While souvenirs are always fun to get on our travels, the reality is I much prefer photos as my souvenirs from our adventures around the world. So, while I love my DSLR camera, and always have my phone on hand for those once-in-a-lifetime shots, I knew it was time to level up my photos from abroad and start researching drones. With videography catching more of my interest lately, a drone really was the next logical step. So, we went out and found some of our favorite fellow travelers with drone experience. We asked them what they love about the travel drone they own. After scouring the best drone reviews, we finally were able to figure out the best travel drone that would meet our specific travel, photo and video needs.
This post contains affiliate links, you can read more about this in our disclaimer.
Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to finding the best travel drone in addition to what others have to say is the best drone on the market, including:
- Best drones with cameras
- A drone that follows you
- Drones for professional usage
- Everything else about buying a drone
- 1 Best travel drone comparison table
- 2 Do you need a travel drone?
- 3 When not to get a travel drone
- 4 Travel drone experiences from fellow travelers
- 5 Types of travel drones
- 5.1 Selfie travel drones
- 5.2 Top 3 selfie drones
- 5.3 Travel drones / foldable drones
- 5.4 Top 3 small travel drones
- 5.5 Professional drones
- 5.6 Top professional drones
- 6 Key features to consider when selecting the best travel drone
- 7 Best Drone Accessories for Travel
Best travel drone comparison table
Do you need a travel drone?
If you love photography or videography, a drone is definitely the next step. Do you NEED a drone? If you’re just a regular traveler answer most likely is no. But a personal travel drone is so much fun and the images can be amazing! Many travelers love getting those awesome aerial shots that simply can’t be taken from the ground. Professionals and bloggers may need an aerial photography drone or are even looking for the best video drone to get even better footage for their projects.
While you absolutely should learn the rules, etiquette, and laws to using a drone, you don’t need to be a professional to make great shots. There are some really great and easy to fly drones out on the market today as well as affordable drones that make owning one a possibility for all travelers.
When not to get a travel drone
In all honesty, I don’t think the question is WHETHER you should get a portable travel drone, it’s actually WHEN and WHERE to take your drone.
There are some countries (such as Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Nicaragua to name only a few) where drones are outright banned. Entering one of these countries with your drone could result in harsh fines, or worse, getting your drone confiscated. So, if your travels mostly take you to countries where flying a drone is prohibited, that would probably be a reason not to get one.
A good reason not to bring your drone with you is if you’re visiting busy locations. There could be privacy issues, people get annoyed by the noise of your drone, and you could run into the complication of other drone flyers as well. Also, we are finding more and more specific attractions do not allow for drones, such as the Statue of Liberty. Do your homework!
Finally, be mindful when going on a cruise. The communication and radio equipment can really mess up your drone. So much so that not only can it be costly for you, but actually a danger to others around you as well.
Therefore, if you simply do your homework before a trip, you can save yourself a lot of headache, hassle, and heartache.
Travel drone experiences from fellow travelers
DJI Mavic Air
Recommended by Christa from Expedition Wildlife
Drones are an incredible tool for showing people some of the stunning landscapes found throughout the world. We use our DJI Mavic Air while traveling to showcase the places we’ve been, and it’s been the perfect complement to our wildlife photographs and videos! Added pieces we never forget to bring include extra batteries and rotors, filters for various light conditions, and a cleaning kit – batteries are particularly important when flying in colder weather, as the battery drains faster in these conditions.
The quality of the video, enabling 4K footage, is fantastic for the price, and the compact and lightweight nature of the Mavic Air make it perfect for travel and backpacking into more remote locales. Having the ability to instantly download video onto a mobile device is a good feature for ensuring the desired shot was acquired. Users of the Mavic Air should use caution in higher winds, as this model is quite light and cannot withstand even somewhat windy days.
We’ve flown our drone in multiple locations throughout Europe, including southern France, The Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Germany, and Iceland, and in Thailand. The tip we always give drone users is to be conscientious and considerate of wildlife found wherever they plan to fly their drone. Animals are very sensitive to the noise drones make, and during key times of year, such as breeding season, it’s important to lessen our impact as much as possible. Consider researching the wildlife found in your flight zone ahead of time to prevent incurring heavy fines and even have your drone lost to an angry bird!
Check out Expedition Wildlife’s Facebook Page for more drone footage.
DJI Mavic Pro
Recommended by Mark from Travel in Gippsland
We carry the Mavic Pro with us on our travels. The main reason I chose the Mavic Pro was the high quality specs. 4k video and manual settings for photography make the Mavic Pro amazingly versatile. You won’t need many accessories with the Mavic except a spare battery to get the best out of the drone.
The Mavic is small enough to fit in your carry-on luggage on the airplane. The downside of traveling with a drone is that it’s getting harder and harder to find places that allow you to fly them. I love the perspective that drone pictures and videos give you from above. Beside flying in Australia my Mavic has taken to the air in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos.
My best tip for all drones is make sure you have enough battery and fly within its limits. No use going for the amazing shot if you never see your drone again.
Recommended by Liza from Tripsget
One of the best drones for travel blogging that is also super affordable is DJI Spark. You can currently buy the combo with a remote for slightly over $500. The combo comes with two batteries, a leather bag, additional set of propellers, a proper charger, and of course, the remote controller. You can fly it just with your phone, but it’s quite risky since the connectivity isn’t that great.
I decided to get the DJI Spark because of great reviews, compact size and decent footage quality and never regretted buying it. Of course, if you’re a professional photographer, it won’t be enough, but for a travel blogger who values price and size and doesn’t need to have 4K for the videos, Spark is enough. Also, more and more countries are enforcing very strict drone regulations, so I wanted to be on the safe side and not invest in the drone too much. I have already taken my DJI Spark to Denmark, Malta and Seychelles and soon I’ll be taking it with me to Germany, France and Russia.
One of the major downsides of this drone is there because of its small size. Basically, you won’t be able to navigate it when it’s windy. Since we travel a lot off-season, the weather is not always great and that’s the reason why we haven’t taken the drone with us that often. Overall, I would definitely recommend DJI Spark if you’re a hobby photographer and travel blogger.
See more drone imagery from the Seychelles in Tripsget’s Guide to the Seychelles.
Types of travel drones
Selfie travel drones
Selfie drones typically fall into the ‘toy drone’ category because they are used more for fun than for professional usage. Some selfie drones have the “follow me” feature that uses either facial recognition or a GPS to hover right around you and follow as you walk, bike, swim or just otherwise move around. Others, you just have to simply position above or in front of you to take your perfect travel selfie.
Since these hover drones are not meant for much more than just playing around and taking selfies, they typically have a short battery life (maximum 10 minutes is the norm, often much shorter), and will only fly within a small range of you as it auto-tracks your body. If you get a cheap selfie drone the camera might not be that good and chances are you’ll be disappointed with the image quality, so be mindful.
One of the benefits to this drone is that since it can’t get very high, many places consider this more of a personal camera than a full drone, meaning it doesn’t always need to be registered with the FAA. However, you are still held liable for following local rules and laws, such as not flying near an airport. Please make sure to double check the local rules and laws to make sure you are in compliance.
Top 3 selfie drones
- DJI Tello Quadcopter Drone
- Holy Stone HS160 Shadow
- Hover Passport Drone
This little “toy drone” packs quite a punch, especially for those new to drones that just want something easy to take aerial photos with. It has a 5 megapixel camera that takes surprisingly good photos. The quality of the 720p video leaves to be desired, due to the low frame rate. The camera of this small drone is fixed so it won’t tilt to take the perfect selfie, but with the right positioning you can still take some great selfie shots. You will have to save any footage onto your phone, as there are no SD slots, before sharing to any social media.
You’ll be able to fly the Ryze DJI Tello drone for about 13 minutes, up to 10 meters above you and up to 100 meters away.
The biggest downside to this beginner drone is that while it is great for indoors, it performs poorly in pretty much any wind. The app controller is fantastic if your phone actually supports it. If not, you can purchase a controller that goes with the drone. Also, there is no “follow me” feature built into this model, so you will have to position the drone yourself for your epic selfies.
This great beginner drone comes with an option of a really nice carrying case (great for travel) and is so lightweight, compact, and foldable that it is easy to take with you on any trip. It comes with a controller that attaches right to your phone and apparently handles nicely. It’s mostly suitable for indoor use or in conditions where there is no wind. Reportedly it is quite loud.
This little drone has a flight time of about 8 minutes, which is normal for this type of drone. What’s great though is that an extra battery is included. You can easily change the battery and enjoy your drone longer. The batteries charge pretty quickly.
This 720p camera takes decent enough videos and pictures for everyday selfies to use for your social media or to share with friends and family. But it really isn’t good enough for anything much more than “just for fun” photos. This drone doesn’t have a “Follow Me” feature, so if you want a selfie, you just need to let it hover above you.
Holy Stone’s customer service is reportedly exceptionally good, that’s a big plus if you ever have an issue with this drone.
This incredibly light, yet strong, folding drone is absolutely perfect for travel if you are looking for selfies and selfie videos. When folded up, it’s about the size of a book, with the props completely encased in carbon fiber prop cages, making it incredibly easy to pack into a carry-on. It weighs only 0.53 pounds (242 grams) with battery included.
The video quality isn’t that great, but good enough for recreational videos and the still images are supposedly pretty good. The Passport drone can shoot in 4K, 1080p, or 720p, but is limited to 30 frames per second regardless of the resolution. Image stabilization is iffy as it doesn’t have a gimbal. As it’s very light, it doesn’t do well in windy conditions, but the caged props make it very suitable for indoor flying.
Having the props completely caged is ideal for selfie mode, considering you don’t want to be accidentally hit in the face with the rotors! It also makes it easy and safe to launch from your hand. The Hover Passport has a number of autonomous modes, such as the orbit mode where it will fly in a circle around you.
One thing to look out for and double-check with the manufacturer is that your specific phone will work with this drone, as it is not compatible with all phones. With a flight time of 10 minutes, it’s obviously not very useful as a proper travel drone, but if you want to take some quick selfies on the go it works pretty well.
However, this is one of the best toy drones with the “follow me” feature, something often found in more expensive drones. The Passport stands apart from other portable drones thanks to its image recognition software. Therefore, it will literally hover over you and follow as you move, which is perfect for enjoying your trip and not worrying about flying and piloting the drone.
Travel drones / foldable drones
The following small, foldable drones are a big step up from the above ‘selfie’ or ‘toy drones’ (both in functionality and price!) and are absolutely perfect for traveling. They are compact, fold up well for packing but also take amazing footage and photos.
Top 3 small travel drones
- DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
- DJI Mavic Air
- Autel Robotics EVO Drone
Despite their small portable drone size, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and DJI Mavic 2 Pro are considered the best travel drones on the market today. They fold up, pack down small, and weigh just under two pounds, making these drones ideal for travel. Both have identical dimensions and flight specs. Video quality is also comparable, but the Pro has a larger image sensor, allowing for 20MP still images.
The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom foldable drone takes great pictures and video. At 4K resolution it records at 24, 25 or 30 fps, at 1080p (full HD) resolution this goes up to 120 fps. It takes 12MP still images in Raw or Jpg. The main difference with the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom is the image sensor. The Mavic 2 Zoom has a smaller sensor and therefore requires less glass, which allowed DJI to fit it with 2x zoom. The 24-48mm zoom range isn’t just to bring objects closer, it also allows for some awesome creative effects.
The Mavic Zoom has a fantastic battery life (31 minutes flight time when fully charged) and can transmit up to 8 kilometers. It also has sensors to prevent crashing. If you are looking for the best foldable drone for travel, consider the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom.
Another DJI foldable drone, the Mavic Air, is a top contender for travelers. At a slightly lower price point it can be an interesting alternative for the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. If traveling light is a top priority for you when figuring out the best drone to buy, then the DJI Mavic Air should be at the top of your list. It packs very small and weighing in at only 15.2 ounces it’s very lightweight and a great drone with an HD camera.
But don’t be fooled by this small drone with a camera. The camera is housed in a 3-axis gimbal system that’s incredibly nimble and stable. It takes phenomenal 4k videos, 12MP stills and HD 1080 slow-motion footage. It is even easy enough for amateurs, making this one of the best drones for beginners who want outstanding footage.
If you can spare a bit more weight and finances, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro still has better range, better battery life (31 minutes of flight time, compared to 21 of the Mavic Air), as well as better ground clearance, but will also come with a bit more of a learning curve and a higher price tag than the DJI Mavic Air. Therefore, if you are a beginner drone user, this is a great DJI option.
DJI dominates the folding drone market, but there are some who find DJI’s built-in safety features and self-policing too restrictive. Or who simply don’t like the brand for other reasons. Luckily Autel Robotics offers a viable alternative with its EVO drone.
Battery life and flight time are comparable to the DJI Mavic 2 and flight speed (22mph with obstacle sensors enabled) is comparable to the DJI Mavic Air. Autel Robotics is less restrictive than DJI safety-wise. It’s possible to fly the EVO much higher than the legal altitude limit and it doesn’t recognize no-fly zones. Some experienced drone pilots might prefer it that way, but be mindful if you’re not that experienced and less aware of the legal restrictions.
The Autel Robotics EVO is a video recording drone with a powerful camera on a 3-axis gimbal, that records 4K video with up to 60 frames per second. At lower resolutions, you can even get a higher frame rate (1080p up to 120fps, and 720p as quickly as 240fps). It also offers 12MP stills in Raw or Jpg format. The image sensor isn’t huge, so it’s about phone quality. Which is good enough for most of us. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is the only travel drone currently available with a 1-inch image chip but it’s a lot more expensive.
The rear and bottom sensors are extremely nice for obstacle detection and safety features while flying and landing.
One thing that sets this drone apart is that it has both a great controller as well as an app (the android app is fantastic), which many competitors have issues with. You can adjust basic settings and fly the drone using the controller’s 3.3-inch display, but you need the app if you want to take full advantage of all the features the EVO offers.
Many people use a professional drone, not only videographers and photographers but other professionals as well. These drones are not necessarily for beginners, as they come with a lot of amazing features that are often more complex to learn and figure out. But they can make for some stunning and amazing footage that even the most professional photographers and videographers will love.
Top professional drones
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- DJI Inspire 2 Pro
- Yuneec Typhoon H Plus
The Mavic 2 Pro is the new DJI drone and is often considered the best drone for photography for travel and one of the best high-end drones. It comes with an amazing Hasselblad L1D-20c camera with a 1-inch CMOS sensor, that also performs well in low light situations (f/2.8-f/11 adjustable aperture, ISO up to 12800). Weighing only 907gr and measuring 214×91×84 mm while folded, this is the perfect travel drone.
The Mavic 2’s fantastic camera has a 28mm equivalent field of view lens that takes 20-megapixel photos (making this the best photography drone for travel) as well as 4K HDR video up to 30 fps, with a 10-bit Dlog-M color profile.
The amazing camera isn’t the only thing that makes this the best drone to buy. It’s also the other tech, like the obstacle avoidance features, fantastic image stabilization, a responsive controller and fast flying speeds that make many people consider this the best small drone with camera capabilities and is one of the best-rated drones on the market today.
This quite a large drone that’s harder to pack and bring along while traveling, but this is considered one of the best drones for photography and video. It’s a proper professional drone that takes absolutely fantastic footage at 5.2 cinema raw and records at 4k at 100mps that then compresses to h.264 or h.265. If you’re a professional travel videographer, this drone might be for you.
One of its unique features is that it can live broadcast and can be controlled by two pilots at the same time. This allows for one pilot to worry about navigation as the other can focus on the photography aspect.
In addition to its fantastic obstacle avoidance with dual motion sensors and dual barometers, the dual battery makes it ideal for locations with high winds, trees and other obstacles that typically drain the batteries quicker. You’ve also got speed on your side with the DJI Inspire 2 Pro as it can follow anything up to 45 mph!
With up to 27 minutes of flight time, you are guaranteed to have some fantastic footage.
The C23 1-inch sensor camera captures 4k/ 60 fps video and 20 megapixel stills. With a 360 camera and filter options this is a great drone camera to consider.
The second generation Yuneec Typhoon H hexacopter has a good battery life with a flight time up to 30 minutes, especially considering that it has 6 rotors and is amazingly quiet, which can be a major plus. It’s also great in rougher conditions and areas with high winds. This drone has a sophisticated collision avoidance system with Intel RealSense Technology, that’s also integrated with the Follow Me mode.
The shock absorbers for the gimbal are a great touch as well as the retractable landing gear. Another unique feature is the built-in ‘no-fly zones’ so that you don’t accidentally fly it in prohibited areas. The ST16S controller has a large 7-inch integrated screen, so you don’t need an external device to access flight telemetry or make any camera setting adjustments.
Key features to consider when selecting the best travel drone
The weight of your gear is extremely important, especially if you plan to travel with your drone. Luckily, there are some phenomenal lightweight drones, like the DJI Mavic series, that make finding a quality portable travel drone easier than it ever was before.
Most Lightweight Drone:
Dimensions and foldability
Depending on what kind of footage you need and what type of travel you do, finding the best small drone with camera included may also be a major requirement for you. Since many drones are now foldable, this means that they can pack easily without taking up precious luggage space.
The higher priced drone all have good image quality of drones, but among the lower priced drones the quality varies greatly. Obviously, most travelers getting a drone would love to take phenomenal pictures and video of their destination. The best camera drone is going to have the latest specs and tech available, but it comes at a price. Look for things like the best 4k drone for great videos as well as high megapixels to give you stunning photos. When going for a cheaper selfie type drone definitely do your research as image quality is usually very low in the cheaper models.
Distance and flight time
Battery life in drones is often short, typically well under 30 minutes of flight time. Most cheaper drones can only fly up to 10 minutes. Compare flight times and make sure the drone you choose can do the things you want it to do (or you’ll be very disappointed when you arrive at your destination). When you’re flying your drone, be aware of the battery life and how close your drone needs to be when you get a low battery sign and still be within a safe retrieval distance.
Likewise, knowing the transmission range of a drone is really important depending on what you want it to do. For example, a selfie-style drone has very little range, but a more professional travel drone can reach upwards of 8km (5 miles). Of course, keep in mind FAA regulations require you to fly within visual line-of-sight and below 400 feet.
The conditions in which you’ll be flying are also a point to consider. Most drones will have no issues flying when conditions are perfect and there’s no wind, but what will it be like at your destination? Selfie drones are quite small and only work well indoors or when there’s no wind, while more expensive drones such as the Mavic 2 Pro have image stabilization and can fly in rougher conditions.
Ease of use – drone pilot training
Whether you are looking for the easiest drone to fly or are considering high-end drones, knowing how to maneuver the gear is essential. Luckily, there are some extremely simple versions out there, like the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium, which you’ll pilot around in no time. And then there are the more complex and professional drones, like the DJI Inspire 2 Pro. One way to make sure you understand how to fly a drone is to get drone pilot training and, in fact, some drones and locations require you to have a license. You can read more about that here.
Best Starter Drone: DJI MAVIC AIR
After only one crash, you are quite quickly going to learn that your drone is not indestructible. If you want to install your own replacement parts, check with your drone manufacturer first, as many times if you tinker too much with the drone, it may void the warranty. If the manufacturer allows you to fix the drone yourself, make sure that replacement parts are available before you buy it. Usually, drones come with a set of replacement propellers.
‘How much does a drone cost?’ is a popular question. The answer is actually quite complicated. The best affordable drone – like the Holy Stone Shadow, which may be perfect for playing around with – may only set you back about $100. But does it give you the image quality you want? There are some really great middle of the road drones, like the Autel X-Star of the DJI Mavic Air, which I think could be considered the best budget drone considering all it can do for the cost of just a few hundred dollars.
Professional drones like the DJI Inspire will set you back several thousand dollars. The Mavic 2 Pro is best affordable professional drone and makes amazing videos for a relatively affordable price (compared to other professional drones).
At the end of the day, you have to consider that with drones, you typically will get what you pay for. If you want something fun, then cheaper isn’t always bad, but be mindful the image quality and especially video quality may be a bit lower. If you need something more than just selfies, then expect to pay a higher price tag.
Best Drone Accessories for Travel
Depending on your travel style and your drone needs, having extra accessories may be something to consider. Check out these drone accessories that are great to have on hand or purchase for your drone.
Smart drone flyers always have extra batteries on hand, especially for shorter battery life drones. Better yet, why not carry a portable battery charging hub so that you are never caught without juice? At most, your drone will fly for about 20-30 minutes. Which, over a whole day and including take-off and landing isn’t a lot. So having an extra set of batteries isn’t a luxury.
If just carrying an extra battery isn’t enough you can look into buying a portable charger for your drone battery. If you often travel by car, you can also get a 12V drone charging cable or a car power converter.
Most new drones come with a set of spare propellers. Not surprisingly, as this is the part of your drone that’s most likely to break. Propellers are an essential part of your drone but quite fragile. They’re also quite easy to replace. Always make sure to carry a spare set (or two), or you might be in for a short flight.
Drone propeller guard
When you’re a novice drone pilot, getting a drone propeller guard might be a good idea. As mentioned before, your drone propellers are easy to damage and this contraption protects them in case you bump into anything while flying. You wouldn’t want your expensive drone to fall out of the sky and get damaged because the propellers weren’t functioning properly. The propeller guard adds a little bit of weight, shortening your flying time, but it’s worth it for the protection they offer.
Protective carrying case
Most drones don’t come with a carrying case. Even if you have a folding drone, you don’t want to just chuck it in your bag as they damage easily. Let’s face it, drones aren’t exactly cheap, so it’s worth it to invest in the best drone bag for travel. Each model drone has their own size carry bag, so make sure to figure out which casing works best for your drone.
ND and polarizing filters
ND filters or Neutral Density filters reduce the amount of light coming into the camera, enabling lower shutter speeds and motion blur in both your videos and stills, without risking over-exposure. Read more about how ND filters work here.
Polarizing filters reduce reflections and glare, enhance colors and increase contrast, by removing polarized light.
Before you buy any filter, if you’re not buying the official ones for your drone, check the reviews and verify that it’s designed to work well with the gimbal camera’s center of gravity.
Extra SD cards
Most drones come with a relatively small memory card. Investing in a larger memory card will make sure you don’t run out of space mid-shoot. You’ll need a high capacity card (64gb or more) and minimum UHS-1 (ultra high speed).
Foldable landing pads or landing gear
Definitely more a nice-to-have than a must-have accessory, landing gear for a drone is exactly what it sounds like. These extensions can be mounted underneath the drone so it sits higher off the ground. The increased ground clearance will lessen the chance of dirt and grass getting on the drone’s body or camera.
For travel, a foldable landing pad may be more practical than drone landing gear. The brightly colored landing pad will make it easier to spot your launch site from the ground. It will also reduce the amount of dust you stir up when you take-off which can dirty your camera lens or hinder your motors. If you get a ticker, rubber landing pad it might also lessen the impact of landing.
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