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.
We've tested over 500 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best travel headphones. Also, make sure to check out our recommendations for the best headphones, the best noise cancelling earbuds, and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best travel headphones that we've tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. These comfortable, well-built over-ears have an ANC feature that does an outstanding job blocking out background noises like bus and plane engines. Thanks to their over 37-hour continuous battery life, they're well-suited for the longest international flights, too.
They have a bass-heavy default sound profile that adds an extra thump and rumble to your favorite tracks. If you prefer a different sound, there's a graphic EQ and presets available in the Sony | Headphones Connect app to help you customize your listening experience. Unlike the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, they allow for multi-device pairing, making it easy to switch your audio source from your laptop to your phone when you're on the go.
Unfortunately, like most over-ears, they have a slightly bulky design that isn't very portable. Fortunately, they fold down into a more compact format, and they come with a carrying case to help protect them from falls and scrapes. Overall, they have a decently versatile performance that should please many different listeners.
If you're looking for a pair of travel headphones and comfort is your top priority, consider the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. While they aren't as well-built as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, these over-ears are extremely well-padded, so they can be comfortably worn for long periods without a lot of fatigue. They have a 20-hour continuous battery life that's ideal for your longest days on the go. Their ANC feature isn't as outstanding as the Sony, but they can still block out the sound of engines and other background noises well. Their default sound profile is quite balanced, with a little extra warmth and thump in the bass range. Unfortunately, they don't come with any sound customization features, which may be disappointing for some listeners.
If you want better-built headphones with longer continuous battery life and more customization features, check out the Sony, but if you prefer a more comfortable option, consider the Bose.
The best commuter headphones we've tested 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 not to fly out of your ears if you have to sprint to catch the bus.
These 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.
Unfortunately, their battery only lasts for around five 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 nearly as premium, they still feel decently durable and should withstand a few accidental drops and bumps. Unfortunately, their seven-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 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 said, they 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 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-1000XM4 Wireless, but they still do an impressive job of 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 cheap. 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.
10/01/2020: Replaced the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless with the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless as 'Best Travel Headphones'. Added the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless as a 'Notable Mention'.
07/03/2020: Removed the Sony WI-1000X Wireless and added the Razer Opus Wireless as 'Best Travel Headphones Under $200'.
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. 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.