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 325 headsets and below are our recommendations for the best travel headphones to buy in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds and the best noise cancelling headphones.
The best travel headphones we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They’re among the most comfortable headphones that we've tested so far. They have impressive active noise cancelling and sound great. They’re easy to use and are a good choice for travelers of all kinds. If you're often on public transit or travel a lot by plane or train, then they are sure to please.
They have great noise isolation and effectively cancel the deep rumbles of bus and plane engines. They have a remarkably well-balanced sound and are comfortable enough to wear for hours. Their battery lasts 20 hours of continuous playback before needing to be recharged, which is great. They even support multi-device pairing, so you can pair them to two devices simultaneously.
Unfortunately, they are a bit leaky for noise cancelling over-ears. This means that if you like to play your music a bit loud, people standing at a bus stop with you may overhear your music. The Bose QuietControl 30 have a comfortable earbud design that is more portable and doesn’t leak as much, but their battery doesn’t last very long. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are a better choice overall, especially if you prefer an over-ear fit.
If you find the Bose QuietComfort 35 II too expensive, get the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They’re not as comfortable as the Bose nor do they isolate noise as well, but they provide great value for their price. They’re well-built wireless headphones with an excellent 30-hour battery life, perfect for weekend getaways. They also have an intuitive control scheme that makes them easy-to-use, even with gloves on, and even support low-latency codecs, so if you have an aptX(LL) dongle you can watch movies while you travel with hardly any latency.
These headphones have an exciting, bass-rich sound that will please fans of hip-hop, EDM, or dubstep, but might not be the best choice for those prefer a more neutral sound profile, especially since you can’t EQ their sound in-app. They're a little on the bulky side and aren’t the sleekest-looking headphones, but for the price, they provide performance that’s hard to beat.
If you prefer being able to fine-tune the way your headphones sound, then get the Sony WH-1000XM3; they’re the best customizable travel headphones that we’ve reviewed so far. They don’t sound as balanced as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II right out-of-the-box, but their companion app gives you access to a whole bunch of customizable features. Their battery is also longer-lasting and they have stronger noise cancelling, which makes them great for international flights and long car rides.
They have one of best noise cancelling features we’ve reviewed so far and do an outstanding job at reducing the intensity of noises in the bass, mid, and treble ranges. They also don’t leak too much sound, so you won’t have to worry too much about bothering those around you with your music. Their default sound profile is on the bass-heavy side, but if you don’t like it you can EQ the way the headphones sound customizable with the great Sony | Headphones Connect app.
They have a good touch-sensitive control scheme that offers a lot of functionality but doesn’t work properly when the temperature is below freezing. This may not be an issue for some, but could be a deal-breaker for those who live in or frequently travel to colder climates. That said, they are one of the best headphones for airplane; they are well-built, comfortable headphones that are a good choice for travel thanks to their great isolation and customizability.
If you’re not a fan of touch-sensitive controls and prefer headphones with physical buttons, then get the Jabra Elite 85h. Their noise cancelling isn’t as good as that of the Sony WH-1000XM3, but their physical control scheme is easier-to-use especially when you’re on-the-go. They have a very good, neutral sound and surprisingly decent microphone performance for Bluetooth headphones. They also have a whopping 34 hours of battery life and can be used passively, so they’re great for trips where you might not have ready access to a power outlet.
Unfortunately, they don’t isolate noise as well as some of the other premium noise cancelling headsets we’ve. They’re great at blocking out speech and chatter but don’t cut down on lower rumbles as well as the Sonys. They also don’t have NFC like the Sonys, but they do support multi-device pairing, which is great if you want to stay paired to both your smartphone and laptop during a long train ride.
The best portable headphones for travel that we’ve tested so far are the Jabra Elite Active 65t, thanks to their compact truly wireless design. They're not noise cancelling like the other recommendations on this list and their in-ear fit won’t be comfortable for everyone. However, their compact format makes them easy to carry around in your bag or pockets, which is convenient when commuting or traveling.
Once you get the right fit with the provided earbud tips, they block more noise passively than the ANC-enabled Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They sound decent and have a fairly balanced sound that you can adjust with the Jabra Sound+ app if you prefer different EQ settings. In addition, their in-ear fit reduces sound leakage, so you can raise your listening volume a bit to block out more noise without disturbing those around you.
Like most truly wireless earbuds, they don’t have a very long-lasting battery. They provide about 5 hours of continuous playtime on a charge, which isn’t much, but come with a charging case that packs 2 additional charges. They’re a good choice for commuters who don’t mind taking breaks to charge their headphones every now and then, especially in exchange for the convenience of the ultra-portable truly wireless design.
If you prefer being able to keep your earbuds at arm’s reach at all times, then get the Bose QuietControl 30. They’re not customizable like the Jabra Elite Active 65t, but they have ANC so they can more effectively block out sounds in the bass range, like the deep rumbles of bus or plane engines. Their neckband design helps provide better battery performance and their earbud fit is also more comfortable.
Unfortunately, their build quality doesn’t necessarily reflect their premium price. Although they look good and feel fairly durable, the rubber sleeve coating the neckband peeled off on our unit after only a couple of months, and there have been numerous reports of this happening to other people online as well. That said, the Bose QC 30 still perform quite well overall, so if the potential build quality issue isn’t a deal-breaker for you, they’re definitely worth considering as well-rounded ANC travel earbuds.
If you have a noisy commute and are looking for headphones that will help bring some peace and quiet to your daily routine without putting a dent in your wallet, the best headphones for commuting in the budget category are the AUKEY Latitude. They have great passive noise isolation and are very portable, which makes them well-suited for daily use in the subway.
They sound decent for budget headphones and are especially well-suited to more bass-heavy genres of music like EDM, dubstep, or hip-hop. Their battery isn’t bad for wireless in-ears and provides about 7 hours of continuous playback on a charge, which should be enough for your morning and evening commutes. They also support multi-device pairing and have magnetic earbuds that clip together for easier cable management.
Although they have a couple of EQ presets built into their controls, they aren’t compatible with a companion app, so they can’t be customized in great detail. They’re also not as well-built as more premium in-ears like the Jabra Elite 65e, but that’s to be expected that this price point. They provide good value for budget headphones and are overall a good choice for commuters.
If you prefer the fit of over-ear headphones but still want something that won’t break the bank, then get the Mpow H10. They’re comfortable wireless noise cancelling headphones that provide great value for their price. They isolate noise fairly well across the board and have a reasonably balanced sound that lends itself well to most genres. Their battery lasts over 23 hours, and they can even be used passively without ANC or while charging, which is great if your battery runs out but you still want to listen to music.
As expected, they don’t feel like premium headphones. Unfortunately, the feel even more cheaply made than the even less expensive Mpow H5. That said, they perform better overall and are a more versatile choice for travelers and commuters on a budget thanks to their improved ANC and battery life.
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.