Travel episodes happen quite frequently on The Simpsons, so much so that they’ve now been on every continent, including Antarctica. But which vacation episodes are among the finest in the show’s repertoire, and which ones are best forgotten? Let’s take look, as I rank every Simpsons travel episode…
14. “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed” – Original Air Date: March 28, 2010
Not only is this the worst vacation episode, it might be the worst Simpsons episode ever. Homer is painfully annoying even compared to his usual standard, and Sasha Baron Cohen plays the most irritating tour guide ever. Every line he delivers, you want to punch him a little more. Watch this episode once out of curiosity, and then never speak of it again.
13. “In The Name Of The Grandfather” – Original Air Date: March 22, 2009
This one is just so freaking boring. The family goes to Ireland because…Grampa used to live there or something. Like most of these travel episodes, there’s a bunch of scenes featuring the family doing a things related to the culture of whatever country they’re in, but in this case, it just feels uninspired, with the Blarney Stone bit (where Marge just keeps talking endlessly) being particularly stupid. The only memorable jokes here were the Yuppie Leprechauns and the ad for the U2 moving company (“We Move In Mysterious Ways”). Other than that, this episode can be very quickly forgotten.
12. “Dude, Where’s My Ranch?” – Original Air Date: April 27, 2003
The first act, which features “Everybody Hates Ned Flanders,” and a cameo from David Byrne, is pretty funny. After that, this one isn’t anything to write home about. The Simpsons go to a dude ranch where they do a bunch of dude ranch stuff, and Lisa falls in love with a 13 year old and briefly turns into a psychopath. Then, the episode ends without anything really significant happening, and you’re wondering where those precious 22 minutes went.
11. “The Regina Monologues” – Original Air Date: November 23, 2003
The Simpsons goes to England and…meh. Other than the Trainspotting parody where Bart and Lisa become junkies for British candy, this episode is just kind of ordinary. Homer acts like a huge jerk and nearly gets the family killed because that’s just what he does, and the plot with Grampa’s lost love from World War II was done far better on King Of The Hill. There’s nothing egregiously bad about this episode, but it feels like a lot of wasted potential. Honestly, the first act with Bart finding the thousand dollar bill is probably funnier than anything that happens in England, and that just doesn’t make sense. Pretty much every scene is a celebrity cameo, and with the exception of Ian McKellen’s Macbeth bit, none of them are all that funny. This episode could have been so much more.
10-9 (tie). “Kill The Alligator And Run” – Original Air Date: April 30, 2000/”Simpson Safari” – Original Air Date: April 1, 2001
I’m including these two episodes together because, well, they’re kinda the same episode. Both episodes have a fair amount of good jokes, but are severely hampered by plots that make no sense, and change direction about five different times. Plus, Homer is painfully annoying in both of them. Neither one is quite as bad as you’ve likely heard, but both could have been much stronger episodes with a little more cohesion. They’re about even in quality, but I’ll give a slight edge to the Africa episode because Kid Rock isn’t involved.
8. “Goo Goo Gai Pan” – Original Air Date: March 13, 2005
The Simpsons go to China so Selma can adopt a baby, and Homer has to pretend to be her husband. This premise would grow thin pretty quickly, but thankfully, the episode focuses more on the family’s adventures in China than anything else. Homer trying to be an acrobat — and ruining everything — is pretty funny, and apparently causes a revolution (“I’m going to question every thing now! Why doesn’t Pearl Jam ever come here?”). This isn’t the strongest vacation episode, but the series of vignettes that make it up are pretty funny, and it’s nice to see Homer do something nice for Selma for once.
7. “Any Given Sundance” – Original Air Date: May 4, 2008
The family goes to the Sundance Film Festival, and while we get some good mileage out of their adventures in Park City, Utah — particularly Homer’s interaction with Jim Jarmusch — the key to this episode is Lisa’s conflicted, but ultimately loving relationship with her family. When her movie “Capturing The Simpsons” makes them look like a bunch of dysfunctional lunatics, they’re understandable upset, but while Lisa is often horrified by her family’s antics, she doesn’t love them any less. Luckily, the whole thing blows over when the Sundance crowd is distracted by Nelson’s even sadder movie about his family. Well, that’s show business for you.
7. “A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again” – Original Air Date: April 29, 2012
In which the family goes to Antarctica, making their trip around the continents complete. But the best parts of this episode come from the scenes on the cruise ship, which goes horribly wrong when Bart tries to extend things by convincing everyone there’s a virus in the area. The ship turns into an apocalyptic wasteland (“Man was told not to run near the pool. Man didn’t listen. This is his reward!”), and when everyone finds out it’s Bart’s fault, the family is cast off at the bottom of the equator. Still, we can relate to Bart’s reasons for prolonging the vacation, and in general, this episode is just an enjoyable romp, and one of the better episodes in recent years.
5. “The Italian Bob” – Original Air Date: December 11, 2005
This one posits an interesting destination for Sideshow Bob: after being free from prison once and for all, he moves to Italy, has a wife and kid, and becomes mayor of a small village, only to run afoul the Simpsons, who ruin everything. Of course, considering Sideshow Bob’s past, you can hardly blame them. We get some good bits with the family in Italy (“Kentucky? In Italian, this means whore!”), and Sideshow Bob finds out once again that he can’t escape his dark past.
4. “Blame It On Lisa – Original Air Date: March 31, 2002
This episode certainly isn’t perfect; while The Simpsons gleefully mocks any travel destination, the stuff about Brazil being overrun my monkeys was a bit much. With that said, there’s enough quality stuff here to make this a fairly strong episode, with the risque Brazilian kids show Teleboobies being particularly great (“Clockwise, counter-clockwise!”). Plus, we get the Brazilian version of The Yes Guy, and Homer telling Flanders to “go suck a Bible,” which I use in conversation fairly often. Overall, the good far outweighs the bad here.
3. “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” – Original Air Date: May 16, 1999
Honestly, if the only joke in this entire episode was the “knife goes in, guts come out” bit, it would still have a place in my heart. Luckily, we also get the family dinner at America Town (“Don’t ask me, I don’t know anything. I’m product of inferior American education system. I also build poor quality cars and inferior style electronics!””Oh, he got our number!”), and of course, everything on the Japanese game show is fantastic (“I sure hope they don’t have an ice cream round…”). This was the point where travel episodes became a recurring theme on The Simpsons, and while many of the later ones have some redeeming qualities, they would never be this funny again.
2. “Itchy & Scratchy Land” – Original Air Date: October 2, 1994
You could argue that this shouldn’t technically qualify as a travel episode, because they go to a theme park rather than a geographical destination, but that logic is just no fun! Besides, this episode does give us the “can we stop at Flickey’s” bit, which any kid who’s ever been on a long road trip can relate to. The scenes within the park are pretty much uniformly amazing, from the killer robots, to the tragic shortage of “Bort” license plates. Yes, this truly was the Best Vacation Ever. Well, except for this next episode…
1. “Bart Vs. Australia” – Original Air Date: February 19, 1995
The original travel episode is still the gold standard, and it likely always will be. The Simpsons’ trip to Australia features countless amazing moments, from Marge’s attempt to order a coffee (“COF-FEE.” “BE-ER?”), to Phil Hartman’s brilliant performance as Evan Connover, to the general concept of “booting.” Oh, and the Knifey-Spooney bit. Look, there’s tons of great bits here, but instead of trying to the name them all, I’m just going to watch this glorious Simpsons episode. I suggest you all do the same.