The 10 Best Travel Alarm Clocks
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Next time you go out of town for business or pleasure, make sure you don't miss your important meeting, interesting rendezvous, or flight home. These digital and analog travel alarm clocks come in tiny enough packages that you can stick them in your carry-on luggage or even in your pocket, and offer high levels of accuracy, so you'll always know what time it is, wherever you may be. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
March 29, 2021:
New to the list, the Kwanwa Small looks like a classic clock radio at a glance but it's much smaller, runs on batteries, and displays the temperature when flipped over. At less than 5 inches long, it can easily fit in even the tiniest of carry-on bags.
The eSeasongear VB80 is unique from most other options in that it's a wristwatch. This can be helpful if you want to use it on a long train trip or if you need to set various reminders throughout the day.
We removed the Ambient Weather Compact and Hito Atomic in this update due to availability concerns.
When choosing an alarm, think carefully about what features will be useful for you. Those who frequently travel internationally and are thrown off by extreme time differences may want to consider a model that shows the date, like the Marathon Silver or Plumeet Handheld. Those who are hearing impaired will likely prefer a model that features vibration, like the eSeasongear VB80 or TimeVision ShakeAwake.
Finally keep the power source in mind. Many options run on batteries alone, but the Homtime Multi-Function and DreamSky Compact need to be plugged in in order to function and only use backup batteries to save the settings in case of a power outage. If you're just looking for something to use instead of a hotel clock (either because you need features like a USB port or larger display or because you want to be able to set your alarm before you leave) these might be a good choice, but if you need an option that can be used while camping or on-the-go, the lack of portable power source might be a dealbreaker.
January 24, 2020:
We've kept a range of models from simple to complex at this time, although we have removed the Get Up and Glow due to availability issues. On the simpler side of the spectrum, there's the Travelwey Digital and the Peakeep Analog. These do not have all the bells and whistles; instead, they're designed only to show you the time and help you wake up. Those who want more information at their fingertips can consider the Marathon Silver or the Homtime Multi-Function. The latter is especially useful thanks to the two integrated USB ports for charging your devices. Its alarm must be set in military time, however, which can be annoying for those who don't often use the 24-hour format. For those with vision impairments, we added the DreamSky Compact. It has big, bright numbers, but if they are too bright, you can dim them. Finally, we have kept the TimeVision ShakeAwake as a good choice for a travel vibrating alarm clock. You can also set it to beep, but it won't both beep and vibrate — it's one or the other.
Sharper Image Travel Sleep Sound Machine Those who find it hard to sleep in hotel rooms will want to check out the Sharper Image Travel Sleep Sound Machine. Not only does it have a handy alarm, but it also offers a choice of 19 soothing sounds that will create a relaxing atmosphere for slumber. These include everything from bamboo chimes to tried-and-true white noise. sharperimage.com
Braun Digital Global Radio Controlled A model controlled by the U.S. atomic clock is great for some, but users who travel across the world might consider the Braun Digital Global Radio Controlled. It picks up the signals used in several other countries, and it can be manually set in areas where no such service is available. braun-clocks.com
What Separates a Good Travel Alarm Clock From a Great One?
Of course, the key to any alarm clock is its ability to wake you up.
Any travel alarm clock should be small enough that you can hold it in your hand, and it should weigh less than a pound. The more compact a travel clock is (within reason), the easier it will be for you to carry that clock inside a suitcase, a pocketbook, or the side compartment of an attaché.
Any top-of-the-line travel alarm clock should be backlit, and it should be designed so that you can stand it vertically on any end table or flat surface. In terms of display, you'll want a travel clock to provide the time (including AM/PM), date, and day of the week. Certain clocks will also provide the temperature, and perhaps even the barometric pressure. Time-zone management (i.e. automatically changing the hour based on location) is a tremendous feature to have on a travel clock, especially if you're constantly moving it among time zones.
Travel alarm clocks don't require a great deal of power, which is why the majority of them can run on batteries. This is a good thing, in that outlet clocks need to be reset every time you unplug them.
In the final analysis, a travel alarm clock should feel like an asset. When you wake up disoriented, that clock's display should provide you with an immediate reminder of where you are. Of course, the key to any alarm clock is its ability to wake you up. Just to be safe, confirm any model that you might be considering offers adjustable volume so that you can turn the alarm clock up, or even down.
Why To Use a Travel Alarm Clock Instead of Your Phone
Most people who are on the road assume that they can rely on their cellphones in the event they need to set an alarm. While cellphones may get you by in the short term, they're not as reliable as a specialized alarm, especially for people whose jobs are incumbent upon maintaining a tight schedule on the go.
Cellphones are illuminated but they rest flat, where you cannot see them.
The most common problem people experience with a cellphone alarm is that they don't hear it. This is usually the result of forgetting they've put the phone on vibrate. Worse yet, a vibrating alarm that goes off every five minutes has the potential for draining a cellphone's battery. That could present a major problem assuming you either don't have a charger, or you don't have ample time to charge your phone.
A lot of touchscreen phones are set up in such a way that it's easy to tap "Dismiss" when you actually intend to hit "Snooze." Worse yet, it could be more than an hour before you realize your mistake. We're all familiar with the shock of oversleeping by an hour, only to conclude that we've erroneously disabled the alarm.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to a travel alarm clock is that it is backlit (or frontlit), and it stands upright on any end table, thereby allowing you to see the exact date and time, and perhaps even the day of the week. Cellphones are illuminated but they rest flat, where you cannot see them. You need to reach over, grab a cellphone, and then turn it on in order to check the time in the middle of the night.
A Brief History of The Alarm Clock
The alarm clock, conceptually speaking, has been around for ages. The philosopher Plato was rumored to have created an alarm for his homemade water clock. The Ancient Romans were known for placing alarm gongs inside the giant clocks that housed their public squares, and the Ancient Chinese were known for manually striking gongs to mark the time.
Things began to change, however, during the early 20th century, as manufacturers commenced producing alarm clocks that could be used within the home.
By the 15th century, alarm clocks were spreading across Europe, where church towers were being hooked up to chimes or bells that would echo at the stroke of every hour. For the next 200 years, alarm clocks continued to be associated with grandiosity (and, very often, extravagance). Things began to change, however, during the early 20th century, as manufacturers commenced producing alarm clocks that could be used within the home.
By the 1930s, wind-up clocks, and even early electric clocks, were becoming a fixture in the American household. Shortly after 1970, radio alarm clocks became the norm. During the 1980s, manufacturers began marketing handheld travel clocks that combined the traditional benefits of an analog alarm with the digital display - and backlighting - of a digital wristwatch.
Over the past 15 years, the alarm clock has continued to evolve. New technology has allowed for everything from ascending-sound alarms (i.e. an alarm that increases in volume to keep from jarring someone who is in a deep sleep) to radiant-light alarms (i.e. a light that increases in brightness until a person is awake). While certain aspects of an alarm clock have been replicated via smartphone, the traditional alarm clock is still considered more reliable. Unlike a smartphone, a traditional alarm clock stands upright, and it provides an illuminated display that stands out like a beacon.