best road trip songs

The 10 Best Road Trip Songs

There might not be a lot to do these days, but there is one option still on the table. And it’s pretty easy, and not too costly either. Gas up your vehicle, load up on snacks and drinks and get out on the highway. You don’t even need a destination. But, let’s not forget about another important something you’ll need as you look for adventure on the highways and byways: A great playlist of some of the best road trip songs.

The ten best road trip songs, in no particular order, are:

  • Africa – TOTO
  • Don’t Bring Me Down – Electric Light Orchestra
  • Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
  • One Night In Bangkok – Murray Head
  • Opposites Attract – Paula Abdul
  • Burning Down The House – The Talking Heads
  • Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel
  • Hip To Be Square – Huey Lewis And The News
  • The Sign – Ace Of Base
  • Tubthumping – Chumbawamba

Now, keep in mind that our researchers spent countless hours on these selections, all for your sake. If you were looking for ten of the best songs to get you and your passengers movin’ and groovin’ while you sail the asphalt seas of our great nation, you came to the right article.

Let’s get in close and take a look at why we chose these songs. Why we think they are the right additions for any road trip playlist. And at the end, we have a special bonus, so read on.

What Are Some Good Road Trip Songs?

What makes a good road trip song? We’re glad that you asked, it gives us a chance to explain the results of our rigorous research.

Firstly, it’s all about tempo. It just doesn’t make sense to sail along the highway, breeze blowing through your hair with something too relaxed on the stereo. It’s got to have some speed to it, to drive home that feeling of your foot on the gas and the road unwinding behind you.

Secondly, it has to be palatable. What we mean by this is that it needs to be enjoyable by all parties aboard your road trip-mobile. We all know that the best adventures are shared with others and we don’t want to alienate anyone with our music choices.

So, we kept our selections along a similar, fun vein. Something everyone can enjoy. Trust us, we tried a lot of Icelandic death metal and it just didn’t play well across all demographics.

Thirdly, we made sure that our list was eclectic and worldly. When we go out on the road, we do it for the love of adventure and the true beauty that is to be seen when we explore our planet. It only seemed right that we include some different flavors from different parts of the world.

The 10 Best Road Trip Songs

It doesn’t really matter what order you play these songs in, with one caveat: You play Africa by TOTO first. This song comes in nice and easy to start and can really set the mood for the start of your road trip.

“Africa” by TOTO

Opening with a brassy analog synthesizer, electronic flutes, and an emulated kalimba lull us into the familiar ballad. The song came out in 1982 and has been in constant rotation in the charts since then. It’s also brought about a number of awesome covers in its time. We recommend you also check out Weezer’s cover of the song if you feel so inclined.

Africa isn’t just a catchy tune, but a nearly perfectly balanced composition and well worth a listen. The lyrics might seem a bit goofy, especially when you realize that the man who wrote them had never been to Africa at the time, but they are all in good fun. There’s some decent story in there as well.

“Don’t Bring Me Down” by Electric Light Orchestra

If you haven’t heard this song by the English band Electric Light Orchestra, it may be that you have lived under a rock for a long time. Donald A. Guarisco of Allmusic claimed that this song was “powerful enough for rock fans, but dance-friendly enough for the disco set.”

We think that sums it up pretty well. The driving drum beat, which is in fact a looped track, is immediately recognizable and feels good on the ears as the scenery whips by your window.

“Twilight Zone” By Golden Earring

Dutch band, Golden Earring, knocked this song out of the park where it spent half a year in the U.S. Pop charts. So, it definitely struck a chord with the people. (See what I did there?) A vamping guitar riff alongside driving drums and bass can really help you pick up the pace on the road.

We recommend pairing this song with long barren expanses of the desert during a brilliant sunset. And if you have a convertible, this is a great song for putting the top down and letting your inner secret agent out for a bit. The song’s author does credit Robert Ludlum’s, The Bourne Identity, as an inspiration for the song, after all.

“One Night In Bangkok” By Murray Head

This is a song from a concept album that is a musical play about an American chess master. The song itself was once considered so off-brand for the Thai government that it was banned in Thailand in 1985. Intrigued? You should be.

The boisterous orchestral section opens the song, growing loud and theatrical before abruptly dropping us into a chill 80’s pop-rap track. You might recognize Mike Tyson’s less-than-pleasing version from the second Hangover movie. Get ready to have the chorus stuck deep in the pleasure center of your mind.

“Opposites Attract” By Paula Abdul

Are you on the road with your significant other? Is one of you a dancing cartoon cat? This might just be the perfect road trip song for you. It’s a song about the love between people who just can’t seem to agree on anything. And it has a pretty memorable music video involving the aforementioned dancing cartoon cat.

Travel back in time to the early nineties and conjure up the spirit of a long ago high school dance. Paula Abdul does a great job of lifting the mood of any car ride. Our intrepid researchers nearly couldn’t agree on which of her songs was the best, which led them to choose this one.

“Burning Down The House” By The Talking Heads

Okay, we are guilty of being stuck in the eighties. It’s not our fault that so much great road trip music came out of that decade! New wavers, The Talking Heads, supposedly created this song organically during a jam session. And you can tell because this song really feels like a hootenanny.

David Byrne’s chant-singing over the dancy beat really brings the feeling of a house party into the car. Perfect for when the lines on the road start to blur your vision and make those eyelids heavy. You can count on the Talking Heads to get you through many miles with a smile on your face.

“Sledgehammer” By Peter Gabriel

That amazing sounding flute at the beginning? That’s a synthesized shakuhachi flute, an ancient Japanese instrument. Now you know. Sledgehammer was once categorized as dance-rock, blue-eyed soul, and funk. These days, it can be categorized as Dad-rock. But, even if you are not a dad, you can still thoroughly enjoy this poppy jam.

We’ve found that this song pairs well with Hawaiian button-ups and foam rubber slides…with socks. Don’t feel ashamed to rock out dad-style to this song while behind the wheel. We won’t tell anyone.

“Hip To Be Square” By Huey Lewis And The News

Researchers found that dad-rock is best listened to in pairs. So we spent days researching and collating the data until we found the perfect accompaniment to our previous song. What we came up with was Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis and The News.

What once was an ironic ballad about the life of a square, it has since been adopted as the song of high-waisted, acid-washed jean-wearers everywhere. So put on those old-school aviators and let the wind blow through your mullet to this track.

“The Sign” By Ace Of Base

What’s that you just passed at sixty-five miles an hour? There’s another one…and another. That’s right. Signs. Street signs, roadside attractions, last rest stop for fifty miles. Signs, signs, and more signs.

Can you tell why this one made the list? Yes, because of the signs, but also because it is a true earworm of a song. This song fills the car with those easy, laidback summer vibes as those signs whip by. But the lyrics are truly deeper than that, don’t you think?

“Tubthumping” By Chumbawamba

We don’t condone drinking and driving. So don’t even think about it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play a song that will make you feel like you’re at the British pub, chanting along to your favorite drogue. Tubthumping is truly a song about the resilience of ordinary people, and it does give the feeling that things are going to be alright.

It is fitting that this song makes up the final spot on our list. It is a fun, silly song with a simple chorus that still manages a motivating punch. It’s totally ok with us and your passengers if you play the song more than once.

We gave you our selections of the ten best road trip songs, and if you remember, at the beginning of the article we promised a surprise at the end. Well, we kept that promise and here it is…

The Three Best Sing-Alongs For A Road Trip

These three songs didn’t quite fit with the others for that prime spot amongst the top ten. It wasn’t because they aren’t great road trip songs, it is because they are great sing-along songs.

These can be used sort of like a secret weapon in the playlist to bring up the mood and increase interaction amongst you and your fellow road-trippers. The choruses here are just irresistible and will result in some great, or terrible, belting out. Here they are in no particular order.

  • “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” By The Proclaimers
  • Sweet Caroline” By Neil Diamond
  • Total Eclipse Of The Heart” By Bonnie Tyler

Get Ready to Hit the Road With The Best Road Trip Songs

We really poured your heart and soul into finding these great bangers. So give them a chance and you may find that your road trip just became a road journey.