This story is part of, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.
Thanks to the always evolving state of the pandemic, a lot of folks are still postponing travel plans. Others are leaning into their vaccinated status and traveling for business or pleasure like in 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. If 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.
Whether you're trying to block out the sound of an airplane or just your neighbors, 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.
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.
You can't ask for a better travel companion than the JBL Go 3. It sounds great for its (tiny) size, it's waterproof and it recharges via USB-C. The Go 3 is available in a variety of fun colors, too. It's a great way to enjoy music in your hotel room, on a picnic or anywhere in between.
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.
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.
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.
Read more: Best gifts for $50 or less