From my first memory of listening to The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album on vinyl to family road trips spent blasting Neil Young, music was a staple of my childhood. Some of my fondest memories include any time a sibling or best friend hand-picked their favorite songs, made a CD, and delivered it to me like it was their best-kept secret.
After I graduated college, I wondered if I could capture that feeling by helping the casual music listener dig through the trove of 50 million-plus songs available online. Back in 2012, I decided to build my first website and showcase ten of my favorite songs released each week. I called it Noon Pacific—and today, Noon Pacific enables over one million music lovers to break through the noise and discover a soundtrack for their week.
In the 400-plus weeks since that first playlist, the Noon Pacific team has learned what works and what doesn’t—and when it comes to road trips, it’s important to choose your tunes wisely. Here, we share some tips to make sure it’s all smooth sailing and quality musical stylings from point A to point B, no matter how far the drive.
1. Pick a theme
Chances are you know where you’re going to end up on your road trip. (And if not, best of luck.) Start out by researching what landscapes you’ll be driving through and try to capture that vibe. Driving through the desert? Aim for folk and country. Cruising the coast? Pick some indie classics and pop or throw in some electronic music. No matter what, try to visualize the mood you’re aiming for and structure 20-30 minute segments around those feelings.
2. Let your passengers DJ, too
Someone much wiser than me once said that happiness is only real when shared—and that usually holds true whether you’re planning a jaunt across town or a multi-day trek across the country. What this means for your playlist is that you should try to accommodate everyone’s tastes as best you can. Shoot them a text and have them recommend five artists they love, and then include that music. For a fun car game, pass around the phone and make each person pick the next song before the current song ends.
3. Discover local artists
One of the best parts of any road trip is seeing something new. While you’re planning your route, it’s always fun to look up local artists who hail from the towns you’ll be passing through and add them to your playlist. You might see some cool landmarks mentioned in the lyrics, or at the very least hear some authentic tunes as you’re looking out the window.
4. Slow things down
“Everything in moderation” is the key to life—and playlists. Even though you probably think you’ll be pumped up for five hours straight, not everyone can handle three straight sets of Diplo on volume 11. Throw in some slow-tempo tracks every now and again to make sure you and your passengers stay sane. If you can imagine what a sound wave looks like, try to mimic that with the mood and tempo, alternating between fast and slow.
5. Always download for offline
After hours of epic music curation, there’s nothing worse than showing up to a destination in complete silence. You never know which areas of the country might be dead zones for cell service, so save yourself the trouble and click the download button on your completed playlist so all your tunes save to your device while you have wi-fi.