The 9 Best Travel Headphones of 2021

From compact earbuds to over-ear headphones with the best sound quality

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The Rundown

Best Bluetooth: Beoplay H4 2nd Gen Wireless Headphones at Amazon

"The H4 over-ear headphones are noise-cancelling and have incredibly soft speaker beds, so your ears will never get sore or tired."

Best Budget: JLab Audio Go Air at Walmart

"Offer just as much play time as Airpods and the audio quality of a much more expensive set of headphones."

Best Battery Life: Edifier W830BT Bluetooth Headphones at Walmart

"These headphones have 95 hours of playback time between charges."

Best Wired: Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Headphones at Amazon

"A solid pair that offers a bit of noise cancellation and super clear sound."

Best for Business Travel: Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones at Amazon

"Placing these noise-cancelling beauties over your ears will send you into your own world; perfect for prepping for presentations and pitches while you’re on the road."

Best Compact: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 Earbuds at Amazon

"With 28 hours of continuous listening time, you can fly across the world without pulling out a charging cable."

Best Earbuds: Apple Airpods Pro at Amazon

"They also have a snazzy transparency mode, which allows you to hear some of the noise around you."

Best Investment: Sony WH-1000XM4 Headphones at Amazon

"These over-ear headphones are designed to seamlessly transition between streaming audio and taking calls."

Best Noise-Cancelling: Bose QuietComfort 35 II at Amazon

"With three levels of noise cancellation, you have the power to tune out the rest of the world, or just take a slight step away."

A good pair of headphones can become just as vital to travel as your passport. We all know that feeling: You’re halfway to the airport, and you realize you forgot your go-to earbuds at home. It’s the same sinking feeling, like saying goodbye to a friend you won’t see for a while. Listening to music, catching up on a podcast, or calling a loved one has become the best way to kill time, and you want to have a good pair of headphones to make the experience even more enjoyable.

There are a lot of options out there, which can be overwhelming. To make the job easier, think about your priorities. Are you looking for crystal-clear audio quality? Want to listen to the same album for eight hours straight without having to charge up? Need to block out the world around you? Want something small you can toss in a personal item? Curious to find a water-resistant option? There are headphones for every scenario.

Ahead, you’ll find our best picks for the best travel headphones.

Best Bluetooth: Beoplay H4 2nd Gen Wireless Headphones

Beoplay H4 Wireless Headphones
What We Like
  • Minimalist design with premium materials

  • 19 hours of playback time

  • Quick-touch controls

What We Don't Like
  • Does not come with a carrying case

Danish electronics company Bang & Olufsen knows how to make a beautiful pair of headphones. They also know how to make a great-sounding pair of headphones. The H4 over-ear headphones are noise-canceling and have incredibly soft speaker beds, so your ears will never get sore or tired. Available in black and a neutral limestone color, they offer up to 19 hours of battery life on a single charge. There are also quick-touch controls located on the speakers for easy volume and play/pause control.

Best Budget: JLab Audio Go Air

JLab Go Air

Courtesy of JLab

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Small size for easy traveling

  • Charging case for extra play time

What We Don't Like
  • Not noise canceling

Coming in under $30, these earbuds offer just as much play time as Airpods (five hours) and the audio quality of a much more expensive set of headphones. The Go Air come with a charging case, which offers 15 more hours of play time when fully charged, and three different audio settings to help deliver the sound you want.

Best Battery Life: Edifier W830BT Bluetooth Headphones

Edifier headphones

Courtesy of Edifier

What We Like
  • 95 hours of playback time

  • Minimalist design

  • Soft and comfortable earpads

What We Don't Like
  • Only minimal noise cancelation

These headphones have 95 hours of playback time between charges. That, in itself, is pretty amazing. Pair that with the fact that reviewers applaud them for being highly durable and light, and you’ve got the perfect pair of vacation headphones.

Best Wired: Audio-Technica ATH-M50X Headphones

What We Like
  • 90-degree swiveling earcups

  • Includes coiled and straight cables

  • Good noise cancelation

What We Don't Like
  • Plastic earcups aren't the most durable

Wired headphones are often less expensive than their wireless cousins, which is a big plus if you don’t mind the physical connection between your ears and your device. The ATH-M50X headphones from Audio-Technica are a solid pair that offers a bit of noise cancelation and super clear sound. This set also comes with three different wire options: one coiled and two straight wires of different lengths. You can find adapters to plug into most audio devices.

Best for Business Travel: Sony WH1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Headphones

What We Like
  • 24 hours of playback time

  • Good noise-canceling capability

  • Minimalist design

What We Don't Like
  • Can only be paired with smart phones or tablets

With 24 hours of stream time and a Bluetooth range of 330 feet, the WH1000XM3 headphones from Sony are truly hard workers—just like you. Placing these noise-canceling beauties over your ears will send you into your own world—perfect for prepping for presentations and pitches while you’re on the road.

Best Compact: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 Earbuds

What We Like
  • Pauses playback when you remove them

  • 28 hours of playback time

  • Sleek charging case

What We Don't Like
  • Audio delay possible when watching videos

When you’re looking for something small and compact, settle your search on a pair of earbuds. These headphones from Sennheiser have a lot of perks, despite their subtle design. With 28 hours of continuous listening time (20 come from the chargeable case), you can fly across the world without pulling out a charging cable. They also automatically pause your music when you remove them, which is a nice touch you never knew you wanted.

Best Earbuds: Apple Airpods Pro

What We Like
  • Soft silicone earbud tips

  • Sweat and water resistant

  • Noise cancelation

What We Don't Like
  • Best for Apple device users

There’s a reason why you tend to see Apple Airpods Pro every time you walk out of the house—they’re that good. While more expensive than other earbud options, these headphones are water resistant and truly noise canceling. They also have a snazzy transparency mode, which allows you to hear some of the noise around you in case you prefer to stay relatively connected to your surroundings. These Airpods Pro come with three different silicone tips so you can find the best fit for your ears.

Best Investment: Sony WH-1000XM4 Headphones

What We Like
  • Alexa voice control

  • Easy transitions between streaming audio and calls

  • 30 hours of playback time

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

There’s not getting around the price: These are an investment piece. But the WH-1000MX4 headphones from Sony are well worth it if you find yourself wearing a pair for extended periods every day, value a long-lasting charge, and are a stickler for sound quality. These over-ear headphones are designed to seamlessly transition between streaming audio and taking calls, making them a great option for the workday, as well.

Best Noise-Cancelling: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

What We Like
  • Alexa voice control

  • Three levels of noise cancelation

  • 20 hours of playback time

What We Don't Like
  • Bose AR apps only for Apple users

With three levels of noise cancelation, you have the power to tune out the rest of the world or just take a slight step away with these headphones from Bose. They also fold down into a compact carrying case, making them a simple travel companion. When fully charged, they give you up yo 20 hours of listening time.

Final Verdict

While pricier than a simple pair of earbuds or over-ear headphones, the QuietComfort 35 II from Bose (view at Bose) are worth the investment for their noise-canceling abilities alone. These headphones would fit into any scenario: commuting home on the train, taking a work call in the office, or completely disconnecting from the world on a flight.

What to Look For When Buying Headphones

Fit

You have to first decide if you’re looking for over-ear headphones or earbuds. The difference: Earbuds will sit inside your ear and often come with a silicon tip for added comfort. Over-ear headphones will sit around your ear, the speaker pointing directly into your ear. Both options are popular for different reasons. Earbuds allow for more movement and are a great pick if you plan to work out with them in. Over-ear headphones offer more noise cancellation. Fit comes down to what feels best in or around your ears. Before spending big money on either type, find a place where you can try the two types of headphones on for yourself. Aside from this style choice, you’ll want to consider the presence of wires—you can find wireless options for both earbuds and over-ear headphones. It’s best to find a pair of over-ear headphones with an adjustable headband, as well.

Price

Headphones vary wildly when it comes to price. You can certainly find a pair for $20, but you can bet that the sound quality won’t come close to a pair that’s $200 or even $50. Consider your use for the headphones: If you just need a pair to get you through a workout, sound quality may not matter as much. If you plan on wearing your headphones every day for work, investing in sound quality can be much better for your ear health. On the high end, expect to pay upwards of $300 for a top-of-the-line pair of headphones.

Audio Quality

Like price, audio quality will vary a lot in headphones. First off, what even is good audio quality? This mainly comes down to personal preference, but there are three main categories of sound quality. Bass-heavy audio will focus more on the lower notes. V-shaped audio focuses on both bass and the higher treble notes, which makes the audio sound more lively. Flat, balanced, or neutral audio brings all frequencies to the same level. There is no good or bad option among these; it all comes down to what sounds best to you. Another fun fact: the more kilobits per second (kbps) a piece of audio has, the better. With a pair of high-quality headphones, you’ll be able to notice the change in audio with higher and lower kbps, depending on what you’re listening to.

FAQs

How do I care for my headphones?

You never want to submerge your headphones in water, but it is ok to spot clean them with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. It’s best to keep dust and ear wax (hey, it happens) out of your earbuds, as well. To remove things like this, grab a Q-tip and some rubbing alcohol and brush it over the mesh wiring of your speaker. Never stick anything into the actual speaker, or you’ll risk damaging your headphones. 

Does listening to headphones cause hearing loss?

It really depends on your ears, but you never want to turn your volume all the way up to the max for extended periods of time. This is also where good quality headphones can help: Noise-canceling technology makes it easier to block outside noise without pumping up the volume. 

Is frequency range important?

Not entirely. Those with fantastic hearing who are trained to hear extra-high or extra-low frequencies may benefit from a pair of headphones with a wider frequency range, but most pairs offer audio quality that hits the main bandwidth of 20Hz to 20000Hz. This range is what an average human is able to hear.

Why Trust TripSavvy?

Erika Owen has suffered hearing loss and is constantly on the search for a solid pair of headphones with high audio quality. She spent five hours researching the picks pulled for this particular article and countless other hours trying out some of the headphones mentioned in this story. Her personal favorite is the Beoplay H4 2nd Gen Wireless Headphones from Bang & Olufsen.

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