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This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2021, our list of ideas, by topic, by recipient and by price, to help you discover the perfect gift.

Thanks to the delta variant of COVID-19, a lot of folks are still postponing travel plans. Others are leaning into their vaccinated status and traveling for business or pleasure like the good old days, albeit with a face mask firmly in place. But whether you're jetting to exotic locales or restricting yourself to short car hops, there are plenty of devices out there to make your trip a more pleasant experience. Whether you're buying for yourself or seeking a gift for a once and future road warrior, you'll find something here to make the journey a smoother experience.

David Carnoy/CNET

Whether you're trying to block out the sound of an airplane or just your neighbours, you need a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. Consider Sony's impressive WH-1000XM4 headphones. They retail for $350, but that price often comes down in holiday sales -- in fact, you can almost get two of these for the price of a single pair of AirPods Max. They have great sound quality, including on voice calls, offer excellent noise cancellation and can toggle between two separate Bluetooth-connected devices, like your phone and your laptop.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 review.

 

Solgaard

A good backpack with lots of pockets is a must. Among other things, pockets keep your tech stuff organized. CNET's pick is the Solgaard Lifepack. It comes with the standard things you'd expect -- a padded compartment for your laptop, nifty pockets for your phone and sunglasses -- but it's also got a few secret pockets for valuables and an anti-theft lock on the inside. One of the most handy features is the built-in power bank with a Bluetooth speaker. You can charge it in a regular wall outlet and there's also a solar panel on the front so it can slowly recharge when you're out and about. Skip the speaker for a thinner powerbank and you'll save $24.

David Carnoy/CNET

Speaking of Bluetooth speakers, the Tribit StormBox Micro is a great choice. This recent CNET Editors' Choice Award winner originally sold for around $60, but you can often find it on sale for less than $50. For that price you get up to 8 hours of battery life and more bass than pretty much every speaker of this size that CNET's tested. It's waterproof and dustproof, and it's got a nifty strap on the back for attaching it pretty much anywhere.

Read our Tribit StormBox Micro review.

 

Scott Stein/CNET

Whether you're curling up on the couch or trying to distract the kids on a long road trip, this is a must. New for 2021, the ninth-gen iPad is our pick. It has Apple's A13 processor so it's great for casual gaming. Add the first-gen Apple pencil and the Apple Smart keyboard, and you've got a decent makeshift laptop in a pinch. The retail price for the 64GB model is $329 but don't pay more than $299. 

Read our Apple iPad (2021) review.

 

Josh Goldman/CNET

If you want to get away from screen time and get outdoors, then the DJI Mini 2 drone is great for taking on holiday or just playing around at your local park. Retailing for $450, it gives you 31 minutes of fly time on a single charge and shoots in 4K at 30 frames per second. Another selling point? If you've been stuck at home all year, it's the quickest way to go flying without getting on a plane. This model is so small, you don't need a drone license in the US, either.

For something a bit different from the standard action cam, try the Insta360 One X2. This nifty little camera will set you back $430 and lets you shoot cool 360-degree video and edit it easily on your phone. It has an "invisible selfie stick" and great image stabilization so you can get dronelike shots without the drone. There's also a cool bullet-time mode that lets you swing it around your head for awesome aerial panning videos. Adults and kids alike will have a lot of fun with this.

David Carnoy/CNET

Aukey's PB-N83 Mini USB-C Power Bank gives you 10,000 mAh of juice in a footprint that's smaller than a credit card. It's got an LED power indicator, and both USB-C and USB-A ports. You can charge two devices at once or plug it in to charge the power bank and your device at the same time. It sells for $20 at retail, but like the other chargers it's often on sale.

Read more: Best gifts for $50 or less