10 Songs That I Always Put On My Flying Playlist

I love traveling. I hate flying. It can be a terrible experience. Cramped quarters, the usual full day that it takes for my ears to pop, and lack of sleep will hamper any enjoyment of being on a plane. Before I set foot in an airport, I stock my phone with a special flying playlist to cope with airplane anxiety. A few songs always make their way onto the list.

The right music can put my mind at ease. Earlier this year, I wrote about music that clears my writer’s block. I also penned a post for the Recovering Perfectionist detailing songs that help me relax. Creating a playlist for air travel is one more way that music can play an important role in daily mental health, especially in uncomfortable situations.


10 Songs That I Always Put On My Flying Playlist


“Rhapsody In Blue,” George Gershwin – Yes, I include this selection because it used to be the United Airlines theme. I enjoy the irony of listening to it as the first song on the playlist. The opening clarinet solo also takes my mind off being stuck thousands of feet in the air.

Classical music can be relaxing in its own right. On a long flight I drop in a few classical pieces other than “Rhapsody in Blue” to break up the steady stream of rock ‘n roll. Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and the instrumental for “You Only Live Twice” are two others.


“Freddie Freeloader,” Miles Davis – Like classical music, extended jazz pieces can be relaxing (especially after a mid-flight glass of wine). I am not well-versed in jazz, so I gravitated to Miles Davis when I added a few albums to my collection. It is no secret that his Kind of Blue is a classic and I can’t argue with its status.  This nine-minute piece from 1959 is my favorite.

Another great jazz song that I include is The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Unsquare Dance.”


“Bittersweet Symphony,” The Verve – One of my favorite aspects of live music is that the right jam can bring a song to greater heights. The extended bit at the end of The Verve’s signature song from the 2008 Glastonbury Festival is perfect for checking out on an airplane and enjoying something extra-special.


“Do It Again,” Steely Dan – There are few better grooves than Steely Dan’s 1972 hit. I don’t know many of Steely Dan’s songs, but the opening notes of “Do It Again” help take my mind off a long flight. I usually place this one early in the playlist.


“Drifting Back,” Neil Young & Crazy Horse – I have found that longer songs are better for extended trips. Having nothing but short songs can be a grind over a six-hour flight. One long track helps to pass the time. This song is twenty-seven minutes long. I do not always make it to the end of the “Drifting Back,” but I like the option of being able to set it and forget it at 35,000 feet.


“Intro,” The xx – Speaking of The xx, I always include their entire first album (including deep cuts) on my airplane playlists. The best song from XX is the two-minute instrumental “Intro,” although other great tracks like “Fantasy” and “Crystallized” also make for some relaxing travel music.


“Swingin’” –  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – “Swingin’” is my favorite song by favorite band. Of course I’m going to include it on a travel playlist. Naturally, I have to overcomplicate matters. I can’t just fly with a studio version, so I include a live version recorded from the band’s 1999 Fillmore run that I ripped from the High Grass Dogs DVD.


“Mantra,” Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme – Outside of Beck, you can’t find a more accomplished group of rock musicians from the last 30 years than this group. They cut “Mantra” for Grohl’s Sound City documentary, but this track just begs for these three to get together for an incredible supergroup.


“From There To Back Again,” “Pacific Coast Highway,” “Summer’s Gone,” The Beach Boys – I know this is three songs, but I treat this group as an exception. I never separate them. The last three songs from That’s Why God Made The Radio blend together to form a suite of perfect harmonies. Given that they are on the probable last Beach Boys studio album, these three dreamy songs also serve as a throwback to an era of pop music when track listing mattered for the top pop albums.


“Under The Pressure,” The War on Drugs – The War On Drugs are tailor-made for traveling. Their music is beautiful, cerebral, and can be relaxing. I usually just include the entire Lost In The Dream album, but this is one song that makes a travel playlist if I am being more selective.


This post is a part of the Music Monday series on The Flat Circle. To read future Music Monday posts, you can subscribe via e-mail at the bottom of the page.  

My Spotify Flying Playlist:


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