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Creating A Travel Playlist

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

My travel style has changed over the years, I pack less these days, but I always overpack music. The nice thing is it is easier to do, and it does not weigh a lot.

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

Being a musician by trade could make me biased, 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 some that act as a soundtrack to my trips.

This article talks about how having a diverse selection of music can help improve your travel and your peace of mind.

I never suggest overpacking, but for music. Make sure you save some space on your device for the photos you will take!

Back in my day (am I getting old?)

I hate to admit this, but I am old enough, yet young enough to experience making both mixed tapes and burning mixed CDs. For those in their 20s or younger, we struggled back then, Because we had to either carry a case of cassettes and a small player or a binder and CD player.

We had to find the song we wanted on one tape, cue it up, and then use our double cassette player to record it to another to the mixed tape. It took some time and several Capri Suns to get what you wanted with okay quality. Making a mixed cd was more manageable and somewhat close to making a travel playlist.

If you ever made a mixtape or burnt a CD, you have an idea about creating a playlist.

These days

I no longer carry around tapes and CDs because I have over 2,500 songs on my phone. That number gets more extensive as I add more whenever I hear something new I like.

People often talk about how things were better “back then.” but I feel when it comes to traveling with music, we are in the golden age. I need my phone and headphones, and I am ready.

What do you need to get started?

The first thing you need is a device. For most of us, it is our phone, but an mp3 play would work, or even a tablet like an iPad.

If you are starting out traveling, getting a quality smartphone is an excellent tool. When shopping for a phone, get one with either expandable memory, or buy one with a decent amount. You will need room for apps, music, podcast, and photos.

The other option, as I said, is to get an mp3 player or iPod, this can do many of the same things as a smartphone, but you will need wifi.

Why I created and use my travel playlist and why you should

Believe it or not, I get nervous when I travel. Not all the time, but sometimes. Often it is misdirected excitement or self-doubt. Sometimes it is because of tight connections or things not going right. Music has helped me in the past deal with these.

Listening to music you enjoy decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which counteracts the effects of chronic stress. This is an important finding since stress causes 60% of all our illnesses and disease. 

Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel from Scientists Find 15 Amazing Benefits Of Listening To Music

I have a few playlists on the phone that it put together for me, like, Recent Downloads, Top 25 Most Played, Recently Played, and a few others.

But the ones that help me the most are the ones I created. My main one, I call “Train,” because, you guessed it, I put it together for train travel. I do have a few others to help me chill out.

One great feature is I can keep it fluid, add new songs and take out the ones that play a few times too many.

Why you should consider making a travel playlist?

Because I said so is probably not a great reason for do this, but music can benefit your life. If you too are a nervous traveler, songs you love can distract you from take-offs. For a music lover, you now have a soundtrack for your trip.

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

Or, if you want ambient noise to drown out travel noises, music can help.

A article by Dr. Chappel 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 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 the stress hormone cortisol by listing to music. Traveling is enjoyable and relaxing, but it sometimes has a stress layer, like delays or turbulence.
    • Lower your 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 create a playlist?

Are you convinced you should do this? If so this section may help you if you are new to this.

The answer is, it depends. If you have a smartphone, tablet, or an mp3 player, and your music is already in a digital form, then no. Everything is there, and it is a matter of putting it all together.

It could be more of a challenge if you have a flip phone and a pile of CDs, tapes, and records. If you are in that boat, you need a player to convert those recordings into a digital form and get a compatible device. From there, it does go pretty easy.

Creating a playlist these days is mainly 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.

Since this is a conceptual article and not a technical one, check out the articles below if you need help learning how to set up a playlist.

What music should you add to your playlist?

As much as I would like to say, here is my playlist; use this selection, and you’ll get blown away, but I know that is not true.

Think about what music you like and the emotions you get from it; making an actual list might help.

The best travel playlist is the one that matches your personality and needs. My music collection is very eclectic, so my playlist reflex that. And yours should do the same.

When putting them together, think about the emotions that songs bring out of you. If you are a nervous flyer or traveler, you might find pieces that encourage you and build you up that could help you out when you need it. You may need music to help you deal with delays or cancellations and music to help you to enjoy the moment.

I included a little money for new music as part of my trip budget. 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.

There are some services like Apple Music that, for a subscription fee, you can download whatever song you want from their catalog to your device.

A sample from my playlist

The last time I checked, I had 297 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 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 travelin“ and ge”ting excited about new adventures.

If I need to let something go

Have you ever had a song you immediately connect with right away? “Release” was one of those songs for me. This video is from the radio show that introduced me to this song.

Sometimes we need to release a moment, people, things, or memories to move on. This song helps me “o mov” 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, 20’srings out my music eclectGershwin’sus my love of older music.

With Jesse Crawford on the theatre organ, a 20’s band, and a song’sf 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.

My travel playlist works on the road and at home

As I said before, my travel playlist is relatively versatile. I use it for travel, home, or going for a walk, with each song stirring up different emotions.

More than once time, I popped my earbuds in to go for a walk, and a piecColdplay’s, 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 to walk in my hometown and remember those thoughts. It helps me stay motivated as a traveler because I want more 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 oaren’teople. 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 me be happier. 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.

Take a few moments and think about your needs. Are you a nervous traveler? Maybe you should add some mediation music. Or perhaps you have an early train or plane, so you need music to get you going as you head out the door at 2 am. Remember, no one will judge you on your list and keep it fluid, add and subtract songs to dial it into your needs.

Here are moods aim for:

  • 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)
    • If you listen to these songs when you book, you may find thay the feeling of anticipation can last longer.
  • 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. My main list overlaps, but I found it a great compliment.

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

Safe tr”vels!


“Music was my refuge. I could craKev’sto the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou.

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Kev has been traveling with Amtrak since 2012, celebrating his tenth year this year. Over those years, he has been on over 700 trains covering over 200,000 miles of rail. Kev enjoys helping others achieve their travel dreams by assisting them to get started. Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

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