Since we are using drones more often in our videos, we wanted to share our list of best drones for travel. We are a travel-focused site and channel, so our gear requirements favor portability over performance.
Drones come in a variety of styles and price points. While it may be tempting to buy an inexpensive drone, we recommend getting a drone that has a GPS lock/navigation and a gimbal. Cheaper drones without GPS are extremely difficult to control, as they will not lock or hover in place when the controls are released. Also, having GPS often gives you a fail-safe in the event that you lose connectivity with your drone. In these instances, sophisticated drones from manufacturers such as DJI will return the drone to the recorded home point.
Having a gimbal on the camera allows you to capture stable video. The gimbal absorbs most of the movement, even in windy conditions. Gimbals are sensitive components but are worth the extra cost. They add dramatic and cinematic effects to your footage.
For more information on traveling with drones, check out our video on the topic.
DJI Mavic Air: Our primary drone when traveling. The drone is easy to transport with its folding arms, and has an advanced avoidance system and sensors. The drone has a 3-axis gimbal camera that is capable of capturing 4K footage at 30 frames per second (fps). While we would prefer to capture video at 60 fps, we find the size, weight, and portability of the Mavic Air to outweigh the performance found in larger drones (like the Phantom Pro 4 and Mavic Pro).
DJI Spark: The first drone that we used. This drone lacks 4K video (i.e., it has a 1080p HD video resolution with a 2-axis gimbal), but is significantly cheaper than the Mavic Air and more durable. The drone is an excellent way to get started in aerial videography and photography. One key advantage of the Spark is its ability to perform a palm take-off and landing. This is especially useful when flying in wet and sandy terrain.
Spare Batteries (Mavic Air | Spark): One the biggest drawbacks of drones is their short battery life, especially on smaller drones. Having spare batteries is extremely important when traveling, especially since you may only have the opportunity to charge when back at your hotel.
Controller (Spark): If you plan to do any serious drone flying, you will need to carry a controller. While we fly our drone with visual line of sight (VLOS), we use a controller every time to the increased range and stability in connection. The controller also gives you much more precision which helps when capturing smooth video footage. The Mavic Air includes a controller, but it is an optional accessory with the Spark (unless you purchase the Fly More Combo).
PolarPro Filters (Mavic Air | Spark): These are like sunglasses for your drone’s camera. We use the PolarPro Vivid Collection filters, as they are offer both neutral density and polarization. Depending on the condition outside, we will use a filter to allow the drone to record at a lower shutter speed, creating a more cinematic look in the video. The filters also provide another layer of protection for your drone lens.
Spare Propellers (Mavic Air | Spark): If you fly a lot, then you’ll break propellers. There is no way around it. We’ve damaged propellers while flying close to trees and bushes, so its good to have an extra set on hand. Plus, they are extremely inexpensive!
Landing Pad: This is an extremely underrated drone accessory. In fact, I wish I had purchased one earlier when I started flying drones. Landing pads provide a safe spot to land your drone. This is critical in places where you may have wet or sandy conditions. Repetitive exposure to moisture and sand during landing will cause damage to your drone, so it’s worth getting a landing pad to protect your investment. They also allow you to see your home point at a distance (when viewing from the drone’s perspective).
LiPo Bag: Lithium polymer (or lithium-ion polymer) batteries are considered a hazard as they are prone to exploding or catching on fire. While the chance of it occurring is low, it is a best practice to transport your batteries in a LiPo bag. These bags are fire resistant and designed to contain any dangerous malfunctions that may occur.
Battery Charging Hub (Mavic Air | Spark): When you’re carrying multiple batteries, you’ll want a fast and convenient way to charge them. DJI’s multiple battery chargers work great. The Spark battery charger will charge up to three batteries at once. The Mavic Air battery charger can accommodate four batteries, but will only charge one at a time.
Lowepro BP 250 AW Backpack: Our go-to backpack for carrying our camera, laptop, and drone while traveling. The internal case is perfect for camera gear and/or a smaller drone (e.g., DJI Mavic Air or Spark).
Drone Pilot Ground School: Interested in getting an FAA Part 107 certification so you can fly your drone commercially? Or perhaps you want to improve your drone knowledge and skills as a hobbyist? UAV Coach offers a great course that can help you achieve both goals. As an added bonus, they are offering our audience $50 off the course. Just use discount code: TRIPASTUTE50