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Travel Headphones Buying Guide
Whether you use headphones on the road for listening to music, canceling out white noise, or chatting with colleagues, friends, and family, this handbook will help you find the perfect pair.
Relaxing to music on a plane, following audio guidebooks as you walk around a new city, calling home to check in with friends and family, staying in shape in a new location or listening to a podcast—there are dozens of reasons why you should never leave home without good pair of travel headphones. But with tons of options on the market, it can be difficult to know which kind to purchase. The first question a prospective buyer needs to ask is: What will I use these headphones for when I travel? Here’s how to figure out your priorities, so you can narrow down your options. Ask yourself…
Will I be traveling light?
When you’re bringing just a carry-on and you’re looking for a compact pair of headphones that you can throw in a day bag or pocket once you’ve arrived at your destination, look no further than earbuds. The cheapie models that come with most music players give this variety a bad name—upgrade to a better pair for improved sound quality and comfort.
Do I want to exercise on the road, or participate in adventure sports?
If you’re planning on working out during your trip, plastic earbuds with extensions that wrap around the exterior of your ear are your best bet. Regular earbuds that don’t have the extension may fall out of your ears; and leather headphones are cumbersome and may get ruined from sweat. While some workout headphones are water resistant, you should probably keep them in a pouch or a Pack-It™ Sac when they’re not in use. Remember to be safe and watch out for traffic while exercising outside.
Am I going on a business trip?
In order to catch up on emails on the train or work on that important PowerPoint presentation on the plane, you may want noise-cancelling headphones. These heavy-duty models will isolate you from distracting, ambient noise. Just keep in mind that noise-cancelling headphones can cause nausea in a small percentage of people. So test them out before you leave home!
Do I plan to hit the beach?
For hanging out by a pool or on a beach, nothing beats a waterproof set of earbuds. Of course, be sure to also grab a corresponding waterproof case for your phone, music player, or tablet. After all, headphones won’t do you much good if your iPod gets waterlogged!
Will I be aiming for style?
Large, clunky headphones or ones that come in only boring black or white may not be stylish enough for your taste, especially if you’re traveling to a fashion-conscious city, such as Milan or Paris. Choose a sleek model in a bright blue or pink to show off your vibrant personality—or choose a pair that matches your favorite outfit.
Am I going to Skype home regularly?
If you know that you’ll be spending a fair amount of time calling your colleagues, friends, and/or family members on the road, invest in headphones that have a built-in microphone on the cord that hangs near your mouth.
What kind of headphones do you pack when you travel? Tell us your favorite brand in the comments below!
Alexandra Baackes is a traveling writer, designer, and underwater videographer. She is currently in her second year of living as a full-time nomad, and is the executive editor of alexinwanderland.com