It is impossible to write a list of the top travel songs, but I’ll try anyway. Choosing a list of the best road trip songs is dependent on the season, the destination, and whether you are running away or running toward. And, why stop at ten now that we have portable MP3 players instead of casette tapes.
I have looked at nobody else’s favorites when compiling this list (but you can be certain I’ll look now that I’ve posted this). I’ve tried to keep it upbeat (which ruled out John Meyer’s “Why Georgia” among others), and I’ve tried to avoid songs about a particular destination (“Key West Intermezzo” and “Maybe It Was Memphis” are being set aside for another list- ). It’s heavy on oldies because it’s hard to tell which new tracks will remain poignant over time. Some were top tens. Some barely charted. And some, I’m sure you have never heard. If I write this list again in a year it will change, but for today, here it is (in alphabetical order). Let me know what you think. Happy travels. ROAD TRIP!
Top 11 Road Trip Travel Songs – A Playlist for the Open Road
Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run”
I’m sure this makes everyone’s best road trip list, but the classic running away song captures the naivete of my small-town youth and a quest for more. It’s one of his earliest, but it’s still Springsteen’s best song. “Tramps like us–baby we were born to run.”
Cliff Richard “Summer Holiday”
When this track starts, everyone in the car will unknowingly nod his head left and right. Catchy, dreamy, playful. It reminds us that vacations used to be two weeks long and we didn’t have to carry cell phones. “No more worries for me or you – for a week or two.”
Dixie Chicks “Wide Open Spaces”
This song is about more than a road trip, but when we travel, our minds are opened up to new ways of thinking about how our lives are shaping up. I once heard this on the radio while driving a Mustang convertible from Phoenix to Tucson. I recommend that.
“She needs wide open spaces–room to make her big mistakes.”
Earth, Wind & Fire “Getaway”
“Fantasy” will always be my favorite EWF track, but unless your car is a ship called Fantasii, then this song is more appropriate for a terrestrial trip. “Getaway. Let’s leave today.”
Echo & The Bunnymen “Get in the Car”
I never really liked 1980’s Echo & The Bunnymen, but the layered horns and mellow vibe on this track from 1999 are perfect for a nighttime drive. “Let’s go and take a ride to all those starry nights we used to fly upon.”
Gin Blossoms “Follow You Down”
From their first single driving around town in “Hey Jealousy”, the Gin Blossoms and their 1990’s jangle pop has ridden well on the highways. “Did you see the sky? I think it means that we’ve been lost.”
I dare you not to bounce along with this 80’s classic. It only gets better with time. “Vacation all I ever wanted. Vacation had to get away.”
Oh Fortuna “Faces I Can See”
My brother discovered this band in Gainesville (Fl) and brought along this obscure track on a cross-country roadtrip. It crescendos like the Polyphonic Spree. “I have a place in my heart for every car that won’t start, for every hand-painted sign by the side of the road.”
Real McCoy “Run Away”
So many dance songs deliver cheesy love lyrics. This one, the second (and final relevant) single from Real McCoy teaches an important life lesson. “Run away and save your life. Run away if you want to survive.”
Refreshments “Heaven or the Highway Out of Town”
Tempe-based Refreshments (reincarnated and currently recording as Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers), have a song for every trip (“Mexico”, “Mekong”, & “Interstate” for example). I chose this one because it’s rocking & hopeful, even though it’s really about gambling. They deliver a great live show, but seldom sing this one.
“The change of lights will lead our way to heaven or the highway out of town.”
Sarah Pinsker “Baggage”
Baltimore singer-songwriter Pinsker (lead singer of Stalking Horses) delivers poetry with this relationship-as-road-trip metaphor. “Flying down the highway and I’m cranking open all the windows, sending duffels tumbling in our wake. I say I’ve tossed the ballast and now we’re free.”