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 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 headphones for traveling are the Sony WH-1000XM3. They're Sony's flagship wireless headphones that come with tons of features and an industry-leading active noise cancelling to make your trip as pleasant as possible. The ear cups and headband are well-padded, and there's very little clamping force, so you should be able to wear them for hours without any fatigue. The 27-hour battery life should last through a long flight, but if you run out, they charge up very quickly and can be used wired. As mentioned, Sony's active noise cancelling is among the best on the market, and they do a great job at blocking out noise across the entire frequency range, with an overall attenuation of almost -30dB.
The default sound profile of these headphones is bass-heavy, with a warm treble. If this type of sound doesn't suit you, Sony's mobile companion app is chock full of customization options, from several presets to a graphic EQ. Other features available through this app include room effects, button mapping, and controls for ANC, which has an option to optimize the noise cancelling by accounting for atmospheric pressure. Last but not least, there's a feature called DSEE HX, which aims to upscale compressed music to make them sound better.
These headphones have a touch control scheme that's fairly easy to use; unfortunately, there have been reports that they don't work properly in colder climates, though your mileage may vary. Nonetheless, these are great travel headphones that should please most people.
If you constantly worry about the battery life of your headphones, you should consider a wired pair such as the Bose QuietComfort 25/QC25. They're significantly cheaper, but that's not a sign that they're bad. On the contrary, though the build doesn't feel as premium as the Sony WH-1000XM3, they're more comfortable. They still need a single AAA battery for the active noise cancelling to function; however, the battery lasts on average 32 hours, which is good enough for even the longest flights. The active noise cancelling may not be as good as Sony's, but they still perform outstandingly across the entire frequency range. They sound well-balanced, with a deep bass, a well-emphasized high-mid that brings out vocals and lead instruments, and a treble that's free of any sharpness. Unfortunately, they don't come with a mobile app for customizations.
If you need a pair of wireless headphones, go with the Sony; otherwise, the Bose perform admirably.
If comfort is your priority on those long flights, then check out the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018, they're the most comfortable headphones that we've tested so far. Their ear cups are large, spacious, and well-padded, and shouldn't cause any discomfort over long periods. The noise isolation performance is also outstanding, however, they do leak a bit, which means that listening at high volumes may be bothersome to those around you.
These headphones have a remarkably well-balanced sound. The bass is powerful and deep without overpowering the mids, while vocals and lead instruments are well-emphasized. Although these headphones do come with a mobile companion app, the features are fairly limited, as it only lets you control the active noise cancelling and set an auto-off timer to help conserve battery. The battery lasts around 20 hours, though, so you shouldn't have to worry too much about it. Another nice feature to have is multi-device pairing, which allows you to pair up to two devices at the same time, so you can switch between them easily.
Overall, if you need a comfortable pair of headphones to get you through those long flights, these are a good choice.
If you want comfortable over-ear headphones for travel but don't want to spend as much, go for the Anker SoundCore Space NC. They aren't quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and their ANC doesn't work as well, but they're significantly cheaper and have a more bass-heavy sound profile that fans of EDM or hip-hop are sure to love. They feel surprisingly well-built for their price and are comfortable enough for even longer flights. While their ANC may not work quite as well as the Bose, it's still quite impressive and should effectively block out most engine rumbles from planes or buses. They have a 21-hour battery life, which is good, and you can use them wired with an audio cable should they die on you in the middle of a trip.
If money is no object and you want the most comfortable over-ears you can get, go for the Bose, but if you need to save some money to help pay for that flight to Hawaii, get the Anker.
The best portable headphones for travel that we’ve tested so far are the Apple AirPods Pro, thanks to their compact truly wireless design. They're lightweight, quite comfortable, and even pack impressive active noise cancellation in their small and portable design. As you'd likely expect from an Apple product, they have a premium and polished design and feel very well-built, even being rated IPX4 for water resistance, though we don't currently test this.
Unlike previous versions of Apple AirPods, these headphones have an in-ear fit with silicone tips which gives them a much more stable fit as well as better bass response. They're among the most comfortable in-ear headphones that we've tested to date, and should even be good for long flights without causing too much fatigue. The noise isolation performance of these headphones is excellent thanks to their ANC, which does a great job of blocking out both engine rumble and speech, making them a great choice for flights.
While their out-of-the-box sound profile is well-balanced and fairly neutral sounding, unfortunately they don't offer a companion app for any sort of EQ customization. Their battery life is also shorter than that of most over-ear options, at just over 5 hours, though their charging case should provide an additional five charges and can charge your headphones to 70% in about 20 minutes. Overall, these are a comfortable pair of truly wireless in-ears that pack an impressive ANC despite their very portable design, making them a great travel companion.
If you prefer a neckband design for the convenience of having your earbuds handy at all times, get the Bose QuietControl 30. They don't feel quite as well made as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, but they have a more bass-heavy sound and their battery lasts longer off a single charge. Their ANC works very well, though it blocks out slightly less engine rumble and background speech than the Apple. On the upside, those who don't love the feel of in-ear headphones may prefer their earbud design which doesn't go as deep into the ear canal. Their bass is deep and punchy, but they're well-balanced overall, making them well-suited to a wide variety of genres.
If you want headphones that you can easily toss in your pocket when you aren't using them, get the Apple, but if you prefer having your earbuds around your neck when not in use, or need a battery that'll last longer off a single charge, go for the Bose.
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 Wireless, 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 Wireless 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 great battery life. Unfortunately, they feel even more cheaply made than the even less expensive Mpow H5 Wireless. 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 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, but if you want more comfortable over-ears, you’ll want to go for the Mpow.
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.
01/07/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
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'.