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Best Travel Pillow for Air Travel

When you travel long distances by air you probably plan for arriving well rested after a good sleep on the plane. But how often does that happen? One key to getting some actual quality sleeping time on the plane is going to be a good travel pillow. A good travel pillow will help you sleep at strange times, in strange positions, and front of strangers.

Travel pillows come in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles, but they share one common purpose: to make traveling more comfortable. Most travel pillows fit behind or around the neck to provide extra support. Many travelers doze off on their journey, but sleeping upright can be problematic. The head is likely to tilt or slump over, potentially straining the neck. A supportive travel pillow can help keep the spine well aligned to reduce unnecessary pressure on the neck. During long flights, sleeping may be one of the best ways to pass the time. Unfortunately, sleeping in odd positions in your seat can also put a strain on your neck causing you to arrive at your destination with aches and pains. A lightweight, compact design pillow helps with packing but remember many styles allow you to strap your pillow to the outside of your suitcase.

Rank Product Highlights
#1 TRTL Pillow

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  • Dimensions: 8.27 x 6.69 x 3.15 inches
  • Weight: 254 Grams
  • 30-day trial
#2 GUNAPOD Pillow

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  • Size: 2.25 x 4.75 x 10.75 inches
  • Weight: 7 ounces
  • Unused items have a 30-day return policy
  • Defective pillows have a 180-day warranty
#3 INFANZIA Kids Travel Pillow

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  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 9.4 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 8.1 ounces
#4 J-Pillow Chin

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  • Size: 12 x 7 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 7.5 ounces
#5 Clöudz Microbead Travel Neck Pillow

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  • Size: 12 x 12 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 10.4 ounces

While travel pillows are designed specifically for travel, they are more versatile than the name would imply. Many owners also choose to use their travel pillows at home. A travel pillow can also help support the neck as you watch TV or work on your computer. Some shapes of travel pillows may also be suitable for tucking under or between the knees while you lie in bed.

There are many different types of travel pillows on the market to fit virtually any traveler’s needs and preferences. Most people immediately picture the classic u-shaped travel pillow that wraps around the neck, but travel pillows now come in several different shapes. The shape can affect the pillow’s performance, versatility, and ease of packing.

What are the important questions to consider when selecting a travel pillow?

Portability: How heavy of a packer are you? How much room will you have to pack your pillow? Small or compressible pillows tend to be easier to pack. Maybe you plan to carry it externally as many have been designed so that they can be easily affixed to the outside of a suitcase for convenient access.

Support: Will the pillow hold the weight of your head or is it too flimsy? Inflatable pillows typically inflate with just a few puffs of air and deflate even more quickly. This makes them exceptionally easy to pack and store, and it allows the user to adjust the firmness. Memory foam is popular for its exceptional contouring support but it is also more prone to heat retention than some materials. Polyfoam is a good choice since it is similar to memory foam but the open cell structure makes it more breathable than most memory foam.

Comfort: Is the material soft and welcoming? High-quality materials typically provide more support and last longer, but of course, cost more than the lower quality options. Remember though, that low-quality materials are not always made to last. Also, planes can have variable temperatures. Many travel pillows come with cooling features like breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics, to help keep the pillow from trapping excessive heat.

Weight: All the travel pillows probably seem light at first glance. However, when you’re carrying your bags from location to location you might find it is heavier than you first remembered.

Firmness: Most travel pillows do not mention the firmness level of their pillows so it can be a bit of a guessing game. Thankfully the construction of the pillow can give you some hints. Fiber-filled and microbead pillows usually have a softer, cushier feel. Memory foam and polyfoam pillows generally balance softness and support. Inflatable pillows are typically firm when fully inflated, but they can be filled with less air for a softer feel.

The Middle Seat Test: No one wants to get assigned to the middle seat, but having that ticket shouldn’t mean you don’t get a chance to sleep. Will the pillow you are buying allow you to sleep in that dreaded seat assignment?

What are the different shapes and styles of travel pillows?

U-Shape

As the name implies, u-shaped travel pillows are shaped like the letter u. This is the most common type of travel pillow on the market. It goes around the neck, supporting the back and sides of the neck to promote better spinal alignment. Its combination of cushioning and support makes this design popular and easy to snap on to the outside of your carry on bag.

Wrap

Wrap style pillows work as a scarf, wrapping closely around the neck but they provide built-in support that helps prevent the head from tilting excessively. They are less bulky than u-shaped pillows which makes them compact and lightweight for packing.

J-Shape

The j-shaped travel pillow is relatively new. The design is meant to go across the front of the body and loops over one shoulder, so you can prop up their head to rest. However, this odd shape makes them bulkier to pack.

 

Best Travel Pillows

1. TRTL PILLOW

SPECS:

  • Dimensions: 8.27 x 6.69 x 3.15 inches
  • Weight: 254 Grams
  • 30-day trial

Best for Head Tilters

The Trtl Travel Pillow is a wrap-style pillow with unique features. While most travel pillows are one-size-fits-all, the Trtl Pillow Plus adjusts to fit you. Some toggles make it easy to increase or decrease the height of the pillow based on the length of your neck and your preferences. The pillow has a flexible inner structure that provides ergonomic support for your neck. The pillow is soft and fuzzy with mesh panels to allow ample airflow to help keep the pillow cool and comfortable. The inner fabric comes in three color combinations; gray/blue, gray/black, and gray/pink.  The memory foam padding adds cushioning and contouring. The pillow is machine washable and has a 30-day return policy.

Pros Cons
  • Great for people who taller than average
  • Packs down small
  • Adjustable
  • Machine washable
  • Multiple color combinations
  • Comes with a travel case
  • 30-day trial period
  • Some smaller people found it too large even when adjusted

Who should buy a travel pillow:

If you sleep on the plane by tilting your head one way or another, this will give you the support you need while you fly.

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2. GUNAPOD

SPECS:

  • Size: 2.25 x 4.75 x 10.75 inches
  • Weight: 7 ounces
  • Unused items have a 30-day return policy
  • Defective pillows have a 180-day warranty

Best Inflatable 

The Travelrest Inflatable Pillow can be adjusted and attached to the airplane seat, a car headrest, or worn across the body.  Most travel pillows wrap around the neck but the Travelrest Inflatable Pillow goes across your body. This gives you many different options on how to use your pillow and works great if you are seated in the window, aisle or even the dreaded middle seat.  It inflates in just a few puffs and it also deflates quickly and easily. Once deflated and rolled up, it packs up to just 3 inches by 10 inches and can be attached to the outside of your luggage for easy access. You have five color options to choose from; blue, navy, red, gray, and moss green. Unused Travelrest items may be eligible for a 30-day return policy, while defective pillows are covered under a 180-day warranty.

Pros Cons
  • Inexpensive
  • Versatile design
  • Easily inflatable
  • Packs down compactly
  • Various color options
  • Connects to the outside of your luggage
  • Hand wash only
  • Only unused items may be returned

Who should buy a travel pillow:

If you find yourself often in the middle seat, this versatile pillow will get work in all seating assignments.

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3. INFANZIA Kids Travel Pillow

SPECS:

  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 9.4 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 8.1 ounces

Best For Kids

This 100% cotton fabric is soft and breathable, perfect for any child.  It is also machine washable, an absolute must for anything your child uses or wears! A travel pillow for a child should not just be smaller though, its design should be evident like in the Infanzia travel pillow that is narrow enough to fit with your child in their car seat!   The pillow will provide support to the whole head and neck, plus it snaps shut in the front to keep it in place. The back of the neck pillow has a thinner silhouette such that your kids’ head won’t be pushed forward and the child’s head can rest comfortably against the car seat.  This model may not be suitable for infants below the age of years old.

Pros Cons
  • 100% cotton
  • Machine washable
  • Narrow enough for the silhouette of a car seat
  • Snaps in place to prevent slippage.
  • Not recommended for children under the age of two

Who should buy a travel pillow:

If you have children who travel with you, the Infanzia travel pillow not only works on the airplane but also in your child’s car seat!  This is a perfect 2 for 1 purchase.

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4. J-Pillow Chin

SPECS:

  • Size: 12 x 7 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 7.5 ounces

Best New Design

The J-Pillow Chin Support Travel Pillow won the British Invention of the year. The unique design supports your chin while at the same time supporting your head in a perfect sleeping position for your head. It’s like lying down while you’re sitting up! The product was designed by a flight attendant so it truly has been created by an air travel expert! The material is extremely soft against your skin and the pillow is firm enough to hold its shape without pushing the head too far forward when in place. However, this is not a small travel pillow, and since it’s not inflatable, it doesn’t get any smaller for transporting. It does have a loop so it could be hung on a bag strap for the trip through the airport.  If you are looking for comfort above all else, this is one of the best choices we’ve found but if you travel light, its larger size may be a problem.

Pros Cons
  • British Invention of the Year
  • Unique design
  • Very supportive
  • Machine washable
  • Clips on to luggage
  • Large and difficult to pack
  • No travel case

Who should buy a travel pillow:

If you are looking for absolute comfort, this new design provides a truly good night’s sleep when you travel.

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5. Clöudz Microbead Travel Neck Pillow

SPECS:

  • Size: 12 x 12 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 10.4 ounces

Best Budget

Sometimes the thing you know is the best. That is why we love Clöudz’s U-shaped conventional travel pillow.  The pillow is made out of high-quality microbeads and is extremely durable.  It manages to keep a low price point and we love it for its comfort and affordability. You can wear it around your neck as you sleep, put it behind your back for lumbar support, or put it on the tray table to take a nap. It’s dual-sided, with cozy plush on one side and cool latex on the other. It doesn’t compress for packing but is easily attached to your luggage with a simple snap.

Pros Cons
  • 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton
  • Nickel-free, reinforced snaps
  • Easy access
  • Attaches easily to the outside of luggage
  • Interior zipper guard and snap tab zipper pull cover for added safety
  • Machine wash, tumble dry low
  • Too large to pack in your luggage

Who should buy a travel pillow:

If you have used the U-shaped travel pillow and like the way it works for you, then grab the Clöudz which is a top comfort contender!

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Last Words:

A good travel pillow is always worth the money and any traveler should have one ready to go when they have a trip. A good travel pillow is a difference between landing refreshed and being ready to take on your trip like a pro or needing to head right to your hotel for a long nap to recover.  Whether you are finding space in your bag, or prefer strapping a travel pillow to your carry-on luggage, there are many choices available and a travel pillow will change the way you fly.