Finding the perfect travel headphones is no easy task. When you're on a long journey, having a selection of favourite music, films, TV shows or games to play on a laptop or tablet can be a great way to pass the time (and an invaluable comfort for travellers with young children). Your phone or tablet probably came with a set of bundled bud earphones, but these don't have the best sound quality and aren't the most comfortable option when used over long periods of time; so it can make sense to spend a little money on a better pair of headphones if you plan to use your device on a regular basis. (If you're in the market for all your travel essentials, you may want to read our recommendations for the best travel pillows, best travel backpacks, and the best luggage for children as well!)
Here's our roundup of the best travel headphones for all budgets to allow you to entertain yourself without annoying fellow travellers.
Best in-ear headphones - budget
Sony MDR-EX110AP headphones
Sony MDR-EX110AP In-ear headphones are lightweight and super-portable, so make a good choice for use as travel headphones. Launched last year, the Sony MDR-EX110AP headphones are comfortable, have decent sound quality for their sub-£20 price, and will sit far more happily in your ears (and leak less noise) than the bud earphones that come bundled with your phone or tablet. An all-round good choice for the budget traveller.
Best in-ear headphones - quality
Sennheiser CX 5.00 headphones
If you have a little more cash to splash on in-ear phones, the Sennheiser CX 5.00 offers a sturdier build with punchy sound and ergonomic angled design for superior ear comfort - all good things if you travel often and plan to use your headphones extensively. The handy remote control makes pausing and playing easy when you've stashed your device in a pocket. Expect to pay around £50 for a pair.
Best over-ear headphones (circumaural) - budget
Sony MDR-7506 headphones
Increasingly popular in recent years, circumaural (over-ear) headphones block out outside sound more completely and make a lot of sense if you're travelling in a noisy environment or want to use your headphones for relaxation. Sony's MDR-7506 over-ear headphones are used by professionals for their clarity of sound, and this model comes in under £70 online.
Best over-ear headphones (circumaural) - quality
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones
If you want to make a little more of an investment, for around £100 the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones offer large earpads for comfort, especially when wearing for long periods of time, and a warm, pleasing sound. A set of detachable cables allows the headphones to be used at home, on the move, and even in the studio if thatâs where your travels take you.
Best headphones for kids
Xiaomi Piston Youth Colourful Edition headphones
Available in powder blue, candy pink and a rather fetching lilac, these colourful Xiaomi Piston headphones not only look cute but offers a surprisingly crisp sound. The rugged Kevlon cables are coated with colourful soft-touch rubber, so the phones are soft but strong enough to minimise damage risk from accidental yanking. The three pastel colours are bright enough not to get lost easily - and if your kids don't go for them, we can think of adult travellers these headphones might appeal to!
Best Bluetooth headphones
Creative Outlier Bluetooth Headphones
Bluetooth headphones allow you to keep your hands free to make notes or carry luggage while you walk and talk through the airport (be aware that some airlines have restrictions on the use of Bluetooth accessories during the flight itself). Priced around £80, Creative's Outlier headphones connect to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. Handy playback controls are mounted on the right earphone, and there's a microSD slot too, so you don't even need to hook the Outliers up to a phone to enjoy your music. Six funky switchable colour bands mean you can even match your headphones to your luggage for bonus travel style points.
Best noise-cancelling headphones
Sony h.ear in NC headphones
If you really want to get rid of all external sound you need noise-cancelling headphones that use clever technology to nullify ambient sound. Sony's h.ear in NC headphones, priced around £130, let you enjoy crystal-clear audio, even on a noisy train carriage or aeroplane. They're also compact and lightweight enough to carry around in your pocket, with a small inline battery; a 2.5 hour charge will give you 16 hours of intrusion-free listening - enough for the longest-haul flight.
If you have £270 to spare and want to invest in some exceptional noise-cancelling headphones, Bose's QuietComfort 25 headphones offer fantastic quality for your money.
All prices correct at time of publication, but do check online for seasonal deals. Happy listening!
If you found this post on the best travel headphones helpful, you may want to read more of our Before You Go articles. Also check out our travel blog for additional inspiration and travel tips to make your holidays hassle-free!
Written by Lise Smith, a former contributor to Lonely Planet's India guidebook - she's seen her fair share of hotel rooms (both grotty and glamorous!). She learned to walk in a hotel corridor in Tunisia, and at the age of three had been on more aeroplanes than buses. Lise writes for a number of local news, technology and arts publications.Top