Planning a vacation? Don’t forget the music!

Don't forget to pack the travel tunes on your next trip

Travel and music: Two of my passions. One almost always makes me think about the other. When I pack for a trip, before I think about clothes,  I think about what music I will bring. There’s too much about the entire subject of travel tunes, road trip music, vacation songs, to cover in one blog. It’s a bit overwhelming to think about.

We have music for: leaving home, coming home, moving or staying. We have music for trucking, biking, hiking, riding, driving, boating and flying. There are long lonesome highway songs for solo trips or happy sing-along songs for family vacations.

There are songs about cross-country explorations, exotic destinations and global nations. Many songs have been recorded about boats, RVs, trains, planes and automobiles. We use music for our highways and byways, toll roads and freeways, back roads and interstates.

Out of state visitors bring travel tunes about Arizona. What’s the first song that comes to mind when you think of Arizona road trips? Is it Take It Easy from the Eagles? By the Time I Get to Phoenix from Glen Campbell? Several songs are entitled, “Arizona” – most popular are those from Mark Lindsay, Kings of Leon and The Scorpions. Hundreds of popular songs give a simple reference Arizona — a lot about Tucson: “…take me down to Tucson…” or “…all roads lead back to Tucson…”

Great vacation memories can be created with music. It’s another form of souvenir. Those slack key guitar tunes bring back images of Hawaii. Reggae, ska and calypso remind me of Caribbean islands. Many of us have a loaded up a separate playlist for each aspect of traveling – for soaking rays on the beach, sitting around the campfire or driving along desolate highways. Travel songs have the ability to prompt a personal memory. For instance, whenever I hear Allman Brothers: Jessica, I’m always reminded of driving through northwestern Ohio at sunrise, on my way from home back to college. Another Allman Brothers song: Little Martha, makes me think of a sunset drive along a stretch of State Route 288 between Young and Globe.

Road-trip music also has a practical side. It can keep us awake if we’re getting sleepy. In the days before Red Bull, 5-Hour Energy and Starbucks Double Shot Espresso, we’d have to turn up the volume on the radio, 8-track, cassette tape or CD player. Or sing — yikes! We’d have to pop in a song to energize us while that truck stop coffee was still taking effect. Songs like Golden Earring’s Radar Love have kept many night drivers alert. What worked for me: Poco’s Grand Junction, Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway or Little Feat’s Let It Roll. They create a high energy highway driving mood.

When traveling to my favorite weekend getaway spots, I like to compile songs about the journeys and the destinations: Songs from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers for Puerto Penasco. Mark Mulligan’s music for San Carlos. Then I mix in some Mariachi and traditional Mexican music to enjoy while I’m there. For beach escapes, I combine indigenous island musical styles and artists with popular ex-pat, ‘trop rock’ or ‘island country’ anthems.

Hundreds of music databases containing thousands of songs with dozens of key words are there for the exploring. You can come up with your favorite travel tunes playlists. Check websites and blogs for lists of music. Look at others’ compilations on iTunes or Spotify. One website has 885 road trip songs to review.

Great music makes miles pass quickly


Here are some of my favorite travel tunes — they’re recordings that make me think of traveling, destinations, or its music I just like to listen to while driving down the road.

Americano – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Back to the Island – Leon Russell

Blood Pressure – Mute Math

Blue Boat Home – Peter Mayer

Boats – Kenny Chesney

Calamity Song – The Decemberists

The Coast – Court Yard Hounds

Counterclockwise – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Dig a Little Deeper – Peter Bjorn

Eastern Standard Time – Skatalites

El Rayo-X – David Lindley

Evangelina – Hoyt Axton

Grand Junction – Poco

Hana – Ozzie Kotani

Heaven or the Highway out of Town – Refreshments

Hitchin a Ride – Green Day

Ho Hey – Lumineers

Island in the Sun – Weezer

Last Ride In – Green Day

Little Martha – Allman Brothers

Love is the Seventh Wave – Sting

Manana – Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Mercury Blues – David Lindley

Olinda Road – Hapa

Place in the Sun – Darden Smith

Roam – B52s

Soak up the Sun – Sheryl Crow

Texas Tango — David Lindley

These Roads Don’t Move – Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard

Toes – Zac Brown Band

Up Up Up – Givers

Welcome to Paradise – Green Day

What I Got – Sublime

You are a Tourist – Death Cab for Cutie

Readers: what’s on your road trip playlist? Or your flight mix? Please use the comment section below. I’m always looking for new music for traveling!

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Road trip vacation tips and resources

stockphoto from MS Office Images

Let’s face it: Summer driving in Arizona deserts can wreak havoc on our vehicles, temperament and wallet. Once again I have compiled some hot weather driving prevention measures, safety precautions and travel tips from which we can all benefit:

Car check. The best time to “summerize” your vehicle was probably back in April, before the temperatures soar above 100 degrees. But if you’re just getting around to it; don’t forget to:

  • inspect your tires for wear and proper pressure. (Don’t forget the spare tire too!)
  • flush radiator and add new coolant
  • check your battery (Arizona heat allows a battery life of about two years — if you’re lucky!)
  • replace windshield wipers (It’s easy to forget about doing anything with wipers until the first heavy monsoon rain.)
  • check oil condition, level and filters
  • replace air filter
  • fix windshield dings and cracks, or replace windshield if necessary (you know how these grow and expand during extended freeway driving)

Emergency car kit. You probably should carry these items year-round, but they are especially important if you plan a motor vacation. Include:

  • duct tape
  • black electrical tape
  • flashlight with fresh batteries
  • jumper cables
  • safety vest
  • tow rope
  • water for radiator
  • flares
  • cell phone and auto or solar charger
  • first aid kit with motion sickness pills (for the passengers in back)
  • umbrella, hat and sunblock (in case you breakdown in an unshaded area)
  • drinking water and nonperishable food items (crackers, nuts – items that won’t melt)
  • car towels, rags for handling clean ups
  • “Ove Glove” for handling hot surfaces like the steering wheel
  • windshield shade (so you won’t need to use the aforementioned Ove Glove)

Avoid distractions. Keep kids busy with activity packets and travel games. Stow away cell phones or allow use by passengers only! Absolutely no texting or phone calls while driving! Load those DVDs for the backseat,  “Radar Love” travel tunes and audio books BEFORE you start driving.

Navigation aids: GPS, maps, itineraries, etc. (Don’t throw away those paper maps yet! They can still be used as backups.) Get the latest road trip travel apps and updates for your iPhone or Android. Find out how to access the current highway construction locations and roadway conditions? Call 5-1-1 in Arizona or visit the Arizona Dept. of Transportation website.

Other important stuff: Never leave home without: driver’s license, car insurance papers, automobile club identification card, credit cards, passports for driving outside the US. Plus, keep photocopies of all these documents in a separate location.

More driving vacation resources and information:

1. Don’t forget about Fido! Here’s my blog post about pet travel.

2. Get to know ADOT’s Highway Hawk.

3. Information about motorist Freeway Services from Arizona Dept. of Public Safety.

4. Road trip tips with many good suggestions from Fodor’s reader forums.

5. Great info on a variety of motoring topics from the forum page at Roadtrip America.

Readers: This is just a partial list of road trip packing lists, driving necessities and services. What’s on your list?