How to curate the perfect roadtrip playlist

It’s like they say, life is a highway!

Where are you going on your roadtrip? (Pexels.)

Oh, to be on the long and winding road.

Some people can’t do long roadtrips, but for those of us who find it relaxing to be on the road for long stretches of time, we might find a little roadtrip to be fun.

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Flying to a destination is obviously way faster, likely safer and stress-free. But when you’ve got a group of friends and you’d rather split gas then pay hundreds of dollars on individual plane tickets, sometimes a road trip is the best option.

There are necessities when it comes to a roadtrip, such as drinks, snacks and even some pillows and blankets for the passengers. But none of them are more important than a solid roadtrip playlist.

You may think that you can just hit shuffle on a random Spotify playlist and everything will be hunky-dory, but as someone who has roadtripped on multiple 10-plus-hour-long drives, the roadtrip playlist is one of the most essential parts of enjoying yourself in the car for that long of a time.

Below, I’ll break down the different categories of songs that are essential for a roadtrip playlist.

The classics

You cannot go on a roadtrip and not have some oldies on the playlist. Now, depending how old you are, you have a different perception on what kind of artist is considered an “oldie,” but if a song was released more than 35 years ago, it’s pretty safe to say it’s a classic/oldie.

Now, what kind of artists you want to add from this category always depends on taste. When I think of oldies, I think of bands and singers like Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Carole King, Prince, David Bowie, AC/DC, Queen, Journey and so many more.

For me, these were artists that my parents raised me on, so it’s that feeling of nostalgia that comes back when I play these songs in the car. You want something you can sing along to, and there is nothing like singing some oldies at the top of your lungs.


Throwbacks and classics may sound the same, but they are very, very different. In my opinion, a throwback is a song that has been released in the past 20 to 25 years or so. So, we’re talking anything that was popular in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

Again, the music you select from this category is entirely up to you, but when I think of throwbacks, I want to listen to a whole lot of different artists. You can go pop, like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Lauryn Hill, Pink, TLC, En Vogue, Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, Outkast and Sheryl Crow.

There is also the rock/grunge music that you could enjoy from this time period. Think of bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, White Stripes, Strokes and many more.

Country music

This might be a controversial opinion, and that’s mostly because country music isn’t for everyone. I totally get this reasoning, because I personally don’t like all of country music, but there are some artists out there who are making really good music without it sounding like country/pop terribleness.

The reason why I think country music should be on a roadtrip playlist is, it just fits the vibe and aesthetic of taking a cross-country roadtrip. You’re out on the open road, seeing rolling hills and mountains. There’s something about a good country song that is the perfect backdrop for the sights you’re taking in.

Some of my favorite country musicians are Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Chicks, Elle King, Brandi Carlile and Maren Morris.

The divas

Look, you’re about to be on a very long drive, and that means you need as much upbeat music as possible to keep you alert and alive. The best way to do that is probably lots of coffee and a solid rotation of driving responsibilities, but also listening to upbeat pop diva tracks certainly helps.

This is a category where you can add classic, throwback and current pop divas into the mix. I would add a mix of Cher, Madonna, Tina Turner, Diana Ross and Mariah Carey, along with some newer divas, like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Adele, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and more. The more songs you can sing along to that will keep you awake, the better!

And that’s about it! Obviously, this is just a guide, and there would probably be a few more bands that I would add to my personal playlist (I love me some indie rock). If you keep my guiding principles in mind while curating your playlist, you will have the perfect soundtrack for your next roadtrip. Happy driving!

And just for fun, here is my ultimate roadtrip playlist below. It packs more than 10 hours of music, so feel free to use it!

About the Author

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.

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