Best Drone for Travelling | A 2020 buyer’s guide for the best drone

Giving you a totally different perspective to handheld photography, the development of drones into almost everyday items for travellers has been phenomenal. You’re as likely to hear the distinct hum of a drone at a stunning beach as you are an iconic landmark. When we started our round the world trip back in 2019 it wasn’t even a consideration on our packing list but now, it’s one of the first things in our bag. But what if you aren’t sure which drone to buy? We asked some of the world’s leading bloggers about their favourite drone for travelling, to help you purchase the right UAV for you.

What is the best drone for travelling?

Not keen on reading this entire article and just want to know the best drone for your bucks? Here’s an overview:

  • Best drone for travelling: Professionals – DJI Mavic Pro 2
  • Best drone for travelling: Beginner – DJI Mavic Air 2
  • Best drone for travelling: Lightweight (under 500g) – DJI Mavic Air 2
  • Best drone for travelling: Video content – DJI Mavic Pro 2 Zoom
  • Best drone for travelling: Photography – DJI Mavic Pro 2
  • Best budget drone for travelling – DJI Mavic Mini

You might notice this article is heavy on DJI recommendations and that’s for the simple reason that DJI is the undisputed leader across this field. If you’re considering a cheaper alternative we have listed some options at the bottom of this piece but for even the casual drone operator there is a DJI product which should suit your needs.

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The best drone for travel – things to consider

Before we get into the thick of it all, its worth thinking about what you’re looking for in a drone, and the purchasing considerations. Is budget your main consideration? Are you a hobbyist or a budding professional? Do you need to pack light? Here are a few things to think about before investing:

Weight, size and shape

If you’re someone who wants to travel light, it’s worth considering a smaller, more lightweight drone like the Mavic Air, Spark or Mini. With the Air coming in at 430g, it’s a great compromise for those wanting lighter luggage but still a good enough image and video quality for most.

It’s also worth considering the countries you’re keen to fly it in. If you’re just a recreational drone user and don’t want to go through the hassle of registering it in countries like the USA or United Kingdom, then a Mavic Mini could be your jam. It was created with these regulations in mind since it comes in at 249 grams, placing it just a touch under the 250g threshold in these countries.

You should also think about the size and shape of your drone. Most of the recommendations in this list have foldable arms, making them far more compact. But drones like the Phantom and Inspire are fixed body meaning they are a bit bulky and use need a dedicated backpack just to carry them.

Safety and skills/experience

Each drone in this line-up comes with different safety features, depending on your own experience level. For instance, while we were initially keen to test out whether we truly had use for a drone by buying the Mavic Mini, the device doesn’t have sensors on the back, front or sides. That means that unless you’re a really confident operator, there is a good chance you could nick a tree or building during your flight.

Image and video quality

This is where you’ll want to ensure you know what you’re looking for. If image and video quality are crucial in your decision, you’ve immediately ruled out the Mavic Mini – this drone does include image and video but the quality either isn’t up to scratch or you’ll need to do some pretty creative editing.

For the Spark and the Air you’ll get passable image and video quality that should be fit for Instagram and web content but won’t be anywhere near the professional quality you might expect.

If crystal clear, high definition pictures and films are your thing, then you’ll need to go higher up the Mavic ladder of products.

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Price

Probably one of the most crucial factors when you’re looking to drop some dollars on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is the price, especially if this is your first foray into drone flying.

At the cheaper end of the scale are the Mini and Spark which are relatively budget-friendly. However, because of their lack of sensors you could find yourself losing that precious drone which, unless you take some serious insurance, means an entirely wasted investment. We’ve spoken to many a travel blogger and photographer who bought a cheap drone that’s now on the bottom of the ocean somewhere…

At the top end, you could get a Pro, 2 Pro or Phantom which are hellishly expensive but you’re in a much better position in terms of crashing it into something unexpected.

Battery Life

This is less of a consideration nowadays since you can simply buy back-up batteries and spares but if its super important for you to have a long flight time, then something like the Hover Passport (only 10 minutes flight time)  isn’t for you.

Read next: What is the best gift that you can buy for backpackers?

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

By Alesha & Jarryd from NOMADasaurus

Being able to create content with a drone opens up a whole new world of possibility for travel. From a photography and videography perspective, there is often a limit as to how many different angles one can shoot from. With a drone, that limit is now pushed beyond levels ever seen before. The main reason we love travelling and shooting with a drone is that it allows us to showcase these unique perspectives and highlight the beauty of this world.

We started off travelling and shooting with a DJI Phantom 4, and while we loved the quality of the footage, it was just too bulky to travel with. We then bought a DJI Mavic Pro. The portability was fantastic, but we were always disappointed with the quality of still photos it produced. Eventually we upgraded to the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, and we absolutely love it. This drone packs away into a small side bag or our large camera bag without an issue, and the 1-inch Hasselblad sensor captures extraordinary still and video images.

It’s easy to fly, with upgraded GPS and collision sensors all around the drone, making it perfect for beginners. The biggest cons we’ve found is that it can struggle in high winds, but that is to be expected from a drone of this size. The pros far outweigh the cons, making it a great travel camera.

ProsCons
Incredible image quality
Expensive
Solid flight range and timeLack of changeable lenses
Performs well in low light
Hyperlapse video is not stabilized

Want to find the latest deals and all the best prices for the Mavic 2 Pro, check out the DJI site.

DJI Mavic Pro

By Emy & Johan from With Salty Passports

After crashing our previous two drones beyond repair, both of them DJI Sparks, we decided that we needed a drone that’s more stable in the air. Hence the Mavic Pro. Not only did we get a more stable drone but also one with better battery and better camera reigniting our love for drone photography.

With the Spark we barely had time to find a good position before it was time to land it again. Now, every battery lasts us more than 15 minutes of fly time, plenty of time to both take photos and record videos.

Thanks to its foldable design this little flyer is as acrobatic on the ground as in the air. We trust our new drone so much that we sometimes even let go of the controller and swim out to get a cool floating shot (do not recommend this to anyone).

One last tip if you end up going for the DJI Mavic Pro, is to make sure to get the Fly More combo. It’s needed to get the controller and once you start flying, you will need the additional batteries.

Oh, and after crashing a drone per year we are starting to feel that insurance (DJI Care Refresh) may be a good idea. Note that this may not be possible if you buy a secondhand drone.

One problem we have had with the DJI Mavic Pro is really heavy glare in the water. We recently bought CP/ND-filters to combat this.

ProsCons
Foldable so can be made smallerGlare and glitchiness on images
Solid flight timeNo 4k video
Great picture and video quality Not as good as the Pro 2

Note: DJI have stopped selling the DJI Mavic Pro, but have the Pro 2 and Pro Zoom options. Check out whether that’s the right drone for you here.

DJI Mavic Air

By James from The Travel Scribes

Chinamans Beach in Agnes Water

Want to go smack bang in the middle of the range? The DJI Mavic Air is probably just the tonic, one of the reasons why it usually wins ‘best overall drone’ in this kind of round-ups.

As a novice drone operator, I wasn’t really sure which drone to purchase – I wasn’t professional enough to invest in a Mavic Pro or Pro 2 (and my budget didn’t allow it), and I wasn’t confident enough to fly the Mini or the Spark without the obstacle avoidance features.

That’s meant I went middle of the range, and purchase the DJI Mavic Air, which I love.

The Mavic Air is the perfect size for us, as backpackers who don’t want to carry too much equipment around. While I bought the Fly More Combo (with the extra batteries), I’m still able to package up the drone and slide it into my carry-on bag for safekeeping.

The image and video quality are good, although not excellent. I’m impressed by the video footage since its smooth, thanks to the 3 axis gimbal and supports 4k up to 3fps and 1080p at 120fps.

Image quality is great with dynamic range and resolution, but has some pixellation issues when importing it into programs like Adobe Lightroom.

Like other cheaper DJI drones, there is a significant amount of glare off the water and with sun, so we have to be smart about which time of the day we use it in, and low light can be a big consideration.

The flight time is a respectable 21 minutes which usually gets us what we need, although we tend to use a spare battery for a second (or third flight) as we use the first flight just to get our bearings.

And, we feel pretty secure with our Mavic Air and think it’s one of the best drones for beginners like us. The obstacle avoidance is great (although sometimes we have to be careful using some of the smart modes), and – touch wood – we haven’t crashed it yet!

ProsCons
Small and portable
Passable flight range and time
Good picture and image quality for price
Image quality not on par with Pro models
Comes with obstacle avoidance and sensors
Issues with glare

Note: The Mavic Air is no longer on sale on the DJI platform as the second generation Mavic Air 2 has now superceeded it. Check out the latest on that here.

DJI Spark

By Gemma & Campbell from Highlands2Hammocks

Photo credit Highland2Hammocks from the beautiful Bukit Cinta

When it came to taking our travel photography to the next level, we chose to go with the DJI Spark drone. This small, portable and highly affordable drone camera was at the time one of the best-rated on the market in 2018. Even today, the Spark drone is thought of as one of the best beginner cameras on the market and for very good reason.

Starting with the price tag, the Spark is one of DJI’s lowest-priced drone cameras on the market. It is, therefore, the perfect place to dive into the world of drone photography and see how it goes. This, combined with the Spark’s travel-friendly size, made it a no brainer choice for us as a new travel camera.

When it comes to flying the Spark, we found the usability insanely simple and easy. As our purchase came with the Bluetooth controller, the controls of the drone are very similar to that of video games, so operating the drone was second nature to us.

The wide range of modes that come with the Spark also allows you to use advanced tracking features, such as autonomous flight and video capture. These features (although sometimes temperamental) are also very easy to use.

The drawbacks of the DJI Spark drone, when compared to the more expensive drones on the market, are namely the battery life and the temperamental controls. The batteries on the Spark are rated for 16-minutes of flight time, which is a few minutes shorter than the larger drones on the market.

The Spark also has some quite unfortunate connectivity issues that can cause it to disconnect whilst the drone is in flight. This seems to be less of a problem in the other drones that DJI offers, however, it is still a common problem throughout the market. Luckily, each drone has a GPS controller and if it becomes disconnected it will make an effort to return to you automatically.

With all of this in mind, the Spark is definitely a drone that we would recommend to beginner photographers looking for a new perspective for their content. It’s the best budget travel drone which is also simple to use and delivers fantastic results.

ProsCons
Very small and portableShort flight time
Great for beginners to learnLack of 4k video
Cost effective price pointNot available directly through DJI - being discontinued

Note: As of early 2020, DJI are no longer stocking the Spark on their site.

DJI Mavic Mini

By Lee from The Travel Scribes

It has to be top of the list here, as the DJI Mavic Mini drone is an amazing option for those just starting out plus anyone who doesn’t want the bother of registering their drone in countries like the USA.

First launched last year (in 2019), the Mavic Mini is a bit of a game changer. You get the DJI technology and many of the perks without the huge price tag, making this a very attractive drone to buy.

This drone can literally fit into your pocket, with a size of 140mm x 82mm (folded) and a weight of just 249 grams, making it the most portable and lightweight in the range, and just under the 250g registration benchmark in countries the US.

The image quality is okay but at only a 12MP camera you aren’t getting anywhere near even the Air in terms of visuals. And the video footage is stable thanks to the 3 axis gimbal but there are no options for 4k.

One of the biggest cons of the mini is the lack of sensors beyond the downward vision, meaning upward or sideways flight really needs your full attention, else that drone can easily go amiss…

ProsCons
Ultra compact and lightweightDegraded image quality (12 MP camera only)
Ultra affordableLack of 4k video
Stable footage with 3 axis gimbal
Lack of obstacle avoidance/sensors (downward vision only)

Interested to find more out about the Mavic Mini, check out the latest deals here.

Going head to head: Travel drone specifications

FeatureMiniAirProPro2
Weight
249g430g734g907g
Size140×82×57mm
168×83×49 mm (folded)
198×83×83 mm (folded)
214×91×84 mm (folded)
Flight Time30 minutes
21 minutes
27 minutes
31 minutes
Gimbal3-axis (tilt, roll, pan)
3-axis (tilt, roll, pan)
3-axis (tilt, roll, pan)
3-axis (tilt, roll, pan)
Video2.7K, Full HD
4K, 2.7K, Full HD, HD
C4K, 4K, 2.7K, Full HD, HD
4K, 2.7K, Full HD
Max Photo Resolution12MP
12MP
12.35MP
20MP
Obstacle AvoidanceDownward Vision Only
Forward, down and backward vision
Forward and downward only
Forward, down, back, up and sideward vision
Recommended Price*399 USD / 369 GBP
919 USD / 769 GBP
1149 USD / 899 GBP **
1599 USD / 1349 GBP

Other drones for travelling to consider

Parrot Anafi

If you really can’t stomach a DJI (and we don’t know why you wouldn’t), then the closest competitor is definitely Parrot, with their signature model being the Anafi.

If comparing to a DJI product it’s probably closest to the Air, as it is pretty compact and lightweight (its 100 grams lighter than the Air), takes great photographs (21 MP resolution) and has premium video performance, recording up to 4K at 30fps.

That said, the Anafi has no obstacle avoidance (hello crashes!), and user reviews often mention that the UAV is particularly difficult to fly, with the software being a little on the thin side and weather conditions like wind really affecting the performance.

ProsCons
Strong video and image quality
Really difficult to operate
Lightweight and portable
No obstacle avoidance
Solid flight time specifications
Doesn't work well in adverse weather

Check out the latest prices for the Parrot Anafi here.

Parrot Bebop 2

While we’re on the subject of Parrot, let’s delve into their entry-level offering: The Bebop 2.

This is an affordable option for those wanting to dip their toe into the drone arena and it is also quite lightweight (like the Anafi), portable and surprisingly stable.

The Bebop punches above its weight with its flight time – 30 minutes – and gives good performance in terms of distance as you can usually operate it for up to 2 km or 1.5 miles.

The downside is on the image and video quality. Depending on conditions, the images come out okay but it uses a fisheye lens, giving you slightly distorted images. Video is smooth but there is no 4K capability and you can suffer from a lot of glare and glitchiness on the resulting footage.

ProsCons
Affordable entry-level drone
Poor video and image quality
Portable and lightweight
Intelligent flight modes cost extra
Easy to flyGlare and glitchiness

Here are the latest deals for the Parrot Bepop 2

Hover Camera Passport

With the world’s fascination with selfies, it’s no surprise that there is a drone made specifically to capture pictures of yourself.

This incredibly portable and small drone has auto-follow technology which can be controlled with just hand gestures and a built-in flash for that perfect picture of your face. What’s cool about this drone is that you can easily catch it yourself since it has a carbon fibre cage around it – if you’ve ever caught a DJI drone by hand you’ll know what we mean!

With stills at 13MP and 4K video this is a solid drone option but doesn’t have the intelligent flight modes of DJI products. It also only has a 10 minute flight option and can go just 65 feet making this truly one of the best selfie drones rather than one to capture those sweeping landscapes.

ProsCons
Very portable and lightweight
No real distance and limited flight time
Fantastic for selfies and facial recognition
Expensive for just selfies
Can be caught by hand
Limited stabilization options

Check out the latest deals for the Hover Camera Passport.

GoPro Karma *only available second-hand*

While this product isn’t strictly on the market anymore, the GoPro Karma is a good option for GoPro travel photography fans and can be bought second-hand on Amazon.

Now this drone is a little different in that the GoPro Karma doesn’t have an integrated camera but is a system where you add your GoPro camera to the drone body.

With about 18 minutes of flight time it doesn’t offer the longest duration but can fly up to 3km away. Like DJI products, the Karma has a 3 axis gimbal system giving you slow, smooth footage from your GoPro and of course ‘inherits’ all the specs from your existing GoPro Hero.

Unfortunately the Karma doesn’t have any obstacle avoidance but does have some nifty features including 5 preset modes and a ‘passenger app’ which allows someone else to connect while you’re flying to take pictures on your behalf.

Other professional drones

If you’re reading this piece, we’re guessing you’re not a full-time drone operator but, what the hell, let’s still tell you about two of the professional drones for either your personal interest or just because you’re keen researchers like us…

DJI Mavic Phantom

The Phantom is actually a series of drones, including the Phantom 4 Pro, Phantom 4 Advanced and the Phantom 3 SE. Essentially Phantom falls into that niche between professional creators and full-time drone operators, making it an unusual proposition.

This is professional grade aerial photography and videography with amazing stability and reliability plus five different obstacle sensors, making this an incredibly safe drone with heaps of intelligent features.

The down side? Other than the price of course is that this drone is not very portable at 1.375 kg and without foldable propellers, making it tricky to pack.

ProsCons
Superior image and video performance
Fixed body (not foldable)
Extended range and flight time
Expensive
Solid intelligent modes and performance
Limited features compared to some consumer drones

Interested to learn more about the DJI Phantom, check it out here.

DJI Inspire

This is a purely professional drone that is the first in the world to integrate an HD video transmission system, 360 degree rotating gimbal and 4K camera. This drone can go fast (up to 94 km per hour), has a dual battery system which allows you up to 30 minutes in the air and can even fly in icy conditions, since it comes with a self-heating technology.

The Rolls Royce of drones, the Inspire is for the eminently professional filmmaker, and the best drone for photography on the market.

Now this is definitely not an exhaustive list of all the drones for traveling and photography on the market. We haven’t even scratched the surface with other options including the Yuneec Typhoon H Pro, the ZEROTECH Dobby, the Pocket Drone Quadcopter and the JJRC H37 Elfie.

ProsCons
Best in class video and image quality
Expensive
Fast speed and flight time
Needs purchase of a controller separately
Excellent battery life with dual battery
No side or back sensors

Buy the DJI Inspire 2 here.

What did you think of our rundown of the best travel drones? Have we missed something important? Please do let us know in the comments or get in touch!


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Best Drone for Travelling

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1 Comment

  1. Lizzie
    13th March 2020 / 9:28 pm

    Thanks for this comprehensive information. It makes a choice much easier