Summer Road Trip Playlists

This summer, we made a huge road trip—driving from New York State to Oklahoma. We were moving across the country, so my husband drove a moving van with all our stuff, and I was in the Honda Civic with our three kids and miniature dachshund.

Me and the girls

Needless to say, entertainment while in the car was essential. The iPad and coloring books only hold out for so long. So when things get hairy, I have a few go-to playlists that help distract the kids from who said what and who touched whom.

First, I can’t say enough good things about Spotify. I used to use Pandora, and I have used LastFM as well, but I found both of those very repetitive once you began fine-tuning the playlists according to your tastes.

Spotify comes in two versions: free and premium. Free is well enough for the occasional long run and tooling around in the car, but I needed an upgrade for this trip. I searched for deals on Spotify and found they were doing three months for $0.99 as a trial offer, which was significant since it’s normally $7.99 a month.

Once I upgraded, I got more features, including the ability to play any album by almost any artist, and the ability to skip as many songs as I wanted. Now I had access to an arsenal of music for my trip, including:

  • Frozen Soundtrack. If you have girls, you have to have this available. When they started getting snippy with each other, I could blast “Let it Go” and even my three year old stopped everything to sing. Instant reset button.
  • Hush Little Darlings. This playlist is a MUST HAVE for any new parent. It’s got adorable acoustic lullabyes, original songs by many contemporary artists artists, one 1-hour track of just waves rolling on the beach and a 40-minute track of the dishwasher. Once it got dark outside, I put on this playlist and it was like someone had sprinkled sleepy dust in the air.
  • Rockabye Baby. If you aren’t familiar with this brand, it’s your favorite songs by the Beatles, Radiohead, The Cure, basically anyone, and all the songs are arranged for toy piano. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the songs you love while your little one falls asleep.

Once the kids are taken care of, I prefer to listen to podcasts over music while on the road. One album only lasts an hour if you’re lucky, while 6 episodes of a podcast can take up anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, so I feel like I get more bang for my buck. Here are some of my favorites:

  • This American Life. I just love stories, and This American Life always delivers. It’s the best of journalism plus unbelievably entertaining storytelling.
  • The Moth Story Hour. Real people audition to go on stage at The Moth in NYC and tell their own real life stories. Some are silly, some are heartbreaking, some are tragic. It’s basically like a radio version of Humans of New York.
  • TED Talks. These talks cover some of the most fascinating topics from a variety of speakers. What I love is that it’s a mash-up of different speakers and then also an interview with the speaker mixed in so you get even more information. It’s also written for the average listener although not dumbed down, even though some of the topics they cover are pretty complex and deep.

When I do go for music, my favorite playlist is the Your Favorite Coffeehouse on Spotify. It’s very mellow, so if the kids are sleeping or someone in the car wants to read, it won’t bother them. However, if you need to stay awake, try the HIIT playlist. I love this one for running but it’s also full of high-energy tracks for an impromptu dance party in the car.

And of course, for those moments when everyone is unhappy and there are just no answers until we can get somewhere to stop, I like to turn on this song and sing the chorus as loud as I can:

Hey, it’s cathartic.

What summer road trip playlists are you jamming to? Drop a link below.


Erin Burt is a mom of three girls who are great travelers most of the time. She is looking forward to getting a vehicle with a third row. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Hayes Burt

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.
Erin Hayes Burt

Latest posts by Erin Hayes Burt (see all)

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She enjoys yoga and reading non chick-lit fiction when she's not translating the ramblings of toddlers or training for her next half marathon.

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