No matter what your mode of transportation is, if you are a passenger, then you get to take advantage of getting a nap while you travel from one destination to another. Many people like to doze off to help make the trip pass by more quickly, while others are legitimately depending on some shut-eye to make up for a loss of sleep due to their travel plans.
Just like your favorite bed pillow, the best travel pillow is never a true one size fits all, and is dependent on your body type, mode of travel, and personal preferences to provide the comfort you are seeking. The best neck pillows for travel reviews found below highlight a select, top-rated few, some of which we have personally tried ourselves.
What is a Travel Pillow?
A travel pillow is a pillow that provides head and neck support when you are forced to be in a more upright position while you travel. These are very different than a traditional bed pillow and are made for the unique position you may find yourself in when traveling. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they use various materials for personalized comfort. Various designs lend themselves better to long-haul flights, differing positions- such as sleeping on your back or for side sleepers, or even smaller choices for kids.
Travel pillows are made specifically for travel, and although may help with various ailments, such as acid reflux or vertigo, are usually almost exclusively found packed into a carry on bags or tucked into car compartments. They are very easy to pack and carry due to their more lightweight construction as well and usually come with a compression stuff sack of some sort.
Types of Travel Pillows
Most travel pillows are horseshoe-shaped to tuck behind or to the side of your neck. This shape lends well to staying put when you move. It also allows you to rest your head on your shoulder and tipped back without creating strain. Unfortunately, this isn’t a shape that works for all body shapes and sizes, nor does it provide forward held tilt well, which has influenced pillow designers to create another simple, yet effective ways to rest for those who need it.
Inflatable pillows are easy to blow up with a few puffs of breath and can be adjusted for many different body types. This style is often found in more traditional u-shaped, or even donut shaped designs and allows for proper head and neck positioning through the addition, or release of air.
Memory foams allow for customizable comfort and often fits a wide variety of needs. Variances in firmness levels should be paid particular attention to in order to provide the correct amount of compression needed for comfort. One way to determine if a foam pillow is a good choice is to read up on consumer reviews that reflect your particular needs.
Infinity type pillows come in differing lengths, but all have a similar premise in that they can be pulled over your head and then adjusted to your needs. Many of these offer excellent neck support and can be manipulated to provide comfort while leaning against a surface, or help hold your head over your shoulder.
Micro-beads are often used as a filling in various designs as they conform nicely to body shape and size, and can be adjusted easily to provide less, or more support, where needed. It is light and malleable, but sometimes can be a bit too firm overall. It also has a slight rustling noise to it, which is fairly easy to get used to.
Wrap style pillows are made to adjust to the position you need them in. They often fit like a short scarf and can be manipulated to create support where needed due to a rigid, yet flexible construction design.
Other shapes, such as J-shaped, or full head styles for sensory issues are also increasingly popular. With increases in technology come new ways to introduce new ideas, such as Kickstarter fundraising for product production. If traditional style pillows made for travel in airplanes are not your first choice, then doing a little research, reading up on reviews, and possibly creating your own is easier than ever in this day of age.
Why Would I Want a Travel Pillow?
First off, if you have ever traveled, then you know that finding a position that lends itself well to long periods of time can be quite the challenge. This is especially true of long trips, such as those taken on international flights, or cross-country by train. The best neck pillow for travel may not even necessarily be for sleeping, but simply a way to help support your body more comfortably to allow you to rest your soft tissues and provide a way to relax.
Neck pillows also help keep your spine in better alignment when resting and can help you avoid the dreaded neck cramp. Strain to the upper back and head tension that may accompany sleeping in a more upright position can also be alleviated with the use of some sort of travel support.
These types of pillows don’t have to be specific to your head and neck either. They are often used to support the arm, provide joint cushioning, support lumbar and knee, or can even help prop up tablets and books.
What to Consider When Choosing a Travel Pillow
If traveling is on your itinerary, then you may want to consider the purchase of a pillow, or even a travel blanket, to make your experience much more comfortable. If you have had a bad experience with one in the past, then most likely it was due to the type of design, not the premise behind it. Keeping in mind a few simple things can better guide you through travel pillow reviews to find what works best for you.
What is your body type?
Your body type is probably the most important consideration to take into account when making a comfort purchase. If you have narrow shoulders or a shorter neck, then a thick, more rigid support is not ever going to be comfortable. Look for flexible, conforming supports in various designs that better fit your body type.
What is your upright comfort position?
When you are forced to relax in a more upright position do you tip your head back, to the side, or allow it to fall forward? You want a pillow that helps provide support where you need it the most to keep from creating unneeded stress on your spine, and allow your airways to stay open for unobstructed breathing.
How do you typically travel?
When traveling, are you typically flying, riding in a passenger train, or along for a ride in the car? These various modes of transportation allow for you to relax in differing ways and body positioning. If you have the opportunity to recline or lean against a surface, you may consider a pillow that is more conducive to these positions.
Our Top 5 Best Travel Pillow Picks Reviews
Our top pillow picks are taken from various reviews across the internet that provide top rated consumer reports, as well as our own The Sleep Judge Review Team experiences. Despite there being a multitude of choices out there, these provide an excellent overview of differing designs and choices to help you get started in your search for restful sleep while you travel.
1. OstrichPillow Lite
- Filling- microbead
- Shape- infinity
- Weight- 3.8 ounces
- Warranty- 2 years warranty
This infinity style pillow is very different than the Original OstrichPillow that first came into existence due to crowdfunding. Since their initial launch, the company has created various designs for personal preferences and comfort. The soft poly-based cover of this pillow is cotton like in both feel and appearance, and provide a stretch that allows the microbead fill to adjust to your desired firmness and support allowed by the adjustable drawstring.
The entire pillow fits easily over your head and has a slight stretch. Once on, it helps support your neck in a 360 degree, wrap-around design- so no matter which way your head falls, it can be supported. The OstrichPillow Lite can also be used in various ways to lean your head up against hard surfaces, or even be worn as a sleep mask to block both light and sound.
- Reversible and adjustable
- Packs easy
- Easy to use and comfortable
- Some quality issues, covered by warranty
- Does not come with a carrying bag
- May not work for all body types
Who Should Purchase This Pillow
Great for all modes of transportation, this pillow is easy to stash in a carry-on, and is incredibly lightweight. Comfortable, and fun to use, it works well for bodies of various shape and size with few limitations. You can find our own review here.
2. J-Pillow Travel Pillow Review
- Filling- Poly fiber
- Shape- J-shaped
- Weight- 8.2 ounces
- Warranty- 30 days return