Audiobooks for travel – BookBeat review

I have a secret weapon when it comes to travelling with my daughter – more specifically, for car journeys with my daughter.

Tablet showing the BookBeat app plus car keys and model car - - my BookBeat review and secret weapon for travelling with kids

Because when I’m driving and navigating, I need a secret weapon to help with the ultra-chatty five-year-old who chooses to pose brain-teasers just as I’m attempting to merge onto a busy motorway.

That secret? Audiobooks. Watching films, playing with apps, stickers, colouring, reading – most of those make her car sick or don’t entertain her in quite the same way. But losing ourselves in a story? Part of the secret is that I’m enjoying the tale just as much in the front seat.

Paddington accompanied us around Cambodia, where our wonderful two-week trip involved quite a few three-hour transfers by car. At home, Roald Dahl has ensured that I’ve finished more than a few journeys craving chocolate.

We’ve been transported up the Faraway Tree on our way to Devon, travelled the world along with the Snail and the Whale, and been accompanied by dragons in London’s traffic jams.

Which means I’ve also transported case upon case of CDs around… and discovered the drawback of having to swap them while driving, or relying on a newly reading five-year-old not to get banana on them when passing them to me (this happened…), and in one case, leaving them on the chest of drawers in the hall where I’d put them so I wouldn’t forget them.

My phone, on the other hand, always comes with me. So why juggle CDs (and risk dropping them out of reach), when I can simply download a story and plug it into the car stereo? Besides, it’s 2017!

Paddington plus tablet displaying one of the Paddington audiobooks on the BookBeat app - my BookBeat review and secret weapon for travelling with kids

And when I was asked to review BookBeat – a digital streaming service which has been described as ‘Netflix for audiobooks’ – it sounded a perfect fit. With unlimited listening and thousands of stories to choose from for a monthly fee of £12.90 (for those in the UK or with a UK payment method), you can download, which is useful for when we’re travelling and don’t have WiFi, or stream.

There’s a free trial period which is normally two weeks.

Unlike other options, you aren’t limited to a specific number of credits and it’s a great way to try a story to see if you like it – if not, on to the next and it won’t cost another penny, plus you can cancel instantly if ever you want. With the option to use the subscription across five devices (albeit only one at once), it also meant I could start adding my own choices to the list too rather than focusing solely on my daughter.

Because there’s something very satisfying about listening to a story; shades of my own bedtime stories years ago mixed with the feeling of sharing a great tale with a friend. I often struggle when books I love are made into films or TV shows – the plot gets fiddled with, the characters don’t look quite as I imagined.

But with an audiobook, it’s the same experience as reading the book… or better when it’s a skilled narrator or the author themselves telling the tale.

On a more practical note, it also means I can revel in a story while doing something else with my hands – for me, it’s often driving but it could be cooking, crafting or running.

Not surprising that audiobooks were the fastest-growing format in publishing last year. A lot of us are catching on; 59% of audiobook consumers in the UK started buying and listening in the last two years, while 42% of the UK market discovered the joy of audiobooks in the last 12 months, according to Nielsen Book Research.

With so many choices to search through, the options come with average review ratings and are helpfully broken down by category, bestsellers, and for children’s books, into age ranges.

The overview also tells you how long it lasts – nothing worse than setting off and discovering you’ve got a 10-minute story rather than a collection of 10-minute stories…

Then simply save the ones you fancy to your collection, either from desktop or your app (Apple and Android), or download to your device before listening. On the app, you can also click through to other audiobooks from the same author and series, remove or move to your history, as well as customising rewind options

It’s definitely worth using the free trial to look at the options first, to check what there is for your reading tastes. For younger kids, a lot of the big names are missing – Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Julia Donaldson, not to mention JK Rowling – and while Lauren Child is included, it’s for her Ruby Redfort series rather than Charlie and Lola or Clarice Bean.

For slightly older ones than my daughter, there’s David Walliams and David Baddiel, for example, and along with more Paddington, Mog and The Tiger Who Came To Tea, we discovered Dragon Tales by Kenneth Grahame.

For adults, there are classics and modern stories, and not just the bestsellers – Assassin’s Fate, the last in the series I’m reading by Robin Hobb is there, although The Girl on the Train, for example, isn’t.

With new titles constantly being added, I’m going to be keeping an eye on the latest audiobooks to appear in the library. And with more car journeys ahead of us for our next exciting trip, to Oman, I might even get to catch up on some of those books I’ve always intended to read…


My BookBeat review and secret weapon for travelling with kids - unlimited audiobooks to download and stream, including options for children (and for time-poor adults like me!)

Disclosure: I am working with BookBeat to review their service – all opinions and offbeat reading choices remain my own. Seriously, check out Robin Hobb though. Tablet used in the images for clarity (and for my daughter), but I tend to use my phone…

Images copyright MummyTravels