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Anatomy of a Road Trip Playlist

“Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole.” – Dean Winchester

By MJ Wilke

Turn it up! No matter what kind of music you like, when compiling a road trip playlist for driving a long distance each song should elicit an involuntary response to reach over and “turn it up.”


Playlists enhance your trip experience and heighten the anticipation, but most importantly playlists keep the driver engaged. Long drives can cause zone-outs, and that’s not good. Therefore, the driver is the one who needs to pick the music (thanks, Dean) or at least control the playing of it. It is simply active versus passive.


As with a workout playlist where different songs are included for specific purposes to get a desired effect, the same is true for a road trip playlist. Start mellow, build up to a crescendo, then cool down.


As you create your list, remember that eclectic is the key and think about juxtaposition in the list. Keep it interesting for the driver and especially if you are accompanied by a non- road trip person or persons. Throw in little surprises for your passengers. Covers are great little surprises – they are something familiar yet slightly different. Add a few songs you’ll sing out loud. Part or all of the playlist can be destination specific. Don’t forget to throw in theme songs.


WN Note: Personally, I create a specific playlist for every road trip. Including a new playlist each year for our trip to San Diego Comic-Con.


There are no rules for a playlist, and you don’t even have to listen to the whole song. You can make a playlist for there and back, or on the return trip use the same playlist and hit shuffle.


For those of us who love road trips, we tend to start silly and celebratory -

            Muppets – “Movin’ Right Along” (the ultimate road trip start song)

            “O’ Happy Day”

            “Holly Holy”


And end meaningfully –

            “Yellow Ledbetter”

            “Linus and Lucy”


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MJ Wilke is the founder of Wayward Nerd. She is a road warrior. A nerd. A trekkie. A whovian. A Star Wars fanatic. She will go where no one has gone before, come back and post it here.

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