Plus the best listening tips for the road
Scrap the proverbial ‘silence is golden‘, a great roadbound adventure on a campervan rental needs the best road trip songs. Quietude is nice when staring out the car window in a state of holiday-bliss, but will get awkward at the half-hour mark. Singing along to a nice tune together is much more fun, so music it is!
But what makes great road trip music? In this post, find out what a good tune needs to have to be great road material.
For your future travels, we’ve recommended 30 of the best songs for a road trip and shared them in a Spotify playlist. We’ve added a downloadable, one-hour broadcast of some of those songs too. Read on to find further listening tips for great audiobooks and podcasts that will keep you entertained while driving.
What are some good road trip songs?
Every great road trip comes with its own soundtrack, but what makes a good road trip song? Different co-travellers, landscapes, seasons, and even times of day, all demand other music genres. On top of that, what defines good music is a matter of taste.
We can’t tell you what the best road trip music is (but we’ll try to!), so how about we give you a few guidelines to create your own road trip music playlist?
How to create a good music playlist for a road trip
Singalong songs make a road trip. There’s no better bonding than singing together and no better way to raise spirits and build momentum. You’ve found a good road trip singalong song when you instantly reach for the volume knob to blast the tune for all to sing (and to mask missing some of those high notes).
Beware when adding singalongs to your playlist: use them sparingly! Not just because these are your special sauce, your co-driver can handle only so much Backstreet Boys.
A tempo for driving
If you’re driving for hours on end you’ll want to have music to keep you going. Not in a hurried way, just the right upbeat tempo and rhythm to keep feeling good and energetic. Maybe you don’t want to constantly have the same bpm for fear of dozing off.
Add some variety and change of tempo to your music playlist to keep engaged.
Music has the magical quality of setting the mood. So what mood does your playlist need to set? We want that holiday-vibe to kick in when on the road.
Let’s analyze that vibe: it’s a happy feeling, one of excitement and adventure or whatever you chase on the journey you’re on. You want your music to reflect that and send out good vibrations to set the mood for a quality vacation.
Everyone has their preferred musical genres and it’s up to you to create a playlist that fits your journey—keeping your travel companions in mind, that is. To keep everyone including yourself satisfied and listening, add a fun mix of genres to your playlist.
Consider choosing a genre to build a theme around. Like adding good ol’ rock and roll for a deserted highway or chansons for the French countryside.
Ready to build your own playlist? Whatever type of music you like most, following the above principles will help you have a good time on the road.
30 road trip songs to drive to and sing along
Now that we’ve shared our two cents on what makes a good playlist for cruising, how about we share our playlist? There’s everything we recommended above: singalongs, upbeat tunes, and good vibes above all.
We’ve created a playlist on Spotify for you to stream. It’s embedded right here:
Songs you can find on the playlist
- Willie Nelson – On the Road Again
- Grateful Dead – Truckin’
- Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side
- A Tribe Called Quest – Can I kick It
- Dj Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince – Summertime
- OutKast – Hey Ya!
- Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance with Somebody
- Men At Work – Down Under
- The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner
- The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations
- Madonna – Holiday
- A-ha – Take on Me
- Katrina & The Waves – Walking on Sunshine
- Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way
- Van Morrison – Brown Eyed Girl
- Don McLean – American Pie
- Take My Hand – Picture This
- Sun – Two Door Cinema Club
- Song for Ireland – The Dubliners
- Cannonball – Damien Rice
- Dreams – The Cranberries
- Viva Las Vegas – Goats Don’t Shave
- Galway Girl – The High Kings
- Naive – The Kooks
- Riptide – Vance Joy
- Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men
- Love Don’t Die – The Fray
- Find Me – Kings of Leon
- New Shoes – Paolo Nutini
- Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
The best Audiobooks and Podcasts for a Road Trip
Where music can really set the stage for your trip, there’s another listening material that scores as good on the entertainment side.
Some of the greatest novels and most interesting non-fiction are available as audiobooks. Listening to them is like taking a journey within your journey—if anything, it’s a great way to kill time.
Podcasts are the modern pirate radio stations. The sheer range of content and the indie feel to them make them excellent sound bytes on the road.
Audiobooks worth listening to on your next trip
A well-narrated audiobook will easily keep you entertained for hours on end. Note that not all books work equally well in audio format.
We recommend skipping anything with sentences that blot whole pages. They’re meant for reading and making your brain tingle. Memoirs and engaging biographies make for great audiobooks. And novels. Any well-told story, really.
Audiobooks are copyrighted like e-books and therefore available through specific outlets, like Audible and iTunes.
Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
Written and narrated by William Finnegan
Planning a coastal trip? These are the memoirs of a top-notch journalist who spent a life covering weighty topics like apartheid. And also spent a life surfing. Finnegan will transport you to deserted atolls and onto dusty roads in the Outback for the sake of chasing waves. Whether or not you’re a surfer, you’ll appreciate the story of a life well lived.
Endurance. Shackleton’s Amazing Journey
By Alfred Lansing, narrated by Simon Prebble
Heading to cold territories? Does your campervan expedition lack strong leadership? Enter Shackleton, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated leaders of men. Not because he led his expedition to victory. But because, when things went horribly wrong on his 1914 polar expedition, it was Ernest Shackleton who got all of his men home. This (audio)book is the definitive retelling of one of the greatest adventures of our times.
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Written and narrated by Anthony Bourdain
The late Bourdain shows you the shadowy side of gourmet during his time growing up in the culinary world. An honest story by a man who is sorely missed by those he left behind. This is a unique chance to hear Anthony tell his own story and to get ready for your own gourmet adventure, wherever you’re headed on your holidays.
Or go for the classic story The Odyssey by Ian McKellen!
The Jungle Book
By Rudyard Kipling, pick your favourite narrator
This is a great option on a family road trip, because The Jungle Book opens up a world that speaks to all ages. When travelling with younguns, go for the Just So series of Kipling’s kids stories. Our favourite? The Elephant’s Child, narrated by Jack Nicholson (yes, this happened) and with a capella music by Bobby McFerrin (yes, really).
The Children of Húrin
By J.R.R. Tolkien, narrated by Christopher Lee
Lord of the Rings fans need no convincing here, especially when reading who narrated Tolkien’s posthumously published novel. The late and great Christoper Lee, Saruman himself! This epic tale (also retold briefly in The Silmarillion) is set in the First Age of Middle Earth and is filled with tragedy and glory. For anyone who has no idea what all of that was just now,
By Homer, narrated by Ian McKellen
The mother of all journeys, Odyssey needs no introduction. If you’ve always wanted to but never read the epic(est, can we do that?) poem yourself, fear not—many have failed to commit. Perhaps Odysseus’ heroic tale will grip you when it’s told by Ian McKellen (that is Gandalf for you). Fun fact: in ancient times and before the Greek alphabet, the Odyssey was an oral tradition, so maybe listening to it as an audiobook is coming full circle.
7 of the best podcasts for a road trip
Listening to podcasts while on the road works wonderfully, too. They’re often engaging, current, and presented in a shorter format than audiobooks. It’s like listening to news radio but with your favourite hosts and full of interesting information.
These online broadcasts air per episode and cover the whole spectrum of topics, making them an appealing and non-committal option for travellers. Here are some of the best podcasts for a road trip.
Zero to Travel
A must for aspiring travel nomads, this podcast covers the wondrous ways of alternative travelling: budget travels, digital nomads, and the stories of people who made travelling their life’s work.
Host David Palmer throws a weekly light on current topic in the way you’ve come to expect from The Economist. This is opinionated news on a level you won’t likely find on the FM band. Get opinionated here.
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
If to you a road trip adventure is about meeting new people, maybe you want to tune into this podcast. As an armchair expert, the host interviews people from all walks of life to hear stories, challenges, and life lessons.
Condé Nast Traveler: Women who Travel
This isn’t the early 20th century and you’re not staying home just because you’re a woman. This Apple Podcast series is a celebration of travelling women pooled from the huge community Condé Nast mobilized around the topic.
Quentin Tarantino’s Feature Presentation
Another Apple Podcast series, host and film critic Amy Nicholson discusses movies with none other than legendary filmmaker Tarantino. If you’re a genuine movie buff, you’ll likely do a few detours to keep this broadcast going.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
This podcast is for those with, one, a deep-rooted interest in history (often the gorey type) and , two, a lot of distance to cover on their road trip. Called the king of long-form podcasts, host Dan Carlin will research an event or topic for months to build a compelling historical storyline that can last for hours, nay days. Trans-Euro drive, anyone?
Everything is Alive
A comical and informative podcast where objects from a lamppost to a soap bar are given a voice so that they discuss their life with the podcast host. An absurd premise that manages to reveal as much about ourselves as it does about the hidden life of your daily items.
About the Author
Seasonal vanlifer on a permanent holiday. Does occasional creative work to sustain his diet of beachside margaritas and paperback thrills.