Regional travel is now opening up for many countries, and it means one thing: ROAD TRIPS!
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a good road trip. Coupled with the perfect jams, it’s a recipe for therapeutic bliss. Whether you drive on your own or with friends, a road trip is the best getaway from home, especially when airline travel is delayed indefinitely for now.
I’ve assembled some of my top tunes for your next road trip, broken down into three categories: General road trip vibes, beach vibes, and chill vibes (softer, acoustic tunes).
Spotify playlists are linked in each category. I’ve highlighted only 15 songs each and kept additional songs in the playlists as well. Enjoy!
All photos are my own and were taken while stopped, outside the car, or as a passenger. Safety first!
General Road Trip Vibes
This is the quintessential road trip tune. It’s ideal for ANY drive or trip in general. I used to blast this on full volume when driving back to my alma mater, UCSB.
This song has been featured in several television ads and has those typical uplifting melodies you’d expect to hear while driving with the wind in your air. The lyrics can be translated as loosely as you like, but it seems like a reference to not knowing yourself and struggling to discover that true self.
I absolutely love this tune, and like most other songs listed, I discovered it through Spotify. I especially love the lyrics: We’ve come so far / But you have always been my home.
An absolute legend of a tune, especially since Daft Punk did the entire TRON Legacy soundtrack. This track is literally my go-to when running, driving long distances, and working out.
Admit it, you’ve screamed at the top of your lungs when driving. I associate this song with
singing screaming the chorus as loud as possible while gripping the steering wheel around the precarious turns of Crown Range, between Wanaka and Queenstown.
This is such a beautiful song, from the melodies of the soft acoustic guitar to the lyrics themselves. It’s perfect to listen to on a road trip with your buddies, and even better when you’re stargazing from a campsite.
I discovered this one through Valerie’s wedding video and haven’t stopped listening to it since then. It’s SUCH a “feel good” song, perfect for a drive of any distance. I had this on repeat throughout my South Island road trip, and it always puts me in a better mood.
Eden gets credit for this one, since he introduced me to Half Moon Run last year. They’re a Canadian indie rock band with a stellar discography. The majority of my huge NZ road trip last year consisted of listening to their albums on shuffle.
Cider Sky was one of my favourite bands in my early 20s. This is my fave jam of theirs because of its uplifting beats, perfect for any drive.
The ukulele gives this song a bright, happy touch. It’s one of those feel-good songs that you can’t help but dance to while driving.
I freakin’ love Big Wild (thanks to Eden again here). This one always gives me Holi vibes, a colourful festival that I’m itching to experience someday.
If you’ve seen Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (the entire soundtrack is a road trip playlist in itself), you’ll recognise this one. Much like “Dirty Paws,” this is one of those songs that MUST be on every road trip playlist- it’s that good.
Yes, an electronic violinist is on this playlist. Lindsey Stirling is possibly one of the most talented humans in the music industry, and this song is one of the best road trip jams. I highly suggest you check out her YouTube channel of personally choreographed dances to each song of varying styles, from electronic and rock to classical and pop.
Another ditty found through Spotify, this song is a softer, mesmerising jam. According to the lead vocalist, the song navigates whether it’s “brave or naive to trust in love.”
As one of the top comments for this video states, “How has Lucasfilm not hired Samuel Kim yet?!” The guy is a musical genius, mixing soundscapes in such an ethereal way that you feel like you’re actually in these films. This one in particular is my favourite, since he intertwines the melody of Hans Zimmer’s “Time” (from Inception) with John Williams’ Star Wars themes in a way that sounds so natural, it’ll actually give you goosebumps.
His YouTube channel always pairs his epic orchestrations of the film, TV, & game soundtracks with insane cinemagraph-esque graphics.
Lord Huron is the definition of travel music for me. I listened to their albums on repeat when I moved to New Zealand, and this particular song is one of my favourites. It’s a bit of a sad one about a lost lover/friend, but it definitely has beach vibes in there with the humming and background sounds of ocean waves.
Even based off the title, this one is purely about summertime and good vibes. It’s one of those jams you can rock out to with your hands flailing in the air, your best friends by your side.
I’m 99% sure I Shazam-ed this song while shopping in Forever 21 somewhere in Europe. Whatever the reason, it’s an uplifting tune that you’d most likely listen to while driving to the beach.
This is such a beautiful song. The lyrics: I wanna take the chance / I wanna lead the way / To a better place really sum it all up.
Discovered this one through CJ Thomason and love its quirky, unique sound. Jain was raised in different cultures (Arabic, French, African), so her fresh sounds immerse the listener into her vibrant world.
A Fine Frenzy (with lead singer Alison Sudol) was one of my favourite bands in university that a friend introduced me to. This is the perfect jam for lifting your spirits, especially with the sun beating down on you.
Mackintosh Braun has a unique electropop sound that I instantly fell in love with. I was listening to their albums on constant rotation when I was driving back and forth to get my scuba certification, so I’ll always associate them with that memory.
The ocean waves in the beginning make this song even more soothing than it already is. This was my favourite song in my first year of university, especially when I was struggling to adapt after I lost my grandmother.
Unsure of your future / Need to focus on / What you want / And something will come your way
These lyrics have always spoken to my heart. I mean, when do Millennials know what the Hell we’re doing with our lives anyway?
This song will brighten your spirits no matter what. Kina Grannis is my GIRL. I love her so much, I even wrote an article about her back in 2014 when I met her after her Melbourne concert. She’s just one of those down-to-earth, authentically charming humans who may possibly have the kindest heart out of anyone on this planet. Her incredible music is a testament to this statement.
You’ll undoubtedly recognise this tune from TikTok, and the full version is just as relaxing as the 15-second audio clip. It’s the perfect driving tune.
I’m obsessed with covers of Chris Issak’s “Wicked Game,” and this one is no exception. I listen to chilled out tunes like this one quite often, especially since it brings back memories of rooftop bars.
Ya girl loves her some electronic music, and this one is the most “beach-worthy” tune.
This one is such a groovy jam. I was packing for my trips earlier in the year while listening to this one on repeat.
I love this song, but I love the music video for it even more. Click on the link above to watch it and be visually spellbound by its incredible cinematography.
I also discovered this one through TikTok by a fluke. The music video for this song has been watched 25+million times, more than the combined view counts for every song listed in this article. Jackson Wang is a creative mastermind of music, and his mass following truly supports this statement.
This is probably my favourite song of all time. Daniela Andrade’s voice is so rich and unique, filled with raw emotion. Throughout my 2017 UK backpacking trip, I listened to it over and over again and never tired of its melodies. Listening to it on loop was ideal for my long train rides while staring out the window.
I’m a sucker for incredible acoustic mashups. When you just want softer tunes to accompany your driving, this one is perfect. And how about that amazing harmonisation of the Gardiner Sisters?!
If you play the Zelda video games, you’ll recognise the lo-fi version of this tune. Whenever it rained during my South Island road trip (quite often), I’d pop this on at full volume. It’s such a great chill out jam.
I love how three popular songs have been mashed up perfectly in this one tune. Just FYI, this is James Bay’s “Let It Go” and not its horridly annoying Disney counterpart. Landon & Kaya’s voices complement each other so well in this beautiful mashup.
I Shazam-ed this song in a bookstore in Nelson (New Zealand) and listened to it on repeat throughout my contract in Asia. It’s one of the most relaxing, beautiful piano pieces I’ve ever stumbled upon, and I loved it even more when I discovered that Sigríður is an Icelandic artist (it’s apparently one of the most popular Icelandic names).
I freakin’ love Billie Eilish, and this song is eerily haunting. I get a thrill out of listening to it on repeat when driving at night.
You’ll notice lyrics from Kanye West’s “Heartless” and Christophe’s 1973 song “Les Paradis Perdus” in this song. However, as someone who is very anti-Kanye, I love her version so much more since it’s melodically thoughtful and just plain beautiful.
This non-lyrical song is another one of my rainy day tunes. Muse is my favourite band in the universe, and their 2013 “The 2nd Law” album is my jam. This particular song is freakin’ genius, and I implore you to listen to it while walking by yourself along a lake, river, ocean, or any body of water, since it’s incredibly soothing.
This song doesn’t have the deepest of lyrics, but there’s something about its simplicity and the striking nature of Nick’s voice.
One of my all-time favourite songs by one of my all-time favourite bands. I used to listen to this song when I was struggling with my personal choices in 2014 and 2015, and it really helped calm my anxiety and uncertainty.
This is a banger of a beat. Check out the music video in the link above, since it was filmed in New Zealand (and holy shit, do you need any more reason to see why this country is the most beautiful place in the world?).
Kina Grannis is my GIRL. And she’s absolute perfection, as I wrote about earlier.
This is probably my 2nd favourite song, right under “Shore.” I discovered Megan Davies on YouTube while in 2011 or so and have been such a huge fan of hers ever since. The soft melodies of this song are perfect for driving or walking anywhere in a new territory. It’s one of those soothing, beautiful songs that you love no matter what.
Discovered through Spotify again, this was a great song that I listened to on the bullet trains in Japan by myself. I love, love, love it.
Lights is a Canadian electropop singer that I discovered through MySpace (HAHA) back in 2008, and I proudly think back to how I was a huge fan of hers before she blew up and became wildly successful as a mainstream artist.
This song was like my defining song of 2014 when I lived in Melbourne. It helped me find myself (all cheese aside) and trust in my mistakes and struggles to get me to the mentally happy place I’m at today.
Overall, some of the artists whom I’ve found to have great road trip-esque sounds across all their albums are Half Moon Run, Bob Moses, Kina Grannis, and Mumford and Sons.
I hope these tunes can lighten the atmosphere of your next road trip or general explorations!
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