Check out our curated playlist, and let the good times roll on your summer road trip!
Summer is nearly upon us and for many of us, that means a road trip when the kids are out of school. This family friendly road trip playlist has something for everyone and, while everyone’s taste and “earworm kid music” threshold is different, this playlist is appropriate for kids and won’t (with a couple of possible exceptions) drive parents too crazy.
If kid-focused tunes (I’m looking at you, Kidz Bop) will drive you crazy on the road and your favorite music has words and phrases you’d rather not explain to your kids on a long car ride, I’ll help you meet in the middle. You might not feel like defining what a “Real G” is or explaining why “Mama said knock you out” when you’re trapped in the car with curious kids who might be intrigued by your musical taste.
This is a (mostly) clean playlist that most families will be comfortable with and for anyone who wants a more general audiences style selection of music to drive to.
Caveat: I’m pretty loosey goosey about what I’ll let my kids listen to and there might be curse words I missed or innuendos that haven’t registered. I’ve indicated exceptions I’ve made for my kids and some possible red flags. At the end of the day, each of us has to decide what’s friendly for our family.
Soundtracks – Yes, we’re going to talk about Bruno
Movie or Broadway musical soundtracks are a great way to relive favorite shows or to learn about musical theater. I like these for long stretches of driving where you can get through a complete movie or musical in one pop.
Everyone in your household probably has a favorite movie so check out the corresponding soundtrack and see if they’re something you’d want to listen to on a long trip. Disney movies are great for sing-a-long type songs.
Here are a handful of my favorites:
I’m sure by now most people have watched Encanto or have at least heard some of the songs. When you get done talking about Bruno (no, no, no) the rest of the songs are upbeat and your kids probably already know all the words.
Frozen and Frozen 2
I’ll just get this out of the way and please know I’m including these somewhat reluctantly. I’m not saying it’s a “must include” but if your kids like it and you can hear Let it Go a few more times without road raging, this could be a fun singalong.
A good compromise is to load Let It Go and Into the Unknown on a larger playlist and leave it at that.
The Breakfast Club
I think this is quite possibly the best movie ever made and the soundtrack is great for both driving and introducing younger family members to the joy of eighties music. When you think of The Breakfast Club, you probably hear Don’t You Forget About Me playing in your head but there’s a slew of other songs you might have forgotten you love.
Dazed and Confused
Remember Dazed and Confused from 1993? It has a long and varied soundtrack of upbeat music across several genres. Hurricane by Bob Dylan contains one expletive and covers some mature subject matter.
This twist on the traditional story of the Wizard of Oz is family-friendly and the story is easy to follow for those who haven’t seen the musical.
Sponge Bob the Musical
My two tweens love Sponge Bob Square Pants and I…well, it’s the opposite of love. I promise the soundtrack for the Broadway musical is nowhere near as annoying. Give it a try.
Yes, this one includes swearing but I can’t not include it. The music is brilliant and it’s sparked so many conversations about American history that I’ve chosen to overlook the swearing. If you’ve watched Hamilton on Disney+ you’ll need to be aware that some swear words were censored out for that production and that the soundtrack will have a few more F bombs.
30 songs for your road trip playlist
I’ve listed some favorites here. Most of the artists listed have fairly clean music across the board so if your crew likes these songs (or they bring back fun memories for you) then load up your playlist with more from that artist.
Again, I can’t vouch for every single song recorded by all of these artists but these are all upbeat and won’t offend or annoy most people, although everyone has a different boy band tolerance threshold. Looking at you, One Direction.
1. On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons
2. Firework by Katy Perry
3. All Star by Smashmouth
4. Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5
5. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift
6. Kokomo by the Beach Boys
Beach Boys music is generally fun if you’re headed to Florida, California or any beach destination.
7. Marry You by Bruno Mars
Not all Bruno Mars lyrics are clean. I think he’s so upbeat and positive and I’ll usually let his more colorful songs onto my family playlist.
9. You Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer
10. Happy by Pharrell Williams
11. Hey Soul Sister by Train
12. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jespen
14. Radio Edit by Reach
15. Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations
16. Jessie’s Girl by Rick Springfield
I’ll refrain from mentioning Rick Springfield is in his 70’s. Oops. Sorry eighties babies.
17. Let’s Hear it for the Boy by Deniece Williams
In fact, the entire Footloose (the original Footloose, thankyouverymuch) soundtrack is worth listening to.
18. Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
19. Step by Step by the Backstreet Boys
And, probably anything by the Backstreet Boys, unless they drove you nuts in the nineties.
20. Bye Bye Bye by INSYNC
21. What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction
Okay, moving on from the boy bands now, although most boy band and BTS music is fairly kid friendly if you’ve got others you dig.
22. Men in Black by Will Smith
Although Smith isn’t the most well-loved artist right now (can you say Oscar Night drama?) his music is generally clean and upbeat.
23. Good Golly Miss Molly by Little Richard
24. Splish Splash by Bobby Darin
25. The Twist by Chubby Checker
26. Yakety Yak by the Coasters
27. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Bryan Hyland
26. Iko Iko by the Dixie Cups
27. Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang
If you don’t already have the lyrics to this OG rap song memorized, give it a listen and dazzle your travel companions with how you go down in history as the baddest rapper there ever could be.
28. Rhinestone Cowboy by Glenn Campbell
29. Fancy by Reba McEntire
This one might be a little iffy if your kids really dig in to the meaning behind the words but I included it because the chorus is so sing-a-long worthy. Reba is one of my country favorites but many of her songs focus on cheating and marital unhappiness so those may be a no-go for parents.
30. Guitars, Cadillacs by Dwight Yoakam
Other genres/artists to introduce kids to
I listed a few fifties rock and roll songs above but that era of music, while probably shocking to parents back then, is fun, upbeat and generally innocent.
Elvis, The Beatles, Motown, Chuck Berry, Sha Na Na, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr. Michael Buble are all worth checking out. Some early 90’s hip hop is pretty clean, such as Kriss Kross, a lot of MC Hammer, and Young MC.
If you like country music, vintage Dolly, Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Tim McGraw, Hank Williams, and my forever queen, Tanya Tucker can be fun to listen and sing to. Although country music doesn’t typically contain off color-language, there’s often references to cheating or alcohol that might be a no go for some families. Bottom line: If you put something on a playlist you haven’t fully listened to, you might be surprised by something that doesn’t align with your tastes or values.
It’s pretty easy to hit the fast forward button and move to the next song.
What do you think I missed? I’d love to hear your favorites.