The 29 Best Road Trip Songs (Travel Playlist for Long Drives)

Is turning on your favorite song a part of your pull-off routine? You know, you check the mirrors, fasten your seat belt, sync your phone, check your surroundings, and turn up the volume before hitting the road.

We all have routines that prepare us to be attentive and energetic on the road. These routines may seem insignificant, but in turn, they have a substantial impact on the quality of our driving. From short trips to road trips, one of the most important aspects to control is the music.

The road trip DJ is vital to the quality of the driving experience. Whoever controls the music is responsible for setting the tone and in an indirect way keeping everyone alive.

Seriously, on those long drives, even when you are enamored by the view, finding ways on how you can avoid highway hypnosis can be a struggle. Having the right playlist and knowing what songs will keep your attention at its peak is the most underrated safety measure of driving.

The dangers of a faulty playlist

The majority of us don’t set out with the intentions to be a reckless driver, and no one ever thinks about getting into a wreck. The National Sleep Foundation, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimates that 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses are due to drowsy driving.

Since there is no way to determine a driver’s drowsiness level, like how breathalyzers can measure intoxication, the data on drowsy driving is highly speculative, resulting in low estimates of the real impact of drowsy driving.

Music can help keep drivers alert and feeling energized, but no matter if you’re a professional trucker, drive for a food app, participate in rideshares, or decide to take a trip across the country, here are some general rules of thumb when picking the music for long rides.

Volume control

Louder doesn’t mean better or more awake. When driving, it’s likely that the genre of what you listen to will vary, but knowing when to turn down the volume goes a long way.

Any music from metal to classical can vary in volume, and you may find yourself turning up the music even louder on some songs. A part of being a safe driver is remaining in control before the volume of your music becomes a distraction.

Upbeat versus downbeat

No specific music genre is better or safer than another, but the tempo of what you listen to can improve or weaken your driving performance. Music with high intensity and tempo has a tendency to be more distracting. To stay on your game, and to keep your ride enjoyable, here is a shortlist of songs fit for the job:

  1. Tadow” by FKJ (featuring Masego)
  2. Despacito” by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee
  3. Life Is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane
  4. Shut Up And Drive” by Rihanna
  5. Tints” by Anderson .Paak (featuring Kendrick Lamar)
  6. Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac

Another great alternative to keep from getting too distracted is to play the instrumental version of your favorites. If the beat to your favorite song has a steady tempo, try just listening to the beat or acoustic version.

Have a sing-a-long

The best part is, you don’t actually have to know how to sing to enjoy this. With friends, family, or alone, no road trip is complete without singing a few tunes. Here is a list of some of the best songs to sing while on a road trip:

  1. Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5
  2. Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
  3. I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys
  4. Ain’t it Fun” by Paramore
  5. Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
  6. Hotline Bling” by Drake
  7. Valerie” by Amy Winehouse
  8. Royals” by Lorde
  9. Rent” by La Vie Boheme
  10. Landslide” by Stevie Nicks
  11. Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard
  12. Killing Me Softly With His Song” by The Fugees
  13. Anything by Disney… literally anything

Hopefully, you see at least one familiar song on this list, but even if you don’t, use your road trip time to get to know them or even create your own playlist of sing-along favorites before you go.

Listen to music you don’t know

On the other hand, you can always try something new. If you feel yourself falling into a lucid dream while driving, otherwise known as the highway hypnosis, or you catch yourself having to pick your head up, try switching the music to songs you don’t already know.

There comes a time in each road trip when you feel that you’ve sung all the songs you could sing, and the energy is at a low with the focus of finally arriving at where you’re going.

For something different to get your mind back in place, try a few of these strategies:

  • Search the catalog of an artist you already like
  • Put on a random radio or app created station
  • Listen to a motivational podcast or speech
  • Replay auditions for singing competitions
  • Play unknown cover artists from YouTube

How to stay in control while driving

Even on our way to vacations, the urge to hurry can quickly become overwhelming when you’re the one doing the bulk of the driving. To avoid speeding and other dangerous distracted driving traps, use your music to help you stay engaged and present.

When you’re in a good mood, you are more likely to be attentive to what you’re doing and will find it easier to remember to check your mirrors and speed. Music has the power to unlock a range of emotions and even trick our brains into releasing more dopamine, which in return, aids our driving.

If you have trouble knowing exactly what to look for when thinking of happy music, here are a few suggestions that can add extra pep to your playlist:

  1. Be Okay” by Ingrid Michaelson
  2. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
  3. I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
  4. Dancing Queen” by ABBA
  5. Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys
  6. Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
  7. Vienna” by Billy Joel
  8. Single Ladies” by Beyonce
  9. Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
  10. Happy” by Pharrell

What most feel-good songs have in common is that they have a combination of cheery lyrics and upbeat musical keys. If you genuinely enjoy a piece, chances are it will make you happy, and that is good enough.

On the road to savings

It’s no coincidence that people who get adequate amounts of sleep tend to be happier and more financially stable. Okay, I’m not totally sure about that second part, but it seems right.

If you’re energized and in a good mood, you’re less likely to get into an auto accident, thus keeping your insurance low. You’re less likely to speed, which saves you money on gas, and if there’s no wreck to reconcile, you’re not worried about paying repair costs.

Remember this for whenever you drive: What you listen to impacts your mental state, so no matter how far the distance, having a playlist tailored to keeping you mindful is just as important as checking your mirrors.


Karen Condor

Karen Condor is a content creator who writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org.

Karen earned a Journalism degree from Williamsport Area Community College and a Communications degree from Shippensburg University. A native of Pennsylvania, she worked in the technology industry in California and in Massachusetts before settling in Greenville, South Carolina, to be near family.

Karen enjoys using her research and reporting skills to create informative and compelling content for a variety of online sources.