Don’t wait until you’re on the plane to buy headphones; they suck!

Quick notes

  • Active noise-canceling headphones use a counter signal to isolate background noise.

  • Turning up regular earphones to ignore outside noise can lead to long-term hearing loss.

  • You don’t need to break the bank for fabulous noise-canceling headphones, so protect your ears!

It can be challenging to have a zero distraction experience while you’re traveling. There always seems to be a jet engine, loud horn, or a conversation that pulls you out of listening to your music. You may think it’s a good idea to blare your podcast to drown out background noise, but prolonged exposure to this can destroy your eardrums.

So, what can you do instead? Noise-canceling headphones.

These babies are the perfect combination of style, sound quality, and safety.

There are a lot of options to choose from — and that’s what we’re here for. To determine which noise-canceling headphones are the best, we look at the price and design, as well as the padded ear cuffs, over-the-ear vs. inner ear headphones, and sound quality.

Sound quality is subjective to the listener. You may prefer a warm, well-rounded sound while your friend prefers a high-precision sound. Let’s take a look at our favorites determined by our price vs. performance ratio.

Sony WH-1000XM3

Although the Sony WH-1000XM2 is on the pricey side ($399-$450), it’s worth it. With a 30-hour battery life, a wireless range of 100 feet, and four feet of cable length, we already have headphones that are easy to maneuver in. Hiking in the Himalayas?

StockSnap / Pixabay

Not only will these headphones last all day and night, but they can cancel out the whistling wind and snow. More importantly, you won’t hear the plane’s engine or your snoring sleeping cabin mates on your flight.

This significant upgrade from its last edition, the WH-1000XM2, includes padding along the bridge and fantastic sound quality. The design also tossed out the MicroUSB port for the superior USB-C port.

Since 2019, Sony headphones have offered Alexa support. Google assistance is also available, making them the smartest headphones on the market. Avid music listeners will love the WH-1000XM3 because it comes with Sony LDAC and aptX HD — the two best ways to listen to dramatic hi-res music without a wire.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

It’s difficult to top Sony headphones, but the Bose comes very close. Where the Bose 700 loses in price ($499) compared to the WH-1000XM3, it makes up for in eliminating background noise for you and the person calling you.

The deciding factor is if you speak on the phone often, because it’s a more comfortable experience for the person on the other end.

The WH-1000XM3 is capable of removing sounds for you, but your friend on the other line can still hear the wind, slamming, and other conversations. Bose has excellent sound quality as well, but only has 20 hours of battery life.

If you’re thinking between buying  Bose headphones, or the WH-1000XM3 headphones, we would recommend getting the Sony headphones instead. Although Bose 700 is wireless and weighs less, the WH-1000XM3 is still cheaper for basically the same thing (you’re competing with the best).

The deciding factor is if you speak on the phone often while you’re on vacation because it’s a more comfortable experience for the person on the other end.

Sony WF-1000XM3s True Wireless Earbuds

We will always recommend over-the-ear headphones to earbuds, but the Sony WF-1000XM3s is impressive for something in a small package. Dome-shaped, with an on-board battery life of 6 hours, you can go hands-free for a short flight or train ride.

Priced at around $300, you pay for the inconspicuous look and sports-ready design, along with 5-star noise-canceling earbuds. Plus, how often do you find a true pair of wireless headphones?

Hiking becomes way easier when you aren’t fussing with wires!

Unfortunately, although they’re efficient they aren’t exactly hands-on. You can’t change the volume of your music without your phone or dock, making it difficult to change songs on the fly as well.

Even still, if you’re looking for noise-canceling earbuds that are out of the way, there are none better than the Sony WF-1000XM3s. As an added bonus, they can act as earplugs for a loud concert when you’re in a pinch. I always remember my headphones — never my earplugs!

Traveling just became easier

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is no doubt the best noise-canceling headphones around. Bose headphones are a close second, but Sony’s products beat the competition with their accessible price tag and availability.

The 30-hour charge is also fantastic. You could travel from Paris, France to Zagreb, Croatia before your headphones lose battery (or, just charge them on the train)! How cool is that?

If the Sony WH-1000XM3 is too bulky, no problem! The Sony WF-1000XM3s solves that problem by being compact. You won’t have to wrestle with any wires, making the traveling way easier.

Now you can go into your backpack, run two miles, and move through a crowd without getting snagged. All Sony products come with a warranty, and the price isn’t too bad, either!

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

Want more advice on tech to bring while you travel? Hint: It doesn’t have to be expensive.

Remember VCRs? Walkmans? Yeah, me neither.