Travel irons may not be a necessity -- after all, most hotels put an iron and ironing board in even the tiniest room closet -- but they have their uses. Some travelers don't trust hotel irons, and some people prefer these small, lightweight irons for crafts such as sewing and quilting. A travel iron can even be an inexpensive alternative to a full-sized iron for people who very seldom use one and just want something simple for quick touch-ups.
Regardless of your reasons for choosing a travel iron, the Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot Travel Iron GCSBTR-100-000 (Est. $13) is likely to fit your needs. This compact iron, measuring just 3.6 by 4 by 7.9 inches, has all the basic features you need in a steam iron: adjustable heat, a shot-of-steam button, and a 1-year limited warranty. A dual-voltage converter allows the iron to switch between the 120-volt power used in the United States and the 240 volts used in many foreign countries.
The Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot is the top-rated travel iron with users at Amazon.com and Walmart.com. It has over 1,200 reviews across both sites, with overall ratings of around 4.5 stars. Owners say this iron packs quite a punch for its small size, both in heat and in steam power. It heats up fast, and it's very light and maneuverable.
Most of the complaints we saw about this Sunbeam iron relate to durability, particularly for the nonstick coating on the soleplate. Several users say this finish started to wear off shortly after they bought the iron – often damaging their clothes in the process. We also saw several complaints that the water reservoir tends to leak, especially when the iron is cold. Finally, many users wish that the heat settings on the dial indicated which type of fabric each setting would work for, instead of just reading "min" and "max." But overall, owners consider this an affordable, no-frills iron that gets the job done.
Though the Sunbeam travel iron is handy for touch-ups and craftwork, it lacks many of the features found on full-size irons, such as microsteam holes for even steam distribution and a vertical steaming feature for removing wrinkles from hanging garments. For those who want a small, yet full-featured iron, the Rowenta Compact Steam Iron DA1560 (Est. $35) is the best choice. Like the Sunbeam iron, it has dual voltage, a shot of steam, and a one-year warranty. However, this iron also offers such added features as vertical steaming, a folding handle, and a travel pouch. Its 2.4-ounce water tank is transparent for easier fill-ups.
But while reviewers are impressed with the Rowenta's quick heating and steaming power, it's plagued by some durability issues. Users at Amazon.com award it only 3.8 stars out of 5, with many complaints that the iron died after anywhere from a few weeks to just over a year. Complaints include problems with heating, steam, leaks, and broken handles.
Users are also disappointed with Rowenta's warranty service. Several owners say that it took a lot of work and documentation to convince Rowenta that their irons were within the warranty period. Worse still, when they finally got them replaced, Rowenta made it clear that the warranty would not apply to the replacement iron. So if you don't need the extra features of the Rowenta, the Sunbeam travel iron is most likely a better value for your money.
Travelers sometimes say they don't need an iron when they travel, and they don't like having to hassle with hauling out the hotel's iron and ironing board. Rather, they need a method for steaming suitcase wrinkles out of their clothes as quickly and easily as possible. For those weary (but wrinkled) wanderers, a handheld travel steamer could be a better choice than an iron. To find one, check out our separate report on clothes steamers.