Whether you're planning an upcoming flight across the globe or just taking 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 travel headphones, you'll want something easy to use when hunting down your gate or running to catch the bus, with a long enough battery life to last you throughout the day. While many prefer over-ear headphones for long flights or train rides, earbuds or in-ear headphones are popular 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 some in-ear headphones block out lots of noise passively.
We've tested over 745 pairs of headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best headphones for airplane use, traveling, and commuting. Also, make sure to check out our recommendations for the best headphones, the best noise cancelling headphones, and the best budget noise cancelling headphones.
The best travel headphones we've tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. These premium headphones come packed with features, and while you can buy a newer model, the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless, these still provide the best noise cancelling performance for long journeys. Their fantastic active noise cancelling (ANC) feature blocks bass-range noises like bus and plane engines and passenger chit-chat. If you're worried about battery life, they last about 37 hours continuously, so you won't need to recharge them during a long trip. You can even use them wired while keeping ANC on, and they come with an airplane adapter, all of which you can safely store in their sturdy carrying case.
Their bass-heavy sound profile adds extra thump and rumble to your audio. You can adjust their sound via the companion app's graphic EQ and presets. While they have a comfortable fit, thanks to their well-padded design, look at the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless if you want even more comfortable headphones. The Bose are even lighter than the Sony and clamp less tightly on your head, making for a more comfortable listening experience over time. However, the drawback is that they don't feel as well-built, and their battery life doesn't last as long as the Sony.
The Razer Barracuda Pro Wireless are the best noise cancelling headphones for travel in the upper mid-range we've tested. Although Razer primarily focuses on gaming peripheries, these over-ears have a unique hybrid design that merges the techy, gamer-centric features the brand is known for with a casual and practical slant. Their non-descript frame is comfortable enough for long trips, and they're equipped with ANC to help tackle sound around you. Even though it doesn't block out nearly the same amount of bass-range noise as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, it still performs great overall and can easily block out passenger chatter. With their ANC on, they last over 34 hours continuously, and you can even use them while charging.
When you're on the go, you can easily store these headphones in their sturdy carrying case, which will fit into most bags or backpacks. Their fairly neutral sound profile is also well-suited for most kinds of genres. You can fine-tune their sound using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets. Unfortunately, they don't support analog, so you can't connect them to in-flight entertainment.
Travel is expensive enough without adding the cost of premium headphones. Fortunately, if you're looking for something more affordable, check out the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless, the best headphones for airplane trips we've tested at this price point. They have a shorter battery life than the Razer Barracuda Pro Wireless but have a similarly sturdy build and comfortable fit for most people. They have an adaptive ANC system that adjusts itself to the noise around you and can block out a remarkable amount of ambient sound, including rumbling engines. Their overall noise isolation performance is almost as good as the Sony's, so you might even prefer them to the Razer if that's your priority.
However, their sound profile is less neutral than the Razer. It's V-shaped, which lends your audio intense rumble and punch, while instruments and vocals are bright and somewhat harsh. They work with a companion app with graphic EQ and presets if you prefer a different sound. They last for around 27 hours of continuous use with their ANC on, and in a pinch, you can always plug the included audio cable into your phone or laptop to listen to audio passively.
If you're looking for a cheaper option, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless are the best commuter headphones under $100 that we've tested. Anker tends to dominate the mid-to-budget price range for over-ear headphones, especially when noise cancelling is important for use on a noisy plane or train. These headphones are significantly cheaper than the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless, but their ANC performs similarly, even though it's standard ANC and not adaptive. It does a fantastic job of blocking out the low rumble of engines and effectively reduces higher-pitched sounds like voices. Out of the box, their sound packs a lot of extra bass into your audio, so music has intense thump, rumble, and punch, but mixes can also sound muddy or cluttered. Like the previous pick, they have companion app support, including a graphic EQ and presets for sound customization.
These headphones are well-built, comfortable, and have a long continuous battery life of around 44 hours. Unfortunately, they leak much more audio than the Q45, so your music is more likely to be audible to people nearby. The Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones Wireless are also a good option if you want budget-friendly headphones with less leakage. They don't isolate from bass-range noise like rumbling engines as well as the Q30, but they have a great overall noise isolation performance.
If you're on a tighter budget, the best cheap travel headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. These are an earlier version of the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless but are still available. Like their predecessor, they outshine similarly-priced headphones from other brands in noise cancelling. Their ANC system doesn't block out as much bass-range noise as the previous picks but still does a decent job of reducing engine noise. It also does a great job of reducing higher-pitched sounds like background conversations.
Out of the box, they have a v-shaped sound profile, with intense rumble and punch and bright, sparkly instruments and lead vocals. This sound suits bass-heavy genres like EDM, hip-hop, pop, and rock. However, sibilants like S and T sounds can seem harsh, and they don't have sound customization features, unlike the Q30. That said, they have a similarly comfortable fit and a decently sturdy build quality, although they feel plasticky and only come with a cloth pouch instead of a rigid protective case like the Q30.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless are the best travel earbuds we've tested. These premium earbuds have an incredible noise isolation performance. They effectively reduce a wide range of noise, from rumbling plane engines to chatting passengers. Our test rig doesn't fully capture the amount of bass these buds produce due to the shape of the rig's ear canals. Subjectively, their bass-heavy sound profile packs some extra rumble and punch to please fans of genres like EDM and hip-hop, but it also muddies vocals and instruments. Luckily, they're compatible with an app with a graphic EQ and presets for sound customization. They're also very comfortable for most people, which is nice for long days on the go.
Their battery life of around six hours is a downside, especially if you need earbuds for long flights. They come with a case with additional charges, so you can top up the battery as needed. However, if you want to go longer without recharging, the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless are another great option. They offer similar noise isolation if you're connected to the companion app and using the memory foam ear tips, and they last for just under nine hours of continuous use with ANC on. However, they aren't as comfortable for most people as the Bose.
If you're looking for more earbuds, check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds!
Sep 06, 2023: Added the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless as an alternative to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless. Moved the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Jan 12, 2023: Replaced the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless with the Anker Soundcore Life Q45 Wireless, and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless. Moved the Sennheiser to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones for traveling and commuting 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, ranked by their suitability for commuting and 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.