewart of Star Trek (plus much more!) fame.
Written by: C.S. Lewis
Narrated by: Michael York
Series: The Chronicles of Narnia
How to Train Your Dragon
We loved the How to Train Your Dragon movies, the Netflix series and the kids loved the books, so this is a natural choice. Even better? It’s narrated by the 10th doctor himself, David Tennant.
Written by: Cressida Cowell
Narrated by: David Tennant
Series: How to Train Your Dragon
How to Eat Fried Worms
This one’s a little shorter, at just under two hours. Kids love it, and it’s an easy listen for a shorter road trip.
Written by: Thomas Rockwell
Narrated by: Jay O. Sanders
Eragon: The Inheritance Cycle, Book 1
This is an engaging audiobook and the writer was only in his teens when he wrote the first one. It will capture the minds of every one in the car from the very beginning where a poor farm boy finds a polished blue stone that becomes a dragon hatchling to him becoming the next dragon rider.
Written by: Christopher Paolini
Narrated by: Gerard Doyle
Series: The Inheritance Cycle.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
At just under two hours, this is a shorter audiobook that both old and young Harry Potter fans should adore. We haven’t listened to this yet, but I think it would be a good book on tape for a family road trip.
Written by: J.K. Rowling, Newt Scamander
Narrated by: Eddie Redmayne
Over on Audible.com, this book rates almost five stars. It’s a touching classic narrated by the author in his raspy New England accent and will make your children both happy and sad in equal measure.
Written by: E.B. White
Narrated by: E.B. White, George Plimpton
The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1
I’m personally not a huge fan of the narrator’s voice here, but the kids loved it, and the narration did grow on me after a while as we drove. Our 12 year old son, in particular, loves all Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books so this one was a natural for us. A nice bonus is that most of the books in this series can stand on their own, so you’re not forced to listen to every single one of them.
Written by: Rick Riordan
Narrated by: Jesse Bernstein
Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Prequel
I really enjoyed the narration in this story about the children of evil villains banished to the Isle of the Lost. Will definitely be a hit with classic Disney movie lovers.
by Melissa De La Cruz
Narrated By Sophia Carson
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1
This is a special treat, as it’s narrated by the rich voice of Andrew McCarthy and it’s a childhood classic.
Written by: Tony DiTerlizzi, Holly Black
Narrated by: Andrew McCarthy
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Books One, Two, and Three
This is a great value, as it has three books in one, and over 16 hours of audiobook.
Written by: Kathryn Lasky
Narrated by: Pamela Garelick
Peter and the Starcatchers
My husband, Charles, loved this take on the Peter Pan origins story and its read by the fantastic Jim Dale, the same person who does the Harry Potter series. The kids enjoyed it as well.
Written by: Dave Barry and Ridler Pearson
Narrated by: Jim Dale
Audio books for younger kids
While most audiobooks for little kids can be about as much fun as nails on a chalkboard for parents, these children’s audio books should keep the adults happy as well.
Treasury of Classic Children’s Stories
This is an especially great choice for nostalgic parents, but the kids will love these classic stories as well. Jack and the Beanstalk narrated by John Ritter is especially good.
Written by: Oscar Wilde, Brothers Grimm
Narrated by: Audrey Hepburn, John Ritter, Sharon Stone, Orson Welles
The Ralph S. Mouse Audio Collection
This is the story of a mouse always on the lookout for more excitement.
Written by: Beverly Cleary, Tracy Dockray
Narrated by: B.D. Wong
Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies
If you love Julie Andrews, this is the collection for you and your little one. It’s as lovely and charming as you’d imagine.
Written by: Emma Walton Hamilton, Julie Andrews
Narrated by: Emma Walton Hamilton, Julie Andrews
Audiobooks for the adults
While listening with the kids is a lot of fun, I’ve started to become a real fan of audiobooks on my own.
I spend hours on the computer each day, and while I love the ease of reading on my Kindle, I do sometimes want to give my eyes a rest. My favorite time to listen to audiobooks is when I’m lying in bed, relaxing before sleep.
About Audible membership plans
You can order books on Audible without a monthly membership, but I’m actually a fan of the monthly membership.
An Audible membership is FREE for 30 days. Click here to sign up for free!
Audible has two membership types, Plus and Premium Plus.
Both membership types offer a 30 day free trial, and you can cancel anytime.
Plus membership is $7.95 a month, and includes access to thousands of Audible Originals, podcasts, audiobooks and more.
An Audible Premium Plus membership is 14.95 a month, and includes one free title in the Audible premium selection, 30% off all additional premium selection titles, access to exclusive sales, plus everything you get with Audible Plus. The one free title is credit is good for any audiobook, at any price.
I especially love this last part – you can exchange any audiobooks you don’t love, anytime. Sure, there’s a five minute sample of an audiobook you can listen to, which is great, but it’s possible to get further into a book and decide you don’t like the book or narrator. In that case, just exchange the audiobook. Easy!
Common Audible questions
When we first started with Audible, I had quite a few questions about how it works.
Do I need to have Internet access to use Audible?
If you choose to stream your audiobooks, you need Internet access whenever you want to listen to them. However, if you choose to download your audiobooks, you only need Internet access for your download and then you don’t need Internet access when you listen to your audiobooks.
Can I download my Audible books?
Yes! The easiest way to download your audiobooks is to go to the Audible library page and click the Download button.
How do I listen to Audible?
You can listen to Audible on your Smartphone, tablet or computer. You can also download audiobooks.
Can I listen to Audible books in my car?
Of course. There are several ways to do this. The easiest way, if you have a car that has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, is plugging your phone into your USB port and following some simple instructions.
You can also use Bluetooth to stream your Audible book to your car stereo.
Can I use a USB stick to play Audible books in my car?
Our car stereo has a USB port, but it’s an older stereo, so it isn’t enabled to play automatically from Audible.
If this is your case too, you can use a FM transmitter that plugs into your device to broadcast from Audible through the USB plug.
Have you tried Audible? Let us know what you think!