It sounds like a little thing, but getting stuck without a hair dryer on vacation can just about ruin your day. If your hair doesn’t dry well naturally, it can be very uncomfortable. Maybe it’s frizzy, or full of crazy cowlicks, or flat as a board. Even though we typically want to look our best every day, bad hair on an average day is not the same. A bad hair day on vacation means that the unfortunate look will be preserved in pictures forever. The stakes are high! Read on to find the best travel hair dryer for you, whether you are staying stateside or traveling internationally.
What to Look for in a Travel Hair Dryer
Obviously, the most important feature in a travel hair dryer is compact size. Once clothes, shoes, and other toiletries go into the suitcase, there’s not a lot of extra space. Many travel hair dryers have a folding handle to minimize their size as much as possible, but others are simply designed with a small profile.
Following are a few others features that can help to guide your choice.
If you plant to travel internationally, you may want to prioritize dual voltage. European outlets use 220 volts, whereas in America 110 volts is standard. Using a 110 volt hair dryer in a 220 volt outlet will fry the motor in no time flat. However, even a 110 volt model may be used if you purchase an external converter.
But if you travel internationally a lot, look for a dual voltage hair dryer. If the bulk of your travel will be domestic with an occasional jaunt overseas, you may simply want to purchase a converter. Stay with us after the reviews for more information about dual voltage. Even if your dryer has this function, you may still need to purchase an adapter to fit the plug into the wall.
Power Cord Options
Another nice feature in a travel hair dryer is a retractable cord, not only for space reasons, but also because it’s super annoying when the cord unrolls and disrupts your other carefully packed items. This is an unusual feature in a travel dryer, however, because they are made to have the smallest possible profile. Space inside for the cord enlarges the dryer.
And even though you want a small dryer for travel, you may want a longer cord. This gives you maximum flexibility in terms of plugging in somewhere that allows you to position in front of a mirror.
While we know that space is at a premium in your suitcase, if you don’t get good results without a diffuser, you definitely want your hair dryer to come with one. Some dryers come with collapsible attachment pieces to keep them as compact as possible.
Travel hair dryers may be limited in their settings in order to keep them small. You will typically find a couple of fan speeds. One nice function if you can find it is the cool shot setting, which sets a style once hair is dry.
When you’re on vacation, you want to spend more time sightseeing than primping. Ionic hair dryers work faster than conventional by emitting negative ions that cause groups of H2O molecules to divide into smaller particles. These smaller particles evaporate faster. This type of dryer also creates a smoother finished look. Choose an ionic dual voltage travel hair dryer for a flawless style literally anywhere.
Check out the at-a-glance specifications on the best travel hair dryers available today.
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JINRI Hair Dryers Professional
Now let’s dig deeper into each of our recommended travel hair dryers.
This Remington model is compact even without a folding handle. It is an ionic dryer, so you get a nice smooth style that can be finished with the cool shot feature. Unlike many dryers with cool shot, you can don’t need to hold the button the entire time you want cool air. There are several settings, 3 for heat and 2 for fan speed.
The dryer also has an eco-friendly setting that saves energy. This makes it convenient to use in most any situation, including campers or RVs that can have their sockets easily overloaded. The Remington also solves a common problem with its removable air filter. Typically when the filter clogs with debris from the air, you get a burning smell that is difficult to address. With this dryer, you can simply remove the filter, clean the lint, and replace it.
At just over one pound, this is an easy tool to pack and use. Its styling is sleek and modern with a red and white finish. A nice final nice touch is the hang-up loop to keep your dryer from cluttering the sink. It comes with a strong two-year limited warranty.
5.1 x 2.5 x 9.5 inches
Two year warranty
- Multiple settings, including easy-to-use cool shot
- Eco-setting saves power
- Dries quickly
- Lowest air speed is still rather fast
- No dual voltage option
- Loud operation
Another ionic model, the JINRI works quickly to get you out the door to better things. It comes in a fun apple red color and features 2 fan speeds and 3 heat settings, plus a cool shot button. It has an airflow concentrator attachment to provide styling flexibility.
This hair dryer has built in safety features including an auto shutoff when an overcurrent is detected, or when the outlet or inlet gets blocked. It also has an ALCI safety plug. The 1.8 meter power cord allows you to get in front of a mirror even if there isn’t a plug right nearby. The hanging loop helps avoid clutter.
At almost 2 pounds, and without a foldable handle, this dryer isn’t the most compact option on our list. But it does come with free replacement during its two year warranty period, so you needn’t worry about the knocks it takes in your suitcase or various hotel rooms.
3.9 x 9.8 x 10.2 inches
2 year warranty
- Ionic function dries quickly and leaves hair smooth
- Operates relatively quietly
- Long power cord & safety features
- Heavier with no folding handle
- Plug and cord can get hot upon extended use
- Handle is thin compared to the barrel
The Conair Vagabond is a truly compact model with a folding handle, and it weighs in at less than one pound. It also has a dual voltage option so that you can take it anywhere. It’s a great option for travel if space is your main concern, but is also pretty stylish with its pretty sky blue color.
The settings are basic, with just two combined heat/speed options and no cool shot option. There are also no included attachments. However, users have said that it offers just about as much power as a full sized dryer, and far exceeds those hotel dryers that are attached to the wall. You will need to find a plug close to a mirror, as the cord is somewhat less than 5 feet long.
Another benefit of the Conair is that it runs at a low 1600 watts. This can be very helpful for use in places with older wiring, whether that is at home or in a historic bed and breakfast somewhere. You won’t have to worry about flipping an electrical breaker with this model.
3 x 4.2 x 7.6 inches
One year warranty
- Very compact and easy to pack
- Powerful enough to do the job
- Dual voltage
- Voltage indicator is painted on and may wear off with handling
- Cord is relatively short at a bit less than 5’
- No cool shot option
If you’re looking for a strong combination of power and portability, look no further. This HTG Tourmaline hair dryer uses ceramic and tourmaline technology in order to deliver strong heat with less power. Using only 1000 watts, it can be great for use in places with older wiring. The dual voltage option means that you can take it virtually anywhere.
This ultra lightweight dryer is barely bigger than a smart phone and weighs less than 11 ounces, making it the smallest travel hair dryer on our list. With a folding handle, it can be easily packed. The dryer also comes with an air concentrating attachment if you need one. It is available in black or white.
Some users have noted that the dryer blows quite hot and there is no option to lower the heat setting. There are just two settings, low and high, which control the fan speed. The ionic technology is meant to deliver a smooth finish, but people with delicate hair may want greater temperature control. There is also no cool shot option.
One nice feature is the removable mesh air filter. Hair dryers often burn out due to a filter clogged with dust and debris from the air. Being able to remove and clean this one can extend the life of your unit. The warranty is for one year, but you should be able to count on this dryer for much longer than that.
5 x 2.5 x 7 inches
- Low power consumption
- Removable and reusable air filter
- Ionic for smooth styling
- Gets quite hot upon use
- No cool shot feature
- Doesn’t work as well at 220 volts
ProVersa makes a nice little model that is easy to pack and carry despite the lack of a folding handle. Though it weighs just one pound, it is a relatively feature-rich dual voltage travel hair dryer. It has two settings for heat and fan speed (high/hot and low/warm). It does not have a cool shut button.
The teal color is distinctive, and the 6-foot power cord makes it easy to use near a mirror. Once you’re done, hang the unit on a hook with the loop attached at the base of the handle. And speaking of the handle, it features an ergonomic shape that is easy to hold. Some users with arthritis have especially noted how easy it is to grip.
This hair dryer uses 1600 watts of power and is rated for 11.5 amps. Note that though it is dual voltage, you will need an external adapter to use the plugs in Europe. The unit also only works on high once you switch to 220 volts. Still, word of mouth on this dryer is decidedly positive, with some people choosing to use it all the time. Various hotels use this dryer as an in-room amenity, and several users reported purchasing one after discovering it that way.
8.5 x 5 x 3.2 inches
One year warranty
- Ergonomic and lightweight
- Dual voltage
- Long power cord
- Can be a bit tricky to switch voltages
- No cool shot
- Only runs on high with 220 voltage
A Word About Dual Voltage
A dual voltage travel hair dryer will allow you to use your unit in both the US and Europe. However, there are two components to successfully using your hair dryer internationally – a converter and an adapter. If your hair dryer does not have dual voltage, you will need a converter to allow it to handle the different current. These are usually boxy and heavy, which is why most international travelers prefer to buy a dual voltage hair dryer.
With dual voltage appliances, you’ll typically need a small screw driver to adjust the voltage setting. Using the incorrect setting is dangerous and can lead to a fire if it doesn’t simply blow out your device. Making it difficult to change the setting is a protective feature. Can you imagine accidentally bumping it while using the device? Sure, you need your hair to get warm, but not burst into flames!
The next factor when it comes to using your hair dryer internationally is the plug shape. Different countries use differently shaped or numbered prongs in order to connect to electricity. Even if your hair dryer does have dual voltage, you will probably also need an external adaptor in order to fit various plugs.
Luckily, this is pretty easy. A universal adapter is compact, lightweight, and inexpensive. A good one will be able to take you across 150 countries with no problems. Simply plug your device into it and then choose the appropriate prongs to fit into the wall outlet. For more reliable use, look for a universal adapter that has surge protection.
Extending the Life of Your Hair Dryer
Most of us are used to replacing our hair dryer every couple of years. The practice of “planned obsolescence” means that manufacturers don’t make their appliances to last longer because they need you to keep buying new ones.
However, there are a couple of common habits when it comes to hair dryers that may be shortening their useful lives even more. Observe the following tips to keep your unit going long past the warranty and to minimize your risk of a dryer failure while on vacation in some remote area.
Store it Properly
Many of us instinctually wrap the cord of our hairdryer around the handle or barrel to secure it. However, tightly wrapping a cord creates more stress on the delicate wires inside due to tighter angles. When the wires fray, they become dangerous. And of course, when one snaps, the entire appliance becomes unusable.
Tight wrapping may also cause the outer protective layer on that cord to wear thin more quickly. Exposed wires are an extremely hazardous shock risk, so as soon as you notice this it is time for a new hair dryer. If you are wrapping around the barrel of your dryer shortly after using it, the extra heat will also degrade the structure of that cord.
Clean the Vent
The vent on the back of your hairdryer is where air is pulled in and passed over heated coils before exiting the end that points toward your hair. Because it sucks in environmental air, it also brings with it floating dust and debris that is usually trapped on the outside of a screen. When the screen becomes clogged, the hair dryer struggles to pull in air and the motor will eventually burn out.
Cleaning the vent screen is just as important with a hair dryer as cleaning the lint trap is for a clothes dryer. You know that your clothes take way longer to dry when the lint screen is dirty, and the same holds true of drying your hair with a clogged hair dryer.
To extend the life of your hair dryer, do some work on the vent at least every couple of weeks, depending on how often you use it. A sure sign that it has been too long between cleanings is a burning smell.
Two hair dryers on our list makes cleaning very easy with a removable screen, but most hair dryers do not. There is also always a plastic grate over the screen, which may or may not be easily pulled off and replaced after cleaning.
A toothbrush makes a good cleaning tool for this job, as does a slightly damp cotton swab. In a pinch, you can always use your fingers like you would with the vent in clothes dryer. If you struggle to remove all the lint, or the burning smell remains even after cleaning, it’s time to replace the dryer.
Whether you have a trip coming up or simply want a smaller hair dryer to keep in a tight space, we hope we’ve give you everything you need to choose the best travel hair dryer for your needs. You may have to sacrifice some bells and whistles in order to get the ideal size for your suitcase, but you should not have to sacrifice power. Our goal in these recommendations is to get you ready and out the door as quickly as possible. If you’re on vacation, go have fun! If it’s a business trip, go get it done. Either way, you’ll be looking your best.