These Bose noise-canceling headphones will set you back around $300... but you can't put a price on peace and quiet.

If there’s one thing that can be said with certainty about travel, it’s that it is a noisy experience. Think about it – when you’re on a plane there’s the constant hum of the engine, the loud chatter of other passengers, and the piercing cries of a baby (if you’re really unlucky). You get to your hotel and find that the walls are paper-thin and you can hear your neighbor’s TV loud and clear. You go to a museum and are forced to listen to tour guides shouting to be heard over one another, or worse, other visitors who feel the need to read the item descriptions out loud and voice their opinion on everything they see (sometimes even when they’re by themselves). You get on a train and try to listen to your ipod only to find you have to jack the volume all the way up in order to hear anything other than just the bass over the roar of the train.

Frankly, it’s a pretty exhausting experience. And when you’re trying to get some work done, or are already tired from jetlag or a long day, having to deal with all that noise can get to be too much. This is why I always pack some ear plugs, which generally help me sleep in noisy environments… but sometimes even that doesn’t cut it (especially if listening to music is the objective).

This is where a pair of noise-canceling headphones can really come in handy. I’m not going to attempt reviewing specific ones here, because CNET has already done a great job coming up with a list of the best noise-canceling headphones, and also because the prices can vary so dramatically (these top-rated Bose headphones will set you back about $300 while others go for closer to $75). However, here are a couple of things to consider when you purchase your headphones: the size (some designs feature rather bulky headsets while others take the form of tiny ear buds); whether you’ll be listening to music through them or simply want to block out the sound; and how much extra you’re willing to pay for the increased quiet the top models offer.

The way I see it, it can be worth investing in a pricier pair if it’ll make a difference to your productivity (or sanity), especially considering you can use them when you return home (my husband uses a pair to block out office chatter). Almost as if to prove my point, a jackhammer has been drilling away outside my window the entire time I’ve been writing this (and I don’t have any headphones here). Oh, the irony.

email