If you want vacation photography that really stands out, why not take it from the sky with one of the best travel drones? Easy enough in theory but holidays often mean cramming a lot into a small space. That doesn’t stop you from taking a drone though; many quadcopters are designed to fold and pack into a small space and in this list, we’ve highlighted some of the best travel drones available today.
Other crucial criteria for travel-friendly drones we’ve looked at include ease of use – there’s no way your friends and family won’t demand a go. Similarly crucial is battery life, and of course how easy it is to charge on the go. A thoughtful travel case – even if it is an option – is something to think about. Manufacturers often do a good job accommodating their gear, and their bag can safely be placed in your suitcase.
Finally, the means of sharing content is a crucial factor. Even if you can carry a drone, that doesn’t mean you’ll have access to all your computing gear. Many drones record to MicroSD, but are there easier solutions to get to Instagram without card readers?
The best travel drones in 2023
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A light drone that folds up small, yet has camera and safety specs that can compete with the big boys? Absolutely. It does, of course, also come with a similar price tag so choosing the Mini 3 Pro is all about maximizing the camera at a minimum size and, significantly, sub-250g weight. The camera is excellent and even features the unique ability to switch to portrait mode – ideal for social-media-focused content creators on the go.
With GPS return-to-home as well as the ability to automatically circumnavigate obstacles there are very high safety marks. The long battery life and 10km radio range further increase confidence. These features combine to make it an ideal drone to learn on. We were also impressed with how this ultralight handles wind, though obviously there are limits.
If you stump up for the Fly More Kit you get a case with room for the controller, three batteries, and the device as well as spares. Choose the RC Pro remote with a built-in screen and the system is a ‘closed loop’ – no need for a phone to fly. Whichever remote you opt for you can still transfer images & video to a device using QuickTransfer.
Read our full DJI Mini 3 Pro review
The Autel EVO Nano is another ultralight drone which can circumvent registration regulations, at least in some territories. It’s available with a half-inch or a 0.8-inch image sensor (as the Nano or Nano+). Both can shoot 4K.
Drawing on the firm’s other drones, there is a wealth of software functionality including the option to record sounds from your phone to link to your flight, narrating it. There is also smart subject tracking, so you can get some nice action shots.
We also like the choice of colors as well as the forward/backward/downward collision sensing system. Together with the GPS the drone does a good job of being safe and easy to fly, and the controller’s shape make it easier to hold than many. The drone can charge the battery (a hub comes with the Premium bundle) when connected to a USB-C cable. Only the premium bundle has a US power brick, but when traveling it’s nice to stick to a single USB-C charger if your gear supports it.
Read our full Autel EVO Nano Plus review
The Holy Stone HS720E lacks the elegance of drones from the firms, like DJI, which its design has clear echoes of. It doesn’t have the same range, or smooth user experience, but it does produce 4K video for a budget price. Not only that, but it comes in a good quality travel-ready hard case.
The main battery is rechargeable, and supplied in the box are two batteries and a charging hub that can handle both in sequence. That means the total flight time, even accounting for a land-and-swap is more than most drone’s standard bundles. We also like the controller’s display screen, which makes feedback easier to see, and while the GPS is prone to a slight drift, the hover and return-to-home works.
Video might not be slick, especially at speed, as the camera must lean with the drone as it combats the wind, but after landing it is possible to download the clips. On the plus side there is a version of subject tracking which can follow the GPS position of the remote – no AI cleverness but it has uses, and there is a waypoint mode unlike nearly any other consumer drone.
Read our full Holy Stone HS720E review
The Air 2S is an incredibly capable drone which is only a tiny bit bigger than the DJI’s ultralight Mini 3 Pro, but offers more capability at the cost of moving up a weight category. That extra few grams mean the drone can carry a 1-inch CMOS sensor which can capture video at up to 5.4K. That might seem excessive, but it allows for digital cropping /digital zoom at spectacular quality too, and the 12.6-stop dynamic range RAW stills are striking. From this list, only the Mavic 3 competes in low light.
Extra weight also makes the drone even more sure-footed against the wind (if ‘foot’ can be the appropriate analogy!) In terms of smart features, it is comparable to the Mini 3 or Mavic 3, though its object circumvention is a generation older. Like the bigger Mavic 3 this drone comes with chunky brick to charge the 3750 mAh batteries from the wall, which will add to your carrying weight.
Read our full DJI Air 2S review
If you’re looking for something to give you good-looking pictures from the near sky, the Mini SE is ideal. It isn’t the best camera but it’s broadly similar to many cellphones and – crucially for a drone – it is supported on a gimbal. This gives real image stabilization which makes for better video at 2.7K than you’d get at 4K with no, or only electronic stabilization.
What you don’t get is the latest when it comes to DJI’s remote controllers. Even this, could be seen as a bonus (the older design is smaller and still grips a big phone as monitor). Inside, however, the lower power means the live video is 720P and in real-world conditions struggles to reach 500m (DJI say 2500m in perfect conditions). In practice, though, you’re unlikely to want to go that far. It’s more fun to create cinematic videos effects (the ‘Dronie’ or ‘Helix’). They’re not technically subject tracking, but the drone can keep the camera on a spot and orbit it or shoot upward while panning the lens down, which all looks good on social media.
You can copy content from the MiniSE card using the app – not as fast as ‘QuickTransfer’ but perhaps something to do as you sip a drink at the end of a day on the beach and, if you want more time in the air and a nice hard case, the Fly More kit will oblige.
Read our full DJI Mini SE review
Okay, not actually a drone, but – in certain circumstances – the 360˚ camera can give a similar perspective. Not only that, but its smaller than an ultralight drone and won’t challenge any aviation regulations, nor mind going underwater.
It records from two opposing fisheye lenses (and a gyroscope), so the ONE X2 can see in every direction at once and captures good color and detail. It can use this to crop and stabilize the video. This affords a good amount of creativity and when paired with Insta360’s simple invisible selfie stick. Better still, the software eliminates the stick itself from the view, giving the impression from flying.
This Insta360˚ can also capture normal widescreen video if needed, potentially saving your phone from risky days out. The real fun, though, is using the fairly memory-hungry app to explore the results, selecting subjects to track, and extract cropped video into something you can share.
Read our full Insta360 ONE X2 review
At 221mm (8.7 inches) long, this isn’t a tiny drone when folded, but the clip-on cover DJI supply protects its delicate parts without occupying much more space. Weight-wise, too, it certainly isn’t light, but that is buying staggering flight times and a Hasselblad-branded dual lens camera system. The large 4/3rds sensor captures gorgeous detail in typical wide view (84˚FOV / 24mm efl), while a 12-megapixel offers 7x optical zoom (162mm efl) and 28x digital).
As this sits at the top of DJI’s consumer/pro range (as opposed to enterprise), it’s no surprise that it features all-round collision sensors, smart collision avoidance and a theoretical 15km (8 mile) range. In other words, there are safety features you’d trust with the kids, were it not for the price tag!
If you’re vacationing in beautiful, scenic and slightly remote locations away from crowds (where weight regulations matter more) you could ask for little more. We wanted the zoom camera to be as good as the main one, but it is still better than most.
Read our full DJI Mavic 3 review
The Skydio is an interesting alternative to the variety of folding drones out there; if you opt for the smallest pack it includes a relatively flat case which can sneak its way into a lot of bigger travel bags, but it certainly isn’t small. Where it comes into its own is tracking a subject – perhaps even you – as you enjoy exciting holiday activities. The collision avoidance and smart tracking is second to none so this might be thought of as a magical ‘Go Pro on your Shoulder.’ For some it might eliminate the need for planning shots, though it can also follow planned keyframed routes (unlike virtually any competitor).
The Skydio 2+ also operates directly from the phone (albeit with a restricted 200m range); the means to extend this via a beacon or a controller add cost and bulk, so might not be needed when traveling light. It’s also handy that the drone can serve as charger from a USB-C connector and the app is not only easy to use but starts recording automatically so you don’t miss any cherished moments (or share-worthy hilarious fails).
How we test drones
Our drone tests are carried our in the field, allowing us to assess the quadcopter for its flight performance, easy of use, and its image quality. All our drone reviews are overseen by Adam Juniper who is one of the UK's leading experts in drone, and who has written several books on flying drones, including The Drone Pilot's Handbook.
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