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Creating A Travel Playlist

Travel is fun, but music can make it better, create a travel playlist!

Kev and headphones
Kev is listening to music while walking around the Aquatic Park Grove in San Francisco, Ca.

My travel style has changed over the years, but consent thing that I always overpack, and I am glad that I do is music.

Having a diverse selection of music can help improve your travel. These days, you have several ways to enjoy music; you can stream or download it to your device.

Music is the only thing that I suggest you “overpack.” Well, make sure you save some space on your device for the photos you will take!

Being a musician by trade could make me bias, but I think music is an essential part of travel. It can change my mood and knowing that I use it to my advantage. My phone has a variety of music, some to pump me up, chill me out, or enjoy as I travel.

Because I have a lot of music on my phone, I went through the two thousand plus songs to cull a travel playlist called Train. Since I first created the playlist, I have kept it fluid and allow it to flex. Sometimes pieces need to go because I heard one too many times, and some new ones come in because I found a new appreciation for the song or a recent acquisition. Selections can come back to my list that once was removed.

Why Consider Making A Travel Playlist?

Kev in Amtrak business class
Kev in Amtrak business class on an Amtrak Midwest Regional train

If you are not into music, creating a travel playlist could waste your time, but I assume that you like music if you are this far into this article.

If you are a nervous traveler, a music lover, or want to drown out the ambient noise, a travel playlist is right for you. has an article by Dr. Chappel, who discusses how music benefits our lives. Here are five of the fifteen points she covers include:

  • Music makes us happier.
    • I think we have all had that experience, you are having a bad day, and when one of your favorite songs comes up, you can’t help but smile and happy again.
  • Music reduces stress and improves health.
    • We can reduce our stress levels and stress hormone cortisol by listing to music, and the right playlist can help. Traveling is enjoyable and relaxing, but it sometimes has a stress layer, like delays or turbulence.
    • Lower levels of cortisol can help build your immune system and help with mental health.
  • Music increases learning and memory.
    • This point is valid for travel as well. Anytime you can exercise your brain, the better you are
    • Putting yourself in new situations causes your mind to work outside of its routine, and music can enhance this experience.
  • Music can help to keep your brain healthy as we age.

Dr. Chappel used a great quote that I wanted to share as well:

Music is the true breath of life. We eat so we won’t starve to death. We sing so we can hear ourselves live.

Yasmina Khadra

Is it hard to creat a playlist?

I feel that I will show my age, but these days, creating a playlist is easier than ever before,

When I was younger, wow, I am old enough to mean decades; you would make a mixed tape. Just in case you don’t know the steps. First, you get all the cassette tapes that have all the songs you want, and if you are efficient, cue all those songs up before you start.

For the best quality, grab your double cassette player, a Capri Sun, and then get ready to make magic. The process was time-consuming with a marginal rate.

Later on, the process was updated and streamlined, mixed CDs! It took a fraction of the time; the quality was better unless you scratched it.

These days, the process is easy, providing you have all your music in digital format and a phone or other device with enough memory to cover your musical needs. Creating a playlist these days is just checking boxes or hitting a button. If you want to change things up, it is easy and fluid. My friends, we are living in a beautiful time for music consumption.

What music should you add to your playlist?

There is no one size fits all playlist that works for everyone.

As much as I would like to say, here is my playlist; use this selection and be blown away, but I know that is not true. The best travel playlist is the one that matches your personality and needs. My music collection is very eclectic, so my playlist reflex that.

As part of my trip budget, I have included a little money for new music throughout the years. I often tried to find something new that would go along with my trip, for example, a song about the train route I was taking.

Here are a few examples of songs that can change my mood

The last time I checked, I had 214 songs, so here is a small sample:

A song to get me excited about a trip

Paris In The Morning by Joe Purdy

When I first heard Paris in the Morning, I was not too fond of this song. The song was the theme song for a podcast I listened to, and over time I noticed the music grew on me.

Today I associated it with traveling and get excited about new adventures.

If I need to let something go

You often hear a song that you immediately connect with, and Release was one of those songs. This video is from the radio show that introduced me to this song.

Sometimes we need to release people, things, or memories to move on. This song helps me to move on in ways nothing else can. It is fascinating what music can do.

Here is the official release video.

Walking around

“Maybe” was performed by Jesse Crawford.

Maybe, brings out my music eclectic side plus my love of older music.

With Jesse Crawford on the theatre organ, a 20’s band, and a work of the Gershwin’s, it has to be a winner in my book.

I love walking with this song in my ears because the song’s bounce ends up in my steps.

Train riding

Panama Limited

This song appeared when I was looking for themes related to trains. The original Panama Limited was Illinois Central’s (IC) evening train that traveled from Chicago, IL, to New Orleans, LA. The IC morning train had a song, The City of New Orleans, by Steve Goodman. Panama Limited gives me the feeling of beating on the train even when I am on the ground.

How my travel playlist has worked for me

My travel playlist is relatively versatile; I use it for travel and at home, with each song stirring up different emotions. When I pop my earbuds to go for a walk, sometimes, a piece comes on, memories come flooding back. These emotions can cause my travel itch to get scratched.

When I hear Coldplay’s Till Kingdom Come, it brings back memories of walking in Hayes Valley in San Fransisco. It is fun for me to walk in my hometown and remember those thoughts. It helps me stay motivated as a traveler because I want more of those memories and different cities.

On the other hand, I traveled a few times when nothing seemed to be going right, and I  used songs in my playlist to calm me down. Sometimes what gives me stress when I travel is other people. Sadly there are people out there who, if they are not living their best life, appreciate when you aren’t either—being able to put on my headphones and block those people out helps. Sometimes using music to get your mind off a situation is helpful. Doing this can help clear your mind for a second, so you can work on whatever you need to refresh.

What needs to be on your travel playlist?

I could tell you what is on my playlist, but my choices may not work for many people.

Here is what I follow:

  • You need a few songs to get you in a travel mindset.
    • One of mine is Paris in the Morning by Joe Purdy (see above)
  • A song that you can get lost in or that helps relax you.
    • When you travel, all sorts of things can get thrown at you, and it can be overwhelming. Having a song that can enable you to relax and refocus is helpful.
  • Music that brings back great memories.
    • These could be something like songs you turned up as a teen as you experients the privilege of driving.
  • Songs with a walkable beat

Music can help you, as a beginner traveler, get comfortable. As you become a more seasoned traveler, your playlist will grow with songs just right for any mood you need. I even expanded into a second playlist for travel, just music to chill and watch the world go by the train window. There are overlaps with my main list, but I found it to be a great compliment.

Your soundtrack is your own; make it your own, enjoy it, change it, and use it to enhance your traveling.

Safe travels!


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Kev has traveled over 125,000 miles on over 660 trains all around the United States aboard Amtrak. When he is not on the move, Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

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