Whether you're planning an upcoming flight across the globe or just take the subway to work every day, a good pair of travel headphones can be a total game-changer. Having something comfortable with great noise isolation can make your travels much easier to endure, and even enjoyable at times.
When looking for the best travel headphones, you'll want something easy-to-use for when you're hunting down your gate or running to catch the bus, with a long enough battery life to last you throughout the day. While many people prefer over-ear headphones for long flights or train rides, earbuds or in-ear headphones are popular as well for their portability. Usually, models with active noise cancelling (ANC) do the best job at reducing the deep rumbling noises of bus or plane engines, but there are some in-ear headphones that block out lots of noise passively, too.
So far, we've reviewed over 450 pairs of headphones and below are our recommendations for the best travel headphones. See also our recommendations for the best headphones, the best noise cancelling earbuds, and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best travel headphones we've tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM3. They have a sleek, high-end design and one of the best active noise cancelling features we've seen to date. They provide a feature-packed listening experience that can help bring peace and quiet to your travels, whether you're riding the subway to work or catching a flight to your next getaway.
Out-of-the-box, these Bluetooth headphones have a warm, slightly bass-heavy sound profile that's very well-suited to EDM, hip-hop, and jazz. You can also customize the way they sound in great detail with their excellent companion app, which provides not only an EQ but a number of unique surround sound effects. Their 27-hour battery life will outlast even the longest flights, and you can also use them wired if you prefer.
While their touch-sensitive controls are easy enough to use under most conditions, they tend to register unwanted commands in colder weather. Their auto-off timer also only triggers once they're disconnected from their Bluetooth source, so if you fall asleep on the plane listening to music on your phone in your pocket, their battery will keep draining since they won't turn off. That said, they're still the best commuter headphones we've seen to date thanks to their excellent noise cancelling and premium customization features.
If you've got a long-haul flight coming up and need something lightweight you can wear for hours, then get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They don't cancel noise quite as well as the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, but they're even more comfortable. They have a very well-balanced sound signature and great 20-hour battery life wrapped up in a remarkably lightweight and comfortable design. They can also connect to two devices at the same time, which is quite convenient if you often switch between using your phone and laptop. They don't have any sound customization options, but their physical controls are easier to use in all weather conditions. You can also consider the similarly-designed Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25 if you prefer wired headphones.
Get the Sony if you need best-in-class noise cancelling and care more about sound customizability. However, if you're concerned about comfort, or usability in colder climates, you'll want to go for the Bose.
The best commuter headphones we've tested so far for those who prefer in-ears are the Apple AirPods Pro. They have a surprisingly powerful active noise cancelling feature for such tiny truly wireless earbuds, making them a portable option if you're looking to reduce noise on-the-go. They're comfortable, well-built, and fit securely enough to not fly out your ears if you have to sprint to catch the bus.
These truly wireless in-ears have a very well-balanced, neutral sound signature that lends itself well to music of a very wide range of genres. Some might find them a bit light on bass, but this can vary from person-to-person. They cancel an exceptional amount of noise, especially for wireless earbuds, and don't leak much sound. This means you can raise your listening volume a bit to help block out more noise without having to worry too much about bothering those around you, which is nice when you're stuck in a crowded subway car.
On the downside, their battery only lasts for around 5 hours of continuous playback. This shouldn't be too much of an issue if you make sure to keep them in their wireless charging case when they're not in use but can be a bummer if you want to watch your favorite movies back-to-back on the plane. That said, it's a small price to pay for the freedom that truly wireless earbuds provide, especially while traveling.
If you want a much more budget-friendly option, get the AUKEY Latitude. These wireless in-ears aren't as comfortable as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless and don't have ANC, but they still block an impressive amount of background noise passively and are significantly cheaper. Their sound profile is very well-balanced, but with a bit of extra bass that will please fans of bass-heavy music, without being too overpowering for genres like classic rock. While they don't look and feel nearly as premium as the Apple, they still feel decently durable and should be able to withstand a few accidental drops and bumps. Unfortunately, their 7-hour battery life is quite short for in-ears with a cable connecting the L/R earbuds, and they lack a companion app to make any EQ changes, though this is to be expected at this price point.
Overall, if you want the best possible in-ears you can get for a long flight or bus ride, get the Apple, but if you want something that's quite a bit cheaper and still performs well overall, go for the AUKEY.
The best travel headphones under $200 that we've tested so far are the Razer Opus. These ANC Bluetooth over-ears prove that you don't need to spend a fortune to get an impressive ANC feature packaged in a well-built and premium design. They look very similar to the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless and are just as comfortable. Their 33-hour battery life lasts longer than all of the other recommendations on this list, and they have easy-to-use physical buttons, come with a great hard carrying case, and look and feel very durable and well-built.
Their default sound profile is very well-balanced and accurate, making them versatile enough for most genres and content. While fans of genres like EDM or hip-hop may find they lack a bit of bass, their sound profile can easily be adjusted via a graphic EQ and presets within their dedicated companion app. Their ANC performance is remarkable, and they block low-bass sounds like bus or plane engines even better than the much more expensive Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018.
Unfortunately, if you take a lot of phone calls while on-the-go, these may not be the best choice as their microphone performance is only mediocre overall. They also lack some additional features, like the ability to pair to two devices at once, making it more difficult to quickly switch between your phone and laptop. That being said, these headphones provide an outstanding price-to-performance ratio and are a great travel companion if you don't want to spend a ton on a pair of premium headphones.
The best travel headphones we've tested so far in the budget range are the Mpow H10. They don't have the same premium design as our top recommendations, but they're still a very good choice for commute and travel thanks to their great active noise cancelling feature and long battery life. They're comfortable, fairly easy-to-use, and provide good value overall.
These budget Bluetooth headphones might not isolate noise as well as the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, but they still do an impressive job at cutting through the deep rumble of a bus or plane engine. They have an excited, yet still fairly well-balanced sound profile, and great 23-hour battery life. They also have a standby mode to help save power when they're not in use, which is a welcome surprise at this price point.
Unfortunately, they look and feel like cheap headphones. While they don't feel like they'll instantly break if you happen to drop them, their build quality doesn't inspire confidence, especially when folding the ear cups inwards. They also tend to leak quite a bit of sound at higher volumes, which can be an issue if others are sleeping on the train. The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless feel much better-built and leak far less, but their noise cancelling isn't quite as good, giving the Mpow a slight edge for traveling.
07/03/2020: Removed the Sony WI-1000X Wireless and added the Razer Opus Wireless as 'Best Travel Headphones Under $200'. Updated text for clarity and accuracy.
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'.
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.