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Songs for when the family hits the road

Flickr user peart_v, CC Licensed.

If you’re anything like me, the only music you like less than nursery rhymes is The Cranberries, circa 1993. This means that family road trips, on which we’ll do anything to keep our kiddos happy, can be hell on ears.

Yo Gabba Gabba, Choo-Choo Soul and other modern bands are a decent compromise, but only to a point (for us, it’s usually two full times through each record). Thankfully, over the (last three) years, through trial-and-error we’ve discovered a handful of legitimately grown-up songs that also keep the girls happy.

The top five from the playlist I created for the last long drive:

In addition, our toddler, L, hearts just about all Bruce Springsteen (which makes her father very happy). Her all-time fave: “Kitty’s Back.” Her current fave: “Death to My Hometown.”

Honorable mentions from other grown-up artists include: “Iowa,” by Dar Williams; “Will It Go Round in Circles,” by Martin Sexton; “Girlshapedlovedrug,” by Gomez; “Doreen,” by the Old 97s; and “London Girl,” by The Pogues.

I’m not really quite sure how the girls adopt these anthems; we listen to ‘em, they hear ‘em and they like what they like. Also, it appears what they like differs by song; L loves the words to “I Gotta Feeling,” but I’m guessing she doesn’t appreciate “Death to My Hometown” for Springsteen’s commentary on big companies destroying small-town America (in that case, it’s likely the melody). R, at 8 months old, will bop to almost anything—except rap (which actually makes her cry).

Whatever the explanation, we’ve learned that one key to a successful (read: marginally eventful for everyone involved) road trip is a bunch of child-tested grown-up tunes, and the wherewithal to keep up with the stuff the little ones like today.

What are your go-to grown-up songs on family vacations? What are some other diversions you employ to keep the kids happy on the road? Please share your insights in the comment field below.