The 7 Best Mini Hot Tools for Travel of 2023

GHD’s Unplugged Styler is our top pick.

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The Best Mini Hot Tools for Travel

TL / Amazon / Saks Fifth Avenue

Even the most beautiful hotels can have lackluster hairdryers, so if you want a salon-worthy blowout, it’s best to pack your own tools. Thanks to a wave of innovation, there are effective stylers that are compact enough to fit into your carry-on, or even your handbag if you’re upgrading to Balmain’s Cordless Straightener (which isn’t much bigger than an iPhone). There are upgraded travel-sized tools for creating bouncy, 90s-supermodel-esque curls, ceramic irons for a glossy finish, and foldable hair dryers that speed-dry without causing damage. 

We spoke with some of New York City’s leading stylists to get their insights, and trialed some of the market's bestsellers. Our favorite is GHD’s Unplugged Styler for its versatile styling capabilities, cordless construction, and quick heat-up.

Whether you’re heading away for a weekend escape or embarking on a longer intercontinental journey, these are the best mini hot tools to elevate your hair's potential.

Best Overall

ghd Unplugged Cordless Flat Iron

4.3
GHD Unplugged Styler

Amazon

Why We Love It: It’s portable and heats up in 45 seconds.

What to Consider: It requires frequent charging.

Before GHD blasted onto the hair scene in the early 2000s, my girlfriends and I had been using actual irons on our hair. Suffice to say the condition improved greatly after we upgraded to GHD’s revolutionary ceramic tongs. Since then, GHD has released various iterations on its original model, including tools designed for travel, like this Unplugged Styler, which renowned Manhattan stylist John Barrett describes as “top of the line and easy to use.” It’s designed for 20 minutes of cordless styling and is set to an optimum temperature of 365 degrees Fahrenheit. Ryan Trygstad of Mark Ryan Salon is also a big fan. “You can flat-iron, curl, and create flat-iron waves with it,” he says.

Price at time of publish: $299

Best Mini Flat Iron

Kristin Ess Nanoblack Defining Detailing Mini Flat Iron

Kristin Ess Nanoblack Defining Detailing Mini Flat Iron

Target

Why We Love It: It has universal voltage, so you can easily use it abroad.

What to Consider: It has a single heat setting.

Developed by a celebrity hairstylist, this mini flat iron is designed for quick yet effective styling.

“I tend to reach for this when I want to smooth a fringe, touch up edges, add texture to super short hair, or quickly retouch a hairstyle,” Kristin Ess herself explains. It quickly heats up to 380 degrees Fahrenheit and automatically shuts off after 30 minutes. Plus, it delivers negative ions to reduce frizz and enhance shine. 

Price at time of publish: $60

Best Foldable Hairdryer

T3 Afar Travel Size Hair Dryer

4.7
T3 Afar Lightweight Travel Size Hair Dryer

Bloomingdale's

Why We Love It: It has technology that reduces static frizz. 

What to Consider: It doesn’t get quite as hot as other hairdryers.

“A versatile and compact blow-dryer that I have been liking lately is the T3 Afar,” celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger says. T3 has become the brand du jour in the hair world, and it’s easy to see why. The design of the Afar is as appealing as its technical features; it has an ion generator that dries hair rapidly without creating any static frizz, instead smoothing the hair cuticle for a glossy finish. It has five different speed and heat combinations — ideal for those who want to minimize further damage.

Price at time of publish:  $180

Best Hot Roller Set

Conair Travel Hairsetter with Jumbo Rollers

Conair Travel Hairsetter with Jumbo Rollers

Amazon

Why We Love It: They’re effective and affordable.

What to Consider: There are only five, so you’ll need to space them out sparingly.

Conair offers a variety of affordable hair styling tools and these hot rollers are ideal for travel. The compact kit contains five velvet-covered jumbo rollers that come with strong-hold claw clips to set them in place. They only take two minutes to heat up and they have dual voltage, so they’re suitable to use in different regions.

Price at time of publish: $35

Best Compact Heated Brush

Moroccanoil Smooth Style Ceramic Heated Brush

Moroccanoil Smooth Style Ceramic Heated Brush

Amazon

Why We Love It: It is designed to minimize damage and maximize shine.

What to Consider: The buttons are placed around the handle, so it can turn off while styling if you’re not careful.

Moroccanoil is a leader in nourishing hair products, and its repair-focused philosophy extends to its heated styling tools. Rendered in the brand’s signature blue, this heated brush combines the smoothing benefits of a flat iron with the convenience paddle brush. It has beveled edges to smooth right up to the root and it has ceramic cool tip bristles to minimize excess thermal exposure. Another plus? It heats up in less than 60 seconds and allows you to easily style your hair in around three minutes.

Price at time of publish: $140

Best Splurge

Balmain Hair Couture Cordless Straightener

Balmain Hair Couture Cordless Straightener

Saks Fifth Avenue

Why We Love It: It’s cordless and is compact enough to pack in a handbag if you’re going out after work (or for a pre-landing touch up).

What to Consider: It has a designer price tag.

Ultra-luxe beauty is having a moment and Balmain is the first major fashion brand to venture into the hair industry. Inspired by backstage secrets from the world’s best stylists, this cordless straightener was made for quick and effortless touch ups on the move, so it’s a jetsetter’s dream. As you would expect with a luxury product, it has superior features with three preset settings (ranging from 320 to 392 degrees Fahrenheit) and advanced titanium floating plate technology that provides a silky finish.

Price at time of publish: $439

Best Set

CHI Tourmaline Ceramic 3-Piece Travel Set

CHI Tourmaline Ceramic 3-Piece Travel Set

Amazon

Why We Love It: These lightweight styling tools are just as powerful as full-sized alternatives and already come in a thermal case.

What to Consider: Both the flat iron and curling iron only have one heat setting available.

These CHI tools may look small but they’re as powerful as the full-sized versions, and feature the brand’s ceramic technology for even heat styling. Both the curling and flat irons have tourmaline plates which release negative ions to fight humidity. The hair dryer emits infrared heat which locks in moisture and seals the cuticles for less frizz. All three tools are double voltage and already come in a thermal travel bag, making the packable set a good option for your next trip.

Price at time of publish: $110

Tips for Buying Hair Tools for Travel

Prioritize portability

Look for tools that are compact and lightweight. All of the above comfortably fit into a Tumi carry-on suitcase with enough room for outfits and TSA-friendly beauty products. If you need something super portable for a multi-event day, go for a cordless option so you can take it in your handbag.

Consider your desired style

Think about how you want to style your hair: Are there any particular outfits that you want to complement? Perhaps flowy waves with a floral dress? Sleek straight hair paired with an edgy LBD and heeled mules? Let that determine whether you invest in a classic ceramic flat-iron or a curling tool to add volume. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What products should I apply before using hot styling tools?

    “Always use a great conditioner to maintain the hair's moisture levels and a great heat protectant is also key when using irons or blow dryers,” Trygstad explains. Dr. Barbara Sturm, Oribe, R+Co, and Kerastase each have excellent nourishing masks that leave hair silky smooth and primed for styling. Kevin Murphy’s blow dry collection is also top of the line, and if your hair needs an extra boost, do a K18 or Olaplex treatment to rebuild the bonds.

  • Do mini hot tools get hot enough?

    Yes, if you buy quality brands the reduced size shouldn’t matter. The optimal temperature range is 380 degrees Fahrenheit – look for a heat range in that zip code.

  • Can I travel with hot tools in my carry-on and checked bag?

    According to TSA, there are no restrictions on packing hot hair tools in carry-on or checked luggage (just ensure that it’s switched off, and ideally, keep it in a case). But do note any exceptions for cordless devices with lithium-ion batteries inside.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, T+L contributor Amy Louise Bailey used research and her own personal experience as a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle writer to roundup the very best mini hot tools for travel.

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