The Most Comfortable Headphones for Traveling

Sony’s WH-1000XM4 will make you forget you’re even wearing headphones.

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headphones
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

There's arguably nothing more important to bring on a trip than a good pair of headphones. Well, other than your passport.

Headphones help you zone out on long-haul flights and zone in when you need to get some work done. They keep you entertained on a jog and combat loneliness when traveling solo. However, anyone who's used the free headphones given out on planes knows how painful some pairs can get.

Luckily, there are plenty of headphones out there that won't stop you from getting cozy on a red-eye. For the most comfortable pair with best-in-class noise cancellation, opt for Sony's WH-1000XM4. But if you're looking for a different style of earpiece or something optimized for long-distance calls home, this list has you covered there, too.

Here are the most comfortable headphones to shop.

T+L's Top Picks

Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM4

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Sony

Why We Love It: The most comfortable headphones on the market also have the best noise cancellation technology.

What to Consider: Over-ear headphones are inherently chunky, and they aren't waterproof.

If you want the most comfortable pair of headphones, Sony's WH-1000XM4 model takes the cake. Originally released in 2020, this model has a light plastic headband that doesn't clamp hard on your head like other headphones — but the earcups are where the magic really happens. Excellent sound quality and active noise canceling combine to beat all rivals, and all the buttons you need are right there on the earcups. Plus, an extra wire means you can plug them into in-flight entertainment systems.

Although this isn't Sony's latest model (that would be the WH-1000XM5), the XM4 is still the best for travelers because they can be balled up for easy transport. They also cost less, which means you'll have more money to spend on your next adventure.

Battery life:‎ 30 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet | Type: Wireless/wired over-ear

Best Budget: Panasonic ErgoFit

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at B&H

Why We Love It: They come with three sizes of ear pads for an ideal fit.

What to Consider: Spending more on headphones would be an investment in better sound quality and comfort.

Remember Panasonic? The maker of your mom's favorite camcorder is still around and dishing out the best budget headphones on the market. For $11, you get a decent pair of headphones with a few fittings for different ear sizes. They come in over a dozen colors, including a stylish rose gold, metallic blue, and bright hues like orange and pink that will help you spot them in your overstuffed carry-on. You can opt for the model that includes a microphone for just a couple extra bucks. What more could you ask for?

Type: Wired in-ear

Best Over-ear: Bose QuietComfort 45

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Bose and Best Buy

Why We Love It: They're some of the most comfortable headphones with spectacular noise cancellation.

What to Consider: They're awkward to sleep in when seated, and Sony's WH-1000XM4 offers slightly better noise and wind cancellation.

No discussion about the most comfortable headphones would be complete without a nod to Bose. The brand has long been at, or near the top, of the headphone game, and the QuietComfort 45 over-ear set are the most comfortable it's ever made (even compared to the newest Bose 700 model).

I personally own a pair of the Bose QuietComfort 35, an older, wired pair that I use for editing, and being able to block out the world around you with noise cancellation is such a treat. This newer model is even better at noise canceling, plus they also have the option of going wireless.

Battery life:‎ 24 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet | Type: Wireless/wired over-ear

Related: The Best Travel Tech Organizers

Best In-ear: 1MORE Triple Driver

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at 1More

Why We Love It: The angled design keeps things comfy for long periods and the wire is convenient for in-flight entertainment.

What to Consider: Bluetooth earbuds offer a more seamless experience and noise isolation won't stand up to active noise cancellation.

Sure, there are plenty of in-ear headphones and earbuds on the market, but you can't do any better than 1MORE for the price.

Designed by a Grammy-winning sound engineer, 1MORE's headphones are some of the comfiest on the market with angled fittings that come in nine different sizes to fit any ear canal. They also feature noise isolation that will help dull that pesky airplane hum. These headphones are wired, but wires do tend to deliver a slightly better sound than Bluetooth, and you'll be happy when you can plug into in-flight entertainment systems without using those shoddy ear-stabbing headphones they give out for free.

Type: Wired in-ear

Best Earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Apple and Target

Why We Love It: Noise-canceling earbuds. I repeat, noise-cancelling earbuds.

What to Consider: They're pricey and they can pop out of your ear rather easily if the tail gets knocked.

I personally own a pair of these and don't leave the house without them. Heck, I don't even leave a room in my house without them. Apple's AirPods Pro are very light and didn't hurt at all during my recent nine-hour flight home from Italy, which is a testament to their comfort (I did take them off to charge for a bit because the battery died halfway through).

The best part about the AirPods Pro — and what puts them above the AirPods 3 — is that they have active noise cancellation, which makes a big difference for tuning out the chatty Cathy next to you at the café.

Battery life:‎ 4.5 hours | Bluetooth range: 40-60 feet | Type: Earbuds

Best for Sleeping: Sony WF-1000XM4

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Sony

Why We Love It: They have surprisingly great noise-cancellation and battery life in a tiny package.

What to Consider: When you're spending more than you would on a competing Apple product, you know you're making a huge investment for a set of earbuds.

If you're the kind of person that likes to fall asleep to podcasts, music, audiobooks, and meditations, these Sony earbuds will send you off into snooze-land gracefully. They're tiny and fit snugly into your ears without any gaps for sound to come through. Meanwhile, they're probably the best noise-canceling earbuds available, so you should be able to get some shut-eye even if the person beside you on the plane is chatting away (I won't say they'll block out babies crying, because nothing can). The battery life is also better than the AirPods Pro and the microphone is great for virtual meetings.

Battery life:‎ 8 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet | Type: Earbuds

Related: The Best Luggage Scales, According to Travel Experts

Best for Exercise: Sennheiser CX Sport

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Walmart

Why We Love It: They have a snug fit and excellent sound, especially for bass.

What to Consider: The neon-accent design is a love it or hate it kind of thing.

Specifically designed for exercise, Sennheiser's CX Sport has fins that prevent them from falling out during your workout and various ear tips ensure they fit whatever ear size you have. If these do happen to come loose, the neck wire will prevent you from losing them, which is a downside of competing earbuds. As for sound, you can always trust Sennheiser, and this model has a particular emphasis on bass, which is great for those pump-up tracks. They're also sweat-resistant, so feel free to push yourself as much as you'd like.

Battery life:‎ 6 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet | Type: Around the neck in-ear

Best for Gaming: HyperX Cloud Earbuds

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Walmart and HyperX

Why We Love It: They're easy to transport with sound quality designed to amplify your gaming experience.

What to Consider: They don't have noise cancellation and they're less comfortable than competing earbuds, especially for those with smaller ear canals.

There are better gaming headsets if you're at home, but when you're on the road, you'll need something light and portable. HyperX's wired in-ear headphones do the trick. Their silicone ear tips come in a few different sizes for comfort, and they have a decent mic for bickering at your friends in any time zone. They also come with a sturdy, zippered carrying case that helps protect them throughout your travels. At less than $50, they're a great value for gaming on the go.

Type: Wired in-ear

Best Noise-canceling under $100: Anker Soundcore Q30

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Soundcore and Best Buy

Why We Love It: You can't beat these noise-canceling headphones for the price.

What to Consider: They don't stack up to similar models from Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser, so you get what you pay for.

Noise cancellation tends to come only on pricier headphones, but Anker has managed to do the impossible with its affordable noise-canceling technology. The brands Q30 over-ear model can block out 95 percent of low frequency ambient sound — and they're comfy, too. These wireless headphones come in black, blue, and pink and roll up nicely into a solid carrying case similar to the one you get with a pair of Bose headphones.

As a fun unique feature, you can turn on Sleep Mode with Anker's app, which includes 11 ambient sounds like rain, birds, and wind, to help you snooze. You'll also get better battery life (40 hours) and Bluetooth range (65 feet) than other models on this list, and the addition of a cable is key to connect to in-flight entertainment.

Battery life:‎ 40 hours | Bluetooth range: 65 feet | Type: Wired/wireless over-ear

Best for Calls: Jabra Elite 65t

headphones
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Best Buy

Why We Love It: It's specifically tailored for mobile use and its microphones cut wind noise.

What to Consider: It doesn't have noise cancellation and its battery lifespan is short.

Another budget-friendly buy, Jabra's earbuds are incredibly comfortable and fit snugly without goofily hanging off your ear like AirPods. Many headphones skimp on the microphone, but Jabra's four-mic technology delivers excellent sound quality while cutting out wind noise, so they're great for calls. This model is specifically designed for mobile devices, so they'll do well if you pick up a call from your boss while traveling.

You're sacrificing on battery life (just 1.5 hours) and noise cancellation (there isn't any), but these earbuds are an affordable option, especially since they're currently selling for less than a third of what they originally cost.

Battery life:‎ 1.5 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet | Type: Earbuds

Tips for Buying Comfortable Headphones

Find a pair that fits your ears properly

Everyone's ears are different, so comfort is unfortunately not a one-size-fits-all. That's why most earbuds on this list come with various silicone ear tips for every ear canal. Over-ear headphones should fit most ear shapes, so you don't have to worry about that. However, on-ear headphones tend to hurt after wearing them for a while, so they aren't ideal if comfort is your priority.

Identify your top feature priorities

Decide how you're going to use your headphones. Do you want to run with them? Use them to make calls? Take them on an ultra-light backpacking trip? Neck straps are great for exercising without worrying about an earbud going wayward. For the best noise cancellation, you'll need to buy clunky over-ear headphones that might not pack well. You can't have everything, so you'll have to identify which features will be most important for your intended use.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Travel + Leisure writers are shopping and product experts who use personal experience and expert recommendations to choose the best items for shoppers. For this article, writer Joel Balsam, a frequent traveler who has visited more than 50 countries, reviewed and selected the best headphones for ultimate comfort while traveling.

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