How to Find the Best Pair of Travel Headphones

Headphones have become such a travel staple that they are worth a little more consideration than just tossing the closest pair in your bag. You’ve got to respect your ears and the music, and it all starts with the headphones.

Next time you’re prepping for a Vacation Quest trip, consider what kind of headphones would be best for you.


Headphones have three distinct styles that affect users differently. Between comfort and sound, here are the pros and cons of each so you can decide what is best for you.


Pros: The common, inexpensive solution to headphones. They come standard in any phone or music player these days, so you probably have a couple pairs sitting around the house. They are amazingly convenient for packing, as they weigh next to nothing and take up almost no room.

Cons: The sound quality usually takes a hit, seeing as how you can only fit in a finite amount of tech into the little buds. And since the shape of an ear is so odd, the comfort level can vary from person to person. I can’t keep some pairs in my ear, so they can be very bothersome.


Pros: A good balance of portability and sound quality. As the standard headphone style before the iPod generation, on-ear headphones still offer value as an audible escape without removing you too much from the world around you. They are ideal for the workplace or the gym – places that you might want to be aware of your surroundings, which is why I rock the Uproar by Skullcandy at work.

Cons: After prolonged use, the on-ear pads can start to hurt. This differs by brand and person, but pain is a detriment to any music-listening experience. Also, because of the lack of an enclosed ear pad, on-ear headphones don’t block out sound well. Plus, other people can hear what you’re listening to if the volume is too loud.


Pros: These beasts are capable of the best sound quality while blocking out outside noise. And because the ear pad fits around your ears, they are usually some of the more comfortable pairs on the market.

Cons: All that high-quality audio and noise-cancelling technology comes at a high price, especially if you want a good pair that will last. On top of that, these headphones are usually big and bulky. And in my experience, the ear pads that cup over the ears can cause you to sweat. So they are not the best accessories to wear in warm weather.

Go Cordless

Wireless headphones are more abundant than ever, ditching cords for Bluetooth. Their main appeal is convenience – you no longer have to untangle cords and you aren’t tethered to your device by a physical strand. The drawback is that they need charging or battery replacements, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

The iPhone did away with its headphone jack, making Bluetooth the main option for users through the popular AirPods. From a travel standpoint, you can take or leave wireless headphones at your discretion. Just don’t be surprised if many companies fully embrace that feature.

Noise Cancellation

Headphones and travel usually coincide during the transportation phase, when you want to tune out the crying babies, the public conversationalist or a vehicle’s ambiance. Some in-ear headphones claim to cancel out noise, with various degrees of success. But if you’ve ever gone to an entertainment store and tried those multi-hundred dollar Bose displays, you know what pure silence sounds like.

I haven’t sprung for ultimate noise-cancelling headphones yet, but if you’re a frequent traveler who likes to block out the world around you for a while, they sound like a wise investment.

Make the Right Choice

As much as we can break down differences in quality and comfort, each pair is different and fits each of us in different ways. Before you buy, be sure to check out reviews and make the best decision if you’re buying online. If you can, it’s worth going to a local electronics store to check out their headphone display.

Also, consider warranty information. You want to get a pair that will last instead of buying new every year or so.

As for specific styles and brands, the headphone industry is so vast that it’s hard to narrow down to individual pairs. If you need a jumping off point, here are some top brands:

NEW: Member Monday Headphones

If you are featured in a Member Monday and share photos to go along with it, you’ll get a pair of in-ear headphones along with a case you can latch on to your back for convenient access.

Do you have a favorite pair of headphones you travel with? Sound off in the comments below!

Corey is a writer from Overland Park, KS, and has been with Vacation Quest since September. Once a sportswriter, he traveled the country and became proficient in airport security line etiquette and leaving items in hotel rooms.