In the age of the smartphone, no one really needs to wear a watch anymore. But wearing one can be freeing: great travel watches exist for many reasons. They let you leave your phone in the hotel, check it less, or even just fill in the gaps when your phone dies.

Most importantly, watches are no longer a purely functional object. Like any great accessory, they’re a signifier of who you are. Great travel watches complete any outfit, and anything else-like that ability to leave your phone in the hotel room and focus on the present-is just a bonus. You can take as many watches with you as you want when you travel, but I recommend two. A smartwatch or fitness tracker is a great way to stay on top of how much activity you’re getting outside, and a dress watch is the perfect accompaniment to date night.

(Is vacation date night something that everyone does, or just us? You know, when you go travelling but pick out one night, usually at the end of the trip, to go for a fancy dinner and have wine and a few delicious bites over awkwardly-placed candles?)

Smart travel watches for those on the go

Every traveller has different needs when it comes to their travel watches, so this post is split into a few different categories. Smart travel watches are a great place to start because they’re versatile: you can often wear the same one working out as you would to a smart-casual dinner.

You’ll need a different durability and set of functions for your watch depending on where you’re headed, but unlike fashion watches or fitness trackers, smart watches are often built to do it all. A top of the line smartwatch like the Fossil Q (I like the Fossil Q Explorist Gen 3 for her and the Fossil Q Venture Gen 3 for him) will look sharp enough to head to dinner, but its waterproof and dustproof casing means it can accompany you on a hike or waterside adventure, too. The fashionable watch bands of each may not be the most comfortable choice, but functionally, you can definitely do both!

My partner and I are both fans of the Fossil Q, because its design is so easily unisex. I’ll note, however, that I think the Q is a better smartwatch for men or for tall women. As I noted in my original Fossil Q Wander review, Fossil smartwatches are big. They’re usually 42mm or larger, making them a little heavy for the wrist of someone slimmer or shorter than the average North American man.

Fitness wearables for active travellers

For active travellers, the travel watch game shifts a little bit. While you can wear your smartwatch while working out… Do you really want to?

A fitness wearable offers a more durable, more comfortable option for those who’ll intentionally be sweating it out on vacation. The trade-off is that you’ll likely have to bring two watches along with you, but it’s worth it. (After all, watches are pretty small items to pack.) Fitness wearables offer a smooth, silicone grip rather than a rattling metal or leather wristband, which isn’t a big deal if you’re spending the day on a boat – but makes a huge difference if that boat is less of a yacht and more of a canoe.

I really like the Fitbit Charge 2 Small and Large Fitness Trackers when it comes to vacation wearables. The same model is great for him & her, depending on the size, which takes some of the guesswork out of finding your next smartwatch. Not only do they pair well on the nightstand, but the Charge 2 comes in a variety of wristbands. So, while your wearables will look similar, they won’t be too matchy-matchy.

The Charge 2 is named to help you “take charge of your health.” It’s a fitness tracker and watch in one, with a watch face that shows both your time and important information like your heart rate or fitness goals. Connected GPS helps you track your route, and smartphone notifications (which you can turn off if you need to during your vacation) are sent right to the watch face.

What your fitness wearable can track for you

The Fitbit Charge 2 tracks steps taken, activity levels, calories burned, heart rate, stairs climbed, and sleep quality. I think it’s great for taking on a really active vacation: it’ll help you track your amount of activity more accurately, helping to keep you on-target and preventing you from unknowingly pushing yourself too hard during the day. (I know you want to see everything, but there’s always tomorrow!) As an added bonus, I really like the GPS route-tracking option – it’ll help you run the same path tomorrow that you loved today, even if you weren’t quite sure where you were.

Another great thing that I love about the Charge 2 is that it features an OLED display, known for its brightness. It’ll need to be charged every 5-7 days, and charges in just 2-3 hours – the length of a really great vacation nap. Finally, the Charge 2 is going to do what any great travel watch will do, and let you know what time it is… so you always know when to re-apply your sunscreen.

Make sure you’re doing it every two hours, folks! More if you’ve been in the water. A nasty sunburn is not what you want to be taking home.

Traditional travel watches for your dream vacation


Not all dream vacations involve climbing mountains or jumping in kayaks, and that’s okay. I know that I prefer a mix of both, which means that my ideal watch wardrobe involves two separate travel watches: a Fitbit for the hiking portion, and a Fossil for my end-of-vacation dinner date.

(Yes, even if I’m travelling alone. There’s nothing wrong with taking yourself out for a nice meal at the end of the day!)

For him, a basic watch like the Citizen 44mm Men’s Solar Powered Chronograph Sport Watch pairs nicely with dinner or the club. It’s water resistant up to 100 meters, but not IP67 rated – so it’s durable enough for dessert, but not for the desert. For her, the Fossil Georgia is a lovely, daytime city watch, while the Bulova Diamonds 27mm offers something a little dressier for dinner.

I love the saddle-like details on the Fossil; a throwback to the brand’s leather roots. Like the Citizen, both of these women’s watches are water-resistant enough for the shower or the rain, but won’t hold up to extreme conditions.

But that being said, they don’t need to. If your vacation is going to be a mixed bag, why shouldn’t your accessories be?

Shop these and other great travel watches online at Best Buy today.