I associate air travel with headphones. This might be silly, but I enjoy headphones almost as much as I enjoy travel (okay, not quite) and have found the best time to shop for and buy headphones is in the airport, waiting for a flight. The sellers of smaller electronic devices, including Best Buy, Amazon, and Apple, have noticed, and I see their kiosks spread around airports across the country, in addition to smaller vendors. If you are looking for a better price deal, do your shopping at the airport and your buying from Amazon when you get home.
Well, what makes a great travel headphone? A lot depends on your intended use of the headphone. I generally travel with two or three sets–one for the flight, one for exercise, and one for everything else! Okay, this last category might be gilding the lilly, but bear with me.
A headphone for the flight should ideally include noise reduction, either active or passive, to reduce the hum of the the engine and block out the crying toddler behind you, you know, the one who is kicking your seat. I prefer the in-ear style for this, and make sure that the plugs are sized well and comfortable enough to last the duration of the flight. I would recommend the foam covers over the usual silicone as they are more comfortable over time and stay in your ear better. The over the ear, old school headphones are okay for shorter duration, but for a longer flight, after a while you feel like your head is being squeezed in a vice. I also use a wired headphone for this application. Confined to a seat, you might as well be wired. Lately, I have preferred the Klipsch series for sound and comfort. They come in a wide range of styles and price points.
At the destination, I usually shed the wired ear plugs for wireless, for running, walking, working out, or hanging out. My latest headphones purchase was the in-ear wireless PowerBeats 2, and they work great. I previously avoided the ear buds that wrapped around your ears, and I am not sure why. These are comfortable and stable and designed for activity. They sound great, too. A more economical choice and my current workhorse, the Motorola SD-10. They are relatively inexpensive, sound okay, and are stable during activity. I am on my second set–the electronics, specifically the on/off switch–tend to break over time. I had my first set for about nine months and used them regularly before it failed, and my research on the internet leads me to believe that mine lasted longer than most.
The third pair, just in case! I usually bring along an inexpensive pair, the freebie that comes with an iPhone or some such set, to listen in bed, when others around me are sleeping. If they fall out when I am asleep, as they often do, that’s great. They can be a back up on the plane in the event that I lose (gasp!) or misplace (d’oh!) the Klipsch set. These do not work so well for exercise or vigorous activity, however. They are great for a train ride or bus ride or an otherwise busy day, and if you happen to drop or lose them on the vaporetto in Venice, the double decker in London, or the BART in San Francisco, no big deal.
To be clear, I enjoy music or podcasts when traveling to the destination, or perhaps in a hotel exercise room or on a fitness run, but when touring and exploring, I keep my eyes and ears wide open.