Take your travel photos and videos to the next level with a travel drone.
Taking your travel photography airborne is like the difference between going from 2D to 3D in art or computer games. You can take photos that make your friends say ‘wow’. Drones take the type of landscape photos that you expect from a travel magazine, only they’re of you and where you have been.
If you’re anything like me, you think traveling is a joy and fills your life with memories and personal growth. Some of the best times in my life were created while I was traveling. I’m guessing it’s the same for you too.
I love remembering those times. I think of drone photography as sending my own amazing landscape postcards from my best memories to my future self.
For some of us (travel bloggers, Youtubers, Instagramers, vloggers, travel writers, that one family member or friend who takes all the photos…) taking jaw-dropping video and photos is part of the day job.
But there’s a risk of getting bored. You’ve mastered the selfie, pushed your phone to its creative edge. You may even have taken on digital SLR photography or have been converted to GoPro. What now?
Drone photography will make you excited about taking travel photos again. It offers high-quality aerial video and photography you just can’t get in any other way. Drones are so high performing and affordable now, they are no longer just for other people.
Let me show you.
DJI Mini 2
DJI Mavic 3
Best Travel Drone Comparison Chart
|DJI Mavic Mini 2||Skydio 2+||SwellPro Spry||Ryze Tech Tello||DJI Mavic 3|
|Size (L×W×H)||5.4 x 3.2 x 2.3 inches|
(138 x 81 x 58 mm)
|9 x 10.8 x 2 inches|
(229 x 274 x 51 mm)
|9.8 x 3.5 x 9.2 inches|
(249.0 x 90.0 x 233.5 mm)
|3.9 x 3.6 x 1.6|
(98 × 92.5 × 41 mm)
|8.7 x 3.8 x 3.6|
(221 × 96.3 × 90.3 mm) (folded)
|Weight||8 oz (249 g)||28.2 oz (800 g)||26.7 oz (758 g)||2.8 oz (80 g)||31.6 oz (895 g)|
|flight time||31 mins||27 mins||17 mins||13 mins||46 mins|
|18 m/h (28.8 km/h)||42 m/h|
|Range||6.2 miles (10 km)||3.7 miles (6km)||875 yards|
|Video||4K||4K 60FPS||4K 30FPS||HD720P 30FPS||5.1K 50FPS|
|Photo||12 MP||12 MP||12 MP||5MP||20 MP|
|Charging time||82 mins||60 mins||90 mins||90 mins||96 mins|
What to look for in a travel drone
Size and weight
Travelers, especially backpackers, will be after a compact drone for travel. Clearly, the size and weight of your drone have huge practical implications on how much else you can pack and your comfort moving around.
Will your drone fly long enough to capture the holiday photos you’re after? The manufacturer’s timings are maximums so expect actual times to be shorter.
The stronger the wind and the more maneuvers you perform, the faster your battery will run down.
A high-quality camera
Drones offer the full range in camera quality. Do you need a high frame rate to capture beautiful extreme sports? High-quality images for a demanding social media following?
Go for the grade of camera that matches your needs and expertise.
Will you film underwater? What features does the camera have for reducing distortion and clearing water from the lens? Beyond that, you won’t necessarily notice the difference but you will still be paying for it though.
Drones work hard to keep in the air, so flight times are not incredibly long. Keeping one or two charged batteries at the ready is always recommended.
When you’re on the move traveling you may need to schedule your drone battery recharging time.
The Best Travel Drones 2023
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DJI Mavic Mini 2 – Best Travel Drone 2023
This is it! The get-up-and-go drone you can fit it in your pocket. Smaller (but thicker) than an iPhone Pro Max when folded, it makes packing and lugging it around easy. At 8 ounces (249 g) it doesn’t require registration in the US and several other countries to fly, making it perfect for casual use as a travel drone.
DJI is the world’s leading consumer drone producer, and in this drone, it shows. The DJI Mavic Mini 2 shoots 4K video at a decently smooth 30FPS. Its 2x zoom at 4K saves your impressive 31 minutes flight time having to fly close to get the shot you want. 12MP photography is sufficient for the casual user.
It’s not without downsides. High winds are a challenge for any drone, but in general, the lighter the drone the greater the challenge, and the Mini 2 is light (typically less of a problem in the woods, but you’ll want to check the forecast for everywhere else). Its 3-axis gimbal makes your footage as smooth as it can be by holding the camera steady while the drone moves, even in turbulence.
The lack of collision detection can be an issue depending on the terrain (e.g. woods) or how much drone traffic there is to contend with. On the other hand it has desirable features like access to DJI’s GEO System that warns you about restricted flying zones.
All-in-all, for the traveler who wants to focus on traveling, the DJI Mavic Mini 2 is the standard to compare all your purchase options to. It is the most advanced, affordable drone that fits into your travels, rather than forcing your travels to fit around it.
- Small and light
- 4K 30FPS video, 12MP video
- Long, 31-minute flight time
- No collision detection
- Struggles more in high wind
Ryze Tech Tello – Best Drone for Beginners
Traveling with drone-curious, risk-seeking children? Or just want to try out a drone for cheap before investing in a more professional one? The Ryze Tech Tello is by far the cheapest drone on this list and is a great solution to the situations above.
It can take off from and land in your hand. At its price point, you can potentially get four Ryze Tech Tellos for every the DJI Mavic Mini 2, so you’ll be risking a lot less while flying around the beach.
And yet, Tello is also a DJI product, and it shows in its handling and camera stability compared to similarly priced competitors.
At three times lighter than the DJI Mavic Mini 2, it also is way under the 250 g weight threshold at which you would need to register the drone in the US and several other countries. However, this makes it very vulnerable to even light wind and at only 5 MP the video quality is relatively low.
For me, the feature that sells it as a purchase for children is the Ryze Tech Tello can be programmed with Scratch, a child-friendly programming language designed at MIT for teaching programming to children. If your children are interested in flying drones, Ryze Tech Tello could be a fun way to introduce them to programming.
- Cheap but still capable
- Very light and small
- Can engage children in learning to program
- Can struggle in light wind
- Camera is only 5 MP
Skydio 2+ – Best drone for filming sports, best drone for tracking
The Skydio 2+’s appeal can be summarised in a word: tracking.
Skydio 2+ is an impressive self piloting drone.
Its advanced navigation system allows it to track you like a seasoned drone operator on its own. Skydio 2+ has 6 cameras dedicated to navigation alone, allowing its AI-powered tracking system to film you through complex terrain.
This is perfect if you want to film yourself hiking, mountain biking, climbing, gliding or any other extreme sport, especially if you’re traveling alone and don’t have anyone else to operate your drone for you.
Its maximum transmission distance is 3.5 km in virtually perfect conditions, which is not very far, but this won’t be an issue if you use it for tracking you up close, which is really what it was designed for.
- Autonomous tracking abilities are superb
- Object avoidance is very good
- 2.2 miles (3.5 km) maximum transmission range
- Does not fold
SwellPro Spry+ – Best Waterproof Travel Drone
Are you planning on making people jealous with a water sports or yachting trip? The SwellPro Spry+, hands down, should be your first port of call for a waterproof drone. Where other drones may be water-resistant or ‘waterproof’ to an extent, the SwellPro Spry+ can not only land on the water and take off again, but it is fully submersible to 1m underwater for up to 30 mins. And it floats.
The camera has a water-repellent finish to get rid of any water droplets when leaving the water so it’s still ready to take clear photos. It is housed in a toughened glass dome-shaped to reduce distortion and shaded to counter glare typical to water and snow photos.
The SwellPro Spry+ controller is also waterproof with a screen, receiving video transmission within an 800m range. The ‘return to me’ function on Spry+ brings the drone back to the controller, not the launch location. Just what you need for operating it from a moving boat. Its impressive top speed of 65 km/h makes it great for tailing rapid water vehicles with its 4K 30FPS, 12MP camera.
Read more: the best underwater drones
- The most fully waterproof drone
- Returns to the controller
- Controller is waterproof and has a screen
- Great top speed
- Flight time of only 17 mins
- Does not fold
DJI Mavic 3 – Best drone for travel photography, best drone for videography
If your priority is photo and video quality over portability and price, as a consumer you simply can’t do better than the DJI Mavic 3.
You’ll want the time take the best photos you can. At 46 mins it has the longest flight time on this list. It also has the highest speed (42 m/h, 68 k/h) and furthest range (9.3 miles, 15 km) and so allows you to explore most of your holiday spot.
Its Hasselblad L2D-20c Four Thirds sensor main camera has an adjustable aperture and a 162 mm telephoto lens for hybrid zooming (up to 28x). This drone is a photographer’s dream. If you travel for photography, rather than take photos of your travels, it would be hard to go wrong with this drone.
It does come with a price tag, however. It’s aimed at intermediate and advanced users, so if you’re already comfortable operating drones and sophisticated DSLR cameras, this drone is for you.
Its collision detection is top-notch and January 2023 is bringing a long-awaited firmware update to the DJI Mavic 3. ActiveTrack 5.0 adds tracking capabilities to Mavic 3.
- Record at up to 5K 50FPS
- 20 MP photos
- Maximum 46 min flight time
- Quite expensive compared to everything else
Want to get the best out of your drone? See this article on drone accessories that will drastically improve your experience traveling with your drone.