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Do you prefer iced or hot coffee? Here's how to choose a travel mug based on your answer

Plus, we found the top ones that'll keep your drinks at the perfect temperature until the last drop.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

One of the worst things about commuting to work or always being on the move? Taking a drink of your coffee only to find out it’s lukewarm, or going in for a big gulp of water only to realize it's now hot. Fortunately, travel coffee mugs and tumblers are a great way to keep hot drinks steamy and iced drinks chilly all day long.

The Shop TODAY team consulted a few java experts to learn how they choose their travel coffee mugs and grab a few more tips for the road. Plus, we rounded up some of their favorite mugs, in addition to ones that shoppers and our editors can't get enough of. Keep scrolling or use the links below to learn more.

What to look for | Best overall | Best value | Best for commutes | Best for hot drinks | Best for cold drinks | Best with straw | Best with handle | Best paper cup alternative | Best for camping | Best personalized | Best collapsible | Best large-capacity | Prettiest color options | Best French press | Best smart | FAQs | How we chose | Meet our experts

What to look for in a travel coffee mug

While there are several things for you to consider in your search for the right travel mug, our experts recommend prioritizing the key points below:

Uses

The No. 1 thing experts agree should be taken into consideration is the way you plan on using your travel coffee mug.

In the case of morning walks with his dog, Michael Phillips, the director of content and copy at Blue Bottle, likes a mug that isn’t too large and holds around 6 ounces, “with a lid that is easy to sip from but also can deal with the sloshing of a walk that will invariably involve my dog darting after the occasional bird.”

For long hikes, he looks for one that has a sealable lid that will safely sit in his backpack; if he’s driving, he looks for one that fits in his car's cup holder.

Other factors you might consider as you think about use cases include the level of insulation, capacity, grip, lid design, leakproof or spill-proof features, one-handed sipping, ease of cleaning, and more.

Functionality

In addition to the ways you plan to use your travel mug, functionality really depends on the type of coffee you prefer to drink.

“If you’re making your coffee at home and commuting to your office, or maybe you’re taking your coffee to the gym and maybe you want hot coffee, I would say you want something that doesn’t spill, is easy to hold. … Something where, the way you sip it, you can hold it with one hand [and] you don’t have to screw off the lid or move something around,” advises Caroline Bell, co-founder of Café Grumpy.

Construction

Regardless of what you’re using your travel mug for, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Look for something that’s made of more durable material, such as stainless steel or ceramic. Additionally, some materials may impart a metallic aftertaste in your drink, so keep this in mind, as well.

Best travel mug overall

Yeti Rambler Tumbler with MagSlider Lid

Capacity: 20 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall vacuum | Lid type: MagSlider | Leak-proof? No | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 32

It's no surprise that one of the most well-known portable cooler brands out there makes a tumbler that can withstand any kind of commute.

This Yeti travel mug not only features a thick stainless steel body and a durable Dracut outer for extra grip, but it also comes with its signature magnetic sliding lid that's not only dishwasher-safe, but will also help keep your drinks protected from temperature loss.

Best value travel mug

Magellan Outdoors Throwback Powder Coat Tumbler

Capacity: 30 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall vacuum | Lid type: Sipping hole | Leak-proof? No | Dishwasher-safe? Lid only | Colorways: 8

This insulated tumbler has a double-wall, vacuum-insulated design that will keep drinks your preferred temperature for a long time. Plus, it has a condensation-free, powder-coated exterior for easier grip and to keep your hands dry.

In terms of quality, just take it from one verified reviewer who rated this pick a perfect five stars: "I poured [some ginger tea] in around 9 p.m., and by 6 a.m., it was still very warm." Just note that several reviewers say this option better at keeping hot drinks hot than maintaining cold drinks' temperature.

Best travel mug for commutes

Camelbak Forge Flow Travel Mug

Capacity: 16 oz. | Insulation: Vacuum | Lid type: One-handed drink lever, free-flow lock | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 10

Bell likes this stainless steel travel mug for commuters who drink hot coffee. She also calls out a number of its features, including the leakproof lid that keeps your drink from spilling, its ability to retain heat (echoed by reviewers) and its compact size.

According to the brand, this mug is ideal for the person on the go due to its self-sealing one-handed drink lever and free-flow lock button, which easily opens to allow your coffee to cool quickly. Long-time Forge mug users say this updated model works even better at keeping their coffee hot, though others docked a star or two because of the slight tendency for their drinks to pool a bit on the lid.

Best travel mug for hot drinks

OXO Strive Insulated Tumbler with Sliding Lid

Capacity: 20 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall vacuum | Lid type: Sipping hole (fits straws) | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 12

Associate SEO editor Kamari Stewart was on the hunt for a travel coffee mug when she was gifted this stainless steel one from the brand. After using it for several months, she was very impressed with not only its capacity, but also how long it kept her coffee hot.

"I would make coffee before I left for work around 7 a.m., and it would still be hot enough to the point where steam was coming out well into the afternoon. It was amazing!" she raves.

Best travel mug for cold drinks

Created Cold Cup

Capacity: 16 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall | Lid type: Twist-on | Leak-proof? Yes (when not tipped over) | Dishwasher-safe? No | Colorways: 6

If you prefer iced coffee in the morning, Bell likes this stainless steel cup with a built-in straw. The brand promises it'll fit in your cup holder and advises against microwaving or freezing it (so make sure your coffee is at the optimal temperature before pouring it in).

While a brand rep tells us that these should not be washed in the dishwasher, because it might weaken the mug's insulation properties, "top rack might be okay, as long as there isn't a hot dry cycle," they add.

Best travel tumbler with a straw

Simple Modern Classic Insulated Tumbler

Capacity: 24 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall vacuum | Lid type: 2 lids (straw and flip) | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? No | Colorways: 24

With a near-perfect average rating from more than 34,000 Amazon shoppers, this insulated tumbler from Simple Modern checks off all the boxes. There's a lot to love about it off the bat, starting with its two lid options (an insulated straw and flip lid), ability to fit in most cup holders, 20-plus color options and four available sizes.

In other words, as summarized perfectly by one reviewer, "Not to be dramatic, but I would die for this cup."

Best travel mug with a handle

Brümate Toddy Leak-Proof Insulated Coffee Mug

Capacity: 16-32oz. | Insulation: BevGuard (triple insulation) | Lid type: Twist-on locking lid | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? Lid only | Colorways: 28

Brümate doesn't just make incredible can coolers and koozies — they also make quality insulated tumblers, too!

This toddy-style mug is made with patented BevLock Technology to ensure a leak-free trip all the way to your destination. With more than 157,000 five-star reviews on the brand's website, it's clear plenty of shoppers are pretty satisfied with this feature, as well.

Best alternative to a paper coffee cup

KeepCup Glass Brew Cork

Capacity: 16 oz. | Insulation: No (tempered glass) | Lid type: Press-on sipper lid | Leak-proof? No | Dishwasher-safe? Yes (see care instructions) | Colorways: 6

If you're taking a quick break from work and heading to your local coffeeshop (which may offer a discount if you bring your own reusable cup), Bell likes this tempered glass style from KeepCup. It's designed using industry-standard sizing, meaning it'll likely fit under your favorite barista's coffee machine.

We also like this option's modular parts that fit across KeepCup's line, so if any of them get damaged, it'll be easy to replace. Plus, the cork band is made from the waste of wine cork production in Portugal, according to the brand — so you can be doubly eco-friendly.

Best travel mug for camping

Stanley Legendary Camp Mug

Capacity: 12 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall vacuum | Lid type: Press-on Titan | Leak-proof? No | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 10

Can't get your hands on the viral Stanley Quencher tumbler? This smaller travel mug from the brand might just be just as satisfying to drink out of. Looking more like an actual coffee cup, this 12-ounce sipper features a press-fit Tritan lid and vacuum-insulated double walls.

It also comes with a Built For Life warranty, and over 95% of shoppers give it glowing reviews on the brand's website.

Best customizable travel mug

RTIC Travel Mug

Capacity: 16-20 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall vacuum | Lid type: Screw-on flip-top | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 19

This highly rated stainless steel travel mug holds more than enough coffee to get you through the morning commute. The cup has an integrated handle, plus a screw-on, flip-top lid to prevent spilling during bumpy car or train rides. Plus, we like the no-sweat exterior and tall base for easier grip.

Reviewers not only love it for the heavy-duty quality, but also for the personalization options available.

Best collapsible travel mug

Stojo Cup

Capacity: 16 oz. | Insulation: No | Lid type: Screw-on lid with sliding closure (plus straw) | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 21

Stojo's 16-ounce travel cup, made from food-grade silicone, is perfect for those with limited space in their hands (or bag) during the day.

While this mug isn't constructed to be vacuum-insulated, a brand representative noted the following under the product's Q&A section on Amazon: "Our cups were made to move with you on-the-go and at home, and insulate hot and cold beverages just as much as (or a little more than!) a disposable cup would. If you use your cup for cold or iced drinks on a hot day, it will sweat."

This mug is also completely dishwasher-safe (and even microwave-safe!), and it's collapsible for easier carrying when you're not sipping the day away.

Best large-capacity travel mug

Reduce Mug Tumbler

Capacity: 40 oz. | Insulation: Double-wall vacuum | Lid type: Screw-on 3-way lid | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colors: 1

Are you the sort who relies on multiple cups of coffee to keep you going throughout the day?

Reduce's 40-ounce stainless steel tumbler is right up your alley. It comes with a three-in-one lid and straw, as well as the SoftSit no-slip bottom, so you can sip your drink with ease and not fear spilling it on yourself.

Other nifty highlights include interior measurement markings so you can track your hydration, as well as its double-wall vacuum insulation that the brand says will keep your drinks cold for up to 34 hours. Plus, all of this tumbler's parts are dishwasher-safe.

Travel mug with the prettiest color options

Corkcicle Tumbler

Capacity: 16 oz. | Insulation: Triple | Lid type: Sliding, shatter-proof | Leak-proof? No | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 6

The Corkcicle stainless steel, triple-insulated tumbler comes in several colors, but we find the Unicorn Magic option to be pretty dreamy for its glittery, opalescent finish. Plus, it's designed to keep cold drinks frosty for over nine hours and warm beverages piping hot for over three hours, according to the brand.

Other noteworthy features that make this one of our top picks include its no-slip silicone bottom and shatter-proof clear lid.

Best travel French press

Espro P0 Ultralight Double Walled Vacuum Insulated Coffee French Press

Capacity: 16 oz. | Insulation: Double-walled vacuum | Lid type: Double-silicone seal with 2 mesh filters | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? Yes | Colorways: 9

Coffee aficionados, this option's for you! This stainless steel tumbler from Espro is actually a travel French press — just fill it up with coffee and water, plunge, and enjoy.

The brand says that thanks to its patented brewing technology — namely its dual micro-mesh filters — you'll be able to get grit-free, barista-quality cup of joe in as little as four minutes. Plus, it includes a lid cover that doubles as a handle, which you can hook to your travel pack if you wish.

Best smart travel mug

Ember Travel Mug² Temperature-Control Smart Mug

Capacity: 12 oz. | Insulation: None | Lid type: Screw-on, leak-proof, push button | Leak-proof? Yes | Dishwasher-safe? No | Colorways: 1

Pretty much every coffee lover is already familiar with the highly coveted Ember temperature-control smart mug. While the brand already had a travel mug with similar technology, they recently took it to the next level with this version that's compatible with Apple Find My, so you'll always know exactly where to find it.

This upgraded version is only available in black, but both versions have a built-in battery that lasts up to three hours when off the charging coaster. The latest model also boasts a new touch display that makes it easy to increase and decrease the temperature, according to the brand.

Questions about travel mugs, answered by experts

What size travel coffee mug should I buy?

While there’s no right answer, our experts agree that you can’t go wrong with a travel coffee mug with a capacity of between 12 and 20 ounces. Phillips likes to stay on the smaller end of the spectrum, with mugs that hold 12 ounces at most, for freshness’ sake.

Josey Markiewicz, the senior director of coffee quality and experience at La Colombe, says it also depends on whether you drink hot or cold beverages, because you have to compensate for ice. He recommends 16 to 20 ounces for cold beverages, or 12 to 16 ounces for hot beverages.

Similarly, Bell says 16 ounces is ideal because it works for both hold and cold coffee. “I feel like that’s a good go-to. Not too small, not too big,” she says.

Does the material of a travel mug impact the taste of the coffee?

While there’s no definitive yes or no answer, each expert we spoke with feels like there’s a correlation between the material and the cleanliness of your travel mug, which can then impact the taste of your coffee.

To avoid the potential for your morning (or afternoon, we don’t judge) cup of joe to be ruined, they recommend choosing a classic stainless steel or glass container that’s easy to clean. Markiewicz says it’s a matter of cleanliness over material when it comes to taste.

Are there any features people should avoid in travel coffee mugs?

Bell recommends avoiding double-walled coffee mugs where you can take an insert out and put something in between the walls. She says they can be harder to clean; instead, stick to a simple two-piece mug.

Markiewicz says he avoids lids that just pop in and out, because they have a higher risk of coming out and potentially spilling your beverage. He also avoids straws that are attached to the lid. “[They] seem like a good idea at first, then there’s no good way to clean them. Or they just get funky because coffee is acidic, and it’ll eat away at plastic,” he explains.

And while it might be tempting, Phillips suggests avoiding overly large travel mugs. “Getting too large of a travel mug only encourages making too much coffee at once that will still warm, yes, but also degrade in flavor, well before you finish it,” he says.

Do you have any tips for cleaning travel coffee mugs?

Markiwicz recommends hand-washing your mugs and avoiding strong detergents, which might get stuck inside the cup and affect the taste of your coffee.

To get a really deep clean, Phillips likes to use Cafiza, which he calls a “proper coffee cleaner.” He puts a little in the mug, adds the hottest-temperature water possible, and then lets it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing it and rinsing it out.

“It’s easy enough and critical enough, in my opinion, to do this type of deep clean after every couple of uses,” he adds.

Can I put my travel mug in the microwave/fridge/freezer?

It ultimately depends on the material of your travel mug. For example, if they’re glass, they can probably go in the microwave or fridge, but Markiewicz says you shouldn’t put them in the freezer. Or, for stainless steel, they can go in the fridge or freezer, but probably not in the microwave.

In order to avoid the need for this at all, Markiewicz says your drink should be at the temperature you want it to stay at before putting it in your travel mug.

“I wouldn’t want to cool a coffee down in a thermos in the freezer. Let the coffee cool at room temperature before throwing it over ice,” he advises.

Phillips and Bell recommend abiding by the directions that come with your specific mug for best results.

What is the difference between a travel coffee mug and a thermos?

Realistically, there isn’t much of a difference. The words are often used interchangeably, and the key difference is that a thermos is much larger than your typical coffee mug and has a screw top you pour into a second cup, whereas tumblers have a lid you can drink directly through, says Markiewicz.

How we chose the best travel mugs

To narrow down our list of the best travel mugs for various occasions, Shop TODAY quizzed three coffee experts on their favorite mugs and what features they look for when shopping. We also tapped coffee lovers of all kinds among our staff for their go-tos, in addition to scouring dozens of verified customer reviews, star ratings and bestseller lists. Lastly, we kept the following characteristics in mind in our search for the top travel mugs: affordability, ease of use and cleaning, design, and functionality.

Meet our experts

  • Caroline Bell is the co-founder and co-owner of Brooklyn-based coffee shop Café Grumpy.
  • Josey Markiewicz is the senior director of coffee quality and experience at La Colombe Coffee Roasters.
  • Michael Phillips is the director of content and copy at Blue Bottle, a specialty coffee roaster with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Japan.