Party Time! Road Trip Songs That Will Get the Car Dance Going


Life is a highway, and they wanna sing on it all day long. (Photo: Lindsay Taub/the Voyage Vixens)

By Lindsay Taub

One of the best tips I have for a successful road trip? Don’t be afraid to let the music do the talking. True story: When I was on a road trip from Boston to Austin a few years ago, my fellow road-tripper and I stopped to visit a friend in Nashville. She gave us a CD of songs to listen to for the rest of the trip, one of which was “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn.

We loved the CD right away. So much so, in fact, that when Cohn sang, “Walking with my feet 10 feet off of Beale,” we decided it would be hilarious to find Beale Street in Memphis. We wanted to drive there and quite literally take a photo of ourselves … 10 feet off of Beale. Because that’s how we roll.

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We entered “Beale Street” into the GPS and headed there for a quick detour. When we arrived, we found out that Beale is kind of the Memphis equivalent of New Orleans’s Bourbon Street, in that it’s very much a party street. Needless to say, we ended up having one of the most fun, bizarre, and entertaining nights on the road.

Of course, we never intended to stay in Memphis for long, but once we arrived, we decided we couldn’t leave without paying our respects to the King at Graceland. That’s what road trips are all about: the unexpected, the openness to discovery, and the ability to get lost and found all at the same time.

But perhaps more important, we realized how much a simple playlist can improve a road trip. After all, what’s a car ride without great tunes, car dancing, and a questionable look from the guy in the car next to you when he catches you belting out a beloved rock anthem in the middle of nowhere? Not a good one, if you ask us. So on that note — pun intended — here are some of our favorite road trip songs of all time.


You can get your kicks — and your music fix — on Route 66. (Photo: Lindsay Taub/the Voyage Vixens)

First, the classics

  • “Born to Be Wild,” Steppenwolf. The title says it all. Need I say more?

  • “On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson. Get your boots, throw on your cowboy hat, and hit it. I double dog dare you not to sing, bop your head, and belt this one out.

  • “Life Is a Highway.” Traditionalists may choose Tom Cochrane’s original, but I prefer the Rascal Flatts cover. Either way, be sure to turn it on (and up!) when you’re cruising the highway.

  • “Free Fallin’,” Tom Petty. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better version than Petty’s classic, though I have to admit, John Mayer’s sexy, soft, and slowed-down version is pretty kick-ass, too. In fact, we used it as the soundtrack to our Moab, Utah, video. Mayer actually has a lot of great road trip songs on his Born and Raised album, inspired by his picturesque escape to Paradise Valley, Mont. We listened to “Queen of California” all the way up to Murphys, Calif., and it set the mood perfectly.

  • “Glory Days,” Bruce Springsteen. Some would assume that of all of the Boss’s classics, I’d choose “Born to Run.” But nope. This is my favorite of his for a road trip escapade.

  • “Take It Easy,” the Eagles. I mean, really. A road trip without Eagles tunes? While you’re at it, go ahead and add “Hotel California” to the playlist. You’ll thank me later.

  • “Hit the Road Jack,” Ray Charles. Love me some Ray, any time, any day. But is there a better road trip anthem than “Hit the Road Jack”?

  • “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66,” the Rolling Stones. While I love the Nat King Cole original and the Chuck Berry cover, I prefer the Rolling Stones’ 1964 version best. It keeps the energy up. If Depeche Mode is your cup of tea, they have an even more amped-up version, but it’s a little much for my taste.

  • “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Journey. “Just a small-town girl, livin’ in a lonely world, she took the midnight train goin’ anywhere…” Go ahead, sing it with me. You know the rest. Nuff said.

  • “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” Michael Jackson. OK, so clearly I’m stuck in the ’80s a bit with this list, but come on. These are classics, and no road trip is complete without them.

  • “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses. Go for it. Just rock it. Headbang, if you must. And by all means, stop at the random diner in the middle of nowhere and chat with the Harley-driving roadsters, because heaven knows they’ll have a story to tell.

  • “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” the Beatles. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da … must I explain further? The Beatles. That is all.


Don’t stop believin… in the power of a good road trip. (Photo: Lindsay Taub/the Voyage Vixens)

And now, the unexpected (and random)

These may not have “travel” or “road” in the lyrics, but that’s because the best road trip songs don’t have to. All they really have to do is make sure you sing out loud and are having fun. As you know, time flies when you’re having fun, and the more fun you’re having, the “faster” you’ll get to your destination.

So. You may not have heard of all of these songs or artists, and a couple of my selections may have you questioning my taste in music, but trust me, get onboard with these songs. I’ll be shocked if you’re not with me on these in the end — that is, unless your taste in music is, just, well, bad … or no fun. And I mean that with love.

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  • “Can’t Let Go,” Lucinda Williams. This is a catchy, sassy tune that is the perfect soundtrack for a two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere. Channel your inner outlaw or Thelma & Louise spirit and snap along. But please keep one hand on the wheel.

  • “Raise Your Glass,” P!nk. Party anthem. Road trip song. Whatever. If this song doesn’t get you grooving, check your pulse.

  • “Along for the Ride,” Matraca Berg. If you happen upon a country road, this is your soundtrack. It’s folky, and the message is one we fully support: Let your heart be your guide.

  • “The Man Who Wants You,” Amos Lee. It’s no secret that Amos rocks my musical soul to epic proportions, so my playlists, road trip or otherwise, are never without an Amos dose. Just listen to it. You won’t be sorry. If you’re not snapping your fingers, shimmying your shoulders, bobbing your head, and grooving for days, there’s probably something terribly wrong with you.

  • “Chillin’,” Sam & Ruby. You may have heard them on Sirius XM’s Coffee House channel. This singer-songwriter duo has a ton of funky, cool coffeehouse tunes, but this one is perfect to play on the road when you need a little break from all that rocking out, though I can’t promise you won’t still be swaying along.

  • “I Want a New Drug,” Huey Lewis and the News. Travel is our drug. And this song is fun. So there you go.

  • “Say Hey (I Love You),” Michael Franti & Spearhead. Did we mention shoulder pumping and upper-body swaying? That’s what you’ll be doing when you listen to this reggae-esque song. We may have just created your perfect road trip fitness routine.

  • “Keep Your Head Up,” Ben Howard. I stumbled upon this song by accident on the soundtrack for Safe Haven. The movie may have been a flop, but the entire soundtrack is anything but, with a phenomenal compilation of artists. Howard’s song has an ethereal, but still upbeat, quality to it that makes it perfect as a musical road companion.

  • “Little Bird,” Annie Lennox. The first time I heard this song was on New Year’s Eve several lifetimes ago. We were in the car, with far more people than seat belts, heading from one party to the next. It wasn’t my finest moment of being a law-abiding citizen (sorry, Mom), but every time I hear it, it takes me right back to that exhilarating moment with everyone in the car rocking out and having a blast.

  • “On the Road,” Keane. Imagine driving through a forest or on a curvy, snow-capped mountain road with this song playing. Wherever you are when you first play it, you’ll forever remember that moment when you hear this song again posttrip. We don’t know why; it just happens.

  • “Heal Yourself,” Ruthie Foster. Is it Sunday? Do you feel the need to go to church? Let Ruthie take you there. She’s blues. She’s folk. She’s gospel. And she’s bad-ass! If you’ve never heard of her, you’re welcome.

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  • “Mercy,” Duffy. When we were on a road trip through the Welsh countryside, we were playing — what else? — music by Welsh artists. Yes, there was some Tom Jones, but it was this catchy Duffy tune that was stuck on repeat … and repeat again. It’s become a favorite road trip tune ever since.

  • “All I Wanna Do,” Sheryl Crow. Sing it with us! “Is have some fun. I got a feelin’ I’m not the only one…”

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