Road Trip Survival Guide – Music to Drive By

This entry is a part of a series. Check out the rest of the Road Trip Survival Guide for more valuable information.

Foundations for a Great Road Trip

No matter where you’re going, who you’re going with, how far you’re travelling, or how long you’re gone – every great road depends on two indisputable things: tasty munchies to snack on and great music to jam to.

We discussed munchies in this article. Here, we’re going to talk about music. But before we continue, please review the scopes and perspectives that I’ll be addressing each of the questions presented in the Road Trip Survival Guide.

Why Is It Important?

Music is about more than keeping yourself awake on the long, lonely roads. Music can get us motivated and energized. It can inspire us. But perhaps most importantly, music can connect to very strong memories, much in the same way scents can.

I’ve heard Peggy Lee’s “Fever” dozens and dozens of times in my life. But because it played at just the right moment, it is now permanently associated in my mind with a particular winding road near Pyramid Lake in Alberta. Every time I hear the song, I can see the scene with utmost clarity.

A handful of songs – not the least of which includes Incubus’ “Warning” – evokes strong memories of college and traveling with my Ultimate Frisbee teammates on long road trips to tournaments. Apocalyptica’s “Hope, Vol. 2” evokes strong memories of my campsite at Mount Hood.

Listen to the Radio or Bring an iPod?

MusicI’ve got mixed feelings on this. The nice thing about listening to the radio is occasionally hearing new music and constantly broadening your palette. But there are a few drawbacks to listening to the radio, too. For one thing, many radio DJs have an annoying habit of over-playing the same song over and over and over again. And if you’re listening to ordinary AM or FM stations on the road, you’ll have to change stations repeatedly as you drive in and out of reception areas.

If your data plan allows it, or if you can afford premium services, I’d recommend a streaming service like Spotify (Android or iOS) or Pandora (Android or iOS). If your vehicle came with satellite radio, you can subscribe to Sirius XM (Android or iOS). With satellite radio, you might still find repetitious DJs, but you’ll have a lot more variety to choose from and not have to change stations as you drive.

But if you want to be in absolute control over your music experience, then you can bring your own collection. Create a mix tape, burn some CDs, or load up your cell phone or iPod with digital music. I recommend having at least 8 hours’ worth of music (about 120-160 songs) to avoid fatigue. A cheap and ordinary auxiliary audio cable is usually all you need to connect your phone or iPod to a car’s stereo system.

What Music Genres?

Play whatever makes you happy. Seriously, I can’t think of a single genre of music that is inappropriate for a road trip – even classical music. It all boils down to per personal taste. If you’re travelling with friends, hopefully your tastes align somewhat.

Personally, I prefer to listen to music that has good upbeat tempo and a strong rhythm. I like for my music to pump me up, not relax me. I generally like hard rock and lighter metal music, but I often switch gears and listen to other genres.

Some Suggested Songs

I want to share a few of my favorite road trip songs. Of course, this is an inherently difficult and arbitrary exercise. If I generated a list like this 10 times, I’d wind up with 10 slightly different lists. But here’s the list I generated this evening.

I did not want to limit this to “quintessential” road trip songs, otherwise I’d only have about a half dozen country songs. I also didn’t want to regurgitate a list of my favorite songs with no thought as to whether they are ideal road trip songs. So I went through my library and picked out these 40 songs which I feel represent the best road trip songs in my collection.

    1. AC/DC – Highway to Hell
    2. Anthrax – Breathing Lightning
    3. Apocalyptica – Heat
    4. Apocalyptica – Hope Vol 2
    5. Ataris – Boys of Summer
    6. Ataris – In This Diary
    7. Audioslave – Doesn’t Remind Me
    8. Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA
    9. Chuck Berry – Route 66
    10. Elvis Presley – A Little Less Conversation
    11. Eve 6 – Here’s to the Night
    12. Foo Fighters – Times Like These
    13. Fun – Carry On
    14. Hollywood Undead – Levitate
    15. Incubus – Wish You Were Here
    16. John Mellencamp – Wild Night
    17. Judas Priest – You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
    18. Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
    19. KoRn – Word Up
    20. Limp Bizkit – My Way or the Highway
    21. Linkin Park – Shadow of the Day
    22. Lost Prophets – Rooftops
    23. Marilyn Manson – Tainted Love
    24. Michael Jackson – Thriller
    25. NSync – Bye Bye Bye
    26. Papa Roach – To Be Loved
    27. Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight
    28. Poison – Nothin’ But a Good Time
    29. Pop Evil – Take It All
    30. Pretty Reckless – Take Me Down
    31. Queens of the Stone Age – Go with the Flow
    32. Rascal Flatts – Life Is a Highway
    33. Ray Parker, Jr – Ghostbusters
    34. Rev Theory – Hell Yeah
    35. Shinedown – State of My Head
    36. Sixx AM – Stars
    37. Three Days Grace – Good Life
    38. U2 – Beautiful Day
    39. Whitest Kids U’ Know – Dinosaur Rap
    40. Willie Nelson – On the Road Again

    Other Ideas?

    Have I missed anything? What are your favorite road trip songs? What memories does your music trigger? Do you have questions? Do none of these solutions work for you because of specific circumstances that I haven’t considered? Whatever you’re thinking – I would love your feedback! Help me make this Road Trip Survival Guide the best it can be.

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