Listening to music can help ease the pain of taking public transportation every day and make flights more enjoyable. The best travel headphones block or cancel the ambient noise of moderately loud environments, like inside a subway station or on a train. They shouldn’t leak much sound, either, so fellow commuters won't be bothered by the sound of your music. Travel-friendly headphones should be comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time and portable enough to not be cumbersome to use while traveling. Wireless headphones are especially convenient, but their battery life has to be good, so they don’t need recharging in the middle of your travels. They should also have easy-to-use controls for smooth sailing whether you’re on the bus to work or on a plane to another country.
So far, we've reviewed over 400 headsets and below are our recommendations for the best travel headphones that block out airplane noise when you fly. See also our recommendations for the best headphones, the best noise cancelling earbuds, and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best headphones for traveling are the Sony WH-1000XM3. They're Sony's flagship wireless headphones that come with tons of features and an industry-leading active noise cancelling to make your trip as pleasant as possible. The ear cups and headband are well-padded, and there's very little clamping force, so you should be able to wear them for hours without any fatigue. The 27-hour battery life should last through a long flight, but if you run out, they charge up very quickly and can be used wired. As mentioned, Sony's active noise cancelling is among the best on the market, and they do a great job at blocking out noise across the entire frequency range.
The default sound profile of these headphones is bass-heavy, with a warm treble. If this type of sound doesn't suit you, Sony's mobile companion app is chock full of customization options, from several presets to a graphic EQ. Other features available through this app include room effects, button mapping, and controls for ANC, which has an option to optimize the noise cancelling by accounting for atmospheric pressure. Last but not least, there's a feature called DSEE HX, which aims to upscale compressed music to make them sound better.
These headphones have a touch control scheme that's fairly easy to use; unfortunately, there have been reports that they don't work properly in colder climates, though your mileage may vary. Nonetheless, these are great travel headphones that should please most people.
If comfort is your priority on those long flights, then check out the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018; they're the most comfortable headphones that we've tested so far. Their ear cups are large, spacious, and well-padded, and shouldn't cause any discomfort over long periods. The noise isolation performance is also outstanding, but they do leak a bit, which means that listening at high volumes may be bothersome to those around you.
These headphones have a remarkably well-balanced sound. The bass is powerful and deep without overpowering the mids, while vocals and lead instruments are well-emphasized. Although these headphones do come with a mobile companion app, the features are fairly limited, as it only lets you control the active noise cancelling and set an auto-off timer to help conserve battery. The battery lasts around 20 hours, though, so you shouldn't have to worry too much about it. Another nice feature is multi-device pairing, which allows you to pair up to two devices at the same time, so you can switch between them easily.
Overall, if you need a comfortable pair of headphones to get you through those long flights, these are a good choice.
The best portable headphones for travel that we’ve tested so far are the Apple AirPods Pro, thanks to their compact truly wireless design. They're lightweight, quite comfortable, and even pack impressive active noise cancellation in their small and portable design. As you'd likely expect from an Apple product, they have a premium and polished design and feel very well-built, even being rated IPX4 for water resistance, though we don't currently test this.
Unlike previous versions of AirPods, these headphones have an in-ear fit with silicone tips which gives them a much more stable fit as well as better bass response. They're among the most comfortable in-ear headphones that we've tested to date, and should even be good for long flights without causing too much fatigue. The noise isolation performance of these headphones is excellent thanks to their ANC, which does a great job of blocking out both engine rumble and speech, making them a great choice for flights.
While their out-of-the-box sound profile is well-balanced and fairly neutral sounding, unfortunately they don't offer a companion app for any sort of EQ customization. Their battery life is also shorter than that of most over-ear options, at just over 5 hours, though their charging case should provide an additional five charges and can charge your headphones to 70% in about 20 minutes. Overall, these are a comfortable pair of truly wireless in-ears that pack an impressive ANC despite their very portable design, making them a great travel companion.
If you have a long day of catching connecting flights and want to be able to quickly pop our an earbud and still have it at arms' reach, get the Sony WI-1000X. They won't last nearly as long away from a power outlet as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, and they aren't quite as comfortable, but their neckband design allows you to quickly take them in and out of your ear, and they can be used wired if your battery dies mid-flight. Their out-of-the-box sound profile is well-balanced, and you can customize it with a graphic EQ via Sony's excellent Sony | Headphones Connect app. Unfortunately, their 10-hour battery life is a bit on the short side, and they don't feature a charging case like the Apple, so when the battery dies you'll have to plug them into a power source via USB and use them wired with a 1/8" cable.
If you prefer something that can easily be tossed into your pocket and can last longer without needing a power outlet, go with the Apple, but if you want to be able to use your headphones wired or prefer the neckband design, get the Sony.
If you do a lot of travelling but don't want to spend a small fortune on a pair of headphones, the best budget travel headphones we've tested so far are the AUKEY Latitude. These wireless in-ears feel decently durable, and their stability fins help them feel quite stable in your ear. Despite not having an ANC feature, they isolate background sound impressively well and will do an outstanding job at blocking out the chatty person sitting next to you on a plane or bus.
Their out-of-the-box sound profile is reasonably well-balanced with a bit of extra thump that should lend itself well to a fairly wide range of genres. Unfortunately, they don't have a dedicated companion app to customize their settings, but on the bright side, you can switch between EQ presets via the in-line remote, which is rare for a pair of budget headphones. The remote itself is easy to use, and also allows you to perform basic music control functions like skipping tracks and adjusting volume, which is nice.
Unfortunately, they aren't the most comfortable option as they enter your ear canal quite deeply, though they do come with multiple tip and stability fin sizes to help you find a good fit and seal. Their battery life is also quite disappointing at just over seven hours, and they take 1.5 hours to charge, which is long. Overall, they're impressive headphones for their price, and are a great travel companion if you tend to accidentally damage or lose your headphones during long travel days.
If you want something inexpensive but prefer the fit of over-ear headphones, get the Mpow H10. They feel a bit cheaper than the AUKEY Latitude Wireless, and their over-ear design is much bulkier, but they isolate the low rumble of engines better thanks to their ANC, and many people will likely find them more comfortable for extended listening sessions. They don't have an EQ presets like the AUKEY, but their out-of-the-box sound profile is fairly excited and should please fans of a fairly wide variety of genres. Their 23-hour battery life is also excellent and should easily last an entire travel day without needing to be plugged in. Unfortunately, they're a bit on the larger side, and people with smaller heads may find them too big.
Overall, if you prefer the smaller and more portable design of in-ears, go for the AUKEY, but if you want over-ears with ANC and a longer battery, get the Mpow.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best travel headphones for most people to buy. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones that are good for traveling. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection, especially if you listen to audio at high enough volumes to drown out the ambient noise of your travels.
03/06/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
12/09/2019: Made Sony WH-1000XM3 the 'Best Noise Cancelling Travel Headphones' and added Bose QuietComfort 25 as 'Wired Alternative'. Replaced 'Best Customizable Travel Headphones' with 'Most Comfortable Travel Headphones', making the Bose QuietComfort 35 II as main pick and Anker SoundCore Space NC as 'Cheaper, Bass-Heavy Alternative'.