Last summer, my family and I went on a 31-day roadtrip in the States.  At the time of travel, the kids were 5 years old and nearly a year old.  When we told people our plans for the holidays, many raised an eyebrow:  two under 6 year olds in a car for a month!

I can now say with some certainty that the best thing about not having a car in London is that when you go on a roadtrip holiday with kids, the very fact that they are in a car is already the best bit for the kids!  For Craig and me, the last time we had a car was when it was the era of wind-down windows and cassette players.  Last summer we had button-operated windows and SATELLITE RADIO!  I’m not sure if this is standard in the cars on the road today but satellite radio seemed to be the norm in the States, or at least in rental cars in the States.  Our car had Sirius XM which is a satellite radio station with about 150 channels.  150 channels!  This was perfect, if a little overwhelming and perhaps bordering on overkill even for a 31-day roadtrip.  But we embraced it wholeheartedly and unashamedly.  

This then presented the dilemma of what to listen to.  Craig’s preferred music genre is (difficult!) jazz and rock;  mine is rock (classic, pop, indie, folk), easy listening (pop mainly) and the ‘80s; our then 5-year old likes rock; and our then 1 year old was (and still is) young enough to go with the flow, thank goodness.

So even though rock was the common denominator, which rock station out of the 20-odd rock stations on Sirius XM?!

This got me thinking: what is the perfect roadtrip playlist?

And what collection of songs would keep all of us happy whilst driving for sometimes up to 11 hours?  

From having listened to a few drivetime compilation CDs in my younger days, it seems like it is compulsory to include “Born to be Wild” (Steppenwolf) and “All Right Now” (Free).  I am personally not a fan of “Born to be Wild” and given the choice, I wouldn’t have it on any playlist.  

Other songs that frequently appear on roadtrip compilations are:

  • “Summer Breeze” – Seals & Crofts
  • “American Pie” – Don Maclean
  • “My Sharona” – The Knack
  • “The Boys are Back in Town” – Thin Lizzy
  • “Hotel California” – The Eagles
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
  • “Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac
  • “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – The Clash
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “For What It’s Worth” – Buffalo Springfield
  • “Surfin’ USA” – The Beach Boys

By looking at these popular roadtrip songs – popular being defined here by their frequent appearance on drivetime compilations – it seems that a roadtrip song satisfies at least one of the following criteria:

  • evokes a sense of carefree-ness and spontaneity
  • a summer song; a song set in the summertime
  • has an American theme or backdrop
  • features in a driving scene in a movie
  • evokes a picture of “coming home”
  • a song about movement, going, moving on

I have searched on Spotify for playlists using “roadtrip” as a keyword.  At the time of writing there are over 300 “roadtrip” playlists.  The most popular with more than 150,000 followers features songs by Vampire Weekend, Two Door Cinema Club, Arctic Monkeys, Catfish and the Bottlemen.  The second most popular with about 137,000 followers features music specifically from the ‘70s.  The third most popular playlist, with considerably less followers than the other two with 13,000 followers, features songs by Taylor Swift, Robin Thicke and Adele.

I have always considered the ideal roadtrip playlist to have songs mainly from the classic rock genre.  Whether or not this is what drivetime compilations mainly comprise of (perhaps this is only true of CDs since, looking on Spotify, this is clearly not always the case), or because this is my preferred genre, or even due to my age bracket – I don’t know.  

So I suppose the ideal roadtrip playlist is very simply a compilation of songs that the roadtrippers would know well enough to sing along to or at least get excited about, and which makes you feel happy.  

And so without too much analysing and agonising over it, here is a playlist of 20 songs for our family roadtrip should we be going on one today:-

  • “Carey” – Joni Mitchell
  • “Gimme All Your Lovin’” – ZZ Top
  • “On the Road Again “ – Canned Heat
  • “Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift
  • “We Will Rock You” – Queen
  • “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • “Unchained” – Van Halen
  • “You Give Love a Bad Name” – Bon Jovi
  • “Brown Eyed Girl” – Van Morrison
  • “Cecilia” – Simon and Garfunkel
  • “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” – Crosby Stills & Nash
  • “What Can I Do” – The Corrs
  • “ Bad Moon Rising” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson
  • “Can’t Stop This Feeling” – Justin Timberlake
  • “Connected” – Stereo MCs
  • “All My Life” – Foo Fighters
  • “Banana Boat Song” – Harry Belafonte
  • “Rocket Man” – Elton John
  • “Uptown Girl” – Billy Joel

This is our perfect playlist (at the time of writing) and (I think!) would keep us happy even if it were on repeat whilst driving for many hours.

What songs would be on your roadtrip playlist?