How to Road Trip Right: Music & Feelings For Long-Distance Driving

Hey, I don’t know if you’ve heard / had your retinas burned off with our banner ads yet, but Autostraddle is making the pilgrimage to Palm Springs for Dinah Shore next week! While most of us are flying to California in aeroplanes, Associate Editor Sarah F*cking P*lmer and I will be turning this into a road trip, and we are super excited! Who doesn’t love a road trip?!! A**holes, that’s who, and we are NOT a**holes.

We’re hoping this adventure falls somewhere snugly between Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and Crossroads, with a hearty dash of The Muppet Movie and Elizabethtown (don’t judge us). Did you know that a trip through the desert has been Sarah’s #1 Feeling since forever-ever? It’s true. So she’s flying into Phoenix, we’re gonna rent a car, load up the inflatable shark and our cowboy hats, and head westbound on I-10!

The Car

What kind of cars are good for road trips? Well, hybrids are, probably. But guess what: we are selfish, superficial jerks, and we decided we needed a convertible. There’s no way we’re driving through the desert in a car with a roof. And so help me, if it rains, we’re donning ponchos. There will be no roof, Autostraddlers. NO ROOF ‘TIL PALM SPRINGS.

You might like to know that we were originally planning to rent a Mustang, because there it was! Available! Turns out, however, that The World had other plans for us. We’ll be driving down the freeway in a Sebring. Are you laughing? Are you lol’ing at our car? It’s still a convertible, you guys! And we will make that f*cking car cute if it’s the last thing we do (it won’t be the last thing we do because I have to meet Julie Goldman for whiskey).

The Drive

Love, money, sunglasses made of cigarettes — these things pale in comparison to the road trip. On the road trip, you learn about yourself and your attorney. You have inevitably deep discussions about So Many Things. You buy weird, useless junk at gas stations and take pictures of things because maybe you’ll never be there again. Best of all, you listen to music! And if you’re worth a damned thing, you listen to strategically-crafted mixes.

We’ve got a stockpile of playlists for the drive and thought we’d share a couple with you. Sarah’s amped for sunshine, so she’s made a mix of songs that practically scream SUMMER, and obvs you can’t drive to California without that Phantom Planet song. I was originally going to share a playlist titled ‘Ovarian Sing-Along’, but it got mixed reviews (“I see where you’re going with this, but I don’t think we can put it on the internet.” / “I would’ve gone with a different Sheryl Crow song, but you’re a sap…”), so I decided to go with my favorite creek songs.

We asked Tech Editor Taylor and Video Assistant Kelsey (TAYSLEY, you guys) to contribute some mixes because they’ll be driving over from Santa Ana and would need some tunes, too. Taylor / Gonzo wanted to blow your minds with psychedelica but then realized that might be a liability, and she didn’t want you to get in a wreck, so she made a soundtrack for your desert spirit journey instead! New York can sometimes make people feel a little crazy, so Kelsey’s leaving Brooklyn in search of somewhere hotter and sexier and teeming with lesbians!

Then everyone made their own graphics because Alex is in L.A. and can’t be arsed. Aren’t they special?? As usual, these songs are linked up, so you can just click on through and buy whatever you need. A teeeensy tiny bit of the proceeds will support Autostraddle, and we know how much you love that!

You should share your epic road trip playlists in the comments, in case we want to steal some of your songs. See you at Dinah!


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by Sarah

1. 5 Years Time – Noah and the Whale
2. Portions for Foxes – Rilo Kiley
3. A-Punk – Vampire Weekend
4. Foundations – Kate Nash
5. Blankest Year – Nada Surf
6.
Sunlight – Harlem Shakes
7. Us – Regina Spektor
8. Lights Out – Santigold
9. Heavy Metal Drummer – Wilco
10. Tonight I Have to Leave It – The Shout Out Louds
11. Sofia – West Indian Girl
12. Here Comes the Sun – George Harrison
13. California – Phantom Planet


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by Laneia

1. Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
2. Honky Tonk Women – The Rolling Stones
3. Midnight Rider – The Allman Bros.
4. Gimme Three Steps – Lynyrd Skynyrd
5. The Joker – Steve Miller
6. Renegade – Styx
7. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
8. What’s Your Name – Lynyrd Synyrd
9. Beast of Burden – The Rolling Stones
10. Fat Bottomed Girls – Queen
11. Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
12. American Girl – Tom Petty
13. Take It Easy – The Eagles


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by Taylor

1. Start Together – Sleater-Kinney
2. Cactus – David Bowie
3. King of the Rodeo – Kings of Leon
4. Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts – Wolf Parade
5. Abel – The National
6. Snakes Got A Leg – Sunset Rubdown
7. The New Pollution– Beck
8. 5/4 – Gorillaz
9. I Might Need You to Kill – The Thermals
10. Fraud in the ’80s – Mates of State
11. Velouria – Pixies
12. The Skin of Your Yellow Country Teeth – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
13. Drivin’ on 9 – The Breeders
hidden track: White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane


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by Kelsey

1. Lit Up – The National
2. Vengeance Is Sleeping – Neko Case
3. A Postcard to Nina – Jens Lekman
4. Walcott – Vampire Weekend
5. I Will – Brandi Carlile
6. City Girl – Tegan & Sara
7. Pardon Me – The Blow
8. Mexico – Nicole Reynolds
9. Electric Feel – MGMT
10. Too Young – Phoenix
11. Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – Paul Simon
12. Lunar Sea – Camera Obscura
13. The Privateers – Andrew Bird

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 831 articles for us.

108 Comments

  1. your favorite creek songs? <3

    my favorite song for roadtrips is either “feelin’ this” by blink-182 or “cute without the e” by taking back sunday because they are songs for two people to sing along to and they speak to my general youth and loudness.

  2. All good music on these playlists but in my opinion only Laneia nailed it. A roadtrip through the desert (of which I have done many), in a convertible no less, definitely calls for the Stones, Skynyrd, Queen etc.

    I will road trip it with Laneia any day!

  3. I like long songs for long trips. The only ones that really spring to mind right now are Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row and the Santa Esmerelda version of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, which are both over 10 minutes. I also think it’s an excuse to indulge in some classic lengthy 70s prog-rock.

  4. These are some ace playlists. Now I want to plan a roadtrip just so I can listen as they’re intended.

    I’ll play! Songs on my road trip playlist would include:
    Slow Ride – Foghat
    Land Down Under – Men at Work
    Sympathy for the Devil – Stones
    Highway to Hell – ACDC
    Money for nothing – Dire Straits
    Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf
    No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn – Beasties
    Hotel California – Eagles
    Proud Mary – Creedance

    • I love everything about this except maybe possible Men at Work. When I worked at the Sushi Place from Hell that got stuck on repeat for 40 minutes and the girl who knew how to fix it refused because she liked it. I finally told two regular customers that I would not bring them their sushi until they complained about the music and then she changed it. I’m not sure if listening to it on a road trip would replace that association or just ruin my road trip mood.

      I would suggest Africa by Toto as a substitute if by some twist of fate we ever share a road trip.

      Damn this article is making me miss my car.

      • I understand how 40 minutes of Men Down Under may be a little too much. But I think the Australian Constitution actually says that M.A.W must be played on every road trip. And AC/DC.

  5. I’ve just passed my driving test and I only have a tape player in my car. BUT I love mix tapes and I’m going to make one tomorrow.

    Here is what I shall have:

    1. Simon and Garfunkel – America
    2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
    3. Fink – This is The Thing
    4. Bright Eyes – Landlocked Blues
    5. Grizzly Bear – Foreground
    6. The National – About Today
    7. The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition
    8. Laura Marling – Old Stone
    9. Frighetened Rabbit – Poke
    10. Death cab for Cutie – Passenger Seat
    11. The Low Anthem – Charlie Darwin
    12. Denison Witmer – Stations
    13. The Eagles – Take It Easy

    As you can probably tell it’s more of a ‘midnight depressing drive’ mix but the Eagles song at the end makes yo for any sadness.

  6. My friends I and I tend toward the sing-alongs on road trips, so it’s musicals (yes, RENT), the Beatles and Elvis. Otherwise, Sarah’s playlist is pretty much what I listen to even when I’m just ‘road trippin’ to my parents house in the suburbs. Except the Phantom Planet. I was a fan before that song/before Jason Schwartzman left/before The O.C., and now that song just makes me angry. Grr.

  7. since you’re going to california i think you should make a california playlist. obvs including ‘california’ by phantom planet but also:

    hotel california – the eagles
    miss california – jack’s mannequin
    going to california – led zeppelin
    californication – red hot chili peppers
    california dreaming – mamas and papas
    california – rogue wave

    and probs many more.

  8. These are may fav posts!!

    road trippin’-red hot chilli pepers
    staring at the sun-tv on the radio
    passenger-deftones
    with you-stars of track and field
    take me to the riot-stars
    the woman-ssion
    if you talk too much-people in planes
    dont stop believin’-journey
    starstruck-lady gaga
    heartbeats-the knife
    energy-keri hilson
    listen up!-gossip
    tune out-the format
    scenic world-beirut
    drive-the cars

  9. This mix has been playing in my car for so long, you’d think it’s the

    only CD I have.

    I love cross-covers.

    Wonderwall – Melissa Rebronja
    Dust in the Wind – Daughter Darling
    Creep (Live in Boston) – Brandi Carlile
    Blue Monday – Flunk
    Maybe I’m Amazed – Jem
    Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) – Max Sharam
    Losing My Religion (Live at Oosterpoort) – Anouk
    Who’ll Stop the Rain – Courtney Jaye
    Comfortably Numb – Dar Williams
    Your Love – The Butchies
    Mad World – Alex Park
    I’m On Fire – Swati
    What I’ve Done (Acoustic Version) – Marie Digby
    Hallelujah (Live at KCRW.com) – Brandi Carlile
    Beds Are Burning (Extended Version) – Novaspace

    Drive safe…I’ll think sunny thoughts for y’all.

  10. i guess ira glass doesn’t mesh with the desert, does he?

    eagles FTW! i would also add peaceful easy feelin’ to that, also
    white freightliner blues – townes van zandt
    amie – pure prairie league
    the weight – the band
    omaha – counting crows
    runnin’ down a dream / time to move on / learning to fly – tom petty
    long may you run / unknown legend – neil young
    magic carpet ride – steppenwolf
    graceland – paul simon
    wagon wheel – old crow medicine show
    like a rolling stone / subterranean homesick blues – bob dylan
    you can get it if you really want – jimmy cliff
    stepping razor – peter tosh

    have fun and don’t blog and drive!

  11. i love this.
    i also love laneia’s playlist…that was pretty much our playlist to getting stoned every day on the drive to high school.

    and ok I make this drive out to palm springs like 100 times a years from la area, and i always want to stop at the mechanical dinosaur museum, but my passengers “just want to lay out” so i never get to stop. but it sounds wacky cool, mechanical dino museam?

  12. I want to go on a road trip with Laneia because that is the most ~perfect driving the 10 mix ever. Phoenix to Springs is the longest, most boring (and slightly ugly) drive ever. That mix is going to be perfect to sing along to with the top down. But she knew that already, obvs.

  13. Laneia’s list plays daily on the 2 radio stations that aren’t strictly country in my town. I can say with confidence that I’ve heard all of those songs while literally at the creek.
    If you like Wilco, you should add Son Volt(obvs) and (less obvs)a band called Blue Mountain. They are the best road trip band hands down.
    Be careful of the bats.

  14. I can’t believe there isn’t A SINGLE TAYLOR SWIFT SONG! What is wrong with you people! Yeah! YOU PEOPLE!

    P.S. I’ve had “Take It Easy” stuck in my head since yesterday. 🙂

  15. If I had to narrow my roadtrip playlist down these would be my favourites…

    1. Wallis Bird-To My Bones. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIVif6zvDIs&feature=related =The happiest song in the entire world!!

    2. Wallis Bird-The Circle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9Z32OjbnE8

    3. Fionn Regan-Be good or be gone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4umTbRMVcms

    4. Modest Mouse-Float on. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTAud5O7Qqk

    5. Beirut-Postcards from Italy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjzVbXeD_8E

    6. Angus and Julia Stone-Mango Tree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUpPzVLBEbg

    7. If it’s summer this HAS to be on the list-> Mundy-July. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0sZFDOp7rI&feature=related

    8. Lisa Hannigan-Lille. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2G21swi–fc

    9. Frightened Rabbit-Living in Colour. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVvhGwVSQto

    10. Mumford and Sons-The Cave. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KkUeRPjc-Y

    Jebus, ive so much more but I shant bore you all any longer! 😀

  16. I laughed at so many things in this post, especailly the Crossroads reference. I totally forgot about that movie. Love it. Laneia’s mix is amazing! I’ll come back and share my favorite songs later… class is calling. Ugh. I’d much rather daydream about driving through the desert (in a Sebring hahah) 🙂

  17. I don’t know what’s cooler: driving across the desert in a sebring convertible or driving down the california coast in a PT cruiser convertible, because that’s what robin and i did!

    you guys, i don’t think i could take a road trip with any of you based on these playlists. there is not enough pop/electro/80s&90s jams on these to keep me awake/sane/caffeinated on a long road trip. road trips make me sleepy, y’alls.

  18. Hate to bust your bubble, but it’s only about three and a half hours from Phoenix to Palm Springs. And that hardly qualifies as a “road trip.” Yawn.

  19. Taylor- you can drive me anywhere you want with this mix. On one condition–I get to belt at least three of Heart’s Greatest Hits to stay awake.

    This is what I do on my way home to Texas from Tennessee. There’s nothing to do and no cops in Arkansas, so I speed and sing Heart tunes.

  20. Loved this article, I’m sooo jealous of all you who are travelling to Vegas.
    Laneias soundtrack to the sandy shores of Dinah wins for me, plus..
    I’d include the entire The Very Best of the Eagles CD
    & Stevie Nicks’ Street Angel album
    Boston – More than a Feeling
    Ash – Sometimes
    Atherton – California
    Frank Black – If it Takes all Night
    The Cowboy Junkies – Sweet Jane
    & my tape of Kula Shaker in concert (recorded off the radio, but its still awesome!)
    There’s more, but I’d be here forever.
    p.s, Have fun!!

  21. download from iTunes Gabriella Cilmi’s new song “On a Mission”. this Aussie lass is sure to please long drives. wishing I was flying in to Palm Springs *pout*. next year and Fiji in between!!

  22. ladies, please promise me that every time you start the car (EVERY! TIME!) you will shout “WATCH OUT, TUCSON! HERE WE COME!” and then sing the chorus of “footloose” poorly.

    promise me!

  23. i’ve only been reading this website for a few days, and already you’ve inspired me to step out of my shell and contribute (doesn’t happen often). i’ve got one full playlist for a road trip rock-out, and some other songs that i really feel should be put on somebody’s list(s) somewhere, although not necessarily together. note – this only includes music up to 2006. here goes:

    rock out:
    01. Oasis – Fuckin’ in the Bushes
    02. Bloc Party – Price of Gas
    03. The Killers – Somebody Told Me
    04. The Stills – Still in Love Song
    05. The Strokes – Last Nite
    06. The White Stripes – My Doorbell
    07. Hot Hot Heat – Middle of Nowhere
    08. Ringside – Tired of Being Sorry
    09. The Dandy Warhols – Bohemian Like You
    10. Ryan Adams – So Alive
    11. The Bravery – Hot Pursuit
    12. Rob Thomas – Lonely No More
    13. Love Spit Love – How Soon Is Now
    14. Muse – Hysteria
    15. Limp Bizkit – Rollin’
    16. Lo Fidelity All Stars – Battleflag
    17. Weezer – Island in the Sun
    18. Stereophonics – Have a Nice Day
    19. War – Low Rider

    and the others:
    Imani Coppola – Legend of a Cowgirl
    Heart – Barracuda
    Pat Benetar – Shadows of the Night
    Dar Williams – Are You Out There
    Sarah Harmer – Almost
    Sarah McLachlan – Possession (strictly from Mirrorball)
    Tegan and Sara – Living Room
    Dolly Parton – 9 to 5
    Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At
    Chemical Brothers – Galvanize
    Happy Hardcore – 99 Red Balloons
    Happy Hardcore – Knight Rider

  24. Road tripping to San Diego today for a music festival and caught this right before I take off. LOVE all the playlists, here is what I will be playing on my mix to San Diego:

    She Runs-Tim Halperin
    Talkin Bout A Revolution-Tracy Chapman
    Respect-Train
    Fader-The Temper Trap
    Hell-Tegan and Sara
    Breakeven-The Script
    Man On The Moon-REM
    In My Head-Jason Derulo
    If I Were A Boy-Beyonce
    Heads Will Roll-The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    The Cure-Tegan and Sara
    Fascination-Alphabeats
    Aftermath-Adam Lambert
    Alejandro-Lady Gaga
    Telephone-Lady Gaga
    Hollywood-Marina and The Diamonds

  25. here’s the Ovarian Sing-Along, if you’re interested:
    1. Wide Open Spaces – Dixie Chicks
    2. Goodbye To You – Michelle Brance
    3. Go West – Liz Phair
    4. Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
    5. Sin Wagon – Dixie Chicks
    6. Son Of A Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
    7. Leaving Las Vegas – Sheryl Crow
    8. Irreplaceable – Beyonce
    9. Stay – Lisa Loeb
    10. Part of Your World – Little Mermaid
    11. You Were Meant For Me – Jewel

    considered including but didn’t:
    1. Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood
    2. Coming Clean – Hilary Duff
    3. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
    4. Out Of My Head And Back In My Bed – Loretta Lynn
    5. Always Be My Baby – Mariah Carey
    6. I’m Your Baby Tonight – Whitney Houston
    7. Miss You Much – Janet Jackson
    8. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
    9. Adia – Sarah McLachlan
    10. Hands Clean – Alanis

    you’ll notice that many of these could double as a breakup mix in a pinch. i seem to naturally make breakup mixes. idk.

  26. Ha – I’m so pleased to see that country music is allowed here. I feared I was going to be shunned. Shunned!

    Anyhow, playlist entitled: Jolly Good, a Road Trip!

    1. Witchy Woman – The Eagles
    2. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
    3. D’yer Maker – Led Zepplin
    4. Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes – Paul Simon
    5. Thunderstruck – AC/DC
    6. Rasputin – Boney M
    7. Mexico – James Taylor
    8. Goodbye Earl – Dixie Chicks
    9. Bad Moon Rising – CCR
    10. Passenger Seat – Death Cab for Cutie
    11. Wide Open Spaces – Dixie Chicks
    12. Break on Through – The Doors
    13. I Only Want You – Eagles of Death Metal
    14. Strict Machine – Goldfrapp
    15. Sensitive Kind – JJ Cale
    16. Today – Joshua Radin
    17. Clean White Love – Lisa Mitchell
    18. PussyTown – Machine Gun Fellatio
    19. The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
    20. Going North – Missy Higgins
    21. Never Give up on the Good Times – Spice Girls

  27. 1. Witchy Woman – The Eagles
    2. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
    3. D’yer Maker – Led Zepplin
    4. Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes – Paul Simon
    5. Thunderstruck – AC/DC
    6. Rasputin – Boney M

    you go !!!

  28. Songs are really great for unwinding during long road trips. I also play a lot of music when I cruise with my Vancouver Dodge car, but most of the tracks come from the the following bands: Leeland, She and Him, The Weepies, The Beatles, The Carpenters, The Camerawalls, and Jason Mraz. I’d also throw in and some blink 182, Vampire Weekend tracks, that’s why I liked Sarah’s list of songs more. 🙂

  29. I spent a lot of time making mix tapes for my sister and I to listen to driving back and forth to and from college. Some people would think in hindsight that they should have spent more time actually studying. Not me. We had some kick ass jams and a car with a sunroof. I feel like I made the right decision. It was the 80’s so there was a lot of Violent Femmes, Talking Heads, REM, and oddly Van Morrison. I entertained and my sister graduated.

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