How to Make the Perfect Road Trip Playlist: Your Guide to Great Vibes

When you’re sitting in the same seat, staring out the same window, hours on the open road might stretch on and on…. One of the best ways to avoid road trip fatigue is with a well curated playlist.

Being the road trip DJ comes with great responsibility. The perfect playlist requires preparation, personalization and practice. This guide will help you ensure great vibes for hours on the road.

Not ready for the responsibility? The Cabana team has you covered! Follow us on Spotify to start your musical journey

Plan Ahead

Curating your road trip playlist is a great way to get excited for your trip! Start thinking about the genres or mood of your trip a few weeks before heading off. It can be difficult to think of your all-time favorite songs on the spot. Pay attention to the music you’re loving and add songs as they come to mind.

Photo Credit: Mio Monasch (@monascherie)

Match Songs to Surroundings

Are you driving through the desert, along the coast, or through a rainforest? Are you visiting a city or escaping one? This is why a road trip playlist isn’t one-size-fits-all.

When it comes to terrain, select artists from the area or songs covering that subject matter. For example, a California coastal playlist might include “Malibu” by Miley Cyrus and anything by the Beach Boys. A trip through Olympic National Park, on the other hand, is a great time for cozy, rainy day music like Bon Iver or Hozier.

Beyond the climate and location, the time of day can make a big difference in your musical mood. If you’re starting off at sunrise, you might not be ready for rock and roll. Reorder your playlist to ease into the day. If you’re driving late at night, you could opt for chill vibes or use your favorite party anthems to keep you awake.

Share the Power

If you’re sharing your trip with other people, you’ll need to share the playlist power. The easiest way to do this is to take requests when your playlist is still in formation. (Don’t worry, you can still have ultimate veto power!) Balance the playlist so everyone feels like they’re getting their fair share of favorites. Sprinkle in some crowd-pleasers and throwbacks to keep everyone entertained. 

Of course, thinking about the company you’ll be keeping will also help you set the vibe. Traveling with your best friend? Add in the songs you love to sing at the top of your lungs together or the ones you blasted back in your college days. If your travels include children or parents, your playlist should span the generations. A sweet romantic getaway could include “Home” by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros or any number of folksy love songs. 

Photo Credit: Mio Monasch (@monascherie)

Get Ready to Go Off the Grid

If you’re planning to use Spotify or another streaming service for your trip, think about downloading the playlist for offline use. You might be passing through areas without service, and you don’t want your hard work to go to waste.

Try it Out

Once your playlist is close to perfection, give it a listen! Reorganize so the songs flow together, remove anything you’re feeling the desire to skip, and add any missing pieces. Your final playlist should be a little longer than your expected travel time to factor in traffic, unexpected stops, or any song skips. 

Photo Credit: Mio Monasch (@Monascherie)

Be Open to Spontaneity

It’s always our number one travel tip, but it’s worth repeating! If your travel companion has a request, add it to the queue! If you get into a heated debate about which Taylor Swift album best defines her career, give your top contenders a listen. (The correct answer is “Folklore,” obviously.) Take a break for a podcast or to enjoy the sound of the rain. At the end of the day, if everyone is enjoying the journey then your playlist has done its job!

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