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What Road Trip Songs Do You Love?

Michelle Obama on Carpool Karaoke

We’re driving a few hours to visit friends this weekend, and I need some new recommendations! Our top songs are always…

What Road Trip Songs Do You Love?

…some combination of 1970’s hits and the Trolls soundtrack. Here’s a playlist Toby once wrote when we were driving, above, and here are a few of my old standbys, below:

My Sweet Lord, George Harrison
For Once in My Life, Stevie Wonder
Two Weeks, Grizzly Bear
I Fall to Pieces, Patsy Cline
Waterloo Sunset, The Kinks
Smile Jamaica, Chronixx
Letter From An Occupant, The New Pornographers
I Can’t Reach You, The Who
Be My Baby, The Ronettes
Hang on Sloopy, The McCoys
Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right, Bob Dylan
Light My Fire, The Doors
Come A Little Bit Closer, Jay & The Americans
Postcards From Italy, Beirut
Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen
Fall On Me, R.E.M.
Out of Time, The Rolling Stones
You Can’t Hurry Love, The Supremes
Every Night, Paul McCartney
Take On Me, A-ha
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel
9 to 5, Dolly Parton
I’m Your Toy, Elvis Costello
We’ll Meet Again, Vera Lynn

Growing up, my dad would always listen to classical music or opera in the car and we’d catch him with fat tears rolling down his cheeks because he was so moved. I always love that memory.

What about you? What road trip songs do you love? Please share below…

P.S. Alex on playing music for kids, and what songs do you make out to?

(Photo of Michelle Obama on Carpool Karaoke.)

  1. Emma A says...

    songs by The Lumineers, ABBA, Simon & Garfunkel…
    Renegades (X Ambassadors)
    New Slang (The Shins)
    The High Road (Broken Bells)
    Young (Air Review) —Our family absolutely LOVES this one. (We first heard it from a GoRVing ad on YouTube??!?)

  2. Janine says...

    Chicago by Sufjan Stevens

    It’s something my husband and I first bonded over. We both imagined a Super 8 video of a family road trip whenever we heard it.

  3. Jacinta says...

    you gotta add some Dr. dog and Buddy Holly to that list!

  4. Eva says...

    My dad played “Born to be Wild” just as we hit the open part of the highway on every road trip we went on. It’s a nice reminder of him now; my sister and I still play it on every road trip.

  5. Maggie says...

    I just love that Toby’s list includes Sway! It’s one of my favorites – everything on Sticky Fingers is wonderful – but I think I was in late high school before I was cool enough to appreciate it :)

  6. Sharon in Scotland says...

    It’s mostly just me in my car, so I please myself!
    “I’m telling you I’m not going” from The Dream Girls.
    “God only knows” by The Beach Boys.
    “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.
    “Freebird” by Lynard Skynard, (I kind of tolerate the vocals…………it’s ALL about the instrumental).
    It’s not very populated where I live and work, so I can have these very loud………..sooooo enjoyable

  7. Mandy says...

    Going up the country by canned heat! And definitely some animal collective – summertime clothes, leaf house, kids on holiday. Shady lane by pavement! And for the return leg, something soothing like beck’s the golden age.

  8. Tricia M says...

    In no particular order:
    Crazy by Gnarls Barkley – always remind me of driving in Portugal.
    Everybody wants to rule the world by Tears for Fears- lyrics for our time.
    Riders on the storm by The Doors – love the sound of the ocean!
    Dancing Queen by Abba – always makes me cry, it’s so joyous.
    Drive darlin’ by Boy.
    Big Exit by PJ Harvey- full of passion.

    Many more but too numerous to mention here.

  9. Martha Patterson says...

    Cars soundtrack
    Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack
    When I am King and Consequence Free by Great Big Sea
    A Summer Place theme
    Shut Up and Dance With Me
    Sunshine in my Pocket

  10. Mathilde Johanne says...

    A few favourites of mine are:
    Come and get your love by Redbone and Strangest Thing with War on Drugs!

  11. Amy W says...

    The entire Céline Dion catalog. Followed by lots of Britney and Spice Girls. Thennn some classic 80s! :)

  12. Anne says...

    Neil Young! Especially driving up to the Eastern Sierras.

  13. Shade says...

    I would add the zombies in there – so good for the car and family – “this will be our year” is SO good.

  14. Judith says...

    Can you make a Spotify playlist with this list? So many good ones!

    • Dog Days are Over is pretty much the BEST sing-along road trip song ever recorded. My kids and I belt it out almost every day on the way to school – it is such a great way to start the day!

  15. Mark B says...

    Nowhere Road by Steve Earle.
    The Road by Danny O’Keefe
    Mercury Blues by el Rayo X
    Let it Roll by Little Feat
    Hejira by Joni Mitchell ….
    just to name a few.

  16. Kat Simonyi says...

    When I was younger my parents always played “Home Again” by Oingo Boingo. Not a conventional choice, but one that is guaranteed to bring back oh so many memories from the backseat of my parents’ old Pathfinder when I hear it again.

  17. Sarah says...

    Agh – Letter From An Occupant, The New Pornographers – one my my all time FAVS! X

  18. Alexandra says...

    Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty might be the best road trip song of all time and I cannot believe no one has mentioned it yet.

    Growing up my mom and I would road trip 7-8 hours every summer to see family and I would labor over mixed tapes for our journey – my favorites, classic rock we both liked, etc. (really anything to avoid her music). But my favorite may have been the tape I made with the real song, followed by the Weird Al version.

    • Anne says...

      So good!

    • Yes to Runnin’ Down a Dream! I always give a heart endorsement to Lenny Kravitz for road trip mixes.

  19. Eva says...

    For road trips we usually pick a few albums and listen to them all the way through several times. Then when you hear a song from that album later it always takes you back to that road trip. A few years ago we bought a rickety ’79 convertible and took it on a 3000 Mile road trip the next week. One album we listened to was Nashville Obsolete by Dave Rawlings Machine. The whole album is great for the open road but the song “Pilgrim” is especially apt: ” keep a rolling rolling rolling down this road that you’re on….oh pilgrim you can’t go home.” He and his partner Gillian Welch (my favorite) drive an old car all over the country when they’re on tour so I feel like their songs are always good for drives.

    • sonya says...

      I love Gillian and Dave, too. And I also endorse entire albums, especially if there is a thread/there running through them. On that note, I HIGHLY recommend Bruce Springsteen’s newest (Western Stars), and you cannot go wrong with any of the below Jason Isbell albums: Southeastern, 24 Frames, and The Nashville Sound. Play em loud.

    • Starlene says...

      Yes on Jason Isbell!! Also, Lucero, John Moreland, Parting Gifts/Reigning Sound, Drag the River.

  20. Mac says...

    Tell me something good—Chaka Khan ❤️❤️

  21. Mette says...

    When is Cup of Jo starting a Spotify account?

  22. Mims says...

    There are so many great suggestions here! I think having some relaxing atmospheric music is helpful for when the kids are overamped and need to sleep! (the driver can listen to more upbeat music with earbuds while the car has a soothing soundtrack playing) .
    I like Winged Victory for the Sullen, either Atomos or the self titled album.
    Anything by Campfire Headphase. And Jose Gonzalez and/or Junip good too.

    • Take a Picture – Filter
      You Only Get What You Give – New Radicals
      Giggling Again for No Reason – Alanis Morissette
      And when driving through Atlanta (inevitable here in the South: OutKast ATLiens or Ludacris ;) (not for kids)

  23. adele says...

    We always have one song that is on repeat during our trips, here are a few recent ones :

    Strange magic – Electric Light Orchestra (Venice + LA)
    San Francisco – Scott Mackensie (San Francisco)
    EP – Junius Meyvant (Iceland)

    and a few awesome albums just for good measure :

    Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
    Astral Weeks – Van Morrison
    Any album by Vampire Weekend

  24. Kristen says...

    A recent favorite is Drive, by Ben Rector. So fun!

  25. Brooke says...

    Has anyone seen the delightful road trip documentary on Netflix “Expedition Happiness”? First off, super recommend the movie. Second, the soundtrack is all from the gal in the film (Mogli) and it’s called WANDERER and it’s literally about being on the road and being open to the beauty and wilderness. I listened to it on a trip with a dear girlfriend and now we are instantly transported back to Maui when we hear it.

    • Khris says...

      Thanks so much for this! I already started watching it and it’s beautiful!

    • Brooke says...

      Yay Khris, so glad!!

  26. aforss says...

    Modest Mouse’s “A life of arctic sounds” is on the nose in a satisfying way (“…and 100 miles is a long drive inside a car, 200 miles is a long drive inside a car…11, 000 miles is TOO FAR inside a CAR”). The whole album is great car trip music really.

    A few other current favorite albums for car trips:
    Lisa LeBlanc, Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen?
    Cat Power, Wanderer
    LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver

  27. Lorraine says...

    “Strange” and “4th of July” by Galaxie 500.

    Dreamy, nice for reflective stretches. But not too much Galaxie 500 in a row because things could get too sleepy.

    • Oh my gosh, YES!

  28. Courtney says...

    We just introduced our 4 year old to The Beach Boys and it’s just so fun and summer-y to play in the car!

  29. Megan Lec says...

    We’ve been potty training our soon to be two year old and started playing Smashmouth’s Allstar after successful trips. The joy on his little face is unmatched!

  30. Jennifer O. says...

    I remember when I was a kid we took a road trip where my dad played The Big Chill soundtrack and More Songs from the Big Chill just on repeat and now that’s pretty much my road trip soundtrack (I mis-typed that soundtrip and maybe that’s right after all?).

  31. Anna says...

    Can you make a Spotify playlist of these songs?? It would be so fun to have playlists curated by CupofJo! <3

  32. When I was kid, my parents started every road trip with “America” by Simon and Garfunkel, sometimes playing it again later on the road, especially if we happened to be on the New Jersey Turnpike. As immigrants, the song has always meant so much to them. Now, I also play the song on road trips with my husband and children. No matter how many times I hear it, I am always transported to being a little me in the backseat, looking out the window.

  33. P says...

    Love these ideas! I’m putting together a playlist to listen to during labor – I’m expecting my first, a boy, in September. So far I have some funny/ridiculous ones like “Boys” by Britney, “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” by Deniece Williams, and “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa – but I want some strong mama/empowering ones too! When the time comes, I might not want to listen to anything, but it’s helping assuage my anxiety to put a list together :) Would love suggestions from the amazing COJ community!

  34. Nicole says...

    Ooh so fun! Love Come a Little Bit Closer. Here are mine- all of which bring back such strong memories from different times in my life.

    Baba O’Riley – The Who (what better song to sing loudly to?)
    The weight – the band
    Fantasy – Mariah, obviously
    I’ll Make Love To You – Boyz II Men (weird but so satisfying to sing)
    Ignition – R Kelly
    Take me Home Tonight – Eddie money
    Bring it On Home to me – Sam Cooke
    Fool for Love – Lord Huron (listened to this while driving from Palm Springs to Vegas through the desert- one of my best memories watching the sunrise over the mountains. Dreamy song to go with it)

  35. Tesia says...

    My three year old daughter is currently obsessed with listening to audio books on long drives. As far as music is concerned, my aunt put together a CD especially for my daughter. The songs range from children’s classics like “This Old Man” and “Baby Baluga” to tunes from Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, and The Beach Boys. I love listening to it just as much as my daughter does!

  36. Allison says...

    Always need to include Lovely Day by Billl Withers.

    And plenty of singable Beatles, Peter Gabriel, Tom Petty, etc because my knows-all-the-lyrics husband is teaching our 8 year old too and it’s the sweetest.

    That said we don’t have a car so this is more the kitchen soundtrack. So we have Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, Underworld and other 90s British electronica for dancing too.

  37. Angel Bandsbury says...

    For real long trips, we have music, but the best part is when the kids are asleep and we turn the back speakers down low/off, and play a comedy cd for just the front row(adults only). The material was R when they were sleepy babies, moved to more PG level when they became older (and more likely to overhear and understand) and is now the youngest is a preteen, moving to PG13.

  38. Brooke says...

    My kids love Jolene by Dolly Parton, Livin’ On A Prayer and Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi and Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. Not sure exactly how those became the songs, but that’s how we kick off any road trip!

  39. Alexandra H. says...

    If i’m not too late, I highly recommend listening to the Guardians of the Galaxies Awesome Mixes Vol. 1 & 2. Truly feel good hits from the 70s (like ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ and ‘Come and Get your Love’). My husband and I like to listen while we make breakfast on the weekends, never fails to put a smile on our faces.

  40. J. says...

    I love nothing more than curating playlists!!! I read somewhere that truly good playlists have a few different categories of music– some that are familiar but not well-known, some that are forever crowd-favorites, some that are new, some to which you know every word, and a few from every decade and genre and energy and tempo and meaning, so I try to include a little bit of all!

    For a road trip, I’d construct it like this but throw it on shuffle!:

    Everyone knows the words to, at minimum, the chorus (and I really mean almost everyone!):
    American Pie by Don McLean
    Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel
    American Girl by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
    Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
    Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
    My Girl by The Temptations

    Can’t-help-but-smile-and-bop-to:
    Boogie Shoes by KC & the Sunshine Band (I have a theory it’s impossible for any human at any time to listen to this and not have at least a small smile or bop their head/feet/etc)
    How Sweet It Is To Be Loved by You by James Taylor
    Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder
    Uptight (Everything’s Alright) by Stevie Wonder
    Ain’t Too Proud to Beg by The Temptations
    (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher by Jackie Wilson
    Spirit In the Sky by Norman Greenbaum
    It’s Your Thing by The Isley Brothers
    Could You Be Loved by Bob Marley
    The Oogum Boogum Song by Brenton Wood
    Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd

    Old familiar favorites:
    Maggie May by Rod Stewart
    Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys
    Mexico by James Taylor
    Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney
    Let’s Stay Together by Al Green
    Take It Easy by the Eagles
    Rich Girl by Daryl Hall & John Oates
    I’ve Just Seen a Face by The Beatles
    I Feel Fine by The Beatles
    She Loves You by The Beatles
    (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman by Aretha Franklin

    A little bit nostalgic:
    Champagne Supernova by Oasis
    The General by Dispatch
    Dancing On My Own by Robyn (I know this song is <10 years old!)
    Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman
    Always Be My Baby (Cover) by Anderson East
    With a Little Help From My Friends by Joe Crocker (the Wonder Years one!)

    Slower but happy (and full of love!):
    Stay With You by John Legend
    Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding
    Snakes by El Michels Affair and Lee Fields
    Honey Slider by Houndmouth
    XO (Beyonce Cover) by John Mayer
    Workin' on Lovin' by Juice

    Just good, easy, upbeat-yet-calm (?) and happy energy:
    You Are The Best Thing by Ray LaMontagne
    I Found You by Alabama Shakes
    The Mates of Soul by Taylor John Williams
    Real Love Baby by Father John Misty
    Bubble Toes by Jack Johnson
    Omen by Sam Smith & Disclosure
    Fallingwater by Maggie Rogers
    Hold On, We're Going Home by Drake & Majid Jordan
    The Spot by Your Smith
    Dancing In the Moonlight by Toploader (Cover)
    Home by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes
    You're All I Need to Get By by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
    All These Things That I've Done by The Killers
    Lost In My Mind by The Head and The Heart
    Fairlane by The Dirty Guv'nahs
    Hands I Can Hold by Ziggy Alberts
    No Matter What by Badfinger
    Stay by Jackson Browne
    Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley & the Wailers
    I Second That Emotion by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
    Get Ready by The Temptations
    Sit Next to Me (Stereotypes Remix) by Foster the People
    Through Your Fingers by Pace
    Riptide by Vance Joy
    You've Got the Love by Florence and the Machine
    Electric Feel by MGMT
    Mesmerised by XY&O
    Ride or Die by The Knocks feat. Foster the People
    Last Nite by The Strokes
    Always by Tor Miller
    6's to 9's by Big Wild & Rationale
    Across the Room by ODESZA ft. Leon Bridges

    Good for looking out the window and thinking:
    Float On by Modest Mouse
    San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie
    California (Cast Iron Soul) by Jamestown Revival
    Use Somebody by Kings of Leon

    (I'm not sure if anybody actually read through this extremely long list but it truly is my favorite thing to create, but if you're curious, threw them into a Spotify playlist you can follow that'll cover you for 4.5 hours!)

    • lauren says...

      I’d love the link to the spotify playlist!

    • Sylvia says...

      I read through! And although most of it isn’t along my original taste in music I’m feeling inspired and gonna save some of them! Thank you!

    • Meg says...

      SUBSCRIBE!! Link me to that spotify! This is an incredible list – thanks for compiling and sharing!!

    • Em says...

      Yes! How can I find your playlist?

    • Jenna Ciongoli says...

      These are amazing, thank you!!!! Will go get it from Spotify!!

    • Beth says...

      J. I WANT TO FOLLOW ON SPOTIFY!!!!! Tell me how!

    • Anna says...

      How can we find it on Spotify? I’d love to listen!

    • Stella says...

      This is SO good thank you

    • Pri says...

      Another call for the link, please! This is amazing!

    • GJ says...

      This is AWESOME. I hope you’ll post the link to the playlist in Spotify!

    • Betsy says...

      Nailed it!! Love so many of these songs!

    • theresa says...

      you feel like my roadtrip playlist soulmate <3

  41. Kate says...

    Back Pocket by Vulfpeck! I have a feeling the kiddos will enjoy!

  42. Savannah says...

    Oh man. I’m sure things will change as my baby turns 3 (how?!?!) but right now we drive to Portland from Seattle every couple of months and we don’t listen to anything! My husband and I are chatters and we just catch up (I remember when we first started dating thinking we would have nothing to talk about after six months and now it’s been over a decade and there’s always something!). We’re going to need a fun playlist at some point or our soundtrack might be fussing toddler!