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Are you heading out on a road trip and in need of some direction for putting together the ultimate road trip playlist? If that’s the case, then I’ve got several ways to help you put together the ultimate road trip playlist on Spotify!
1. Understand how Spotify shuffle works
This is a very important thing to know.
One thing many people don’t know is that the shuffle feature on Spotify is not always completely random. This means that it won’t always cycle through all of the songs on your playlist!
But there’s a way you can combat this.
If you go to the filter option whether on desktop or on mobile, you can filter your playlist by track and then try shuffle. That usually works for me but you might need to try troubleshooting with one of these methods.
If those don’t work you can try out the third party app Spotify Randomizer
2. Start with the genre (or artist)
When you’re ready to start making your playlist, don’t just start saving random hits to your playlist.
It’s best to start with a genre or an artist.
Both can be helpful but I prefer to go with a genre.
Some genres are just meant to be made into playlists like 80s music, for example. I usually pick a genre and then a general time frame though. One of my recent genres for a playlist was 90s/early 2000s alternative and another was 2010 to 2014 Top 40.
Sometimes I add a little special focus (sub-genre) to the playlist too like my recent “late 90s/early 2000s hip hop & Houston rap” playlist.
3. Create a playlist with “road trip classics”
I like to have playlists with specific genres like alternative, pop, rap, country, etc. because many times you just want to stick to one genre and vibe to it until you feel like switching it up to something else.
But there are some songs that are road trip classics that fit really well into one ultimate road trip classic playlist. Certain artists fall into this category like Willie Nelson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Eagles, Johnny Cash — the list could go on and on.
I recommend making one playlist filled with these classics so that you’ll have at least one core playlist with road trip classics which will allow your other playlists to stay true to their genres without you wondering how to fit in the classics.
4. Have some upbeat music
Chances are you’re going to have some very long stretches on your road trip. In that case, you’re going to need to have some music that won’t put you to sleep.
Having a bunch of slow songs won’t keep you up, so consider having a playlist on deck with a lot of BPM, EDM, hip hop, or high energy rock songs that can help give you that much-needed boost of energy when you’re tired.
5. Don’t be precise with the playlist name
Unless you’re just really into precision, I don’t suggest going with exact years because it will make building the playlist tedious and you will inevitably come across songs you love that you’ll have to keep off the playlist.
So my “2010 to 2014 Top 40” probably has songs from 2008 to 2016. I guess I could go back and check each song and change the title but that’s too tedious for me and I really don’t care if the title is precise.
I know what songs to expect and most others would too.
Of course you can try to avoid this issue by listing “late 90s” but what happens when you find that early to mid 90s song you love?
Just avoid precision.
6. Personalize the playlist and go big
There’s a big difference between making a playlist for a party versus making a playlist for a road trip.
In particular, there are two big differences.
#1: It’s more personal
The first is that a road trip playlist is for you and potentially a only a few others.
For a party you might be catering to the tastes of dozens or even over 100 people. So you should feel free to personalize your playlist as much as you’d like without the pressure of trying to please a group of people or conform to mainstream music.
#2: Don’t worry about the size of the playlist
When you’re making a playlist for a party, you often want to select a bank of songs with the intention of playing all of those songs for the length of a party. So, for example, if the party is set to last about five hours, you might put together a list with songs to cover five or six hours.
But if you’re going on a long road trip, five or six hours might only be one segment or half a segment on your road trip.
So when it comes to the size of a playlist for a road trip, I don’t think you can ever go too long.
As long as you’re keeping your playlists organized by certain genres, you shouldn’t have to worry about creating huge playlists that lack identity and cohesiveness.
7. Use the recommendations on Spotify
I first single out one song and then add that to my playlist.
I then scroll down to “Recommended Songs” and then just click “Add” and those songs are instantly added to the playlist.
The algorithms used by Spotify are pretty good although after I’ve added 100 to 200 songs the recommendations can become very repetitive and there’s no way to remove songs you don’t like so the feature needs some improvement.
It’s still a great way to expand your playlist though.
8. Utilize other playlists
If you want to build the ultimate road trip playlist then you need to research other related playlists because you will inevitably leave out tons of songs and artists that you simply can’t remember.
So it’s often a good idea to start building your playlists based on other playlists. For example, if I’m looking for hits around 2010, I’ll just search “2010.”
Then I need to scroll down and find the playlists section and click “See All.”
Now I’ll be able to view a lot of different playlists that fit my description. You can note the number of followers on each of the playlists to see which are the most popular.
Personally, I like to dig into many of the different playlists to make sure that I don’t miss anything. It’s not uncommon for me to scroll through a dozen or so playlists as I try to leave no stone unturned.
Tip: Try notating the names of the playlists as you go through them so you can easily keep track of all of the playlists you’ve viewed.
9. Sort the playlists efficiently
Don’t just find a playlist and start randomly adding songs from it. There’s a more efficient way to go about it.
Find the playlist and first sort by the artist.
This has several key advantages.
Easier to remember
You’ll be able to more easily remember which songs you’ve picked for a specific artist. By seeing their songs lumped together, it also becomes easier to refresh your memory about their catalog.
Sorting this way also allows you to view the albums so you can quickly recall the old albums you may have forgotten about and see if the playlist has left off any key albums from that artist.
Systematically search artists
Most importantly, this sorting method allows you to search each artist one-by-one for other songs that you like. With Spotify you can simply click on the artist and then go directly to their page where you can scroll through all of their major hits and add them to your playlist one-by-one.
Once you’ve added all of the songs you like from them, simply hit the back button and return to the playlist.
Now you can do the same thing for the artists remaining on your playlist.
Search related artists
And once you’ve gone through all of the artists, you can check the “Related Artists” which are listed next to the artists when you click on them. That will open up your options to many more artists that you can use this same approach on.
This systematic approach will allow you to build up your playlist very efficiently and will decrease the odds of you forgetting about your favorite artists and albums.
If you do this process for a hand full of playlists, you’ll have a very deep playlist with tons of songs in a hurry.
This is my number one method for building quality playlists.
10. Find songs for specific destinations/moments
Some songs are tied to specific locations and are fun to listen to when traveling to or through those places.
Songs made for destinations
For example, if you’re headed to Texas what could be better than Amarillo by Morning by George Strait? Or if you’re headed into California you can find tons of songs to fit right into your West Coast travels (Phantom Planet — California, Tupac — California, etc.)
Songs that go with destinations
But sometimes there are songs that are just perfect for your destination because the sounds just goes with the destination perfectly.
I remember driving through the Valley of Fire in Nevada with Kashmir by Led Zeppelin blaring and it was a perfect song to have coming through the speakers as we road through the otherworldly terrain of that place.
Songs that go with moments
Another example is when a song just fits in with a moment to perfection. One day, Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve happened to come on right after we got in the car after finishing the long and tiring hike down the Subway at Zion National Park. It was absolutely perfect.
11. Use Movie Soundtracks
Move soundtracks offer some epic songs to take with you on road trips. A lot of them are instrumentals, which can be great for clearing your mind out on the open road or having deep conversations with your travel partner.
Some of my favorite movie soundtracks are Blood Diamond, The Social Network, Gravity, Inception, Transformers, Lone Survivor (I’m an Explosions in the Sky fan) and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy movies.
I usually like to listen to the soundtracks one by one but sometimes you can mix and mash them up in ways that still work.
Tip: A great idea is to get movie soundtrack playlists that relate to where a movie was filmed if you’re driving through or visiting that location.
On Spotify you can create a collaborative playlist by right-clicking on the name of the playlist and then selecting “Collaborative Playlist.” This will allow others you share the playlist with to subscribe to it but also add and delete songs so make sure that you trust their musical judgment.
13. Create a “Similar Playlist”
You can also right-click on the playlist to instantly create a similar playlist.
For my smaller playlists, this created a playlist the same size but for my larger playlists (over 300 songs), it created a playlist of about 50% of the size.
This is a great way to find related songs in an instant. Sometimes some of the songs are crap and they include duplicates sometimes but I’m often able to find a number of songs I’ve forgotten about.
14. Use playlist tools
Once you’ve tried out the methods above, you might still be hungry for more great songs to add to your playlist.
There are several tools you can use to assist you with your playlist building. I’ll discuss one in detail and show you a few others that you might want to try out as well.
15. Playlist Miner
You can try out Playlist Miner, which is a great free tool for Spotify.
First you need to log-in with your Spotify credentials.
Next, you’ll search a for a topic or genre. For example, you could search for “workout music” but in this case I searched for “roadtrip.”
It then brought up a lot of different playlists and I selected “Find Top Tracks.”
It brought up a selection of random hits. Many of these were road trip classics like Hotel California, Californication, etc.
You can click on the song and it will open up the song in Spotify, making it easy to add them to your playlist.
The mix on these playlists can be very random but that’s good because that means that it will cover a wide basis which will make your playlist even more diverse.
There are several other tools you can use that accomplish the same or similar tasks of culling together songs based on specific search criteria.
16. Sort out duplicates
You should wait until the end to worry about duplicates.
That’s because sometimes you might think you have a duplicate but you really don’t.
Many songs come in different versions too and sometimes if you really like a song you might want to have a radio version, live version, acoustic version, Hawaiian version, etc. Okay so maybe not Hawaiian but you get the point.
Also, if you’ve added a song multiple times that often means that you really like that song so maybe you’d prefer to have a duplicate on your playlist so that it comes up more frequently when you shuffle.
17. Don’t burn out to your playlists!
So you’ve put in hours researching hundreds of hits and you’re super pumped about your playlist, right?
Well, put your playlists on the shelf until it’s time for the trip.
You don’t want to burn yourself out on these songs before your trip. Our brains are wired so that when we listen to music we experience all sorts of sensations related to memory, movement, planning, etc.
In many ways, our brains are learning different things and we are experiencing different emotions from the music.
But at a certain point there’s nothing more to gain from a song and our minds seek out new stimulation.
I allow myself one to three full listens of each song while putting together a playlist and sometimes I don’t even listen to them at all if I know I’ll love the song.
This way, when it comes time for the trip, the songs feel very fresh and I can even listen to it multiple times without getting sick of it.
18. Take them offline
This is the final crucial step especially if you’re driving through areas like the Southwest where service is limited or non-existent.
Make sure that you download your songs before you embark on your trip. If you have the Spotify Premium subscription you can sync up to 3,333 tracks from the Spotify catalog on 3 separate devices (phone, tablet, computer, etc.).
That means you could have up to a total of 9,999 tracks offline
That’s enough to keep you occupied for a really long time.
19. Be careful with headphones on road trips
If you’re making this playlist to be played on your headphones while riding along on a road trip be careful about listening to loud music for hours on end. I once did a long road trip through some windy mountains from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido and I was jamming to my playlist for almost the entire trip.
I also took dramamine to avoid getting car sick in the windy roads.
So when we arrived to our hotel many hours later, I was not only drowsy from the dramamine but also about 80% deaf! It was the craziest feeling but my hearing was almost completely gone for an entire evening and I thought I’d blown out my ear drums!
My hearing slowly came back the next day, and I was able to laugh about it but it was seriously scary, so don’t let this happen to you!
Doctors recommend you to limit listening to music on your devices at levels up to 60% of maximum volume for a total of 60 minutes a day. On my trip, I was probably at about 90% for 6.5 hours, hence why I went deaf.
Final word on road trip playlists
I think the ideal way to go about a road trip is to have three to five playlists at your disposal to fit different needs. If you do that you will not run out of fresh songs to enjoy and you’ll probably discover or rediscover many great hits you’ve been missing out on for years.
The key is to approach your song selection systematically and you won’t miss out on any of the songs you love. Also, If you can dig a little deep to find songs that have a connection to the places you’re visiting and you can refrain from burnin yourself out with your playlists, you’ll have hours upon hours of great listening sessions on your road trip.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.