How to Make a Road Trip Playlist

 We’re home! We opened our front door at 6:00pm with 2,250 more miles on the truck. Between this trip and the 2245 miles my car earned on our Washington DC trip in June, I think our vehicles need a well-deserved rest. While I am not sure I’d classify us as road trip experts, we’ve both been making multi-day road trips since the age of 18 and haven’t let a couple thousand of miles between us and our destination scare us from traveling and seeing our country. We’re no strangers to flying as a family but not every trip is best suited for such travel. So over the next couple of days, I am going to do my best to organize some thoughts on how to best travel in the car with a toddler and a dog. First up – the music!

Before I get into some specific song choices, I’d like to share the one rule regarding music on road trips to which we adhere:

  1. Driver veto. Whoever is driving on the road trip (which 75% of the time is Clay), get’s the right to veto any song he or she wishes. It is just one of the many privileges that accompanies driving.

Other than that, everything is fair game. We both have iPhones that currently hold our music collection but we have been together long enough that our road trips in college involved the huge 200+ CD cases we both owned. By the time we were married we graduated to the iPod and now the said iPhones. We only utilize the radio about 10% of the time but sometimes we will hit gold and find a local station that churns out amazing songs one after the other. I find this occurrence to be on par with winning $100 at a casino.

So how do you make a spectacular road trip playlist that transcends the bland landscape of our heartland? Easy – choose music you like, that won’t make you fall asleep (e.g. we rarely listen to Bon Iver in the car), and that is easy to sing along too. If you’re like us and have a little one in the car, then you probably try to limit the explicit lyrics. But we certainly do not send ourselves to a Raffi and Laurie Berkner purgatory. Quite the opposite – we have no problem exposing our little guy to great music.

So without further ado, here is just a small sampling of songs that we listen to over the course of 4,800 miles that I compiled into a short playlist (see videos below).

  • The Passenger – Iggy Pop
  • Magic – The Cars
  • Walk on the Ocean – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • The Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann
  • Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • I’m on Fire – Bruce Springsteen
  • Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
  • Ho Hey – The Lumineers

The Passenger – Iggy Pop

Magic – The Cars


Walk on the Ocean – Toad the Wet Sprocket

Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann

Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival

I’m on Fire – Bruce Springsteen

Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield

Ho Hey – The Lumineers

15 thoughts on “How to Make a Road Trip Playlist

  1. Mike has made CD’s for the Harley – a very eclectic mix of songs that help the miles pass (and give me something to sing at the top of my lungs, a bonus since no one can hear me)
    Aunt Sue

    1. Unfortunately, the sound of our cars does nothing to drown out our dreadful voices. Good thing the windows are rolled up! 🙂

  2. Hard to imagine that “the mighty quinn” has transcended the years!! Just for fun…look up the Unicorn song. It’s a fun one and Wes would probably love it.

  3. Unfortunately the driver on our road trips is outranked by the toddler, the second she doesn’t like something off it goes! She prefers to hear us sing than to listen to actual music and many of her favorites are songs I learned at sleepover camp 20 years ago. Poor Jay has been forced to learn all the words to “songs” like Down,Down, Baby (Down By The Rollercoaster)

    1. FYI – I have had Down, Down, Down, Baby stuck in my head since yesterday evening. Thankfully, Weston hasn’t complained too much about our music choices.

  4. Natalie loves it when she can pick out things she recognizes that are fun… like Eskimos. She loves Quinn! Other surprising favorites: Octopus’s Garden and Birthday (Beatles), Walking on Sunshine (KATW), City of New Orleans (Guthrie), and 99 Red Balloons (Nena). I’ve also caught her humming classical music… like the Farandole from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne (suite no. 2). She always surprises me.

    1. Weston is the same way about recognizing words in songs. His favorite song to ‘sing’ with us is Bohemian Rhapsody. Works for me!

  5. I have had the song “I’m on fire” in my head since I saw this post this morning. It reminds me of when I was a little girl bc we used to sing it a lot.

    On our latest road trips we have had the built in DVD players for the kids so we can listen to what we want. My husband does most of the driving so he gets to choose most of the time. Although I will usually steal control for a half hour or so once in a while to regain my sanity too.

    1. I’m On Fire is just an all around great song. We have a DVD player in both cars too – we have no shame in letting the little guy watch movies on long road trips.

  6. Walk On the Ocean is a favorite of mine, as depressing as it is. So is Dust in the Wind, which probably says something about my outlook on life.

    1. I can’t hear Dust in the Wind by Kansas without thinking of the Will Ferrell scene in ‘Old School’. Little factoid – Clay and I were announced into our wedding reception to ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ by Kansas. So Kansas will always hold a special place in my heart. 🙂

  7. This is a really fun post! Loving your playlist. I haven’t thought about “The Mighty Quinn” in years. You’ll be happy to know that I downloaded it to my iPhone collection 🙂

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