The Best Travel Pillow

Our four neck pillow picks.

By Sabrina Imbler

Short of scoring a row of empty seats—dream on!—your best bet for getting at least a little sleep while flying is a travel pillow.

After asking 10 panelists to try on eight travel pillows and after taking four cross-country red-eyes in window, aisle, and middle seats, we think the comfortable and easy-to-pack  Travelrest Nest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow is the best travel pillow for most people.

Everything we recommend

do travel pillows really work

Travelrest Nest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow

The best travel pillow.

Its tall memory-foam walls let it offer more support than any other pillow we tested. It’s also shaped to sit flush against a headrest, and it compresses to a manageable size.

Buying Options

do travel pillows really work

Cabeau Evolution Classic Pillow

A travel pillow available at airports.

This memory-foam neck-support pillow is highly adjustable, but without a contoured back, it can’t quite sit flush with the headrest. It’s available at many airport stores, though.

do travel pillows really work

Trtl Pillow

A pillow for one-sided neck support only.

It’s a fleece scarf with a built-in plastic brace—like a one-sided neck brace, but softer and cozier. However, it’s not so great if you tend to shift position while you sleep, and it costs more than the other pillows we recommend.

do travel pillows really work

Bcozzy Pillow

Great with large headphones.

Featuring an adjustable design that accommodates over-the-ear headphones, the Bcozzy is an excellent chin-support pillow for people who nod forward as they sleep.

The uniquely angled back on the Travelrest Ultimate sets it apart from other travel pillows because it can lay flat against the seat back. Most other pillows have a rounded back, which pushes your head away from the headrest. The Travelrest also has rubber grip dots to prevent slipping while sleeping. This pillow’s spongy memory foam cushions the entire circumference of your neck, preventing your head from leaning far in any direction, and its adjustable Velcro strap ensures it can fit most necks. The pillow’s cozy velour exterior is removable and machine-washable. Although it doesn’t pack flat, the Travelrest weighs less than a pound and compresses to a quarter of its size when rolled into its Velcro-strapped carrying case.

Our only complaint is that the Travelrest’s high walls, while supportive, can push over-ear headphones off of the ears of people with shorter necks. While the memory foam feels plush, it’s also quite firm; this offers excellent support, but not much give. It also doesn’t let you adjust the fit, like our two wrappable picks: the Turtl and the BCozzy . If the Travelrest fits your neck, it’s an excellent pillow. If your neck is much longer or shorter than this pillow’s 5-inch wall, though, you might prefer the fit of one of our other pillow picks.

If our top pick sells out, or if you find yourself pillowless past security, the Cabeau Evolution Classic Pillow is almost as good a pillow. It lacks the Travelrest’s angled, lay-flat back, but its U-shape, contoured memory-foam core and machine-washable velour cover still provide comparable levels of comfort. Its adjustable string closure also means that you can fit the pillow much tighter around your neck than you can with the Travelrest, making it a good choice for people with smaller necks or people who prefer a more constricted fit. Additionally, it’s the only one of our picks that we’ve regularly seen in stores located behind the security checkpoint at many airports.

If you typically lean to the same side while sleeping, the Trtl Pillow’s fleece-covered plastic frame provides unshakeable support to one side of your neck while remaining comfortable to wear. It’s basically a one-sided neck brace. The pillow’s cozy wraparound fleece will also keep your neck warm, making it a good choice for anyone who gets cold while flying (and a poor choice for those who sleep hot). But the Trtl’s winning quality is its tiny, packable size. Unlike any of our other picks, the Trtl does not need to be compressed or stuffed into a carrying case. It will always take up about as much space as a PB&J sandwich. (It costs a lot more than one, though.)

The Bcozzy , a variation on the hemi-doughnut theme, is our pick for anyone who wears large over-the-ear headphones on a flight or tends to nod forward while they sleep. The pillow’s overlapping ends form a snug cushion that holds your chin in place far better than do the Trtl’s plastic frame or the Travelrest and Cabeau’s chin-facing gap. While the pillow does not provide great support to either side of your neck, if paired with a large pair of headphones, the Bcozzy holds a head in place perfectly. While not as compressible as our other picks, the pillow has a small loop that can be clipped to the outside of most bags so it doesn’t have to take up space inside your bag.

The research

Why you should trust us, who this is for, how we picked our best travel pillow finalists, how we tested travel pillows, our pick for the best travel pillow: travelrest nest ultimate memory foam travel pillow, runner-up for the best travel pillow: cabeau evolution classic pillow, also great for portability: trtl pillow, also-great chin-support pillow for forward-nodders: bcozzy pillow, other good travel pillows, the competition.

I am a frequent flyer who often takes red-eyes from coast to coast—I now live in Brooklyn but fly home to San Francisco to visit my parents. I’m also an insomniac, so falling asleep on planes has never been easy for me. While writing this article, I tested eight travel pillows on two five-hour flights and slept with our four picks on two more cross-country flights. I also spoke with Rebecca Robbins, a postdoctoral fellow at the NYU Center for Healthful Behavior Change at the time of the interview, to see what she looks for in a travel pillow.

In addition, my Wirecutter colleagues as a whole are an exceptionally mobile group. We’ve worked remotely from every continent except Antarctica, so I asked some folks on staff which pillows they like and use regularly. (They’ve also since contributed some additional testing.)

A pile of neck pillows on a wood table. We looked for the best neck pillow available.

Boarding a red-eye without a travel pillow in your bag is like choosing to sleep on the floor when there’s a perfectly good futon nearby. Sure, it’s no bed, but it’s a hell of a lot better than hardwood. In an interview she did in 2017 with The Atlantic reporter Kelly Conaboy, Dr. Mary O’Connor, then the director of Yale’s Center for Musculoskeletal Care, said that despite a lack of clinical studies that support the efficacy of travel pillows, “Many of us who travel have experienced falling asleep with our neck in a weird position and it bothering us thereafter. So, I think they can be helpful, but that depends on how they’re used and whether they support the neck.” In other words, using a supportive pillow may decrease the chances you wake up with an unwanted crick. It certainly has in our experience.

However, not all travel pillows are the same, and if you also happen to have a zealous hatred of your travel pillow, you probably have a bad one. So even if you have a generic pillow you picked up at some airport a few years ago, consider upgrading to one of our picks. And of course, these pillows work well on buses and trains, too.

So how can you tell if a pillow is likely to actually support your head? Rebecca Robbins, a postdoctoral fellow studying sleep at the time of our interview, says the best travel pillows will keep your head elevated and in alignment with your spine: “Look for something that would really be supportive. My one gripe with most travel pillows is that they’re too soft and not too full—you want something that will be supportive as you try to get comfortable in your limited space.” Robbins also recommends finding a pillow that can keep you cozy but not too hot, as she says it’s easier to sleep with a lower body temperature.

Our recommended best travel pillows: The Cabeau and Travelrest pillows are in stuff sacks; the Trtl and Bcozzy pillows are collapsed and lying flat on a table.

Robbins does her best to avoid one common travel situation. “My number one sleep tip is to not take a red-eye if you can avoid it,” she said. “If the flight is five hours, you’re going to only have three hours of true rest, because all the announcements—‘lower your window,’ ‘raise your window.’ Those can be significant distractions.”

We also looked at existing editorial reviews for guidance. Ethan Green , founder of the sleep resource blog No Sleepless Nights, compiled an extensive comparative review of popular travel pillows that we found helpful when deciding what models to test.

For people who want a travel pillow that will ease some of the discomfort of sleeping upright on a bumpy plane ride, we’ve identified the following key features:

  • Comfort and support: The pillow should offer ample support for the weight of your neck and head but not restrict your movements or feel too tight.
  • Portable (but not inflatable): You don’t want your travel pillow to take up so much space in your carry-on that you can’t bring other things you need, so it should compress to a smaller size. Barring that, there should at least be a way to clip it to the outside of your bag or luggage. Inflatable pillows are easy to pack but should be avoided. They inevitably spring a leak, often sooner rather than later.
  • Soft: The material should feel plush against your skin but not trap so much heat that it’s uncomfortable to wear.
  • Universal fit (or as close as possible): The pillow should allow space for people to sleep with a ponytail or accommodate bigger hair, as well as a whole variety of head shapes and sizes and neck lengths.
  • Sleeping styles: It should also accommodate people who move their head in any direction while they sleep. It should also work in a window, a middle, or an aisle seat.
  • Speed of compression/decompression: In case you need to quickly stow your pillow before exiting the plane, or if you want to catch some shut-eye in a moment’s notice, it shouldn’t take too long to stuff the pillow into its carrying case or unfold it to full size.
  • Weight: Ideally, the pillow shouldn’t add undue burden to your carry-on. While inflatable pillows will always be the lightest option, memory-foam pillows don’t weigh much more and can offer significantly more comfort.
  • Grip/traction: Your head will likely move around a bit while sleeping on a plane, especially if there’s turbulence. So any kind of grip or traction around the bottom of the pillow will help it stay in place and keep you snoozing.
  • Machine washable: As you might expect from a vessel that ferries hundreds of people back and forth across the sky on a daily basis, planes can be filthy. So you’ll want to be able to wash the whole pillow—or at least its cover—before you take it on your next trip.

We researched more than 40 travel pillows—which ranged from variations on a hemi-doughnut to inscrutable crowdfunded designs—and after comparing hundreds of glowing and enraged Amazon reviews, we decided to test eight. We asked a panel of 10 people to try each of the pillows in a chair pushed against the wall of a conference room (the closest we could come to airline conditions in our office) and surveyed them on the fit, comfort, and support of each pillow. The panelists all had a variety of neck lengths and jaw sizes, and one even had a substantial beard. We also ran all of the pillows or their detachable pillowcases through a washing machine as instructed to see how well each stood up to a spin cycle and tumble dry.

And because simulations are rarely enough, I brought eight travel pillows on two cross-country flights to see how the pillows felt in the specific back design of an airplane seat. As I was lucky enough to have unnecessarily kind and understanding neighbors (thank you, Mike and Deborah!), I wore each of these pillows in a window, a middle, and an aisle seat to see if they felt comfortable in each configuration. I also tried on Deborah’s Muji travel pillow (as she offered), but determined it had much less support than our picks. I also carried all of our picks on two more cross-country flights on a different airline to ensure the pillows did just as well in different seat designs.

The Travelrest Ultimate pillow, a firm donut-shaped neck pillow, resting on a blanket. The recommended best travel pillow.

The Travelrest Ultimate remains our top pick after several years because its plush but firm memory-foam core offers more support to your neck than that of any other pillow. It’s also one of the few pillows we tested that felt specifically designed for an airline seat, with an angled, grippy back that aligns perfectly to both upright and reclined positions and ensures the pillow won’t slide down as you nod off. The velvety-soft pillow supports heads and necks of all sizes and can be fitted with an adjustable cord and clasp. In the tried-but-true shape of a hemi-doughnut—imagine a doughnut with a bite taken out—the Travelrest Ultimate may look like other pillows, but a number of thoughtful details make it a softer, more supportive pillow than all the rest.

The Travelrest offers better all-around support than any other pillow we tested. Its broad, marshmallowy walls hug the whole circumference of your neck. It feels supportive but not stifling. The easy-to-fasten Velcro strap means it can be adjusted to a snug fit for necks of many sizes. There’s even a small crevice for curlier hair or a ponytail.

In addition to fitting your neck, the Travelrest’s back tapers up to a point to fit flat against an airline seat back. Most neck pillows lack this tapering on the back and the excess padding can push your neck away from the headrest, causing your neck to droop forward. Additionally, the Travelrest has grippy dots on the back that prevent it from slipping.

The best travel pillow, the Travelrest Ultimate, showing the grippy back side.

In addition to its excellent support, the Travelrest is very comfortable and cozy to wear. Its memory-foam core is wrapped in velour, which kept my neck warm without overheating it. The Travelrest’s velour also felt softer and smoother against my skin than similar coverings on other pillows, such as the Cabeau Evolution. It’s also easy to clean: The Travelrest’s cover is easily unzipped and machine-washable. The velour retained its softness after going through a wash and dry cycle.

While the Travelrest isn’t inflatable, it packs down to the size of a roll of toilet paper in its carrying case. Once you fold it cinnamon-roll style and it’s small enough to fit inside the bag, a Velcro strap on the pouch helps you compress it even further. If there’s still not enough space for it in your bag, you can always clip its drawstring to any exterior loop.

All of these thoughtful details were not lost on our testing panel. They gave the Travelrest the highest marks of any pillow in comfort and neck support, and two-thirds of our testers picked it as their favorite pillow.

How the Travelrest has held up

After over a year of use, this pillow had lost none of its supportiveness. The memory foam was just as firm and springy as it was when we bought it. Its velcro strap was still easy to secure. If it fits you, this is a pillow that stays secure and comfortable on your neck for the duration of a long flight. However, we’ve also heard from multiple travelers that this pillow doesn’t fit them. The memory foam is quite firm, which offers excellent support, but not much give. If a pillow of up to 5 inches doesn’t fit comfortably on your neck, we think you’ll be happier trying one of our other picks.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The Travelrest Ultimate will never compress to the thin, flat size of a tiny pillow like the Trtl. But its unparalleled, cushiony support can still pack down to a reasonable size, and its 13 ounces won’t make your carry-on noticeably heavier. And if saving space is your highest concern, we think the Trtl provides space-conscious support without the spit-filled fuss of an inflatable pillow.

While the Travelrest’s voluminous plush can support all heads that lean left, back, or right, the pillow may not hold up the chins of people with smaller faces. When my head bobbed forward, my small face sank into the gap between the pillow closure and my neck. You can adjust the Velcro strap for a tighter fit, but the short strap cannot be pulled as tight as the Cabeau’s adjustable strings.

The Travelrest Ultimate’s unbeatable support is in part due to the height of its sides, designed to come up to the jaw of the wearer. This means the pillow may be incompatible with larger over-the-ear headphones for people with shorter necks. For instance, when I tried to wear the Travelrest Ultimate with my noise-cancelling Bose headphones , the pillow pushed the headset uncomfortably far up on my head, taking my earlobes with it. However, my editor, who has a longer neck, didn’t have this problem.

The donut-shaped Cabeau neck pillow resting on a blanket.

If you want a tighter, more adjustable fit, the Cabeau Evolution Classic  (which used to be called just the Evolution) is the way to go. Its contoured memory-foam design offers almost as much neck support as our main pick does, albeit without some of the Travelrest’s luxurious height. But the Cabeau’s adjustable clasp allows a far greater range of cinching than the Travelrest. In other words, the pillow can fit as tightly as you like.

Like the Travelrest, the Cabeau’s hemi-doughnut shape offers 360 degrees of support for anyone wearing it. It also boasts a cushioned memory-foam core and a contoured top that will keep your neck upright and head in place. But unlike the Travelrest’s gently arched bottom, the Cabeau’s flat bottom won’t sit as securely on your shoulders and may move around during your sleep. The Cabeau also lacks the Travelrest’s smartly tapered, grippy back that helps keep the pillow in place during flight. The Cabeau’s velour cover is also machine-washable, but it feels less soft than the Travelrest’s.

The Cabeau's cover comes off the foam core with a zipper.

Although the Cabeau’s fit and shape aren’t quite as good as the Travelrest’s, this pillow is more adjustable. It can be tightened or loosened with two adjustable strings that clip together, which results in a far more adjustable range than the Travelrest’s short strip of Velcro. If you have a smaller neck and know you find a tighter grip on your neck comforting, the Cabeau may be the way to go.

Like the Travelrest, the Cabeau also packs down to a quarter of its size, thanks to an adjustable strap bisecting its carrying case. But at 15.2 ounces, it’s a bit heavier than the Travelrest.

Unlike any of our other picks, the Cabeau Evolution is sold in many of those ubiquitous news stores inside airports. So if you find yourself lacing up your shoes after security and wishing you had bought one of our picks before your flight, look for the Cabeau’s contoured shape among the novelty hemi-doughnuts dangling off the travel pillow racks. It’s the best pillow you can buy at an airport. But if you have the chance to order online, the Travelrest offers more support.

There is a newer model of the Evolution Classic, the S3 , which has straps to hook onto a seat’s headrest. We think it’s a good choice if the Classic version is out of stock or otherwise unavailable. It’s still supportive and comfortable, but not as thick or soft as the Classic.

The Trtl is less a pillow and more a plush neck brace.

The Trtl Pillow , though odd-looking and unconventional, won a contingent of ardent fans with its firm support and slim, packable size. But it’s not our top pick because it works on only one side, and its warmth-trapping fleece can cause your neck to overheat. It’s also the most expensive of our picks. The Trtl consists of an arched plastic skeleton inside of a soft, fleece scarf that wraps once around your neck and then closes with Velcro to hold the pillow in place. You just lean your head against the convex end of the bendy frame, wrap the pillow around your neck, and your head has a soft but firm pedestal on which to rest while you sleep. It sounds weird, but it’s not that different from a neck brace—only it’s one-sided and softer.

Because the Trtl Pillow is little more than a scarf with a plastic plate in it, it packs down to the size of a sandwich and can lay flat against the back of your bag. This is the smallest travel pillow we tested and also requires none of the squashing or awkward cinching it takes to stuff the Travelrest or Cabeau into their holding bags, which are also easy to lose. Unlike any of the other pillows we’ve seen, the Trtl is small enough to fit inside a briefcase or handbag, making it the best option for people who don’t normally travel with backpacks. And at a featherweight 5 ounces, the Trtl is the lightest pillow we tested.

Though the Trtl can support your head from only one side, the tall, bendy plastic frame inside offered more support on that one side than either the Travelrest or Cabeau. Yet even with its soft, wraparound design, it lacks the all-around support provided by our top and runner-up picks. If you are an asymmetrical sleeper (if you prefer sleeping with your head leaning to one side), the Trtl may be a good choice. However, it’s not a good choice for people who nod forward—the plastic insert is too stiff. If that’s you, we prefer the Bcozzy, which we talk more about below .

A closeup of a hand holding the Trtl's cover open to show the lightweight frame inside.

Some testers found the Trtl’s quasi-corseted-turtleneck design off-putting. But then again, no one looks cool wearing any travel pillow. And on that note, the Trtl’s cozy fleece will keep your neck toasty. So if you know you run hot, the Trtl may not be the pillow for you.

Wirecutter’s Ganda Suthivarakom swears by the Trtl: “It packs almost flat, weighs next to nothing, and can be helpful for sleeping even when you are stuck in a middle seat. As someone who is always cold on the plane, I don't mind the whole fleece scarf design, either.”

Trtl has a more padded version of the pillow that claims to be more adjustable; one of our longer-necked staffers tried it and reported that it is indeed more comfortable for him than the original Trtl was. However, the same limitations of the original apply to the new version.

The Bcozzy is another donut-type pillow, but it's longer and thinner, enabling a more coiled configuration.

The Bcozzy is a snakelike spin on the traditional hemi-doughnut that’s perfect for anyone traveling with large headphones or people who tend to nod forward while sleeping and wake themselves up. It lacks the tall, supportive sides of our other picks, but the overlapping front is the perfect height to keep your chin from nodding forward as you doze off. It’s not as supportive on the sides, but this leaves ample room for big headphones.

The Bcozzy’s best advantage is its overlapping circular design, which allows you to adjust the pillow to degrees of personal preference. You can place the overlapping ends of the pillow around any point of your neck (though it only really makes sense in the front or on the sides), and wear the pillow as loose or as tight as you’d like. We think it’s most comfortable when the ends meet right under your neck—and in that position, it cushions your chin better than any other pillow we tested.

The longer, leaner Bcozzy lacks the plush, ensconcing neck support of the Travelrest Ultimate or Cabeau Evolution. It lays so low on your shoulders that it might not even touch your jaw. But this makes the pillow perfect for anyone who likes to wear over-the-ear headphones along with a travel pillow while they sleep on the flight. I personally like to fall asleep to music and drown out the dull roar of an airplane, so the Bcozzy works perfectly for me.

We still think the Travelrest Ultimate is a superior overall hemi-doughnut pillow, but the Bcozzy is an excellent choice if you plan to wear big headphones or know the feeling of that sharp, waking drop when your head falls forward on a plane.

The Bcozzy's small fabric loop for fastening.

The Bcozzy is also one of the least packable pillows, as it doesn’t come with a carrying case and does not compress particularly well. But its 7.4 ounces is around half the weight of the Travelrest or Cabeau, and it does comes with a little loop that clips onto the outside of a backpack or duffel. And even when squished down at the bottom of a bag, it doesn’t take up that much more space than the Travelrest Ultimate or Cabeau.

If you’re a back sleeper who can fall sleep sitting upright in your seat, facing forward, and not need to curl up or lean your head on the airplane window: You may want to try the Posture+ Travel Pillow, which is a U-shaped neck cushion, padded with memory foam, that looks like the back half of a cervical collar. When testing it, we slept surprisingly well, but it won’t suit all (or even most) sleep styles. It’s also not machine-washable, and it is pricy.

If you have a shorter neck and tend to run hot on planes and would prefer a pillow designed to keep you cool: Consider the ventilated Cabeau Evolution Cool —the combination of a silky polyester cover (similar to spandex) and vented design did feel mildly cooler against our necks. And we liked the pillow’s silky feel, packable size, zippered carrying case. But it was significantly smaller than the standard Cabeau Evolution and the Travelrest Ultimate, and it left the chins of long-necked testers totally unsupported. It’s also more expensive—now about $20 more than the Travelrest.

If you always lean to the same side when sleeping: Consider Travelrest’s All-in-One , which has a novel across-the-shoulder design that could be comfortable in such a situation. It has a similar fabric to the company’s winning Ultimate Memory Foam Neck Pillow, but in our tests its bulky inflated tube offered no structured head support, which could pose a problem in bumpy conditions.

If you tend to be a forward-falling head bobber: Consider the Caldera Releaf , which is less travel pillow and more neck brace. It does offer superior neck support, but it constricted the throat too much for our comfort.

The Trtl Pillow Plus , a later addition to the Trtl lineup, is more height-adjustable and has more padding than its older sibling . Our self-described “giraffe-necked” tester said that it did indeed fit him better than the original Trtl had. However, it still supports your head from only one side, making it not a great choice for sleepers who nod forward. It’s also bulkier than the original and costs nearly twice as much.

The Cabeau Evolution S3 is a newer version of our runner-up pick , the Evolution Classic. We liked it, and we think it’s a solid choice if the original Evolution isn’t available. It has added straps that you can hook onto a headrest to keep your head from falling forward while you sleep, but our runner-up pick is softer and slightly thicker, which offers a bit more support. We did find the S3 to be easier to roll up into its carrying case, however.

Intrigued by one of the stranger innovations that we’ve seen in travel pillow design, we tested the Huzi Design Infinity , but we can’t recommend it. Instead of cinching or clasping at the front, it is designed to be looped several times around the wearer’s neck like an infinity scarf. But the pillow failed to support our testers’ necks. Regardless of who tried it, testers found that looping it twice was too loose and thrice was too tight. It was also the largest and least compressible pillow we tested.

The J-Pillow offered a singular, three-pronged design that proved impossible for anyone to figure out without instructions. After some explanation, our testers could wear the pillow correctly, but they still felt that its squishy stuffing offered insufficient support, and only to one side of the head. It’s also impossible to pack away efficiently due to its pyramidal shape. If you want a one-sided pillow, skip this and go for the Trtl instead.

We tested the inexpensive Travelrest Curl because we loved its plush and contoured big cousin, the Travelrest Ultimate. But while the Curl contains the same luxurious memory-foam filling as the Ultimate, the pillow is so small that many testers found that it didn’t even come up to their jaws when worn. It does have an attractive price, but its skimpy size and unsupportive design could support only the shortest of necks.

We found the air-filled Sea to Summit Aeros Traveller Pillow to be similarly lacking. We liked how easy it was to fill—its dual-valve inflation mechanism means it won’t let air out between breaths—and we appreciated that it weighed only about a fifth as much as the Travelrest, but the Travelrest’s 360-degree support made it too hard to go back to an open-ring design that offers no support in the front. Also, one of our former freelance writers recently reported that when she pulled her pillow out of storage, after a few years of not using it, its internal bladder disintegrated in her hands.

This article was edited by Ria Misra and Christine Ryan.

Rebecca Robbins, postdoctoral fellow at the NYU Center for Healthful Behavior Change , phone interview , October 20, 2017

Meet your guide

do travel pillows really work

Sabrina Imbler

Sabrina Imbler is a former staff writer for Wirecutter, where they covered kitchen tools and HVAC.

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The Trtl travel pillow.

The Silly-Looking Trtl Travel Pillow Is the Only Way I Can Sleep on Flights

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The 12 Best Travel Pillows of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Sleep and relax comfortably on the go with these top travel pillows

do travel pillows really work

In This Article

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  • Our top picks
  • Other Pillows We Liked

Our Testing Process

  • Tips for Buying
  • Why Trust T+L

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .

Travel + Leisure / Emily Johnson

Sitting upright for hours on end or sleeping on unfamiliar pillows can be incredibly uncomfortable, but a reliable travel pillow can make your trip a lot more tolerable. Whether embarking on a red-eye flight, going camping, or looking to get a good night's sleep in your hotel room, the best travel pillows will be comfy, supportive, and portable. 

We tested more than 40 travel pillows, looking at traits like comfort, durability, portability, and quality. We narrowed down the best options while using the accessory for road trips, long-haul flights, train rides, and even sleeping at home, making sure each option was comfortable for extended use. After catching some of the best Z's, we rounded up pillow choices for different types of travelers who are looking to get more rest on their future trips.

Best Overall

Infinity pillow travel pillow.

Infinity Pillow

The modular design of the pillow makes it easy to use to support the neck, chin, or back while sitting.

The cushioning is fairly soft, so the support isn't as stiff as memory foam.

Most travel pillows come in one shape and size, so we love that this one can contort in various ways to fit your needs. At nearly 40 inches long, the infinity design (yes, like the scarves worn in the early 2000s) can be wrapped once for less support or twice for the type of neck support found in traditional C-shaped pillows. We used the pillow during an all-day road trip and loved that we could wear it around the neck with a looser or tighter fit depending on how much neck support we wanted.

We also found that it's much easier to travel with the pillow since the closed ring shape makes it easy to wear around the neck instead of having to pack it away or risk it falling off. The bamboo fabric is extremely soft and breathable, so we never felt overheated or constricted, and the pillow is machine washable for easy upkeep after a trip. Our only note is that it's not a firm neck pillow like memory foam options, so it's not the most supportive if that's what you're looking for, but it still offers sufficient cushioning for keeping the neck upright. It also comes in a whopping 10 colors.

The Details: Bamboo, nylon | 39.3 x 6.6 inches | Machine washable

Travel + Leisure / Paige VandeWiele

Best With Seat Strap

Cabeau tne s3 travel pillow.

The seat strap system keeps the pillow in place to prevent it from slipping around or falling off.

It can feel stiff at first and takes some getting used to.

This soft and supportive travel pillow is the perfect accessory for long trips, whether you're in the car or in the air. The pillow itself can attach to any headrest with adjustable straps to prevent your head from sagging or falling into uncomfortable positions while sleeping. There's also an adjustable chin strap for added comfort and security. The pillow's exterior fabric is soft and cozy yet breathable so you don't feel too hot or constricted — though it can take some time to find your perfect position.

We also love that the pillow case is machine washable. We tested this pillow on a long international trip where it really got tossed around on planes, trains, and buses, so it felt great to wash the cover at the end of the trip, making it feel as good as new. Despite its fairly large size, the pillow is also quite portable as it rolls up into a compact carrying case that you can attach to a bag's exterior or slip into larger backpacks and totes.

The Details:  Polyester, microsuede, foam   | Machine washable | Carrying case included

Most Supportive

Ostrichpillow go neck pillow.

The pillow has an asymmetrical design that can accommodate neck, chin, and head support preferences.

It might warm your neck if you run hot while sleeping.

The Ostrich Pillow Go Neck Pillow feels like sleeping on a cloud. This travel pillow provided the perfect amount of neck support and comfort when we took it on a flight, allowing us to get more rest than usual. The plush memory foam filling and asymmetric design can be easily adjusted to support the neck, chin, or head with the taller or shorter sides. The materials appear high-quality and luxurious, and it is easy to roll the pillow up to fit inside its compact drawstring sack. The pillow held its shape after being in the bag for long periods of time, which leads us to believe that it will hold up well with prolonged use. The pillow cover is removable and machine washable, but we air dried it to ensure it didn’t shrink (and had no issues putting it back on the pillow). A must-have for those with higher budgets, this pillow allows for better sleep and more comfort on flights.

The Details: Viscosa, memory foam | 10.5 x 9.5 inches | Machine washable | Carrying case included

Travel + Leisure / Susan Brickell

Aeris Memory Foam Travel Pillow

It’s supportive and firm without feeling too stiff. 

This would be best for travelers who know they prefer a firm travel pillow.

We love the comfortable and supportive Aeris Memory Foam Travel Pillow for travelers that like a firmer neck pillow. The buckle strap adjusts accordingly to fit around your neck and offers 360-degree support on the chin, jaw, and back. We loved how you can lean back in the car or plane, and the back of the neck doesn't fall backward. In addition to having exceptional support, the Aeris travel pillow folds into a small ball and easily fits into the included circular carrying case that you can clip onto a backpack or suitcase without being a noticeable nuisance. The travel pillow also comes with earplugs and an eye mask, and features a frontal slip pocket that you can store them in. After a trip, you can unzip and remove the carrying case to machine wash it, although we recommend air drying it to prevent any possibility of shrinkage.

The Details: Velour, polyester, memory foam | 11.81 x 11.42 x 3.54 inches | Machine washable | Carrying case included

Travel + Leisure / Anna Popp

Pluto Pillow Pod

Pluto Pillow

It boasts a cozy hood and built-in eye mask for total darkness even on bright flights.

It's one of the pricer options on this list.

Like the black-out curtains of travel pillows, this option comes with a hood and an eye mask that shields your eyes from any light, which is incredibly useful when you're trying to get some shut-eye on a busy flight. It has a soft neck brace that wraps around the neck with light support, and the hood goes on like a regular hoodie with a drop-down eye mask. Once our head was fully cocooned in the hooded pillow, we found that it was a game changer for travelers who have a hard time falling asleep with light or ambient noise around since it muffles sounds and blocks rays. While the space-helmet-like shape looks quite different from other travel pillows on the market, it's still easy to put on and offers excellent portability. Plus, this newer model features an easy way to clip the pillow to a backpack or luggage handle. One thing to note is that the price point is quite high compared to other pillows on the market, but the unique design and high-quality fabric and construction make it worth it for those with higher budgets.

The Details: Alcantara fabric, WPS mesh | 12 x 6 x 4 inches (folded) | Machine washable

Travel + Leisure / Dera Burreson

Gingerlily Silk Travel Pillow

A silk pillow is the way to go to protect your hair and skin throughout your travels.

This pillow is 12 by 16 inches, so make sure you have plenty of room to pack it.

For those who love sleeping on silk pillowcases at home, this mini version for travel is an absolute must. Yes, it can be pricey to buy silk travel accessories, but it's also expensive to ruin a blowout and have to find a salon on vacation (and there's no price to be put on fresh, clean skin). This silk pillow is smaller than a standard pillow at 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, but you can still use it in a hotel bed, and it's perfect for trains, planes, and cars — just make sure you have the space in your personal item bag . After using this pillow for multiple long trips, it still shows no signs of loose stitches, fraying, or pilling. Rather, the pillow feels like it will last without ever going limp or flat.

The Details: Mulberry silk, cotton sateen, polyester | 12 x 6 inches

Travel + Leisure / Morgan Ashley Parker

TripSavvy / Morgan Ashley Parker

Best Cooling

Cabeau evolution cool pillow.

The mesh air vents make the pillow breathable to prevent overheating. 

It’s made of firm memory foam.

The Cabeau Evolution Cool Pillow is a great pick for travelers who get warm quickly. The pillow is designed to prevent heat from building up when you wear it as mesh vents in between two layers of cushiony memory foam filter in the air. We liked the breathability feature and moisture-wicking fabric and noticed that we didn’t feel overheated while using it on an airplane or road trip. While it took a moment to get situated, once the pillow was in the most comfortable position, it was extremely supportive and firm without feeling too hard. We especially liked the portability of the already lightweight pillow (thanks to its durable carrying case), as well as the mesh pocket for storing small accessories. Even after being rolled up and stuffed into its carrying case, this pillow quickly unfolds back to its original shape.

The Details: Memory foam | 9 x 7 inches | Machine washable | Carrying case included

Best Adjustability

Buyue travel neck pillow.

One side of the pillow has extra cushioning, and you can swivel it around to support any part of your head.

It comes with a drawstring bag to stuff it in, but the pillow still takes up a good chunk of space in a backpack.

With thick cushioning on one side of the pillow, the unique design of this travel pillow makes it easy to get comfortable in a small space where there isn't much wiggle room. No matter which way your head tilts when you sleep, you can adjust this pillow with the largest part of cushioning rotated to support the side or back of your head, or you can turn it to the front to prevent your chin from tipping forward or bobbing around. After testing the pillow on both road trips and long flights, we found that the fabric is breathable and soft for resting your head on, and we love that the cover comes off to toss it in the wash. Because of the thicker side of the pillow, it does take up a bit more space in a backpack, but it does come with a drawstring bag if you prefer to carry it outside of your luggage.

The Details: Polyester, spandex | 8 x 8 x 8 inches | Machine washable | Carrying case included

Travel + Leisure / Ava Wegner

Samsonite 2-in-1 Magic Travel Pillow

It has a modular design to shift from a U-shape to a rectangular pillow, offering versatility at an affordable price.

The neck pillow might not offer enough support for some since it's on the softer side.

This microbead pillow from Samsonite can be used as a neck pillow if you're sitting upright or you can shift it into a rectangular pillow for leaning against a window or laying on a tray table. The handy two-in-one design already gets bonus points for versatility, but the budget-friendly price makes it all the more better. In testing, it was an effortless process to switch from the U-shape to the rectangle shape by flipping the pillow inside out. Made with polyester and microfiber beads, this pillow is shockingly lightweight and feels nearly weightless to carry around an airport. Because the pillow is on the softer side with the microfiber beads, we discovered it's not as supportive as a memory foam pillow, but it still offered enough support to prevent the neck from uncomfortably craning too far to one side.

The Details: Polyester | 12.25 x 11.75 x 4 inches | Hand wash

Travel + Leisure / Anita Rutz

Best Splurge

Purple harmony anywhere pillow.

This supportive pillow is comfortable enough to sleep on at night and would make any hotel stay feel more luxurious.

At over three pounds, it's quite heavy but feels weightless if you attach the strap to a backpack.

If you're looking for a travel pillow that is just as comfortable — if not more so — than your pillows at home, then this luxurious one from Purple is the one for you. It's a miniature version of the brand's best-selling Harmony pillow, and it boasts the same cooling gel and bouncy, neck-supporting feel as the larger version. During testing, we found this pillow to be noticeably cooling, breathable, and moisture-wicking, which can come in handy for camping. We wouldn't use this pillow during flights because of the plush, rectangular shape that wouldn't work well when sitting upright, but it would be ideal when you're laying flat, like in a hotel room.

It comes with a machine-washable pillow cover, and there is a travel case sold separately . Because this is one of the priciest pillows on this list, we do wish the travel case was included, but we do think it's worth adding on for its carrying straps and compression features. The pillow feels quite heavy on its own, but when you attach the strap to a backpack, it feels weightless to carry. You can also compress the pillow in half if you have the travel case, making it much more portable. Although this is a splurge for a travel pillow, we think it's worth the investment for travelers in search of a comfortable pillow with luxe features like a breathable honeycomb design, a moisure-wicking cover, and strong neck support.

The Details: Talalay latex, knit | 16 x 13 x 6 inches | Machine washable

Travel + Leisure / Jackie Cucco

Best Breathable

Sleep number travel pillow.

Sleep Number

The memory foam filling and synthetic fiber exterior let air pass through for superior breathability.

The pillow is large and was cumbersome to carry, especially for light packers.

It can get hot and stuffy on an airplane, so we love that the synthetic materials used to create this Sleep Number travel pillow are light and airy. The memory foam filling is bouncy and lightweight, and the soft fabric pillowcase is cooling enough to prevent overheating while sleeping in a plane, car, or train. We used the pillow on a long-haul flight to Ireland and found it was ideal for leaning your head against the window or on the tray table since the pillow is on the larger side. While the size offers extra cushioning and support like a regular pillow, it did make it slightly annoying to carry through crowded airports since it doesn't come with a compact carrying case. However, it does come with a drawstring bag to carry it separately or you can use the clasp to attach it to backpacks, suitcases, or other luggage.

The Details: Lyocell blend, memory foam | 17 x 12 inches | Machine-washable cover | Carrying case included

Travel + Leisure / Emily Johnson

Best for Camping

Therm-a-rest compressible pillow.

This mini pillow is ultra-durable and fit for rustic adventuring.

It doesn’t offer neck support like a regular travel pillow.

If you’re not a fan of the typical U-shaped travel pillow, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is a great alternative. It resembles the rectangular style of a traditional pillow, and you can compress it down to easily transport it to the great outdoors, making sleeping in a tent more comfortable than ever. The recycled polyester fabric is light and breathable, and the foam filling — made from extra polyurethane foam left over after producing REI’s sleeping pads — provides a soft cushion for your head. We also loved how durable it is, especially for various uses like camping, flying, or taking a nap at home. While the pillow doesn’t come with a carrying bag, it has a toggle strap that you can use to compress it into a smaller size and a built-in cover that you fold the pillow into for protection while traveling.

The Details: Recycled polyester, polyurethane foam fill | 15 x 11 x 5 inches | Machine washable

Other Travel Pillows We Liked

Some travel pillows we tested almost made the cut but didn’t due to a few weaknesses, though they still might make suitable options for some travelers.

Hest Pillow : This standard pillow is on the softer side yet still provides support and comfort while laying on it, but the fabric is slightly itchy, and it’s bulky to carry around, even when compressed.

Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Neck Pillow : While the memory foam is the perfect balance of firm and soft, we found this pillow to be just a bit too bulky for frequent travel.

Travel + Leisure / Daniela Galvez

Slip Jet Setter Travel Pillow : The silk material is luxurious soft and cooling, but the pillow itself is extremely bulky to wear and difficult to travel with.

Snugl Neck Travel Pillow : Made with soft and supportive memory foam, the pillow is ultra-comfy to use in-flight, but we had a lot of trouble getting it back into the carrying case.

Cushion Lab Travel Deep Sleep Pillow : The comfort level with this pillow is so high that we started using it to sleep on nightly at home. However, it's not very portable, and we had a hard time rolling it up into the case.

Our Travel + Leisure team tested more than 40 travel pillows to find the very best ones for every type of comfort-seekers. To thoughtfully curate this list, we researched and tested popular options, including pillows with the classic U-shape and rectangular ones, too.

Paying close attention to traits like comfort, quality, durability, and portability, we noted various features that stood out to us for both good and bad reasons. We looked for special features such as cooling designs, firmness, softness, or other claims by the manufacturer to check if they rang true. Our favorite pillows also kept their shape after being tucked away into a case and always sprang back into their original form with no signs of damage. 

After testing the pillows on journeys like cross-country road trips and long-haul flights, we continue to capture testing notes every few months to update our articles accordingly.

Tips for Buying a Travel Pillow

Prioritize neck support.

When it comes to sleeping in planes, trains, or cars, you should focus on your neck and head support. When your head drops during sleep, it can leave you with a sore neck or even a headache. Your travel pillow should be supportive enough that your neck stays securely upright without feeling as though you're being squeezed.

Portability is key 

Whether you pack light or stuff your suitcase full, a compact travel pillow that fits into a small carrying case is ideal for bringing along on trips. Of course, some travel pillows don’t compress, but they should still be easy to clip onto a suitcase or backpack and not bump into too many things if you’re traversing an airport or train station. It's always more convenient when a carrying case is included, especially if it has a luggage trolley sleeve or straps.

Consider the filling material 

Travelers who like a firmer pillow should opt for a memory foam filling that can offer more support than an inflatable alternative. Microbead pillows can be just as supportive as memory foam ones, but they tend to be on the softer side and are more suited to travelers that like a little less structure while sleeping. 

Think about how you plan to use it

Travel pillows are a relatively broad category, so you'll want to narrow down your intended use and travel habits before purchasing since they come in all different shapes, styles, and sizes. For example, if you often find yourself in the middle seat while flying, you'll want a pillow with lots of head support like a memory foam, U-shape pillow or an infinity style that you can adjust. However, window-seaters might opt for a rectangular pillow for leaning against the plane wall.

Travel pillows aren't just for flights, either. There are also rectangular options that can help make you more comfortable while camping or staying in hotel rooms, rental properties, or even friend's houses that might not have great pillows. They are also a road trip essential for every adventure.

You can generally find washing instructions on the tag of the travel pillow when you buy it. Removable covers can usually go through a machine wash, but many of our team members opted to air dry the cover to prevent any shrinkage that could happen in a hot dryer. If a pillow doesn’t have a removable cover, you can spot clean the pillow by using a wet cloth dipped in soapy water.

Most standard travel pillows have a semicircular shape that you wrap around the neck to support your neck, head, and chin. These U-shaped pillows often have memory foam or microbead filling, but there are also inflatable neck pillows. There are unique J-shaped travel pillows that are perfect for supporting the neck and head of someone sitting in the middle or aisle seat. In addition, standard pillows make great travel pillows for certain situations, and plenty of rectangular-styled pillows compress down for better portability.

Most travel pillows will come with carrying cases to compress the pillow, making it more portable. If the carrying case doesn't have a handle, it should still pack down small enough to fit in a personal item such as a backpack or a tote bag. Some pillows have a luggage trolley pass-through sleeve, which you can slip over the handle of your suitcase, while others may have a strap or a clip that you can attach to a backpack to carry it hands-free.

Some pillows are specifically designed to be worn in multiple different ways, but in general, it depends on your comfort preferences. You can wear a travel pillow backward , forward, or you can lean on it in the window seat — the most important thing is finding the most comfortable position for you.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Anna Popp  is a New York-based commerce writer at T+L, where she writes most of the team's tested content. Anna participated in testing travel pillows and worked with travel editors to determine the results for the best ones on the market based on a series of tests completed during trips taken by plane, car, and train. We will continue to update this article as we test even more travel pillows.

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do travel pillows really work

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Sandman's Shop

Fact Check: Do Travel Pillows Really Work or Not?

The question that frequently pops up among frequent flyers and long-distance travelers is - do travel pillows really work? Travel pillows are touted as a must-have item for those embarking on long journeys, but is there actual merit to this claim, or is it just another marketing gimmick? Let's delve into the details and find out.

do travel pillows really work

Understanding the Purpose of Travel Pillows

The main function of travel pillows is to support the head and neck during travel. Specifically, they aim to counteract the notorious head bob that often occurs when you fall asleep in an upright position. This inadvertent motion can cause discomfort and strain in the neck area, leading to an unpleasant travel experience. By providing a stable and supportive structure, travel pillows can help encourage a more natural sleep posture, even when you're not in a traditional sleeping environment. This support can deter unnatural movements and prevent potential discomfort, helping you have a more relaxed and comfortable journey. Therefore, travel pillows are more than just a comfort accessory; they serve a practical purpose in promoting better sleep hygiene during travel.

The Science Behind Travel Pillows

Travel pillows operate based on principles of ergonomics, which focuses on designing products that provide optimal interaction between people and their environment. They are constructed to keep your neck and spine in their natural alignment, helping to alleviate unnecessary strain. When your neck maintains its natural position without excessive bending, it reduces tension on the muscles and ligaments, potentially diminishing the chance of discomfort or pain. By understanding the ergonomics of travel pillows , you can see how they might provide an effective solution for maintaining proper posture while sleeping in a seated position, thus potentially reducing common travel-related neck pains and discomfort.

Factors to Consider when Choosing a Travel Pillow

Travel pillows can indeed provide a measure of comfort and support during long journeys, but their effectiveness can hinge on a variety of factors. Key among these are the style of the pillow, its construction materials, and the individual's comfort preferences.

Travel pillows come in a plethora of shapes and sizes, each bringing its unique advantages and disadvantages to the table. The classic U-shaped pillows are well-liked for their compactness and simplicity, but they might not deliver adequate side support. Alternative designs such as J-shaped, wrap-around, or inflatable pillows offer varying degrees of support and comfort. The success of these designs largely hinges on the individual's comfort preferences and sleep patterns.

The choice of material can significantly influence a travel pillow's comfort and support level. Memory foam, known for its conforming properties, can offer excellent support and comfort, but these pillows can be somewhat unwieldy. In contrast, inflatable pillows are extremely portable but may not offer the same comfort levels.

Personal comfort preferences play a crucial role in determining the effectiveness of a travel pillow. Some people might find certain designs uncomfortable or unnatural, while others may swear by them. Therefore, understanding your comfort preferences and sleep habits is essential when choosing a travel pillow.

Finally, consider how much space you have available for a travel pillow . Some types can be bulky and difficult to pack, which can be a disadvantage if you're traveling light.

In the end, selecting the right travel pillow requires a balance of personal comfort preferences, design, material, and practicality.

do travel pillows really work

User Experiences and Testimonials

Travel pillows seem to be a hot topic among globetrotters and long-distance commuters, with numerous testimonials attesting to their effectiveness. The internet is awash with positive feedback from satisfied customers who vouch for the restful sleep they get during their travels, thanks to these pillows. These individuals credit travel pillows for enhancing their overall journey by reducing neck strain and fostering better sleep.

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Some travelers voice their disappointment, citing discomfort or unnatural feel of the pillows. The inconvenience of packing and carrying around travel pillows has also been a common complaint, particularly among those who prefer to travel light.

Each individual's experience with travel pillows appears to be unique, with some swearing by their benefits and others expressing dissatisfaction. This spectrum of feedback highlights the importance of personal comfort and preference when it comes to using travel pillows. The varied experiences underline the notion that while travel pillows can indeed enhance comfort during travel for some, they might not be the magic solution for everyone.

The Downside of Travel Pillows

While travel pillows have proven beneficial for some, they also have certain downsides worth considering. A common drawback is the size and packability of these pillows. Particularly non-inflatable versions, known for their comfort and support, tend to be bulky, posing a challenge for those who prefer to pack light or have limited luggage space.

Comfort and effectiveness are another area of concern for some users. Misfit or incorrectly used travel pillows can lead to discomfort rather than alleviating it. This is especially true for those who may not be accustomed to the feeling of a travel pillow or who don't find the designs agreeable with their sleep preferences.

In addition, finding the right travel pillow may involve some trial and error, adding to the inconvenience. Not every design is suited for everyone, and individual comfort needs can vary greatly. A pillow that works wonders for one traveler might not offer the same comfort to another. This implies that you may need to try out different pillows before finding the one that suits your needs perfectly.

In summary, while travel pillows can enhance comfort during long journeys, they also come with potential downsides such as bulkiness, varying comfort levels, and the need for individual fitting. It's essential to keep these factors in mind when deciding whether or not to invest in a travel pillow.

Conclusion - Do Travel Pillows Really Work?

So, are travel pillows a sound investment? The answer isn't black and white. For some, they offer crucial support and comfort during extended journeys, making them a valuable travel accessory. For others, they may not live up to the hype, as comfort is highly subjective and varies from person to person.

It's crucial to introspect about your own sleep habits and what makes you comfortable before taking the plunge and investing in a travel pillow. If you decide to venture into this, take into account your specific needs and the considerations highlighted above to find the right fit for you. With a carefully selected travel pillow , you could transform your long, grueling journeys into comfortable, restful experiences.

To wrap it up, while travel pillows aren't the holy grail for everyone, they certainly can make a significant difference for some. It ultimately boils down to personal preferences and finding what works best for you. Remember, travel doesn't have to be uncomfortable - with the right tools and adjustments, you can turn it into an enjoyable and restful experience.

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The correct way to wear a neck pillow

gettyimages-939656362-170667a (1)

Editor's Note

I'll never forget my first neck pillow . After a long-haul flight proved to be a pain in the neck, I was willing to throw money at any possible solution in the airport gift shop.

Pillow purchased, I settled into my return flight with a sense of hope, and after dinner and a movie I drifted off to sleep with my neck pillow in place. But rather than slumber peacefully as the photo on the label suggested, I was jerked awake when my chin fell forward.

After deciding U-shaped travel pillows were a waste of space in my carry-on, I gave the pillow away. Then, more than 10 years later, I discovered it wasn't the pillow, it was me. I'd been using it the wrong way around.

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While almost everyone you see on a plane wears the pillow around the back of their neck with the gap at the front, it works a whole lot better if you flip it and reverse it — as demonstrated in this viral Tik Tok video . With the gap at the back, your head is supported, eliminating the strain on your neck if it falls from side to side, chin securely in place.

I'll admit to feeling like a fool when I decided to give a second travel pillow a chance and wear it 'backward'. I could see other neck pillow users looking at me in confusion, but I simply smiled, popped in my earplugs, pulled on my eye mask and settled down to sleep.

And sleep I did. The few times I woke through the night flight due to turbulence I felt a sense of comfort from the pillow's position and fell back to sleep easily in a U-shaped hug. By the time we landed, I was such a convert I wanted to tell everyone carrying a travel pillow off the plane that they had to try it the other way around.

Granted, there are some times when you don't want to wear it under your chin. The reverse position doesn't work well at mealtimes or when you're having something to drink . And, until I find one with an Elizabethan ruff design that takes the whole look to a so-silly-it-works level, I'll continue using my neck pillow as lumbar support while watching movies.

Then, when it's time for shut-eye I'll look like the person who has the wrong end of the stick but is sleeping soundly. Until word gets out and more of us use the humble U-shaped pillow in the way it can do its best work. I've yet to see anyone else on a plane wearing it that way, but look forward to the day we can nod at each other.

One final thing: When it comes to the right way to wear them around your neck when you're walking around the airport, let's agree that forwards, backward and sideways are all off the table. Loop them around the handles of your bag and avoid turning heads for the wrong reason. Until my ruff design comes out, that is. Then it will look awesome.

10 Best Travel Pillows of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Feel comfy and supported whether you're sitting in a window, middle or aisle seat.

the 10 best travel pillows of 2023, tested and reviewed

We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

Our top picks:

Evolution S3

Best Overall Travel Neck Pillow

Cabeau evolution s3.

Evolution Classic

Best Value Travel Pillow

Cabeau evolution classic.

Organic Toddler Pillow

Best Organic Travel Pillow

Avocado organic toddler pillow.

Travel Pillow

Best Lightweight Travel Pillow

Trtl travel pillow.

Original Travel Pillow

Best Light-Blocking Travel Pillow

Ostrich original travel pillow.

Scrumptious Side Pillow

Best Travel Pillow for Hotels

Honeydew scrumptious side pillow.

Kids Travel Pillow

Best Travel Pillow for Kids

Bcozzy kids travel pillow.

Anywhere Travel Pillow

Most Compact Travel Pillow

Tuft & needle anywhere travel pillow.

Neck Pillow for Travel

Most Versatile Travel Pillow

Bcozzy neck pillow for travel.

Travel Pillow

Most Innovative Travel Pillow

J-pillow travel pillow.

Depending on the airline and type of flight, you may be given a travel pillow. But these aren't always the best pillows to rest your head on while you close your eyes. If you are a frequent traveler, investing in your own travel pillow may be worth it, especially for flights when you are in the middle or aisle. That said, shopping for a new pillow isn't always the easiest, which is why we've rounded up the best pillows for travel , including organic pillows , neck pillows and budget-friendly options, based on extensive research and our own expert testing in the Good Housekeeping Institute .

After browsing our recommendations, we suggest checking out our favorite travel gear on Amazon and consulting our guide to washing pillows , just in case you spill your coffee or juice mid-flight.

This isn't your typical travel neck pillow, as its memory foam fill holds its shape better than similar neck pillow styles.

Our pros found that the pillow really does keep your neck from tilting too far to the side. You can attach the adjustable straps to any headrest, whether it's on an airplane or in the car. We appreciate its more substantial size compared to other options on the market, although this means it's a bit bulkier.

However, it comes with a travel bag the manufacturer claims compresses the pillow down to half its size. Plus, you can attach the bag to your suitcase so you can save room for souvenirs. Although this is our top-rated pick for a travel neck pillow, it isn't the most versatile.

Fill material: Memory foam | Machine washable cover: Yes | Features: Adjustable straps; travel bag

For a less expensive option also by popular brand Cabeau, try its Evolution Classic for under $30. Similar to the S3, this model has a memory foam fill — but doesn't have straps for attaching it to a headrest.

Adjustable front clasps, however, lend support to the head and neck. You'll appreciate the machine washable cover for quick cleaning, and a hidden storage compartment for earbuds or earplugs . The pillow has a 4.3-star rating on Amazon and over 1.9k online customer reviews praising how comfortable it is. Some comment they have bought it for other frequent travelers in their lives.

A few reviews note that the pillow can be too big depending on how tall you are. Still, for the price and support provided, it's a winner.

Fill materials: Memory foam, polyester, cotton | Machine washable cover: Yes | Features: Adjustable front clasps; hidden storage compartment

You may be surprised to learn that a toddler-sized pillow is typically the same size as a travel one. We tested Avocado's Toddler Pillow which is the same as their travel pillow. Avocado uses organic and high quality materials, which is one reason we love the brand and have included its Green Mattress in a roundup of the best organic mattresses .

Like its popular mattress, Avocado's travel pillow is GOTS certified organic . It's also made with latex rather than memory foam, a synthetic material often used in travel pillows. Latex is made from natural resources and tends to be more resilient than foam. The fill is a blend of latex and kapok fiber, a natural material that has a silky feel.

Bedding expert Lexie Sachs , the executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab, says this pillow is indeed super comfy, and an almost perfect five-star rating online suggests customers agree. Numerous reviews note the high quality; one customer writes, "this pillow is really nice, soft, comfortable and the perfect size for using as an extra pillow for legs or whatever is needed."

Fill material: Latex, kapok fiber | Machine washable cover: Yes | Features: GOTS certified organic material

The design of this travel pillow may give infinity scarf vibes, but its unique design is meant for neck support. Available in four colors and weighing the same as an apple , according to the brand, this pillow is made from soft fleece and has an internal support system that helps keep your head and neck in an upright position.

We appreciate how lightweight it is, as you can easily pack it in your carry-on luggage . To wash, simply remove the support system and toss the wrap in the wash — no need to remove the cover first like some u-shaped travel pillows.

It has over 32K Amazon reviews, including one customer writing they used it on a recent 22-hour flight and were able to fall asleep for the first time sitting up. They add that while the fleece material keeps you warm in oftentimes cold flights, it may be too warm for those who run hot.

Fill material: N/A | Machine washable: Yes | Features: Soft fleece material

What sets this pillow apart from others is its light-blocking capability that proved to be effective in our testing . Its design may look kind of silly at a first glance, but the full-head structure with a mouth opening is meant to reduce ambient light and sound while letting you breath easy.

There are openings for your hands to rest on top of your head when leaning over. The pillow creates a cozy cocoon you can escape to whether you are at the office or on the plane in a middle seat. A caveat is the manufacturer recommends you spot clean the pillow with mild soap and water and then dry thoroughly, rather than tossing it in the washer and dryer.

It definitely has a strange design, but hundreds of online reviews say it does what it is meant to do. One happy reviewer writes, "I love pillows, and this does fall into that category. Although it's a bit awkward, it is very soft. For long car rides it would be a very good choice."

Fill material: Microbeads | Machine washable: No | Features: Blocks light; openings for hands

A GH Family Travel Awards winner in 2023, our testers raved about this pick, and even continued using the pillow after their travels.

It's substantial in size while still being compact enough to take on a trip, and comes with its own storage bag and pillowcase. The fill is a memory foam blend that is not only comfortable but also helps the pillow keep its shape.

Its curved shape maintains proper alignment while you snooze. It does come at a higher price but Sachs says that she uses her pillow at home too, not just while traveling, meaning the splurge may be worth it if you travel often for work and find hotel pillows to be uncomfortable.

Fill material: Memory foam blend | Machine washable cover: Yes| Features: Storage bag and pillowcase; curved shape

If you have one or more little ones traveling with you, then you may be looking for a kid-friendly travel pillow to help them nap better on long car rides or flights.

This popular pillow by Bcozzy has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon and is available in five colors with adorable travel bags in the shape of animals. You can adjust the pillow using the velcro strips that attach to the overlapping arms, which combined with a flat back help keep your kid's head from falling forward.

Sachs owns these cute pillows for her kids and confirms they stay in place well and roll up nice and easy to fit inside the carrying kit. "We used them on a long road trip and bring them whenever we have a long car ride. They love them!" she notes. You can also machine wash this pillow, which is great for any spills in the car. The drawback? It's pricier than some of our travel pillow picks for adults.

Fill material: Polyester | Machine washable: Yes | Features: Animal-themed travel bag; adjustable Velcro arms

Tuft & Needle Anywhere Travel Pillow

Limited on space? Try this travel pillow by popular bedding brand Tuft & Needle. We've included the brand's Original Mattress in our roundup of best mattresses and GH editors who have brought this pillow on long-haul flights say it's a game changer.

It's made from the brand's adaptive foam, which is designed to be breathable. It comes with a pack you can stuff the pillow into — making the pillow even more compact. Its versatile shape lends itself to a variety of uses including long trips or even camping. There is also a metal carabiner for attaching it to your bag or suitcase.

Sachs adds that this pillow is a solid choice for adding some cushion between your neck and shoulder when snoozing or even using it as something to lean on up against a car window.

Fill material: Foam | Machine washable cover: Yes | Features: Stuff sack and carabiner; breathable

When you think of travel pillows, something like this classic U-shaped pillow may come to mind. This popular pick has over 27K Amazon reviews, with one customer saying they bought the pillow for a long flight but found it also helped with their sleeping at home: "My neck is supported and my head is propped in just the right position to sleep comfortably."

The pillow has a multi-purpose design for all sleeping positions. You can position the arms of the pillow to support your head whether it tends to fall forward or sideways. The soft fleece material makes it cozy to snuggle with and the pillow comes with a travel case for easy storage.

Fill material: Polyester | Machine washable cover: Yes | Features: Front and side positions; soft fleece material

J-Pillow's travel pillow features an innovative, patented three-way design that supports your head, neck and chin. You tuck the "trunk" of the pillow under your chin and then lean back into the pillow for a restful sleep. Even if you're buying it for a long flight, you can continue using it while relaxing on your sofa at home to lend support to your head and neck as you nap or read.

It also comes with a travel bag for easy transport and has a snap loop so you can hang it on a hook when not in use. You can pop this pillow into the washer and dryer for easy cleaning post-traveling.

One five-star reviewer says, "I love this travel pillow; it's very soft and very good for sitting next to window side of the airplane." Its unique design and setup does require some getting used to though.

Fill material: Foam | Machine washable: Yes | Features: Three-way design; snap loop

How we chose the best travel pillows

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In the Good Housekeeping Institute, our textiles experts test every kind of pillow, from the best cooling , down alternative , latex and buckwheat pillows to the best pillows for side sleepers and back sleepers . We also test useful travel gear and accessories from luggage brands to packing cubes .

When looking at travel pillows, we consider comfort and support, as well as ease of use from carrying to cleaning. We also consider durability and performance of materials, as well as packability and price. For this roundup we relied on tester and expert feedback as well as insights from online customer reviews and ratings.

What to look for when shopping for travel pillows

line break

If you are looking for a travel pillow for your next trip, here are some things to consider:

✔️ Shape: U-shaped neck pillows are great for airplanes as they can stay put while you're sitting up in a middle or aisle seat. Small rectangle pillows are good for car rides as you can lean them against a window. You can also use a rectangular travel pillow at your final destination, whether that's a hotel room or camp site, and even at home after your trip. There are also unique shapes, like the Ostrich travel pillow that covers your eyes, or super compact pillows. Note: Travel-size pillows are the same as toddler-size pillows.

✔️ Fill: Foam keeps its shape under pressure, which is why it's a popular material for neck travel pillows. Other travel pillows will have a fiberfill or blend that makes them feel more similar to a regular pillow.

✔️ Portability: Almost all of our picks come with a travel case for easy packing. Sometimes the carrying bag will even compress the pillow down to a smaller size so you'll have more room in your suitcase. A bag will also protect the pillow and keep it clean when not in use. Other pillows will be super lightweight or have a clip.

✔️ Cleaning: Some pillows on this list are entirely machine washable, meaning you can toss the whole pillow in your washing machine . Others have machine washable covers or require you to remove a part of the pillow before washing. However, some can only be spot-cleaned. Since you are bringing your pillow on-the-go and it will be exposed to different germs, it's important to keep it clean.

✔️ Price: Our testing and research suggests you can find a great travel pillow for around $50, with some less expensive options that are just as good. There are also splurge-worthy travel pillows that can ring in at over $100.

Are travel pillows worth it?

Yes , especially if you are an avid traveler or find it hard to get comfortable on the plane. While there are some more expensive pillows on the market, there are also budget-friendly options that can improve your travel experience.

Even though airline pillows are free, they are not always the most comfortable. Plus, if you take the train to work or often go on road trips with the family (where pillows aren't handed out), buying a travel pillow will quickly pay off.

Why trust Good Housekeeping?

Elizabeth Berry is the updates editor at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she ensures our product reviews reflect accurate pricing, information and product details. She is an avid traveler who is known to pop on under eye patches halfway through her flight and values comfort when it comes to traveling near and far.

To write this guide, she collaborated with Lexie Sachs , the executive director of the Textiles, Paper & Apparel Lab at the GH Institute, where she leads research and testing of fabric-based products. Lexie always has her eye on new travel gear and is a huge fan of her Honeydew pillow.

Headshot of Elizabeth Berry

Elizabeth Berry (she/her) is the Updates Editor at the Good Housekeeping Institute where she optimizes lifestyle content across verticals. Prior to this role, she was an Editorial Assistant for Woman’s Day where she covered everything from gift guides to recipes. She also has experience fact checking commerce articles and holds a B.A. in English and Italian Studies from Connecticut College.

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Are travel pillows worth it? (Answered!)

Colin A. Borden

When embarking on a long journey, the convenience of a good travel pillow can make all the difference.

Whether road-tripping across the country or hopping on multiple planes, having something that allows you to get a good night’s sleep while on the go is essential.

Travel pillows can provide much-needed comfort between long stretches of sitting and can help ensure your body gets some rest before reaching your destination.

But are they really worth it? Can’t you just use whatever is available? These questions and more will be answered as we dive into whether travel pillows are truly worth it.

Are travel pillows really worth it?

Yeah, the chaotic nature of air travel creates added stress for many travelers, and one way to lessen that stress is by utilizing a travel pillow.

Though it’s not always easy to determine if this item is necessary, it can provide essential comfort during long plane rides. The degree of comfort provided will depend on the model you choose; some are designed to contour the shape of your head or neck while others offer less support than a standard pillow.

With the range of models available and their relatively low cost, it may be worth investing in a travel pillow if you’re worried about sleep quality during plane rides.

Further, considering what type of traveler you are and the duration of your flight will help determine if and which type of travel pillow will work best for your needs.

Do travel neck pillows actually work?

Travel neck pillows have become increasingly popular in the last few years for travelers looking for comfort during long journeys.

While some users suspect that they are just a novelty item providing minimal relief from the boredom of an airplane flight, others swear by them. Despite what skeptics might think, scientific evidence backs up the idea that these pillows can actually provide meaningful support to otherwise unsupported necks and help make long flights more comfortable.

In addition, it has been suggested that ergonomic neck pillows not only increase comfort levels but also offer increased resistance against muscle fatigue and improved blood circulation in the neck area.

Whether or not travel neck pillows work is entirely subjective, but there’s no denying the appeal of having a little extra peace of mind when traveling.

Are there different types of travel pillows?

Whether you’re catching a flight, taking an overnight train ride, or hitting the open road for a long car trip, having the right travel pillow is essential. But which one should you choose? There are various types of travel pillows out there and it can be difficult to know which one is best for your needs. Let’s break down all of the different types so you can make an informed decision. 

U-Shaped Pillow

This is one of the most popular types of travel pillows because it can provide superior support for your neck and head while still being lightweight and easy to carry around. The U-shape wraps around both sides of your neck, allowing you to rest your head in place without having to use your hands to hold it up. Many U-shaped pillows come with adjustable straps that allow you to customize its fit around your neck.

Inflatable Pillow

These pillows are great if you’re looking for something lightweight and compact. They are typically small enough to fit into a pocket or backpack, but they can be inflated with just a few breaths of air when needed. Inflatable pillows are also great if you’re looking for something versatile since many models have adjustable inflation levels so you can customize the firmness as desired.  

Memory Foam Pillow

Memory foam travel pillows offer superior comfort and support while still being lightweight and portable. They conform perfectly to the shape of your body, providing superior support while still allowing plenty of airflows so that your head doesn’t get too hot during long trips. Memory foam has excellent shock absorption properties which help reduce fatigue and muscle tension over time.  

Travel Blanket

Travel blankets don’t offer quite as much support as traditional travel pillows, but they do provide some extra warmth on cold trips or flights. Many models come with integrated pockets that let you store items such as books or electronics close by while also keeping them safe from theft or loss during travel. Plus, they usually come in small sizes that make them easy to carry in a bag or suitcase without taking up too much space.

Do travel pillows really help you sleep on a plane?

Travel pillows are often touted as an essential item to bring along on a long flight, but do they actually help you sleep? The short answer is maybe. There is no definitive answer, as everyone has different sleep habits and preferences when it comes to being comfortable on a plane. However, there are certain advantages that travel pillows offer that can make the journey more bearable and may even help with getting some rest.

  • Travel pillows provide support for your neck and head, which can be beneficial if you struggle with keeping your head upright while snoozing in the air. This further support allows your body to relax more easily and potentially drift off into a peaceful slumber.
  • Some travel pillows also have ergonomic designs that contour to your neck for added comfort and stability, making them great for people who tend to move around during their sleep.
  • More, many of these specialized pillows are designed specifically for airplanes, meaning they are made out of lightweight materials that won’t take up too much space or add extra weight to your luggage.

The drawbacks of travel pillows depend largely on personal preference and how well you can adjust to their size and shape.

  • For example, some people feel claustrophobic when using smaller-sized ones; this could disrupt their ability to get a full night’s sleep in the air.
  • Another potential problem is finding one that matches the curvature of your body perfectly so that it stays in place throughout the flight; otherwise, it might slip or slide away from its intended area. 

Should you buy a neck pillow at the airport?

Airport travel can be exhausting, with long lines, delayed flights, and uncomfortable seating. If you’re looking for a convenient way to make the most of your good times at the airport, consider investing in a neck pillow.

Although it might seem like a minor expense, having your own supportive neck pillow will help make even long layovers in the airport more comfortable and enjoyable. You’ll have the comfort of knowing that you won’t have to strain your neck or head during naps or when you’re just trying to relax.

Not only are they an ideal way to stay comfortable while traveling, but they are also a great investment – small enough and light enough to fit into any bag but capable of providing much-needed relief in times of need.

For those reasons alone it’s certainly worth considering buying a neck pillow at the airport.

How much do travel pillows cost?

Travel pillows come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, and each comes with its own cost.

From as little as $10 for an inflatable neck pillow to $50 or more for a goose feather pillow shaped to support the head and neck, the cost of travel pillows can vary based on your desired level of comfort while traveling.

Whether your needs are basic or you need specialized support due to medical conditions like neck pain or arthritis, there is certainly a travel pillow out there at just the right price.

No matter what your budget is, it is possible to find a quality pillow that will make long trips more comfortable and enjoyable.

It can be hard to determine whether travel pillows are worth it because everyone’s needs and wants are different. On one hand, they are designed to make long journeys more comfortable, but on the other hand, many people find them awkward or uncomfortable.

In general, I believe it comes down to personal preference. For frequent travelers who constantly endure long flights or road trips, a supportive neck pillow is likely an invaluable tool in improving comfort and helping them get some rest in transit.

Regardless, budget-conscious shoppers may be able to achieve similar results with lower-cost options like rolling up a jacket instead of investing in a more expensive dedicated solution.

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  • Travel Gear

Most Travel Pillows Suck, But These are Worth It

Published November 26, 2019

Written by:

do travel pillows really work

Shawn Forno

If you want to learn about budget travel, minimalist carry on packing, or how to travel (and even live and...

do travel pillows really work

Jenn Sutherland-Miller

Jenn raised 4 children while traveling full-time for more than a decade– it’s called worldschooling and it’s awesome. Jenn has...

do travel pillows really work

The Tortuga Promise

At Tortuga, our mission is to make travel easier. Our advice and recommendations are based on years of travel experience. We only recommend products that we use on our own travels.

Table of Contents

Travel pillows are a good idea—and not just for long haul flights. Get one that packs down small, stays put on your neck, is machine-washable, and comfy for how you like to sleep.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years of overnight busses, red eye flights, and hostel bunk beds it’s that having the best travel pillow is amazing.

I used to laugh at old fogeys blissfully napping in their plush neck cocoons. They didn’t know how to rough it like me. People with travel pillows weren’t “real” travelers. Now I know better. Although most travel pillows suck, a good travel pillow is worth it.

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  • Thick comfortable straps
  • Easy to organize
  • Durable, waterproof fabric
  • Backed by our Worldwide Warranty

So, to help you roughnecks turn the corner, we’ve gathered a list of the best travel pillows on the market. This list looks at memory foam plush travel pillows, inflatable space-saving travel pillows, some great budget options, and even interesting alternative travel pillows. I also breakdown the pros and cons of packing a travel pillow in a  travel backpack .

Even as a light packer, a travel pillow can be worth it—but only if it’s good. So, let’s take a look at the weird wonderful world of travel pillows and pick out the best travel pillows from the duds.

do travel pillows really work

The Best Travel Pillows

The best travel pillows are:

  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight
  • Within your budget

Below are our top picks for comfortable travel pillows that you can actually sleep with—they’re truly the best.

do travel pillows really work

Cabeau Evolution S3 Travel Pillow  ($40)

Improving on the already stellar Cabeau Evolution travel pillow, the S3 is jam-packed with cool features like headrest support straps (so you don’t  Tokyo  drift into your seatmate), a zippered pouch for ear plugs, sleeping pills or other little naptime necessities, and an adjustable front clasp. It’s also one of the most comfy memory foam pillows on the market, at a price that, while a little higher than some, is still well worth it for habitual travelers. Treat yo’self.

do travel pillows really work

Infinity Pillow  ($39.50 + $7 for the carrying case)

The  Infinity Pillow  is freaking life changing. My girlfriend’s sister gave “us” this travel pillow about a year ago, and it’s been everywhere. Road trips, camping trips, short flights, red eye flights, you name it. The wrap around design is perfect for any situation since you can double it up, wrap it around your neck, or wad it into a weird corner. It’s soft bamboo fabric is adaptable, breathable, and cozy.

My girlfriend typically opts for the double wrap around her neck and head creating a kind of nap cave that blocks out most light and sound. It’s comfy as hell. And while the Infinity Pillow is definitely one of the bulkiest travel pillows on this list, it’s also one of the comfiest for the same reason. Wrap it around the handle of your suitcase or clip it to your bag (it comes with a carrying bag), and you’re all set.

do travel pillows really work

Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow  ($30)

This travel pillow might be the best designed travel pillow out there. The plush memory foam actually feels good (you know, like a pillow), but it’s got all these great little touches that are made for travel.

The no-slip backing means it stays put when you’re on a plane or train without having to rig a harness system to your seat. Also, it features shoulder cutouts so it actually fits around your neck. And the velcro closing strap keeps the pillow in place around your neck. The compression stuff sack makes packing it a little easier (although not as easy as an inflatable), but the added comfort makes up for the extra space.

The Best Inflatable Travel Pillows

While an inflatable pillow will save you space in your pack, they have some downsides. They’re hot, don’t stay where you want, and it’s tough to get that “real” pillow feel when they over-inflate. It’s better than nothing, but not ideal. Luckily, inflatable pillows are getting a lot better.

Here are some of the best inflatables for when you just can’t cram anything else into your bag.

do travel pillows really work

Purely Soft Inflatable Travel Pillow  ($20)

If you’re worried about slobbering all over your travel pillow while you huff and puff to inflate it, this is the pillow for you. This pillow inflates with a little built in thumb pump (like Nike pumps!). And it deflates with another quick push of a button. Easy to use, it’s comfy, packs down to nothing, and even comes with a washable cover. It’s not perfect, but for inflatables, it’s not bad.

Also,  please watch the product video on Amazon . It’s amazing.

do travel pillows really work

Hoodie Travel Pillow  ($25)

It seems a little ridiculous at first glance, but the hoodie pillow is pretty brilliant. The inflatable design means that this hoodie can collapse down for max packability, but you also get the added privacy of a full blown hoodie without having to pack a bulky cotton sweatshirt. If you don’t like the feel of eye masks on your face while you’re sleeping this is a great substitute. Plus, the hoodie design almost makes it look like you’re not using a travel pillow at all, which is sweet. 

Surprisingly comfy, just cinch the hoodie pull ties down and you’re out.

The Best Budget Travel Pillows

do travel pillows really work

Memory Soft Memory Foam Travel Pillow  ($18)

Travel pillows have come a long way. This pillow is soft, portable, adjustable, and better yet affordable. Memory foam comfort in a velour cover that will let you get sleep for less than $20. That’s a win.

do travel pillows really work

EZ Travel Pillow and Eye Mask  ($15)

This minimalist 2-in-1 is enough to get you through most flights. Perfect for extended trips when you have to lug your pillow with you for weeks at a time. Just enough support, and it’s a handy eye mask in a pinch.

Alternative/Ridiculous Travel Pillows

do travel pillows really work

Face Cradle  ($39)

Aside from the (obviously amazing) name, this “travel pillow” is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. And not just in the travel space. It’s huge, obtrusive to other travelers, and doesn’t actually do the one thing it’s supposed to. You have to attach it to your seat (which is often broken), and then trust that nothing will go wrong as you trust fall face first into your tray table. No thanks.

Oh, and before you go, remember that this raised over $1.5 million on Kickstarter. So, that’s horrible.

do travel pillows really work

Orthopedic Neck Brace  ($?)

My brother (pictured) is one of the smartest people I know. Really. He’s a savant. But this picture from a recent trip of his has me torn. Is he a genius or a madman? Maybe both. If you want to take your travel game to the next level —a neck brace (…and hospital mask?) from the thrift store might be the ultimate cheat code. Or not.

do travel pillows really work

Trtl Travel “Pillow”  ($30)

Some people swear by this pillow, and it’s got hundreds of great reviews, but it’s a very specific style of travel pillow. Essentially a support structure of “strengthened ribs” helps keep you upright when you wrap this around your neck. While I’m a fan of how small it packs, I’m not sold on the comfort level. It’s a bit of an all or nothing kind of travel pillow. But by all means give a whirl if you’re a side sleeper.

do travel pillows really work

Ostrich Travel Pillow  ($100 )

Not all travel pillows are a good idea. This is one of those. Sure, it’s a great way to get peace and quiet, but only because no one will ever talk to you again after you sleep in this. It’s bulky, it’s ridiculous, and it’s just a bad idea. You’re better than this.


do travel pillows really work

Is a Travel Pillow Worth It?

The short answer is yes, a travel pillow is worth it and you should buy one, but only if your travel pillow is good. Most times, a good travel pillow is the difference between landing refreshed and ready to take on a city for 48 hours and napping like a rookie when you check into your  Airbnb  at 2pm. If you can afford the space in your bag (or don’t mind strapping a travel pillow to the outside), travel pillows are worth their weight in gold.

And travel pillows aren’t just a great way to rack out on that transatlantic flight. They’re a not-so-subtle signal that says,  “I’d love to see more pictures of your golden retriever, Margie, but I’m gonna pass out now.”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten out of idle chit chat by pulling out my travel pillow. Thanks, travel pillow. You’re my best, rudest friend. Add a sleep mask to your travel arsenal and you’re basically flying in your own first class villa.

The Downsides of a Travel Pillow

  • You look like an idiot
  • Some travel pillows are bulky
  • You’re still not getting great sleep
  • Over-ear headphones and travel pillows don’t mix

There’s no way to avoid it. Travel pillows are dorky as heck. You do not look cool with a travel pillow strapped around your neck.  Especially this one . But you know what’s really not cool? FOMO from napping through the exciting part of your weekend trip to  Venice  because you’re exhausted from the overnight train.

Professional travel is about maximizing every second on the road—even down time. Sending that work email, turning in articles on a deadline, and getting sleep when and where you can are a huge part of  making it as a digital nomad,  or  business traveler . That includes sleeping in transit. If you can’t sleep on the road you’re gonna be tired. And if you’re tired all the time you’re gonna miss a lot. Trust me. I have a yellow belt in napping. (I would have a black belt, but I slept through the final exam, hey-o!)

Plus, if you’re only traveling to look cool, you’re missing the point of seeing the world. One of the best pieces of advice my Dad told me was this:  “If you look cool, you’re doing it wrong. “

The only other con is that a travel pillow takes up a fair bit of space. But only if you pack it on the inside of your bag . Most travel pillows come with a bag, strap, or snaps to let you clip it to the outside of your bag. If space is really at a premium, invest in a plush top inflatable travel pillow. You can inflate ’em with, like, two breaths. It’s not a big deal.

Travel pillows are a good idea—and not just for long haul flights. Get one that packs down small, stays put on your neck (with a clip or snap closure), is machine-washable, and comfy for how you like to sleep. Remember over the ear headphones might be an issue with really tall travel pillows.

Above all, keep in mind that a travel pillow is an investment in your time on the ground. Get the best night’s sleep you can and wake up ready to hit the road on your next adventure.

  • Memory foam travel pillows are worth a few extra bucks
  • Inflatable travel pillows pack better, but aren’t quite as comfy
  • Get an eye mask to complete your plane look
  • Make sure it’s machine washable

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5 Travel Pillows That Actually Work

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Caroline Morse Teel

Caroline Morse Teel is the Managing Editor for SmarterTravel Media. Follow her adventures around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

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The frequent fliers at SmarterTravel have tested hundreds of travel neck pillows, most of which don’t live up to their promises, leaving us tired and sore on long flights. In our extensive trials, we’ve found just five neck pillows that actually work. These gems prevent the dreaded head bob, and allow us to get as good a night’s sleep as you possibly can while sitting upright in coach. We recommend these as the five best neck pillows for travel.

Cabeau Air Evolution Inflatable Neck Pillow

Two views of the Cabeau Air Evolution Inflatable Neck Pillow in grey

If you find most inflatable neck pillows are too low to give you any real neck support, try the Air Evolution by Cabeau . It features raised sides that will allow you to comfortably rest your head to either side, plus a toggle in the center to keep the pillow firmly in place. 

Despite the extra height, the pillow only takes a few breaths to inflate, and packs down into a small carrying pouch.

Trtl Pillow Cool

Trtl Pillow cool in carrying case (left) and women using the Trtl Pillow Cool (right)

Prefer a little more structure to your neck pillow? The Trtl Pillow Cool is perfect for side sleepers looking for extra support. This uniquely designed pillow uses a firm but flexible structure that can be tucked on top of your shoulder and leaned on, providing a solid resting place for your chin.

The new cool version of Trtl’s cult-favorite travel pillow introduces an airmesh venting panel and chilly fabric that will help hot sleepers feel better. 

Why You Should Always Pack a Second Bag in Your Carry-On

Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Travel Pillow

Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Travel Pillow fully inflated (left) and Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Travel Pillow compressed into carrying case next to a water bottle for size (right)

Most inflatable u-shaped pillows don’t stay in place. Sea to Summit’s Aeros Ultralight travel pillow introduces a simple solution to this problem—an adjustable snap that secures the pillow around your neck, preventing sliding.

Weighing just 2.4 ounces and packing down into a case roughly the size of your palm, the Aeros is a great choice for travelers who prefer to travel lightly.

Cloudz Microbead Travel Pillow

Two views of the Cloudz Microbead Travel Pillow, one in packaging and one out of packaging

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one. The Cloudz Microbead Travel Pillow is full of soft, squishy beads that allow travelers to shape the pillow into a custom design that best fits their needs. It works particularly well if you score the window seat and can lean against the wall of the plane. 

Bonus: this pillow can also be used as a back pillow for lumbar support.  

6 Things Not to Wear on a Plane

Cushion Lab Travel Pillow

Cushion Lab Travel Pillow compressed into its carrying case next to a coffee mug for size (left) and Cushion Lab Travel Pillow fully decompressed (right)

If you’re willing to sacrifice portability for comfort, you’ll love Cushion Lab’s Travel Pillow . Made from an extra-dense memory foam, this pillow wraps around your neck for 360-degree support in any sleeping position. 

The ergonomic design fits under your chin to cradle your head without pushing it forward. Although this travel pillow is larger than an inflatable one, it does pack down to be about the size of a coffee mug, and it includes a carabiner so you can attach it to your suitcase for easy transport.

All of the products featured in this story were hand-selected by our travel editors. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.

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We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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We tested 4 travel pillows for your return to sleeping on planes. There was one winner.

Sleeping comfortably in economy can feel impossible, but the right pillow can help.

do travel pillows really work

If you have flown in economy, you may feel like airlines are doing everything they can to make the experience uncomfortable. The seats are the opposite of ergonomic. The legroom is minuscule. Given that setup, sleeping on a flight is usually a nightmare.

That has been my experience before the pandemic — and even more so now. Since the complicated return of travel, I have had a tougher time feeling comfortable on planes, let alone sleeping on them. Despite knowing a travel pillow can help with the misery, I chose to skip packing one to have more room in my carry-on bag on my first few pandemic-era flights . That repeat decision led to a painfully craned neck, numb hands and little — if any — sleep.

If I’m going to start taking up precious luggage space for a travel pillow again, it has to be worth it. Travel pillows, like many you see at the airport, can be useless, so not just any option will do.

To see what deserves packing, I tested four pillows over four flights between D.C. and California. Here are my findings.

The illustrated encyclopedia of sleeping positions on a plane

Cushion Lab Ergonomic Travel Neck Pillow, $55

According to the Cushion Lab website , Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop called this pillow “The Tesla of travel pillows.” While I don’t consider myself a Goop person, the claim caught my attention. The company promised an asymmetrical design by an in-house ergonomist that fits under your chin and around your face so you can lean and sleep comfortably with “360° zero pressure neck protection.” It was also the priciest of the bunch at $55, which is more than what I would like to pay for a travel pillow (or a regular pillow, for that matter).

When I unfurled it from its carrying pouch, my first thought was “Ooh this is gooey” — in a good way. The pillow’s fabric felt silky and smooth, encasing something that felt like a hard gel. Apparently that’s the “Hyperfoam,” an “extra dense, dynamically rebounding, proprietary memory foam.”

The case for cutting your airport arrival time dangerously close

I loved the texture of the Cushion Lab contender — and that it squished up smaller than the rest so it took up less space — but I was left wanting more support. Throughout my tests, unless I was leaning back in a specific rigid way (not how I usually fall asleep), I didn’t feel the strong embrace I was looking for in an airplane-friendly neck pillow. Lastly, it fought with my KN95 mask, pushing it up and requiring regular adjusting, but it didn’t really upset a cloth mask.

On the bright side, it looked normal, as far as neck pillows go — unlike my next choice.

Happy Headrest Travel Pillow, $24.99

The Happy Headrest Travel Pillow feels like an option for people who love science fairs. It’s for the infomercial enthusiasts, and the optimists who support crowdfunded inventions on the Internet. It’s a U-shaped contraption that hooks onto a passenger’s tray table, providing a soft ledge for resting face down.

Defying societal norms for a kooky innovation, I set up and leaned onto my bright blue device. Despite looking ridiculous to my fellow passengers, it was surprisingly comfortable. Sinking into the big, juicy pad was a great alternative to crunching my body backward into my seat. This felt like a guilt-free alternative to the controversial recline .

My complaint: You can only really use it to sleep on one side of your head, the side facing the window. After a while, my neck was feeling kinked and uncomfortable, but turning over felt impossible. Unless I’m traveling with the person seated next to me , there’s no way on God’s green earth I would rotate to turn toward a stranger. You’re way too close to your economy-row neighbor to face them; it would be intimate and weird.

How do you actually get those $49 flights? There’s always a catch to airline sales.

It also fit awkwardly in my backpack. It’s 10 ounces and carry-on-friendly, but it can’t fold up so you’ll have to schlep the bulky frame throughout your travels. It does come with a snap-on clip if you want to have it dangle from your luggage.

SeatDreamzzz Wall Pillow, $39.99

If I know I’ll be attempting to sleep on a flight, I always pick a window seat so I can curl up in my little nook without the interruption of my row-mates getting up for the lavatory. The SeatDreamzzz Wall Pillow seemed like the perfect accompaniment.

The pillow is an inflatable L-shape device that looks like a tiny suede couch. According to the company, it’s the first of its kind, designed to rest against a wall to provide support “in one of the most frequently slept-in positions outside of your bed.”

In the era of mask mandates and contagious airborne diseases, I did feel guilty and unsure about removing my mask to inflate the pillow. I figured it was no worse than eating or drinking on the plane and pumped up my accessory. You can make it super firm or keep it a little squishy so you can nestle into it.

Once it was in shape, the challenge was figuring out how to position the pillow against my wall (or window). There wasn’t an “ah ha” moment where I felt like I got it right. Nonetheless, it did provide great support not only for my head, but also for my arm. It’s versatile and has the potential to facilitate some snoozing, plus it deflates into the size of a soda can — allegedly. I just shoved it into my backpack without folding it up tightly.

Cabeau Evolution Classic Neck Pillow, $29.99

I have long stood by Cabeau’s Evolution Classic neck pillow. It was my go-to pick when I traveled constantly. I’d leave it behind in a cab, hotel lobby, Airbnb and inevitably buy a replacement. Breaking it out for this experiment felt like reuniting with an old friend.

As I had remembered, it is very plush, so there’s not much room for your neck to flop over. There’s an adjustable clamp in the front to make it even more secure, like a more-forgiving neck brace. You can roll it up to make it smaller to pack, although I lost the carrying sack long ago.

What I hate about the Evolution Classic is the fabric. It reminds me of a Greyhound bus seat. Cabeau makes another model, the Evolution Cool, that addresses overheating, but it’s $60. For someone prone to losing travel pillows, I am less inclined to splurge on the upgraded version.

After testing all of the travel pillows, I ultimately returned to the Evolution Classic for napping purposes. It’s not perfect, but it’s a safe and easy bet — no setting it up, no breaking it down. You just whip it out and snooze whether you’re stuck in economy, a train, the bus or a long, long car ride.

The harsh reality is that flying economy is unforgiving on the body, whether you are trying to sleep or not. You can alleviate some of the pain with accessories like a neck pillow. You just have to find the right one for you.

Video editing by Allie Caren.

More travel tips

Vacation planning: Start with a strategy to maximize days off by taking PTO around holidays. Experts recommend taking multiple short trips for peak happiness . Want to take an ambitious trip? Here are 12 destinations to try this year — without crowds.

Cheap flights: Follow our best advice for scoring low airfare , including setting flight price alerts and subscribing to deal newsletters. If you’re set on an expensive getaway, here’s a plan to save up without straining your credit limit.

Airport chaos: We’ve got advice for every scenario , from canceled flights to lost luggage . Stuck at the rental car counter? These tips can speed up the process. And following these 52 rules of flying should make the experience better for everyone.

Expert advice: Our By The Way Concierge solves readers’ dilemmas , including whether it’s okay to ditch a partner at security, or what happens if you get caught flying with weed . Submit your question here . Or you could look to the gurus: Lonely Planet and Rick Steves .

do travel pillows really work



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Do you really need a travel pillow.

The terms neck pillow or travel pillow conjures the image of a horseshoe-shaped soft pillow; after all, it's a ubiquitous form. You often see millennials lugging it around to relax--frequently, balanced with a cup of coffee, on the other hand. Mothers carting off kids are in the habit of having them safely seat-belted with neck pillows before scuttling them off on long drives.

And if you are going on a long-haul trip by air, land, or sea, the obvious answer is that you need a travel pillow more than you know. Back to taking long train commutes after a long spell working from home? Having a travel pillow will help you ease back into the grind.

You don't even need to sleep--you can relax better and take some stress off your neck and upper body. It is not an infallible tool, and the sooner you come to terms with the fact that travel pillows were not meant to protect, the better.

travel pillows laying on airplane seat

Benefits of a travel pillow

Unless you travel by first class, you've experienced your head bobbing up and down while traveling. Even when there's little vehicular movement, your body can sense this, and it may be time to buy a travel pillow . Those with preexisting cervical damage may even suffer herniations which can cause pain, numbness, and immobility.

A travel pillow does not offer the best protection for whiplash injuries. Don't get caught off-guard, and believe the hype. Travel pillows in the market currently can't do this, but some offer more support than others.

A correctly sized pillow with adjustable firmness does the job of helping you achieve a good night's sleep better. Propping the neck and head prevents large movements that can result in a lesser chance of experiencing headaches, dizziness, nausea, stiffness, and restlessness. 

When do you need a travel pillow?

If you are a commuter in London, Paris, or Brussels, you may get caught in traffic for over two hours. Those in Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago will marinate in traffic for over 100 minutes. Commuting in Washington takes almost 35 minutes one way or over an hour per day.

Long commutes can cause anxiety and affect a person's health, so it's a matter of shortening it or putting it to good use with power naps, so it isn't a waste.

Disregard whatever the airline, train, bus, and shipping companies tout about having comfortable seats that will let you sleep like a baby. This is quite unrealistic. 

You need to deal with hard backrests, non-ergonomic angles, high (or low) headrests, and uncomfortably close seating. And don't forget aspects commuters have no control over--light and noise.

Here are some other scenarios when bringing your own pillow would be advantageous:

Spending long hours in a seated position, with your body trying to accommodate the unfamiliar shape and firmness of the seats, can contort your spine and cause many discomforts long after the ride. Pillows are inexpensive and portable and help you become more relaxed in a stressful situation.

This form of travel has become the norm in countries like Japan, where trains have gotten so efficient. And if you are a commuter who prefers to sleep rather than use your downtime to keep abreast with the news, play games, or update your social media account, this time can be a precious window to recharge. 

In Indonesia, how to have a restful sleep during a long commute and wake up on time for your designated stop are dual challenges that are seriously studied. Experimental designs to address tension neck syndrome, satisfying sleep, and waking appropriately include ergonomic considerations, thermal sensors, and smart devices for real-time alarms. 

It's not just on long-haul trips that travel pillows prove beneficial. If you've ever gone on camping trips when you were younger, makeshift pillows filled with leaves and grass spelled fun. 

Fast-forward several decades later, when you are suffering from aches and stiffness. At this point, you appreciate glamping more than a real adventure in the wild. This time, you need a travel neck pillow that fits just right so you can wake up rested and not have carry-over fatigue from a restless night.  

  • Hotel or resort accommodations

In the popular comic strip Peanuts, Linus brings his safety blanket everywhere. In a similar fashion, some tourists bring along their travel pillows for many reasons. 

Some have health issues like asthma or allergies that make them very sensitive to mites, dust, and molds. Bringing a well-sanitized pillow for them makes a lot of sense, considering that having health issues in unfamiliar surroundings is a worrisome prospect.

This is also the practice of travelers who suffer from neck stiffness or headaches when sleeping on too soft or overstuffed pillows. This causes misalignment of the head, neck, and body, causing discomfort and impacting sleep quality. 

  • Ethical traveler

Ethical travelers may not necessarily suffer from respiratory conditions, but they feel strongly about not leaving or exacerbating a toxic footprint. They bring organic pillows with fillers made of buckwheat or millet husk in 100% cotton or bamboo fiber. They may also favor organic latex.

A big no-no for this class or travelers is using memory foam or other toxic filler that is not biodegradable and releases volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOC causes many health problems, including headaches, dizziness, and difficulty breathing.

Travel pillow considerations  

The kind of pillow ideal for you depends on several factors like how you sleep, difficulty sleeping, pain, and filler material or shape preference. Choosing the best pillow that can support restful sleep is a serious task.

Traveling lean is a point to consider, so the pillow must be light and compact enough to fit into a backpack that can be stored in overhead bins or under the seat.

The pillow must not be bulky and should never encroach on another passenger's space. Encroaching is not limited to the passenger footprint. For instance, ensure that the material is non-irritating and hypoallergenic since you may cause hypersensitivity in others.

Take for example, lavender pillows smell great, but in a confined space, it may be overwhelming. So, if you like how this scent calms you, use a light touch when you need to add some petals to your travel pillow filling.

 Here are some factors to consider:

  • Fillers for travel pillows

There are various types of fillers used in travel pillows, each with its own unique benefits and drawbacks. Here are a few common fillers:

  • Buckwheat or millet husks travel pillow

You may not have heard of Buckwheat-filled pillows , but these have been widely popular in Japan since the early days. Also called "sobakawa" in Japan, it is made from the hulls of the buckwheat seed. This pillow is firmer than pillows made from millet husks and is chiropractor-recommended for side or back sleepers.

On long-haul trips, a small rectangular buckwheat pillow can be filled according to what is comfortable and provides adequate support.

Organic Buckwheat Pillows made by Pine Tales are made in Arizona from US-grown buckwheat. This means it does not undergo the chemical fumigation required by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) on buckwheat sourced from China or India.

The travel-sized pillow is encased in 100% cotton or bamboo. These feel good on the skin and are sweat-resistant, anti-microbial, hypoallergenic, and machine-washable.

Some users will initially adjust to its firmness, especially if they have been used to ultra-soft and fluffy pillows. However, this firmness makes it highly recommended for stiff neck and scoliosis, headache, neck pain, and even migraine.

Buckwheat and Millet pillows are organic and provide the natural support your head and body need at home and while traveling. Your head, neck, and body do not sink into the softness that does nothing to prop. It does have a little "give" to increase your comfort level.

  • Organic latex travel pillow

All-natural, organic latex travel pillows are a good alternative. The density or "give" varies. Some of these pillows are rectangular, and some have an indentation for the base of the head.

The user can adjust the pillow's thickness in some brands. If it's too thick, it may push the head forward at an angle that is not natural, causing neck stiffness and headache. You wake up tired instead of refreshed. Also, beware of latex travel pillows mixed with kapok. This material is not good for those with asthma or hypersensitivity issues.

  • Memory foam travel pillow

Memory foam is usually synthetic and can release toxic VOCs long after its first use. The shape-retaining function is due to its heat-activated properties. 

The main concern for microbeads is that it is too soft, and the beads move with your head. It can be initially comforting because it is soft but offers the least support.

  • Inflatable travel pillow

If it's inflated properly, this travel pillow may give enough support. It's convenient because it can be deflated and is very portable. However, like the other pillows (except buckwheat), it does not conform to the body.

  • Shapes and sizes of travel pillows

The travel pillow is not your bedroom pillow; hence, the peculiar size or shape for some varieties:

  • Rectangular: Rectangular-shaped pillows are versatile. It can support the face and the head. But like all the others, pillows won't support backlash.
  • U-shaped or horseshoe, semi-circular, or half-moon: This is what comes to mind when you mention travel or neck pillows. However, because it is not firm around the head or neck and is very soft, it is not the safest choice--although it can make you feel like you were ensconced in a cocoon.
  • Contoured: This means that the pillow is "shaped" around the contour of the head. However, everyone has a different head shape, so it's unclear whether this kind of pillow will be truly helpful.

Overall, there are many different shapes and sizes of travel pillows available to suit the needs of different travelers.

  • Cover material

The covering material plays an important part because you want to avoid materials that are grimy, smelly, or rough to the touch. It should be machine washable and quick-dry. 

  • Cotton (100%): Cotton is cool, smooth, and breathable, and some are organically sourced. It's cool, natural, and sustainable.
  • Bamboo: Like cotton, bamboo fiber is cool, natural, and sustainable. It is supposedly anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic.
  • Cotton blend: Cotton blended with polyester may be too slippery and warm. It is not organic.
  • Microfiber: Microfiber is synthetic and soft. It can be expensive.

The best material for a travel pillow will depend on your personal preferences and needs. Consider factors such as comfort, durability, and care instruction when choosing the right cover material for you.

Are travel or neck support pillows the same thing?

Strictly speaking, travel and neck pillows may not be 100% the same. Travel pillows are different from the usual U or horseshoe shape you are familiar with. It can be a smaller, less fluffy version of a regular bedroom pillow--downsized to be less intrusive to other travelers.

Neck pillows, also referred to as cervical pillows, are of two kinds. One, the neck support pillow, is designed to be used in the sleeping position. It supports the neck and face and is recommended for people experiencing pain. It is not used for whiplash injuries and should not be used beyond two weeks if you find it uncomfortable. 

This is not the same support offered by travel neck pillows used when sleeping or resting in an upright position. In fact, the usual travel pillows offering any substantial support is a misconception.

Some people travel well and don't need to prop their heads or neck to sleep well. But not everyone can wake up refreshed. Not everyone can get a wink at all.

Travel or neck pillows that are right for you can get shaped around your head. It may not necessarily follow your whole contour, but it will keep your head from swaying or bobbing. The ideal travel pillow will also keep your head, neck, and body aligned.

Everyone benefits from good sleep or, at least, a restful respite. This is why everyone traveling for hours, camping, or staying in hotels needs a travel pillow that works.

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How to Use a Travel Pillow

Last Updated: November 29, 2022 References

This article was co-authored by Stef Katz . Stef Katz is a Travel Agent and the Founder of The Travel Superhero. She has helped clients enjoy convenience, access, personal attention, and ease in their travel planning for 6 years. Stef specializes in elevated social travel and finds ways to bring peace of mind to her travelers with open communication, genuine care, and professional support. She holds an Associate's Degree in Liberal Arts from Miami Dade College and a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from the University of Florida, as well as numerous certifications with destinations, tour companies, and cruise lines in the travel industry. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 250,150 times.

A good travel pillow can make a world of difference on long trips. Ideally, the pillow will provide support for your neck or body so that you can sleep in a relaxed position, even on cramped, uncomfortable plane rides . Choose a pillow that suits your sleeping style and try different positions to find where you are most comfortable.

Traveling with a Neck Pillow

Step 1 Try your neck pillow before buying it.

  • Some inflatable pillows self-inflate. Typically, this involves turning a valve which will then cause the pillow to slowly inflate, but check your pillow’s instructions to see how yours inflates. [2] X Research source
  • Non-inflatable travel pillows are typically filled with foam or microbeads. While they are less convenient for packing, you may find that they are more comfortable.

Step 3 Cover your pillow in a T-shirt or scarf to make it softer.

  • You can also buy a removable cover for your pillow. Just make sure it fits your pillow before buying it.

Step 4 Place the pillow around your neck.

  • If your pillow is not U-shaped, it may be designed to fit between your shoulder and head. This type limits which direction you can rest your head in, so it’s best for sleepers who don’t change position much.

Step 5 Recline your seat.

  • U-shaped pillows are ideal for this, since they provide a space to put your face while resting your forehead directly on the pillow. Otherwise, you will have to turn your face to the side, which may become uncomfortable after long periods.

Using a Body Pillow

Step 1 Travel light to save more space for your pillow.

  • Body pillows range in size, but some may be as long and wide as your torso.

Step 2 Wear loose clothing for comfort.

  • If you find that the pillow is too firm for comfort once inflated, you can deflate it slightly to create a softer surface.
  • If you are not worried about space, you may prefer a body pillow that is not inflatable, such as one filled with foam or microbeads.

Step 4 Attach the pillow to your seat or seatbelt if possible.

  • If your pillow attaches to the seatbelt, move it up to where you can comfortably lean your head against it.
  • If the pillow attaches to the back of your seat, position it so that you can lead forward at a comfortable angle and rest your head against the pillow.

Step 5 Lean forward or sideways onto your pillow.

  • Your body pillow may have a J-shaped curve on each end. The larger curve will fit over your shoulder, and the smaller curve can be tucked under your opposite arm to help keep it in place.
  • Some body pillows are designed to rest on your lap or tray table and support your upper body while you lean forward.
  • If you want to sleep comfortably in economy class, choose an aisle seat so that you don't have to wake the people in the aisle to go to the bathroom.
  • Use a white noise app on your phone with comfortable headphones to block out all the noise people are making.
  • Wear an eye mask to block any light.

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

  • If you are traveling with children, consider buying a fun, animal-shaped pillow designed for young passengers, like Trunki Yunki or Critter Piller. [11] X Research source Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1
  • Neck pillows are smaller and more convenient than body pillows. However, body pillows are typically more comfortable and cater more specifically to certain sleep needs, such as needing to sleep leaning forward. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 1

do travel pillows really work

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About This Article

Stef Katz

To use a neck travel pillow, blow it up if it’s inflatable, and place it around your neck. Or, hook it on one shoulder to give you a higher pillow. If you have a spare t-shirt, sweater, or scarf, cover your pillow with it to make it softer. Recline in your seat and lean your head on the pillow to support your neck. Alternatively, if you normally sleep on your front, place the pillow on the fold-out table in front of you and sleep leaning forward. For more tips, including how to use a body travel pillow, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Trtl Pillow Review

Finally feel rested on your flight

do travel pillows really work

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .

Trtl Pillow

Tripsavvy / Erika Owen

Machine washable


Tons of support

Slightly confusing to put on

Can get sweaty

No travel pouch

A plastic support structure makes this travel pillow completely unlike any other—in the best way possible.

  • Portability
  • Competition
  • Final Verdict

We purchased the Trtl pillow so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.

In a sea of travel pillows , the Trtl pillow stands out for its innovative design and soft support. It’s really more of a brace than a pillow, with internal plastic ribs that act as a support for your neck and shoulders. 

I took the Trtl for a spin on one of my recent vacations, evaluating everything from its comfort level to price point. Read on to see what I found.

Design: Well made but one-sided

At first glance, the Trtl pillow looks more like a lap blanket than anything else, but I unfolded the fleece to find those patented plastic ribs inside. Once it was unfolded, I could wrap it around my neck as tightly or as loosely as I wanted. I appreciate the flexibility in sizing since it’s easy to assume travel pillows are one-size-fits-all products (when they most certainly are not).  

I found it confusing to put on the Trtl for the first time. Fortunately, the pillow comes with handy stickers that point out which part of your neck or shoulder should go in each spot. Once I successfully put it on once, I felt like I had it nailed down for the future.

However, I didn’t realize that the Trtl pillow is meant to prop up the left side of your head, which isn't clear in the instructions. I spent a lot of time attempting to make the pillow work for both sides before realizing that it wasn’t possible. I was worried that the one-sided design would cause an uncomfortable kink on the right side of my neck, but the rigid inner structure kept it relatively straight and comfortable.

The Trtl’s fleece cover is incredibly soft, similar to a scarf, and the Velcro used to adjust the tightness of the brace held up well, too. I don’t imagine that I’ll need to replace it after a few months like I would with cheaper Velcro. 

Portability: Slim size but pack with care

Trtl claims that it packs down to half the size of a regular U-shaped travel pillow—and that is no lie—but I found that the best place for your Trtl travel pillow is on top of everything in your carry-on to prevent it from being crushed.

I was disappointed that the Trtl doesn't come with a travel pouch , but it’s easy to attach to bag and luggage handles, making it very accessible when you need it.

Comfort: Surprisingly cozy

Despite how uncomfortable sleeping on a structure of plastic ribs may sound, I was pleasantly surprised. The curve of the plastic made it easy to rest my head, while the fleece scarf kept the brace comfortably attached without any further adjustments. Even when it was wrapped tightly around my neck, this travel neck brace never felt claustrophobic, which is something I appreciated during my already crammed flight. 

I felt like this neck brace also doubled as a soft scarf, keeping me warm and cozy for the duration of my flight. Since airplane cabins are usually set to a frigid temperature, you should be just fine with a little extra warmth—unless you’re the type of person that always runs hot. If you do tend to get warm, you might find the fleece to be a heat trap, forcing you to choose between neck support and temperature control.

Durability: Machine washable but subject to crushing

While the plastic rib structure does seem resilient, accidentally stepping on this pillow or crushing it into the bottom of your suitcase will leave you without a functioning neck pillow. Unlike soft travel neck pillows that can be squeezed and stuffed into your bag, the Trtl pillow requires more careful packing.  

The Trtl pillow will set you back around $30 and, to be honest, I would be willing to pay even more for comfortable, in-flight neck support.

What really sets the Trtl apart from other options for me is the fact that you can machine wash it. And without a travel pouch, it’s bound to pick up some dirt. Just throw it into the washing machine and it’ll be fresh and clean for your next trip in no time. 

Price: Worth it for the innovative design

The Trtl pillow will set you back around $30 and, to be honest, I would be willing to pay even more for comfortable, in-flight neck support. The pillow wins for comfort and design, which are two of the most important aspects of a travel pillow. There certainly are more expensive (and less expensive) options, but Trtl is incredibly innovative and comfortable for its price tag. 

Competition: Trtl’s ergonomic design is unique

As mentioned above, the plastic ribs in this patented design are unlike any other neck pillow out there. Less is more with the Trtl: less bulk, more ergonomic design. If you’re looking for a similar design, you won’t find it—Trtl stands alone. 

One thing to note is that Trtl is completely different than the U-shaped neck pillows you often see in the airport shops, like the Aeris and BCozzy pillows . While it may not look like much at first glance—it very much looks like a scarf, if you don’t read the packaging—you’ll be glad you took a chance on this one.

If you’re looking for a supportive and comfortable travel pillow that won’t take up a ton of space, the Trtl pillow is a fantastic option that offers innovative design.

  • Product Name Trtl Pillow
  • Product Brand Trtl
  • MPN FBA_BG1-NS-1-2015
  • Price $29.99
  • Weight 5 oz.
  • Product Dimensions 7 x 7 x 3.5 in.
  • Color Black, red, grey, coral
  • Material Fleece, plastic, foam

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Do Travel Pillows Really Work?

Nov 08, 2020

do travel pillows really work

People are not traveling these days as much as they used to, but even so, as the holidays draw near, there are bound to be some long journeys via plane , train, and automobile.

So, even if you are not traveling as often this year, make sure that you are comfortable and supported when you do so that the experience is a good one. 

But do carry on travel pillows really work as well as they seem? Read on to find out. 

What Are Travel Pillows? 

Travel pillows, also known as neck pillows, are typically used to aid or prevent neck pain and sleep issues while traveling. 

Long haul flights in cramped spaces can be hard enough as it is, but with airplane seats continuing to get smaller and more people driving to escape lockdown fatigue and shared mass transportation, traveling can feel more draining and daunting than in years past. Travel neck pillows offer at least a little control over your traveling experience, letting you take your comfort and health into your own hands.

They can keep you from accidentally leaning your head onto your seatmate, if you have the middle seat, or stop you from resting your head against the dirty glass of a window seat. They act as a sort of comfortable neck brace to keep your body aligned while you get some much-needed rest. These pillows generally come in soft materials like velour, and some even feature velcro to help you stay strapped into your seat.

There are many different types of travel pillows, which vary in shape, durability, and price. Here are some of the most popular pillows to choose from now:

Inflatable travel pillows are typically U-shaped and can be inflated to achieve your desired firmness and then deflated and folded away when not in use. For travelers on a budget or trying to pack light, this may be the best option for you, as it is easy to find and affordable, as well as able to be packed into small, compact spaces.

However, because it is on the cheaper side, it is not very durable. Be wary of using or packing an inflatable travel pillow near sharp objects to prevent it from being punctured and rendered unusable as a headrest. These travel accessories are definitely not ideal for portability.

Microbead travel pillows are filled with small polystyrene beads. Like inflatable travel pillows, these are often U-shaped and relatively lightweight. The beads in microbeads travel pillows make it easier for these pillows to change shape according to the user, providing you with more personal neck support than inflatable ones could. They usually come with an easily removable sleeve or covering that makes these travel pillows easy to wash.

A major downside of microbead travel pillows is that its bead filling makes it denser and thus difficult to pack away easily. Because of this, these are not ideal for light packers and can be a hassle to carry around on long journeys. The beads also shift around against your seatback when you're trying to get comfortable.

Memory Foam

Memory foam travel pillows are the best of all three options when it comes to providing consistent and quality neck support and overall comfort. When your head and neck press on the special foam inside the pillow, it takes the shape's imprint, molding to your specific needs for the maximum head support. After some time not in use, the pillow returns to its original form.

memory foam

While memory foam travel pillows are celebrated for their comfort, support, and convenience to pack and carry, it should be noted that they typically are the most expensive of all options.

Common Ailments Related To Travel

Still not sure if a travel pillow is actually something you need? Consider these common ailments and afflictions related to travel, and perhaps you will be eager to try a travel pillow out once you see how they can completely ease or prevent some of the issues below.

Neck And Back Pain 

Poor posture, stiffness, and sleeping in uncomfortable positions can lead to neck and back pain while traveling. Sitting for extended periods of time means that we become less careful about maintaining proper posture and positions that are healthy for our joints, which leads to slouching and slumping that puts stress on the body, causing soreness and pain in our necks and back. Unfortunately, airplane seats don't exactly come equipped with lumbar support pillows. 

Traveling long distances is hard enough, but you shouldn’t have to do it while feeling sore. Travel pillows will do the work of supporting your neck so you can rest and enjoy your journey, pain-free.

Lack Of Sleep 

Sleeping in uncomfortable or upright positions can be one of the worst aspects of travel. We have all attempted to contort our bodies to find a somewhat comfortable position on during air travel or in a car, only to be unable to get any shut eye at all. 

A fitful sleep can ruin a good trip and leave you jetlagged. A neck pillow helps you avoid these issues by providing the extra bit of comfort that the regular seat usually does not, and can be all the difference between a great night of sleep and an exhausting, restless trip. They're useful for everyone, whether you're a side sleeper, a back sleeper, or something in between.

Traveling can be a very stressful experience. Issues with luggage, departure times, nerves, those around you, and more can all trigger stress, making your whole body feel tight and on edge. A travel pillow can provide you with the soft and comforting embrace you need to get you out of your head and feeling more relaxed during your journey. 

Which Travel Pillow Is Right For You?

airport girl

Now that you know of the main types of travel pillow and the benefits and drawbacks of each, as well as the travel-related health conditions and ailments that you can circumvent by using one, you may be finding it hard to narrow down your options. Allow us to assist by recommending some of the best travel pillows available, two of our very own exceptional products.

Gel Infused Memory Foam Travel Pillow 

Our Gel Infused Memory Foam Travel Pillow is an easy-to-clean, American-made travel pillow with over 150 Five Star reviews. Its key features and benefits include:

Gel-infused and ventilated memory foam:

The gel-infused design of this travel pillow allows you to get all the benefits of memory foam without the downside of it storing heat, and breathable ventilation holes cool it even further. 

Ergonomic raised lobe design:

Rather than emulating the basic u-shape design, this pillow has raised lobes on either side for even more added comfort so that you can sleep with your head to the side comfortably. 

Convenient cell phone pocket:

You’re definitely going to have your phone on hand while traveling, whether that’s to listen to music or just make sure that you don’t receive any texts. The cell phone pocket in this pillow ensures that you’re not at risk of losing your phone when you do inevitably drop it as you’re falling asleep. 

Compact travel set:

Lucky for you, this set comes with all the essentials you’ll need for traveling, including an eye mask, earplugs, and a bag to conveniently carry it all.

Adjustable straps:

This pillow also features adjustable straps, so that you can be sure your pillow won’t move as you’re drifting off to sleep.

It also features a machine-washable cover so you don't have to worry about airport germs.

Memory Foam Airplane Travel Pillow Kit

If you thought that our gel travel pillow was impressive, then prepare to be completely blown away by our Memory Foam Airplane Travel Pillow Kit , a tried and tested product that was created with the consumer and his or her comfort in mind. Key features and benefits of this affordable, convenient, and visually appealing (you can choose the color!) product are:

Pure memory foam:

Our pillows are made with pure memory foam, and we make sure that there are never any additives. The heat-responsive foam molds directly to your form, so you're sure to get the perfect support while you travel. 

Ergonomic design.

Convenient cell phone pocket.

Comes with free bonus items:

This pillow also comes with memory foam earplus and an adjustable eye-mask for the ideal sleeping conditions while traveling. You'll also ecieve a convenient bag to transport it all in. 

Lifetime replacement guarantee:

Everlasting Comfort created this travel pillow to be durable, but if anything happens to your pillow, we’ve got your back. We’ll send you a free replacement right away so you won’t be left without your favorite travel pillow.

In Conclusion

Do travel pillows really work? Absolutely.

A quality travel pillow is worth the money. Even if you have to carry it around or feel like you look a little silly while wearing it, all of that is completely worthwhile or forgotten once you finish your trip feeling well-rested and pain-free, especially compared to those around you. Use a travel pillow on your next trip, and it is sure to be the best one yet.

For even more comfort while traveling, you might want to consider investing in a sleep mask, so that you can be extra comfy. Whether you're flying to New York or Amsterdam or it's your first time flying or your hundredth, it's worth it to be comfortable.   

For even more options for maintaining your health and comfort, you can look at our other products , or simply contact us to ask for more information.

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Against the Travel Neck Pillow

This useless accessory has one job—which it fails at.

A businessman asleep on public transport using a neck pillow

Is there a pillow as useless as the U-shaped travel neck pillow? There is not. This half-ovate, toilet-seat cover-esque object reigns as King of Travel Accessories, while failing miserably at its intended sole use. It is a scourge for reasons that I will outline in this essay and of which, by the end, I will convince you without question.

This past summer, I had occasion to travel by plane with such a pillow—memory foam in a pleasant maroon—and did so thoughtlessly, stuffing it into my carry-on as if it were my passport, or a book to ignore while watching, God willing, episodes of Sex and the City on the tiny television. When it came time to attempt sleep I, like many of my fellow passengers, dutifully placed the U-shaped pillow on my shoulders. As my neck protruded an uncomfortable distance from the seat back, I let my head fall to my left. No good. I let my head fall to my right. No good. I scrunched the pillow up, so it was more like a tiny, oddly-shaped normal pillow, but the damn thing kept bouncing back to U-shape, which, by design, has a hole in it, so that was definitely no good.

This damn pillow was no good.

It might come as a shock to you to hear someone speak the truth about U-shaped neck pillows so plainly, as this sort of pillow has been allowed to exist unchecked since it was patented in 1929. I understand and will allow you a moment to compose yourself. Have you taken it? Okay. The U-shaped neck pillow is an unsupportive abomination; a pernicious, deceitful, recklessly ubiquitous travel trinket lulling the masses not to sleep but to a zombielike restlessness for which they have been trained to blame themselves, i.e., “I can’t sleep on airplanes.” The U-shaped travel neck pillow is a useless trash pillow for nobody.

But not everyone agrees. “I bought this pillow for the long-weekend holiday trip. The memory foam is the perfect firmness, and it is so soft and comfortable,” says someone named Ivan in an Amazon review of a neck pillow similar to that which failed me on my recent flight. Okay, Ivan. Someone named Allen says , “I use this in the car. I fall asleep very easy. This keeps my neck comfortable and I don't wake up with neck pain.” Okay, Allen. Someone named Cass says, “I returned it as it had a horrible chemical smell, plus whatever was inside was a solid piece. I wanted something that had little pellets.” Well. This one seems like more of a “Cass” issue, actually.

Brad John, the cofounder of Flight 001, a popular chain of travel stores about which Martha Stewart has allegedly commented , “I love this store, it looks like an airplane,” told me the U-shaped travel pillow sells very well, even though there hasn’t been much innovation in the market. “They’re basically the same as they’ve always been. We sell the heated ones, the inflatable ones, the foam ones.” The main advancement, he said, and the top seller at the moment, is a convertible travel pillow “which you can either make into a regular pillow or a U-neck.” Very interesting that the top-selling U-shaped neck pillow is one that has the ability to function as a normal, non-U-shaped neck pillow.

Brad John himself uses a normal pillow on flights. “I just don’t find the neck pillow comfortable,” he said, “but that’s just personal preference.”

Everyone I spoke with agreed that the U-shaped neck pillow stinks, notably my friend Megan Reynolds who said, “We have one in the house but the boy cat uses it for sex.” My friend Lindsay Robertson, to whom I was referred explicitly because she regularly uses a U-shaped neck pillow on flights, proved to secretly be a member of the U-shaped-neck-pillow resistance: “I never actually use it as a neck pillow, because I can't sleep that way—I'm not sure anyone can,” she told me. Instead, she puts her neck pillow on the tray table in front of her, takes off her glasses, puts her hands in her lap, and “[lets her] face fall completely forward into the pillow, as if [she has] expired.”

What accounts for why some derive comfort from the U-shaped neck pillow—(liars)—and some do not? I asked Mary O’Connor, who is a professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation and the director of the Center for Musculoskeletal Care at Yale. “I’m unaware that there is any clinical data that shows they’re effective in reducing neck strain or neck discomfort,” she said, “However, many of us who travel have experienced falling asleep with our neck in a weird position and it bothering us thereafter. So, I think they can be helpful, but that depends on how they’re used and whether they support the neck.”

The ideal pillow, she said, would keep your head and neck in neutral alignment with your spine, so you’re not too far forward, or backward, or too far to one side or the other. “But how do you know, when you’re in the airport, that the pillow you’re going to purchase is going to give you the right support?” O’Connor asks. “The pillows are all the same. Some people have short necks, some people have long necks, and there’s no ability to look and say, ‘I need this design or this size pillow for my neck, to really work well for me.’ And that’s part of the challenge. Could one of those pillows help someone? Yes, they could. Will they help everyone? Probably not.”

I attempted to find research pointing to the uselessness or usefulness of the dreaded U-shaped neck pillow, and came up empty-handed. However I did find a study titled “The Use of Neck-Support Pillows and Postural Exercises in the Management of Chronic Neck Pain,” which was published in The Journal of Rheumatology in 2016 and dealt with the positive effects of bed-specific neck-support pillows for people with chronic neck pain. I spoke to the study’s coauthor Brian Feldman, a senior scientist and head of the Division of Rheumatology at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, who made sure I understood that his study was not, actually, about the U-shaped travel pillows people use on planes. I understand. I thought he might be able to offer some insight, anyway.

In, he stressed, his own opinion of U-shaped travel pillows, he said, “I can’t stand them. I never use them. They’re not built strongly enough or firm enough. There are all kinds of new gizmos that people have been developing for pillows for sleep in transportation, and they tend to be more like straps that hold your head in place, or boxlike structures that you can sit forward and place your head in , or neck collar s , which give you much more support around your neck. Those kinds of things are probably all much better than the typical U-shaped pillow.”

Keeping your neck in a nice physiological position while sleeping is a wonderful thing to do, he said, but the issue with U-shaped pillows is that they aren’t built to be firm enough or high enough to help most people, plus they don’t circle around the neck properly. “They just don’t do the job they’re supposed to do,” Feldman says. In order to work, he thinks they’d have to look more like the kind of rigid neck collar you see on someone who has recently injured their neck, one “that presses up into the head and keeps the chin up and supported so the head doesn’t flop over in any way once you’ve fallen asleep” while sitting up.

Also, don’t they look like the the first-ever stone pillow used by Mesopotamians in 7,000 BC? Seems like we should not still be using a pillow that looks like the first-ever stone pillow used by Mesopotamians in 7,000 BC, but that’s just my opinion.

If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it would be: Take a hard look at whether or not your U-shaped travel pillow is worth toting on your next flight. Are you stuffing it into your carry-on out of usefulness, or out of habit? Is it taking up precious storage space because it will help you sleep, or because you thought you should buy it even though you’ve encountered no evidence, either personal or scientific, to suggest that this thought is correct? Are you wrong, or do you agree with me? Ask yourself these questions, and then leave the U-shaped pillow behind.

(Unless you’re a boy cat and you’d like to use it for sex.)

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Do Specialty Pillows Really Work?

Odd shapes, strange stuffing, intriguing promises. cr digs into how much difference a pillow can make in your sleep., sharing is nice.

We respect your privacy . All email addresses you provide will be used just for sending this story.

Specialty pillows comes in all shapes and sizes.

With curiously constructed pillows designed to relieve everything from sinus pressure to snoring, it can be tough to know what, if anything, lives up to the hype. Consumer Reports asked two sleep doctors about the claims that a specialty pillow can lead to a better night's sleep. Here's what they said.

Specialty Pillows vs. The Experts

Three specialty pillows of different shapes.

1. Anti-Snore Pillow The claim: It keeps the snorer on his side (chronic snorers tend to sleep on their backs), aligning head and shoulders for uninterrupted airflow and quiet breathing.

The facts:  "When we sleep on our sides, we snore less," says Raymond Hall, D.C., sleep-science expert and chiropractor who practices at Pacific Coast Sports Medicine in West Los Angeles. "So these can help, but I'd consider lots of other factors as well. Is the person overweight? Drinking alcohol before sleep? How are his sinuses? The pillow itself isn't the be-all and end-all."

Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine who is widely known as the Sleep Doctor, agrees. "These pillows can be effective, but they can also be uncomfortable. Check the return policy. If it doesn't work in the first three to five nights, you'll probably be sending it back."

2. Buckwheat-Filled Pillow The claim: It conforms to the shape of your head, keeping sweaty sleepers cool and dry. The facts:  "Buckwheat pillows are form-fitting, molding to your neck and upper shoulders, but unless the buckwheat can be removed to change the height of the pillow, these won't allow for spinal alignment," Breus says.

Hall says there is an upside: "One of the main reasons people wake up at night is that their head gets hot. So the fact that buckwheat can keep you cool is a plus." But on balance he finds buckwheat pillows a bit ... arbitrary. "I'm not a big fan of amorphous happenstance situations where something like hulls or whatever have to form perfectly together to give you the right support." Also, buckwheat pillows are known to be loud. "I tried one and couldn't deal with the noise it made," Breus says.

3. Wedge-Shaped Pillow The claim: It minimizes acid reflux and sinus pressure by angling the head, shoulders, and torso. The facts:  "I love wedge pillows," Breus says. "We use them in sleep medicine all the time." Hall expands on the advantages of wedges: "The 20- to 30-degree elevation helps acid drain back into the stomach rather than sit in the throat, and puts less pressure on the head. They help people sleep better through flu and colds, too."

Shop Specialty Pillows on Amazon

Three specialty pillows of different shapes.

4. Cervical Pillow The claim: It alleviates neck pain by supporting the natural curve of the neck.

The facts:  "A lot depends on fit," Breus says. "If you're a back sleeper and a cervical pillow has too much height, it will push your head forward and compromise breathing. If you're a side sleeper and the pillow doesn't raise your head enough, or too much, it can cause neck pain rather than relieve it. It's all about whether a given pillow achieves alignment."

Hall agrees that fit is key. He believes strongly in cervical pillows—so much so that he designed a line of them, which he sells online. His pillows are available in three sizes, to ensure the right fit. "A good cervical pillow lets you navigate from side to side while maintaining an optimal position. This is especially important during REM sleep, where we lose control of our muscles and the neck is prone to getting hurt. The right neck pillow can prevent injury."

5. Water-Filled Pillow The claim: It provides soothing support to reduce neck pain—and it's adjustable; firmness is determined by the amount of water you add. The facts:  Hall is concerned about leaking but more so about the sleep experience. "Water can feel really hard—especially if the plastic it's wrapped in doesn't have much give. I used to have a water bed, and it never had adequate support. This is similar—the designs just aren't that great." Breus speculated that sleeping on a water pillow "might be a little loud" because your ear is pressed against it, which amplifies every crinkle of plastic and slosh of fluid. "But from a support perspective, this could be a winner if it could mold to your head and neck"—so the pliability of the plastic casing of a given water pillow is a big factor.

6. Large L-Shaped Pillow The claim: Better neck, head, and shoulder placement and support for side sleepers—plus something to hug. The facts:  "It's a decent idea—a pseudo body pillow that supports the head and neck and wraps down in front of body for side sleepers," Hall says. "It elevates the upper arm a bit, which is good, because when the elbows touch, that puts pressure on the shoulders. And as humans, we like support—we like to cuddle. But we move around 14 to 16 times a night, and a pillow like this might be difficult to reposition and navigate over."

Breus also sees pros and cons: "I like these a lot, because they can go between the legs to minimize hip strain. That's especially great for pregnant women and those with lower back or hip pain. But they can put a barrier between you and your partner."

Your Mattress Matters, Too

To get a good night's sleep, you also need a proper mattress that suits your size and sleep style (side, back, or a combination). Though Consumer Reports does not currently test pillows, we do test innerspring, foam, and adjustable air mattresses and have well over 100 models in our mattress ratings .

Can't decide which type you want? Read our comprehensive mattress buying guide and you'll be ready to shop.

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How Do Travel Pillows Work

Do you often find yourself struggling to get a good night’s sleep on a plane or during a road trip? If so, you may want to invest in a travel pillow. Travel pillows are designed to help you get comfortable and fall asleep while in transit. But how do they work?

Most travel pillows are made from foam or memory foam. They are typically in the shape of a U or a C and can be inflated or deflated. To use a travel pillow, you simply put it around your neck and adjust it to fit. The pillow will help to keep your head and neck in a comfortable position while you sleep.

Some travel pillows also come with a built-in headrest. This can be helpful if you are trying to sleep in a reclined position. The headrest will help to keep your head and neck in a more neutral position.

Travel pillows can be a great way to get a good night’s sleep while on the go. They are especially helpful for people who have a hard time sleeping in unfamiliar environments. If you are looking for a way to get more rest while travelling, consider investing in a travel pillow.

  • 1 How are travel pillows supposed to be used?
  • 2 Do travel neck pillows really work?
  • 3 Are travel pillows supposed to go in front?
  • 4 Is it good to sleep with a travel pillow?
  • 5 How do you use a Tiktok travel pillow?
  • 6 How do you pack a travel pillow?
  • 7 Are car neck pillows safe?

How are travel pillows supposed to be used?

There are all sorts of different travel pillows on the market these days, but how are they supposed to be used? In this article, we’ll take a look at the different types of travel pillows and how to properly use them.

First, let’s talk about the different types of travel pillows. There are two main types of travel pillows – the U-shaped pillow and the neck pillow. U-shaped pillows are designed to support your neck and head, while neck pillows are designed to support your neck only.

Now let’s take a look at how to use these pillows. U-shaped pillows should be placed around your neck with the curve of the pillow resting against your neck. The two ends of the pillow should be placed in front of and behind your head. Neck pillows should be placed around your neck, with the curved side of the pillow resting against your neck.

It’s important to note that both types of travel pillows should be used in conjunction with a travel pillowcase. This will help keep the pillow clean and free of dust and lint.

So, now you know how to use a travel pillow. Just be sure to choose the right type of pillow for your needs, and use it in conjunction with a travel pillowcase for best results.

Do travel neck pillows really work?

Do travel neck pillows work? This is a question that has been asked by many people, and it is a question that does have a definitive answer. The answer to this question is yes, travel neck pillows do work.

There are a few reasons why travel neck pillows work. The first reason is that they help to keep your head and neck in a neutral position. This is important because it helps to keep your neck from getting tired or stiff. The second reason is that they provide support for your head and neck. This is important because it helps to keep your head and neck from bobbing up and down as you travel.

There are a few different types of travel neck pillows available. The type of travel neck pillow that you choose will depend on your personal preferences. Some people prefer to use a traditional travel neck pillow, while others prefer to use a cervical pillow.

If you are looking for a traditional travel neck pillow, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. One of the most important things to consider is the size of the pillow. You want to make sure that the pillow is big enough to support your head and neck. You also want to make sure that the pillow is comfortable to use.

If you are looking for a cervical pillow, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. One of the most important things to consider is the size of the pillow. You want to make sure that the pillow is big enough to support your head and neck. You also want to make sure that the pillow is comfortable to use. Another thing to keep in mind is the shape of the pillow. Some cervical pillows are curved, while others are straight.

Are travel pillows supposed to go in front?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on personal preference. Some people find that it is more comfortable to have their travel pillow in front of them, while others prefer to have it behind them.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to put your travel pillow in front or behind you. If you are travelling by car or train, having the pillow in front of you may be more comfortable as it will help to keep your head and neck in a more upright position. If you are travelling by plane, however, having the pillow behind you may be more comfortable as it will help to keep your head and neck in a more reclined position.

Another factor to consider is whether you are a front or back sleeper. If you are a front sleeper, it may be more comfortable to have the pillow in front of you. If you are a back sleeper, however, it may be more comfortable to have the pillow behind you.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide where to put their travel pillow. Some people find that they prefer to switch between the two positions, depending on the type of travel they are doing.

Is it good to sleep with a travel pillow?

Sleeping on a plane can be uncomfortable, especially if you don’t have a travel pillow. Some people believe that it is not good to sleep with a travel pillow, but there are several reasons why it is a good idea to use one.

One of the main benefits of using a travel pillow is that it can help you to get a better night’s sleep. This is because the pillow can help to keep your head and neck in a comfortable position. This can be especially beneficial if you are travelling on a long flight, as it can help to reduce the risk of developing a neck injury.

Another benefit of using a travel pillow is that it can help to reduce the amount of noise that you hear. This is because the pillow can help to block out some of the sound that is coming from the aircraft. This can be especially beneficial if you are travelling with children, as it can help to keep them calm and quiet.

Finally, using a travel pillow can help to reduce the amount of stress that you experience. This is because the pillow can help to keep your body in a comfortable position, which can help to reduce the amount of tension that you feel. This can be especially beneficial if you are travelling for work, as it can help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Overall, there are several reasons why it is a good idea to use a travel pillow. Not only can it help you to get a better night’s sleep, but it can also help to reduce the amount of noise that you hear and the amount of stress that you experience.

How do you use a Tiktok travel pillow?

A Tiktok travel pillow is a great way to make your travel experience more comfortable. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you can find the perfect one for you. Here’s how to use a Tiktok travel pillow:

1. Decide which type of pillow is right for you. There are a variety of shapes and sizes available, so you can find the perfect one for your needs.

2. If you’re using a traditional pillow, fold it in half and tuck it under your chin. This will help keep your head and neck in a comfortable position.

3. If you’re using a contoured pillow, follow the instructions provided to ensure that it is properly positioned.

4. Make sure the pillow is securely fastened to your seat. Many pillows have straps or loops that can be attached to the headrest or seat in front of you.

5. Relax and enjoy your trip!

How do you pack a travel pillow?

When you’re packing for a trip, it’s important to make sure you bring everything you need – including your travel pillow. But how do you pack a travel pillow so it’s not bulky and takes up minimal space in your luggage?

Here are a few tips:

If your travel pillow is inflatable, deflate it before packing. This will save space in your luggage.

If your travel pillow is not inflatable, roll it up tightly and secure it with a rubber band or zip-tie.

If your travel pillow is made of a fabric material, you can fold it up and place it in a small zippered pouch.

If you’re bringing a pillowcase for your travel pillow, pack it separately. This will help save space in your luggage.

No matter which type of travel pillow you bring, be sure to put it in a location where it will be easily accessible during your trip. This way, you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep on your flight or in your hotel room.

Are car neck pillows safe?

Are car neck pillows safe? This is a question that many people have, and the answer is not always clear. Some people say that car neck pillows are safe, while others say that they are not. There are a few things to consider when trying to answer this question.

The first thing to consider is what a car neck pillow is. A car neck pillow is a small pillow that is designed to support the neck while driving. It is meant to keep the neck from getting stiff or sore. Car neck pillows can be helpful for people who drive for long periods of time.

The second thing to consider is whether or not car neck pillows are safe. There are a few things to consider when looking at this question. First, it is important to make sure that the car neck pillow is properly fitted. If it is not fitted correctly, it can actually cause more problems than it solves. Second, it is important to make sure that the car neck pillow is not too firm. A too-firm pillow can actually cause pain and stiffness in the neck. Finally, it is important to make sure that the car neck pillow is not too soft. A too-soft pillow can cause the head to slump down, which can also lead to pain and stiffness.

Overall, it is generally thought that car neck pillows are safe. However, it is important to make sure that they are fitted correctly and that they are not too firm or too soft.

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