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 nearly 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 travel headphones we've tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM3. They have among the best ANC that we've tested on any headphones to date and have a well-built, premium design. Their 27-hour battery life should be more than enough for most trips, and they can be fully charged in just over two hours. Whether you use them for public transit or are a world traveler, these are unlikely to disappoint.
Their ANC is outstanding and is one of the best we have tested so far. They do a great job at blocking out low bass rumbles such as airplane or bus engines, which should help you get some rest on your next cross-country flight or just help you better hear your podcasts on the way to work. They also do a great job blocking out speech and have low sound leakage, meaning you can turn them up without bothering those around you. Out-of-the-box they're a little bass-heavy, though their sound can be easily fine-tuned to better suit your tastes through the excellent Sony | Headphones Connect app. They have soft ear pads and a relatively lightweight design which should be comfortable for a long flight without causing any fatigue or soreness.
Unfortunately, while they have a good control scheme, it's touch-activated and stops working in colder temperatures which may be an issue for those who live in or often travel to colder climates. If being able to control your music at all times from your headphones is important, you may want to consider the Jabra Elite 85h Wireless, though their ANC performance is significantly worse. All-in-all, these headphones are a fantastic choice for travelers thanks to their ANC, battery life, comfort, and customizability.
If you don't want to have to worry about charging your headphones while traveling but want excellent ANC and don't mind having wired headphones, go for the Bose QuietComfort 25. They don't give you the convenience of wireless headphones and don't have an app to customize their sound profile like the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, but they're more comfortable and don't require charging to use. They use a single AAA battery to power the ANC for up to 32 hours, which means it should last even the longest of flights, and the battery can easily be swapped out without needing access to a USB outlet. While their ANC isn't quite as good as the Sonys, it's still among the best we've tested and should do a great job helping to block out the rumble of a bus or plane engine. They have a well-balanced sound that puts extra emphasis on vocals and lead instruments, making them a good choice for fans of vocal-centric genres like pop or rock. Unfortunately, they leak a fair amount of sound at moderately loud volumes, meaning people a few feet away from you may be bothered by what you're listening to.
Get the Sonys if you want the convenience of cord-free headphones, but if you don't mind being tethered by a wire and still want great ANC even when you're away from an outlet for long periods, go with the Bose.
If you travel for extended periods and comfort is the most important thing to you, get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They're one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones that we've tested so far and are a good choice for extra-long flights or car rides. They're an easy-to-use pair of over-ears with impressive ANC to give you some peace during long travel days.
They are lightweight headphones that don't fit too tight on the head and have well-padded ear cups made of dense plastic that should be able to withstand a few accidental drops and bumps without breaking. While they aren't the most breathable on the ears, this is common for all over-ear headphones and shouldn't be too bothersome for most people. Overall, they are very comfortable, and if you want a pair of headphones to wear for extended periods, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything better. They have a good, easy-to-use control scheme on the headphones which allows you to skip tracks, adjust volume, and take phone calls without having to get out your phone, which can be handy when in a cramped airplane seat. Their ANC is great for travel and does an impressive job at blocking out bus and plane engine noise as well as background chatter.
Unfortunately, they do leak a bit of sound, meaning those directly around you will likely be able to hear your music if you blast it. Luckily their ANC is good enough that you shouldn't need to have your volume too loud to block out background noises. Overall, if you want a good, well-rounded pair of ANC headphones for travel with an emphasis on comfort, the Bose QC35 II are your best bet.
If you want comfortable headphones for travel but don't want to break the bank, go with the Anker SoundCore Space NC. They aren't quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 and their sound profile isn't as well-balanced, but fans of EDM or hip-hop will likely prefer their bass-heavy performance. They have good ANC, especially for their price, and can cancel out the rumbles of plane and bus engines quite well. They also leak significantly less sound than the Bose, meaning you can turn up the volume to block out background noise without bothering those around you. They're surprisingly comfortable and well-built for their price-point and have a primarily metal headband and dense plastic ear cups that should be able to withstand a few bumps and drops. Unfortunately, their bass-heavy sound profile may not be for everyone and they don't have an app to customize their sound.
Get the Bose if money is no object and you want the most comfortable over-ears you can get for travel, but if you're on a budget and prefer bass-heavy music, go for the Ankers.
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. Also, 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 now and then, especially in exchange for the convenience of the ultra-portable truly wireless design, making them some of the best headphones for airplanes.
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. Although they look good and feel fairly durable, our unit’s neckband started peeling apart after only a couple of months, and there have been numerous reports of this happening to other people online as well. The Jabra Elite 65e feel much better-built, but don’t perform quite as well overall.
If you want earbuds that you can quickly stash in your pocket when not in use and you don’t care whether they have ANC or not, you’ll want to get the Jabra. However, if having ANC is important to you and you prefer having a neckband design, the Bose QC 30 are better suited for your needs.
If you have a noisy commute and are looking for headphones that will help bring some peace 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 at 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 not as practical as the AUKEY Latitude since their over-ear design is rather bulky, but they’re much more comfortable. They isolate noise fairly well across the board, have a reasonably well-balanced sound, and have a great battery life. Unfortunately, they feel even more cheaply made than the even less expensive Mpow H5. That said, the H10 perform better overall and are a more versatile choice for travelers and commuters on a budget thanks to their improved ANC and battery performance.
If you’re looking for portable earbuds that are easy to grab when you’re on the run to work in the morning, get the AUKEY Latitude, but if you want more comfortable over-ears, you’ll want to go for the Mpow H10.
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.
10/28/2019: 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'.