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12 Best Travel Songs of All Time

Music and travel are entangled with one another. Anyone who travels takes their favorite music along so it can become the soundtrack to the biggest experiences of their lives. And musicians who are constantly on the road provide plenty of material for the rest of us, with travel themes portrayed prominently in music lyrics.

Long story short, I started jotting down notes about some of the best travel songs ever.  Enjoy and feel free to add yours to the comments section below.

Holiday Road – Lindsey Buckingham

A super catchy and fun song, “Holiday Road” was a theme song in several of the National Lampoon Vacation movies.  The lyrics are simple and pure and you can help but to hum and sing along to this hit single from Lindsey Buckingham.

Hotel California – The Eagles

When I first started this list, “Hotel California” was the one song that immediately popped into my head.  The lyrics capture the true essence of spending time in California.  You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.


Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane

A wonderful up-beat song that has me singing out loud every time I hear it.  Poetic and inspiring, this song reminds us that life is a journey made up of a lot of little journeys.  Just keep traveling down the highway!

I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash

Of all the songs on my list, this one reminds me most of my travel life.  “I’ve Been Everywhere” just might be the perfect theme song for any hard-core traveler.  Also, check out this great interactive map that shows every place mentioned in the song. Warning:  This is awesome>>  [Click Here]

Fly Away – Lenny Kravitz

This epic “I want to get away” anthem has always been on my playlist.  When you’re stuck someplace you want to leave in the rearview mirror then “Fly Away” will transport you high above the trees and over the seas in all degrees.  Lenny does a wonderful job of unleashing the free-spirit in all of us.

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Proclaimers

For anyone who has gone on a very long hike or walk as part of their journey, “I’m Gonna Be” resonates loud and clear.  It’s also good for a very long trip where you’ve already traveled thousands of miles yet still have a few more thousand miles ahead of you until you reach your destination.  Music keeps you moving forward.

Vacation – The Go Go’s

I remember when this album came out. I loved its giddy, sunshiny sound and I think everyone agrees it’s the perfect soundtrack to any girls’ beach vacation or long weekend.  And you just have to love the album cover with the band water skiing in their tutus. Serious vacation fun!

Ramblin’ Man – Allman Brothers Band

A lot of amazing driving music has been created by the Allman Brothers and “Ramblin’ Man” is a classic wanderlust story.  You gotta love anyone who was born in the backseat of a Greyhound Bus rolling down Highway 41.

America – Simon & Garfunkel

In some ways we all go out in search of America.  This song written by Paul Simon is a beautiful musical essay about young lovers who hitchhike their way across the country.  It was based on an actual road trip he took with his girlfriend Cathy in 1964.  Lovely and inspiring.


Route 66 – Rolling Stones

This song has been recorded by a ton of famous recording artists including Chuck Berry, Perry Como and Nat King Cole.  I enjoy the Rolling Stones 1964 recording of the title with a trip that begins on Highway 40 and goes all the way along Route 66 through eight states to the coast of California.  This one belongs in the travel hall of fame.

Katmandu – Bob Seger

Bob Seger’s songs are so good at lifting you out of whatever funk you’re in, taking you to another state of mind.  In “Katmandu” I always think of going to the coolest place imaginable, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t visited yet.  Terrific and full of energy.  An instant pick-me-up.

Running on Empty – Jackson Browne

Another one of my favorites, Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” always held a double meaning for me in my travels.  On one hand it seems I’m always running out of gas and the next fill-up station is just a bit too far down the road. I also hear this song in my head at the end of a long day when I’ve been going non-stop, the caffeine is no longer working and I’m ready to hit the wall.


More from Samantha Brown:

Nominees for Best Travel Movies Ever

Fall Music Festivals

10 Best Boardwalks for Summertime Fun

Video of the Week:  Tequila 101

Craziest Travel Stories of 2014


This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. Have you thought about putting this playlist on spotify? That would be a gtpreat way to,keep it to play when traveling.

  2. “Vacation” by the Go-Go’s is one of those songs with a happy, fun sound that belies the sadness in the lyrics. The girl in the song really isn’t having a good time. She just wanted to get away so she could forget a guy who’s no good for her, but after 2 weeks alone she finds that she just can’t get over him. The vacation she wanted hasn’t been all she hoped it would be. But it sure sounds like she’s trying to convince herself that she’s having fun, anyway.

  3. I nominate “City of New Orleans”, best train song ever written. Any time I hear it, I want to sing it at the top of my lungs and get moving. Somewhere. Anywhere.

  4. John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” always gets me energized when on the road or heading into port during my Navy days.

  5. I love all of these and they are on my travel playlist. the one you are missing for the journey home…Homeward Bound. Another Paul Simon tune that really captures a certain desire to be home after a long haul of travel.

  6. Great list! Here are a few others from my “Road Trip” playlist: “Roll On Down the Highway” by BTO, “Travelin’ Band” and “Up Around the Bend” by CCR, “Two Tickets to Paradise” by Eddie Money, “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty, “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller, “Live in the Present” by Chill, “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin, “Bad Motor Scooter” by Montrose, “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills & Nash, and SO many more!

  7. I have Escapade by Janet Jackson, Holiday by Madonna, Come Fly with Me by Frank Sinatra in my travel/vacation playlist. We play them as we drive to airport!

  8. I was so glad to see “Life is a Highway” especially by Tom Cochrane…we would set out for our adventure and the moment we hit the point we had the city behind us, where we could step on the gas …………..we would play this song! I can even remember the exact place on the highway. Great memories…

  9. Here is a partial list of songs I like to play while traveling:
    Ridin’ the Storm Out – REO Speedwagon
    Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins
    Highway Star – Deep Purple
    I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles
    Flirtin’ With Disaster – Molly Hatchet
    Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man – Bob Seger
    Are You Ready – Grand Funk Railroad
    Treat Her Right – George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers
    Journey to the Center of Your Mind – Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes
    Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
    Home in My Hand – Foghat
    Runnin’ with the Devil – Van Halen
    Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers – Z Z Top
    Road Fever – Foghat
    Easy Livin – Uriah Heep
    Still Alive and Well – Johnny Winter
    The Jean Genie – David Bowie
    LaGrange – Z Z Top
    Rock & Roll – Led Zeppelin

  10. I grew up in Massachusetts & was always a fan of the Mamas & the Papas. Particularly loved California Dreaming. About 15 years ago, was driving over the mountain from Santa Cruz, CA, having had a lovely morning hiking along the beach. California Dreaming came on! So I sang along, being by myself. A perfect complement for the day.

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