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Monday, August 26, 2013

Free Entertainment for the Road

Alisha McDarris

I’m a big reader. Josh is big on movies. Both of us have a hard time leaving those things behind when we travel. But monthly memberships and individual downloads can get pricey and stacks of books take up a whole lotta space in a bag (not to mention they weigh a lot). The alternative? Audio books, e-books, and free apps.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that audio and e-books are no replacement for the real thing (that paper in your hand, a pen bookmark for making notes in the margins…ahh), but from time to time, it’ll do. And obviously a tablet screen is no substitute for a 50″ TV, but again.

All you’ll need for entertainment on the go are one or two devices that support mp3, video files and reader apps. Grab an mp3 player, tablet, e-reader, etc. and start browsing online for free goodies!

For audio books, start with, a site with an extensive list of books in the public domain. They are entertaining to listen to because they are read by volunteers and the voices change from chapter to chapter. So if you don’t like the tone of chapter one, give it a few minutes. Another will pop up soon. They also have catalogs in a handful of languages besides English. offers links to free audio books, sometimes e-books, and even text books and language lessons. The site sources from Audible, iTunes and various downloadable zip files to offer hundreds of audio and e-books from across the web. also offers links to downloadable audio and e-books for apple devices, nook, kindle and more. Also, most public libraries offer free online “rentals” for audio books that will allow you to download titles to a library on your computer that will then return themselves (as in disappear from your downloads list) two weeks or so after checkout.

Of course, GooglePlay and the iTunes Store also offer free downloads for android and Apple devices, respectively, but the selection doesn’t seem to be as good. Keep in mind, though, wherever you’re looking for your free reads, most of them are going to be classic literature in the public domain. Every once in awhile you might find a more recently published gem by a little known author, but those are few and far between.
As for visual entertainment, you can start with apps from your favorite TV networks. Most of the big networks have them and allow you to easily watch the latest episodes from popular shows.

Crackle is another free app for watching movies and TV shows, but the selection of well-known stuff is limited. However, it is a valid option, especially for those who like obscure 90’s flicks and unheard-of classics.
SnagFilms offers thousands of independent films and documentaries if that’s what floats your boat. Just don’t expect to find any terribly popular titles.
Of course, you could always take your DVD’s to a place like Wal-Mart that offers a “Disc to Digital” service so you can easily load your favorite movies onto your favorite device. This service is powered by Vudu. The only downside is that movies distributed by obscure studios generally aren’t supported by the program as they have contracts with the big guys only.
Even if you suffer from chronic lack of space in your backseat or carry-on, there’s no need to travel without the entertainment we so enjoy. So grab a good book (minus the flamboyant cover with a gigantic photo of the author on the back), queue up your favorite comedy or chick flick and enjoy the long road ahead!

Alisha McDarris / Author & Editor

Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. [Portfolio]


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