The Best Road Trip Songs

What are the best road trip songs? Keep reading to hear my choices for the best road trip songs to blast as you’re traveling around the country.

Since I’m obsessed with music, I decided I need to start working more music articles into my travel blog. Thus, the creation of my new Rock & Roll Travel Series. I’ve already written a Guide to the Bonnaroo Music Festival and a review of the Beale Street Music Festival. Now, it’s time to get serious about road trip music.

I take road trip songs very seriously. Now that everyone has an iPod, mixtapes and mix CDs are becoming less common. But when I set out on my 46-state road trip in 2009, I needed the ultimate road trip mix.

westfalia van

The Golden Rule: Road trip songs must be about traveling

If you Google “road trip songs,” you’ll get a bunch of lists containing random songs like “Back in Black” and “Bat Out of Hell.” While these are fun songs to blast from your stereo, they have nothing whatsoever to do with traveling. I only want songs that actually deal with having crazy travel adventures or being behind the wheel.

I also intentionally left out songs that focus on specific locations. “Sweet Home Alabama” is cool, but what if you’re driving through Oregon? Then it becomes completely irrelevant. The more universal the song, the better.

With those rules in mind, here’s my playlist of the best road trip songs:

1 Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane
2 Roam – B-52’s
3 Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf
4 Driving My Life Away – Eddie Rabbitt
5 Moab – Conor Oberst
6 On the Road Again – Willie Nelson
7 Life in the Fast Lane – Eagles
8 No Particular Place to Go – Chuck Berry
9 Adventure – Be Your Own Pet
10 Everyday is a Winding Road – Sheryl Crow
11 Route 66 – Depeche Mode
12 Stickshifts and Safetybelts – Cake
13 I Can’t Drive 55 – Sammy Hagar
14 I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash
15 Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers
16 Roadworn & Weary – Supersuckers
17 Ramblin’ Man – Allman Brothers
18 Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me? – Keith Urban

Which ones did I miss? What are your favorite road trip songs? Leave a comment and let me know!

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22 Responses to The Best Road Trip Songs

  1. Scott April 20, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    good list man, and by your definition it does get a little touch to come up with additions. I love “this town” by O.A.R, while it may not technically about being “in transit”, it is about the rush of living it up in a town for a night, which is what we do as travelers.
    Scott recently posted..My Style of Backpacking

    • Scott April 21, 2011 at 7:48 am #

      That is a good one. You’re right, nightlife songs work in this context too.

  2. Christy @ Technosyncratic April 21, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    We have awful taste in music. And we drive a lot, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get tired of our collection! Lady Gaga, 10-minute techno mixes, Ace of Base, Sublime’s first album… they’re okay on their own, but not when you’re listening to them all the freakin’ time. šŸ˜›

    So anyways, I have no suggestions to offer. None. Not a one. But I am definitely going to download all the songs you mentioned above!
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Photo Essay- Arches National Park

    • Scott April 21, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      Sometimes I listen to road trip songs, then I’ll switch to rock or techno… it’s good to mix it up!.

    • The NVR Guys April 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

      Ace of Base?! Shame on you. Just reading the name put the damn songs into my head. CURSES!
      The NVR Guys recently posted..Travelogue ā€“ feeding our guilt in Boston

  3. david April 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Perfect timing! I’m just beginning to plan a road trip for August and I’m going to have to add some of these to my list. I know they don’t have specific driving themes, and I’m going to date myself here, but there are a few Dire Straits and Heart songs that I always want to blast when I’m on a road trip.
    david recently posted..Help Me Plan My Road Trip

    • Scott April 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

      I love the ’80s… aside from the road trip mix, I made four separate “Essential ’80s” volumes.

  4. Tijmen April 22, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    I would add a couple of songs from the “into the wild” soundtrack
    Tijmen recently posted..3 Reasons Why you Should Visit Ghana

    • Scott April 22, 2011 at 8:21 am #

      True, that is a solid soundtrack.

  5. Meridien April 23, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    I like Motorhead’s “(We Are) The Road Crew.” Definitely recommend you check it out – great traveling lyrics with the typical Motorhead sound!

    • Scott April 25, 2011 at 8:22 am #

      Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll check it out!

  6. The NVR Guys April 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    What about Pet Shop Boy’s “Go West?” I suppose it only works if your heading to the left coast.

    We tend to listen to background music ā€“ dubstep and electronica mostly ā€“ so that we can have the awesome conversations that tend to happen in a road trip. Unless, of course, we are singing along to “In The Heights” or crying while listening to “Next to Normal.” Seriously.

    Fun post.
    The NVR Guys recently posted..Travelogue ā€“ feeding our guilt in Boston

    • Scott April 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

      Good suggestion, guys! I actually listen to a lot more than just “road trip songs” when I travel… especially atmospheric stuff like Sigur Ros, bluegrass, techno, and so on. I have a bunch of “essential ’80s” mixes that I play, which include a lot of Pet Shop Boys…

      In this post I was focusing on “the ultimate road trip cd,” but perhaps I should do a more general post discussing the best music to travel to. I bet the responses there would be all over the map.

      • The NVR Guys April 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

        Oh god. We didn’t think this is what you actually listen to! Can you imagine 9000 miles of “Life is Highway?” :)

        Love the essential 80’s mix. i just through together a mix of Smiths, The Cure and Joy Division for a recent drive to Portland. That stuff feeds the soul.
        The NVR Guys recently posted..Travelogue ā€“ feeding our guilt in Boston

  7. Boomergirl April 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Yep, I put Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway at the top of my list too. He filmed the video for his amazing road trip tune in one of our all-time favourite road tripping places in Canada, the badlands of southeastern Alberta. An amazing place to drive where there’s no traffic (literally), lots of big sky,
    plenty of good – looking cowboys (well to me, anyway), and the best steak money can buy.
    Boomergirl recently posted..Canadian moose

  8. Em May 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Tom Petty! Especially running down a dream, but so many others are pure classics and perfect for long drives.

    • Scott May 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      True, he has a bunch of good ones.

  9. ICE May 24, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    Life is a Highway. In my opinion, the best version for road tripping is the one by Rascal Flatts from the movie CARS. As for the Tom Cochrane version, ah… not so much but I’ll take either song because they are both upbeat and very appropriate to sing while driving long distances!

    Road trips can be amazing as long as I have access to good music and my trusted friend, which is the best radar detector!

    I am not one who has the need for speed but I sometimes get really into my music or the scenery while driving that I forget myself and before I know it, look down and OH DARN, I am speeding. Just to add that extra reminder, I carry along my handy ipod & of course, radar detector.

  10. Dalene - Hecktic Travels June 3, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Another vote for Pet Shop Boys – GO WEST! As well as my all time favorite, “Vagabond” by Wolfmother. Anytime I get into a car or on a bus, the opening beat plays in my heat…
    Dalene – Hecktic Travels recently posted..The Kootenays in Photos

    • Scott June 3, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

      I haven’t heard that one! I’ll look it up.

  11. Townshipper August 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    CCR’s Up Around The Bend is at the top of my list.

  12. A.J October 10, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Hey gr8 songs you’ve added here, I’m gonna download all btw how about ‘high way to hell’ by ac/dc I always listen to this song when I’m on a trip its one of my all time best..

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