Let’s face it. The soundtrack to a road trip can be just as important as the road trip itself. For the rest of eternity, when you hear a song, it will remind you of the fantastic memories that you made on your journey. That’s the really cool thing about music. But anyway, before I get into a weird rant about how much I like music, here’s what you came for.
The essentials, baby.
500 Miles – The Proclaimers
It really doesn’t get much better than this. It is guaranteed to start your road trip off with high morale and will consistently be a tune that lifts everyone’s spirits at any point of the journey. It worked for Marshall and Ted in How I Met Your Mother, so it can work for you, too.
Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root
Another classic, you’ve probably heard this song in some 90’s car commercial when you were growing up. That’s probably where I first heard it, so naturally my subconscious associates this with road trips. You may think differently, but I don’t think any road trip playlist is complete without this gem.
Daylight – Matt and Kim
I often get told that I am obnoxiously cheerful at times, but when I listen to this song, I hit unheard of levels of merriness. This song was the epitome of “lit” before lit worked its way into our vernacular. There is no better song to preface your next adventure, or doing hoodrat shit with your friends.
Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
This twangy masterpiece pretty much speaks for itself. I don’t need to justify this choice.
Float On – Modest Mouse
Something about this song just makes it exponentially better when you’re listening to it in a car. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I have actually enjoyed this song outside of a vehicle.
Budapest – George Ezra
Unless your road trip is exceptionally ambitious, Budapest is probably not in your itinerary. However, when this song came out and I was jamming to it in Budapest, I have since associated it with traveling and exploring a new place. Listening to the lyrics, it actually has very little to do with Budapest, or even traveling, but regardless, I hope that it instills the same positive vibes and wanderlust in you that it does in me.
Naked Kids – Grouplove
I forgot who sang this so I typed “Naked Kids” into YouTube without thinking. It’s 7:14 AM and I haven’t slept all night so cut me some slack. Hopefully, I don’t get put on a list or something. I’m a bit worried now honestly but this song is getting me by. I don’t know what’s so special about it but something about them literally just saying how they’re spending their day and occasionally clapping is just so uplifting.
and we’re lying in the sun
when we’re done…
find a towel!
now we’re thinking of where we’re gonna eat!?
*catchy clapping in the background throughout*
Stare Into The Sun – Graffiti6
This is song is just perfect road trip material. There’s something about chasing sunsets and listening to this song that makes the awful glare slightly more manageable.
Ways To Go – Grouplove
Typing Naked Kids into YouTube reminded me of this other great road trip song from Grouplove. Who cares if you’re only twelve minutes into a ten-hour drive? Listening to this song will temporarily make you super excited that you’ve got a little bit longer, you’ve got A WAYS TO GOOOOO!
Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride – Lilo and Stitch
Don’t judge, but this song is nothing short of iconic. No matter how catchy the songs are, the Lilo and Stitch Soundtrack is criminally underrated mostly because most of us have no idea what the h*ck they’re saying. However, Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride has some English bits that you can belt out in your car as you roll your windows down and let the breeze blow your hair back while you pretend to be Johnny Freakin’ Kapahala. For a more challenging experience, also add He Mele No Lilo to your road trip playlist.
Brazil – Declan Mckenna
Don’t you want to play the beautiful game down in Brazil? Again, Brazil might not actually be in your road trip itinerary, but this song inspires wanderlust at its strongest. Good vibes all around.
Chateau – Angus and Julia Stone
One of the more chill songs on this list, this is a quality tune to vibe to after the initial burst of energy that you get from feeling free on the wide open road. I don’t have too many chill songs on this list, but that’s because you’ll probably have this song on repeat for a few hours anyway.
Pumpin Blood – NONONO
Literally everything about this song screams “ROOADDD TRIPPP!!!!!!” I’ve actually never paid too much attention to the lyrics but I’m listening to it right now and they just said something about being on the road and on the highway over and over again. So yeah, maybe that’s what was subliminally screaming “ROOADDD TRIPPP!!!!!!” to me about it.
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman or Jonas Blue
There are a few different versions of this song that I like. The Jonas Blue version is more upbeat and sounds a bit happier, so it’s a quality choice if you’re still in a good mood. I like the original Tracy Chapman version as well but it does make me feel a bit sad yet peaceful. Something about it makes me feel like I’m driving away from all of my problems. Perfect for chasing a sunset. Or running away from all of your problems!
Sunset Lover – Petit Biscuit
Speaking of sunsets… I would always have this song on repeat while I was sitting on one of those dreary sleeper buses in South East Asia. I don’t know if the song is actually saying anything, but it is a very mellow, calming tune. It makes me feel a weird kind of way, which I can best describe as an unsatisfied happiness where I am content but also yearning for something at the same time. Probably because I always imagine exploring somewhere new while I’m listening to it. Definitely one of my favorite songs to listen to while I’m on the road.
Okay, there you have it. Those are my fifteen essentials, but going into this, I already knew I would have way more than fifteen songs in mind. Here’s a bonus section. The guilty pleasures that I was ashamed to put in the original fifteen.
Red – Taylor Swift
You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift
La Bicicleta – Carlos Vives and Shakira
All The Small Things – Blink 182
and last but not least…
The Entire Lord of the Rings Soundtrack
It’s just literally too epic not to be on here. There is a song for every occasion. I can work out to Lord of the Rings and I can fall asleep to Lord of the Rings. I can study to it, I can work to it, and I can drive endlessly, miraculously staying silent the entire time even though I am typically belting out song lyrics at the top of my lungs. Seriously, if you can listen to Concerning Hobbits without cracking even the slightest bit of a smile, then we probably wouldn’t be friends.