From the Elle Files: How to be a Mixtape Master

Since next week is WANDERLUST WEEK,
 I wanted to share with you a traveling essential: the MIXTAPE.

Before you pack your bags, before you gas up the car, and before you get out the map, you HAVE to plan the MIXTAPE. This is the stuffs of legends, the soundtrack to the trip, and this honor should not be taken lightly. Below I'm sharing my secrets of how to plan the best MIXTAPE, with a few songs thrown in for good measure. If you follow these rules, you *might* just make it to MIXTAPE MASTER. Enjoy.

  1. The First Song sets the tone for the day. It has to be upbeat and get everyone excited. Who isn’t excited at the beginning of a trip? Examples: Deadbeat Summer by Neon Indian,  Little Bit by Lykke Li or Today by Smashing Pumpkins.
  2. The Themed Song: For fun, play the song that literally matches the place you’re traveling to, like Going to California by Led Zeppelin. Or Coconut Juice, by Tyga, which is perfect if headed to the beach. Or maybe songs about traveling in general, like Holiday by Vampire Weekend or Madonna or On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, but these get tired of quickly.
  3.  The Driver Playlist: If the Mixtape Master is generous enough, a nice touch is allowing a few songs of choice for the person driving. This is can only be done when the driver assumes the position. Think of it as a little driving motivation, if you will. Actual choices include: Drunk Girls by LCD Soundsystem, Buzzin by Schwayze , Just by Mark Ronson, Celebrity Status  by Marianas Trench,  or Something Good Can Work – Two Door Cinema Club. My fave is anything Smashing Pumpkins.
  4. The “Keep the Momentum Going” aka the “Tiny Dancer Song”: We all know the moment in Almost Famous where the group comes back together, right? The same applies on a road trip. Someone’s pissed off and whiny, or cranky, or someone’s ready for a pee break; these things affect group morale. It is then when I bust out a song on the Mix that gets everyone singing, and for a moment, life is good. It depends on the group of travelers as for the song—for example, for some show tunes denote a sing-a-long and if all else fails, Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC, Sweet Child of Mine by GNR, Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi or anything cool from the 80s or 90s rap.
  5.  The “We’re Tired and Headed Home Song”:  You are sunburned and sleepy with the ocean’s salt still on your skin. The car that was once full of excitement and anticipation is now quiet, save for the hum of the road and a nice, chill song. I recommend the acoustic Overkill by Colin Hay. Or Don’t Wait by Dashboard Confessional or Electric Feel by MGMT.
  6.  The “We Made It Home” aka “The Tradition Song”: I always play Truckinby Grateful Dead. This song always rouses a chorus of groans, as none of us are Dead Heads, BUT once it gets to the famous line: What a long strange trip it’s been/ everyone sings at the top of his/her lungs. We all laugh, put our shoes on, and start gathering things. We made it home.
  7.  And under no circumstances do you play techno/trance/etc. while driving.
What's a must on your mix? Have a great weekend!


  1. I love this, thanks for the tips Elle!

    XO Lynz

  2. This post totally reminded me of that scene from "High Fidelity" where John Cusack talks about the art of the mix-tape. As the child of serious Dead Heads, I actually used the line "What a long strange trip it's been" as my senior quotation in my high school yearbook (looking back upon it though, it may have not been the most yearbook friendly :) ). I try and use the same rules you talk about though when making running mixes - without fail, my half-way point song is Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer"!


  3. Love it!

    have a great weekend!


  4. Hahaha! What perfect timing!!! We are headed to Alabama in the morning and it's going to take us 10 hours to get there. We need some major tunes and this is such a great list to go by!! Thanks girl! :)

  5. Mix tapes were so much fun! Now it's more like mix CD's or Mix playlists :)

  6. Mix tapes were so much fun! Now it's more like mix CD's or Mix playlists :)

  7. Hey Elle! Thanks for stopping by. I am the mixtape master in my circle of friends--my system is that I have a 6 CD changer, and 5 of the six slots are tried-and-true favorite mixes, or the "tenured" slots. But slot 6 is reserved for any new CD I or any one of my friends wants to make, and that's the "visiting professor" slot. It's silly but we like it!

    Also, I lovee Smashing Pumpkins.

  8. Fantastic:)Mix tapes are so fun!
    Happy Friday:)

  9. Love this! Ahh the good old days of mixed tapes and walkmans...happy times for sure :)


  10. Fabulous, thanks darling, xoxo

  11. Yes, I love having a mixed cd for all road trips. My girl friends and I used to make one almost every weekend, depending on what we had planned. It was so fun! I should get back into that. :)

    Have a great weekend!


  12. I love LCD Soundsystem! great choice of music with the others as well.

  13. I love the mix tape, and your blog!!



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