The Best Travel Carbon Monoxide Detectors for Travelers 2023

Safe stays with a Carbon Monoxide Detector

If you’re here reading this, you’re probably already aware of a number of high profile carbon monoxide poisoning deaths at hotels and Airbnbs. It seems like there’s a tragic news story every month covering deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. They’re often–but not always–in international destinations. Because carbon monoxide (CO) can be released by malfunctioning equipment like furnaces and swimming pool heaters, hotels in the US aren’t necessarily any safer if they don’t have CO detectors in every room.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, meaning that a detector is necessary to be alerted to CO buildup. It’s scarily easy to fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning, but also easy to protect yourself.

While some Airbnbs and many hotels do have carbon monoxide detectors, not all do. Smoke detectors are more common, and they DO NOT detect CO (this is important to take note of at home too!). I strongly recommend buying a detector for your travels. They’re easily packable and available in a wide budget range.

Here’s 4 carbon monoxide detectors to consider when traveling. Quick shop the widget below, or scroll down to see detailed info. Click here to jump down to FAQs about carbon monoxide poisoning and how experts recommend staying safe.

1. Forensic Detectors Hand Held Carbon Monoxide Detector

portable carbon monoxide detector

This small, handheld detector is extremely sensitive, alarming faster, and at lower CO concentrations than other sensors. It small enough to toss in a purse, so even when traveling carry-on only, I don’t feel tempted to leave it at home.

I love the clear screen showing battery level and CO level. When triggered, the bright red LED light turns on, and a 70 decibel buzzer sounds. The easy to use design makes it my top pick– and this is the detector that I carry when I travel.

2. Nighthawk Plug-in Carbon Monoxide Alarm

CO2 detector

Nighthawk’s great CO alarm is a tad larger than the first pick, but has the advantage of being powered by battery or plug. Even when plugging in, it’s nice to have the battery backup in the event of a power outage. And with the six foot cord, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot to plug in.

The digital display clearly shows carbon monoxide levels, a small blinking light indicates it’s functioning, and when triggered, a loud 85 decibel alarm sounds.

3. First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm

carbon monoxide detector for airbnbs and hotels

There’s actually no reason why you can’t bring along the same type of CO detector you use at home! First Alert’s affordable model is small enough to easily pack, and works pretty much as you’re probably used to from home or apartment detectors.

Like the Nighthawk, it’s plug in with a battery backup, though there’s no cord.

This First Alert model does not have a digital display, but there’s a test button, and the unit will chirp to let you know when the battery is low. When triggered, the 85 decibel alarm sounds.

4. X-Sense Combination Smoke Carbon Monoxide Alarm Detector with LCD Display

It’s more common for hotels and homes to have a smoke detector than a CO detector. Still, many Airbnbs have neither, and when traveling internationally, you’ll find that it varies in hotels according to local regulations.

If you want to cover all your bases, consider a detector like combination Carbon Monoxide and Smoke detector by X-Sense. I like that the digital display is easy to understand, and the built-in batter lasts 10 years, making it a great option for home as well as travel.

Note that the X-Sense detector utilizes a lithium battery that can’t be placed in a checked bag, so it’s best for carry-on only travelers. For a simpler version that uses standard batteries, see this model by First Alert.

FAQs About Traveling with a Carbon Monoxide Detector:

What is Carbon Monoxide? How does it build up in a hotel room or Airbnb and poison travelers?

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that often comes from improperly installed or maintained gas burning devices. Many buildings use gas for heating and cooking. However, CO can also build up from the burning of wood, oil or gasoline.

CO kills by inhibiting the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, drowsiness, and confusion. However, many people who die of carbon monoxide poisoning, die in their sleep, without the opportunity to recognize the symptoms and escape. This is why having a CO detector is so important, especially when you travel, and have less knowledge of and control over safety measures taken in your lodging!

I’m staying in a large Airbnb. Do I need more than one Carbon Monoxide Detector?

The EPA recommends that alarms should be installed on each level of a house, at least 5 feet above the floor. You can place an alarm in each bedroom, but if that’s not feasible, the alarm should be placed in the hallway as close as possible to the sleeping areas.

One CO detector should be fine for most hotel rooms, but if you’re traveling with a large party and staying in separate rooms, ensure that each room has their own detector.

What should I do if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off in my hotel or vacation rental?

You should leave the hotel room or Airbnb immediately. Even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning, it’s better to err on the side of safety.

When staying at a hotel, go to the lobby and insist that they call the fire department or appropriate local agency to have the room checked. If you feel fuzzy headed or otherwise ill, request that the hotel summon medical assistance, and go outside for fresh air.

If staying at a vacation rental, leave the apartment or house immediately. Don’t just leave the room in which the alarm went off, go outside the building into fresh air. Call the fire department yourself to have the home checked, and request medical assistance if you feel ill. Airbnb and other rental platforms do want to know as soon as possible if you experience any problems, so give a call them when you’re able to, and give the host a heads-up about the issue as well.

If it seems like a hotel or vacation rental is not taking the situation seriously, don’t be bullied into returning to a room you feel unsafe in. Be sure to take notes and names, and if at all possible, simply switch lodgings. With enough documentation, you may be able to file a chargeback on your credit card for the original accommodations.

Do I need to take any precautions when traveling with a CO detector?

You shouldn’t have any issues traveling with a carbon monoxide alarm in either your checked or carry-on bag. There is one caveat here: you should not put lithium batteries in a checked bag. So if your CO detector is powered by lithium batteries, you’ll need to pull the batteries out, and place them (or the entire detector) in your carry-on.

What’s the difference between a Carbon Monoxide detector and a Smoke Detector?

These two detectors alert you to the presence of different, separate dangers. A carbon monoxide detector will sound the alarm only in the presence of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas. A smoke detector alarms when it detects smoke particles from a fire–or as often happens in our household, because we produced a little smoke while cooking. Homes and apartments commonly have smoke detectors, however carbon monoxide detectors are less common. While dual-purpose detectors do exist, smoke detectors DO NOT detect carbon monoxide, and carbon monoxide detectors DO NOT detect smoke.


CDC – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Airbnb – What should I know about fire and carbon monoxide safety when I travel?

The Points Guy – 2 US Travelers Die From Airbnb Carbon Monoxide Leak in Mexico

Bloomberg – Death of Brazilian Tourists Adds to Airbnb Problems in Chile

PubMed – Carbon monoxide poisoning at motels, hotels, and resorts

Forbes – Hotels: A Hidden Source of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

I'm a freelancer, digital nomad and passionate traveler. I love exploring through food, and staying in hotels with a sense of place. Country-counting isn't for me, and I think that beloved places are always worth returning to for further exploration. I believe that travel can be profoundly life-changing, and I'm dedicated to sharing my experiences and expertise to help you make the best possible choices in your travels.