Hunting for the best travel pillow was not something I’d thought would keep me up at night, but here I am, lurking in airport shops, scouring the internet, reading endless travel pillow reviews. All the while comparing weight and size and price, and weighing the merits of memory foam vs. inflatable vs. microbeads vs. buckwheat (yes, apparently buckwheat travel pillows are a thing) and whatever else manufacturers can stuff into them.
And aesthetics. Let’s not forget aesthetics. No one wants to look like a dork sleeping on an airplane in front of 300 strangers — because we all know how judge-y strangers on a plane can be. I think I spent less time researching which car to buy than I did researching travel neck pillows.
You see, I used to be one of those folks that rolled my eyes at people who would roll up to the airport with a travel pillow. Since I’m a window seat devotee, rolling up a sweater or hoodie and sticking it between my head and the airplane cabin was good enough for me. And on long-haul flights they actually GIVE you a pillow. Bonus. Who needs to bring their own travel pillow, I thought. I didn’t see what the fuss was about.
But about 7 years ago I was in a car accident, and ever since then my neck is a lot more crotchety — if I sleep on it the wrong way, or twist it out of place, it’s chiropractor and massage and headaches for days. They say to never mock a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes (that’s how the saying goes right?) Well, all those years of my eye-rolling “judginess” at travel neck pillows came back to haunt me.
So you see, I’m now a fan of a solid travel neck support pillow to ensure I’m not going to have endless neck pain at the end of a long-haul flight. Even doctors recommend a travel pillow to help you sleep better on a plane.
The thing is, there are SO MANY travel pillows on the market today. There are ones that claim to be the best travel pillow for neck pain, and the best travel pillow for sleeping. They can be U-shaped or traditional or orthopedic or even sometimes like something out of science fiction. And of course there’s the standard blow-up travel pillow (AKA the Poor Man’s Sleep Aid.)
Table of Contents
- 1 Choosing the Best Travel Pillow for You
- 2 Travel Pillow Comparison Chart
- 3 Best Inflatable Travel Pillow Reviews
- 4 Best Memory Foam Travel Pillow Reviews
- 5 Best Microbead Travel Pillow Reviews
- 6 Best Buckwheat Travel Pillow Reviews
- 7 Other Travel Pillow Reviews
A few years ago I was sent the J-Pillow Travel Pillow (which is reviewed below) and kinda fell in love with it. Well almost, it had two disadvantages, but I’ll get into that later. I left my beloved J-Pillow behind by accident in an apartment rental in Portugal, so when I got to Australia I figured I’d better start looking for a replacement. The local supermarket had some cheap microbead travel pillows on sale for only 5 bucks, and I figured, well, for 5 bucks you can’t go wrong.
Well it appears that you can.
I snagged the pillow trying to cut the price tag off, and microbeads flowed free and fast. A Niagara Falls of microbeads all over the living room floor. So that’s why I won’t be recommending microbead travel pillows anytime soon. But I’m always on the hunt for that elusive “best neck pillow.”
Which brings me back to my current predicament. What exactly is the best travel pillow?
Choosing the Best Travel Pillow for You
The question shouldn’t be “What is the best travel pillow?” but rather “What is the best travel pillow for YOU?” Our bodies are designed differently, so what might be the best airplane pillow for me might be something completely different for you.
I have neck pain if I sit still for too long, so I need a travel pillow with good neck support. You may need something a little softer with more cushioning.
Something else to consider is the size of the travel pillow. Do you want to carry it around with you when you reach your destination? Inflatable travel pillows take up a lot less space, but may not offer the support you need. Memory foam travel pillows mould into the shape of your head and neck, but tend to be a lot more bulky. If space is a concern, this is definitely a consideration.
Travel Pillow Comparison ChartSort the table by clicking the arrows at the top of each column.
|- Great reviews|
- Supports all areas
- Weird shape
|Trtl Travel Pillow||Scarf||- Head|
|- Great neck support|
- Light & portable
|- Gets warm||$$|
|Bucky Utopia||Buckwheat||- Head|
|- Natural ventilation|
|Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow||Memory Foam||- Neck||- Low cost|
- Machine-washable cover
- Pushes head forward
|TravelRest Inflatable Travel Pillow||Inflatable Air||- Head|
|- Deflates to save space|
- Solid reviews
|- Can puncture|
- Plastic smell
|Cabeau Evolution Travel Neck Pillow||Memory Foam||- Head|
|- Supports all areas|
- iPod holder
- Smushes down to 1/4 size
- Too stiff for some
|AERIS Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow||Memory Foam||- Head|
|- Holes for ventilation|
- Machine-washable cover
|- May smush down too much for big heads||$$|
|Daydreamer Travel Neck Pillow||Inflatable Air||- Head|
|- Self-inflating & deflating|
- Machine-washable cover
- Light & portable
- Adjusts easily
- High ratings
|- Pricey for an air pillow||$$|
|World’s Best Air Soft Microbead Travel Pillow||Microbead||- Neck||- Low cost|
|- No removable cover|
- May not be firm enough for some
- Beads can go flat or fall out
|XPLOR Microbead Travel Pillow||Microbead||- Head|
|- Adjusts easily|
- Machine-washable cover
|- May not be firm enough for some|
- Beads can go flat or fall out
Best Inflatable Travel Pillow Reviews
I’ve never been a fan of inflatable travel pillows for a couple of reasons. First, and I don’t know if this is just me, they tend to have a rubbery, plastic smell that can take some getting used to. Second, if they don’t have a microfibre or fleece cover of some sort, the plastic doesn’t feel the greatest against my face, and the squeaking whenever I move around is enough to drive me (and anyone within earshot) nuts. Finally, I just don’t like having to blow them up.
Thankfully inflatable travel pillows have come a long way since they days of old, and now there are plenty of choices available as contender for best air travel pillow.
TravelRest Inflatable Travel Pillow
The TravelRest Inflatable Travel Pillow is definitely one of the best pillows for side sleepers. It’s apostrophe shape is designed to cradle one side of the head, while the long bit that drapes over the front of the body gives the sleeper added support, plus something to hold onto. There’s a string to tie the two ends together, or to fasten it to the headrest or seat itself for extra stability.
Since it’s an inflatable travel pillow, it scrunches down to almost nothing once deflated, and takes up very little space. The downside to this air pillow is the rubbery smell and the potential for puncturing.To read more inflatable travel pillow reviews or to purchase this one, click here.
Daydreamer Travel Neck Pillow
The Daydreamer Travel Neck Pillow is my pick for the best inflatable travel pillow for a number of reasons. First and foremost, you don’t have to blow it up. It comes with an one-touch button to auto-inflate or deflate. If you’ve overfilled it and need to release more air, that handy button can do that as well.
The unique M shape cradles your head to offer more support, while the flat back prevents pushing your head forward The plush velour cover is also removable and machine-washable. And because it deflates after use, it doesn’t take up a heck of a lot of room when it’s not in use.Read more about the Daydreamer Travel Neck Pillow here.
Best Memory Foam Travel Pillow Reviews
Because of their ability to contour to the user’s unique shape, memory foam travel pillows have long been a favourite of airplane travellers seeking a deep sleep. Not all memory foam travel pillows are created equal though. Here are my top picks.
AERIS Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow
The AERIS Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow comes with a few bonuses — notably a sleep eye mask to cast out the light, memory foam ear buds to drown out the noise, and a handy carrying bag to tote it all around it. The drawstring on this U-shaped travel pillow allows the user to pull the pillow tight around the neck for extra head and chin support. If you’ve ever slept with a memory foam pillow on your bed at home, you’ll know that they tend to trap heat, making the user hot and sweaty. The AERIS counters this with a series of ventilation holes, increasing the pillow’s breathability and preventing sweat from taking over. It’s also surprisingly compressible, which may be a disadvantage for some seeking a sturdier travel pillow.
One of the big selling features of the AERIS is that it’s the ONLY memory foam travel pillow to offer a lifetime quibble-free replacement warranty.Click Here to Read More or Buy
Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow
Travelmate pillows have a long history of customer satisfaction, and the Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow is another solid choice if you’re in the market for a budget travel pillow. Unlike many of the cheapest travel pillows available, this budget-friendly option sports a removable, machine-washable cover. A few potential drawbacks: it’s a bit bulky, and does not come with a carry bag or a snap to attach it to your carry-on luggage.Click here to read more about the Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow or To Buy
Cabeau Evolution Travel Neck Pillow
It’s obvious a lot of thought went into the design of the Cabeau Evolution Travel Neck Pillow. Its raised section above the main U-shape offers added neck and head support to prevent the head from wobbling, and it even comes with ear plugs, a spot to put your iPod or smartphone, and a handy carry bag. Even though it’s a premium memory foam travel pillow, with a little bit of effort, and by following the instructions, the Cabeau Travel Pillow can be rolled down to about 1/4 of its size to fit inside the carry bag.
The back of the pillow is flat so it eliminates the problem of pushing the head forward when resting against the seat back that many of the other horsehoe-shaped travel pillows suffer from. At 11.7 ounces (or 0.85 pounds) it’s also the heaviest travel pillow on this list, but since this is one of the best neck support travel pillows on the market, the added weight is worth it in my opinion.
Best Microbead Travel Pillow Reviews
Considering my microbead travel pillow fiasco in Australia, I’d steer clear of anything containing microbeads. Most of the ones I’ve tried out at airports and shopping malls actually feel really great, but many suffer from a flimsy covering to contain the microbeads within, and when a tear or rip occurs…well, let’s just hope it never happens, especially in public. If you do decide to go the microbead route, get one with a thick protective shell. Even if it costs a little bit more, believe me it’s worth it.
World’s Best Air Soft Microbead Neck Pillow
Definitely the cheapest travel pillow on this list (the price usually runs less than 10 bucks), this airplane microbead neck pillow from World’s Best is also super soft and very lightweight. It’s a traditional U-shaped neck pillow that does offer the benefit of snaps in the front to give some support under the chin while you sleep. One downside to this travel pillow is that it does not come with a removable, washable cover, so if spills or stains are a concern, perhaps a different type of travel neck support pillow is the best option. If you’re in the market for a budget travel pillow though, and don’t need any of the fancy bells and whistles that come with some of the other products, than this is your best bet.Check the current price and read more about this pillow here
XPLOR Microbead Travel Pillow
This travel pillow from XPLOR is perhaps the best Microbead Travel Pillow on the market, mainly due to its flexibility. It does triple duty — as an airplane neck support pillow, a lumbar waist support pillow for long plane or car rides (or even just sitting at a desk all day), and as a traditional neck roll pillow for quick naps at desks or tables. The soft jersey cotton pillow cover is removable and washable, and it comes with a sturdy adjustable belt strap to ensure the correct fit in whatever situation you find yourself in.
It’s not as cheap as most microbead travel pillows, but the multifunction capability is worth a few extra dollars. It’s also fairly light, coming in at 8.8 oz (0.55 pounds.) Definitely a pillow to consider if you like the softness and malleability of a microbead travel pillow and are not a fan of memory foam or inflatables.
Best Buckwheat Travel Pillow Reviews
When I first started hunting for travel pillows, I wasn’t aware that there such a thing as a buckwheat travel pillow. In a sea of microbeads and memory foam and inflatable air travel pillows, anything with a different filling kinda stands out.
For folks that like a strong neck support travel pillow, there is probably no better than the Bucky Utopia. Billed as “the original U-shaped travel neck pillow,” this pillow contains buckwheat hulls which give the user a firm support during their sleep. It’s also eco-friendly, and the buckwheat acts as a natural ventilation system for those that tend to get overheated by traditional microbead or memory foam travel pillows.
While some users complain the pillow is actually “too firm,” this is easily fixed by removing some of the buckwheat hulls from the interior to better suit your sleeping needs. Just note that this pillow does not compress at all, although the handy built-in clip does make it a breeze to snap onto your carry-on luggage when not in use. Since there are so few buckwheat travel pillows on the market, this is the only pick to make the list.Check the price of the Bucky Utopia travel pillow here.
Other Travel Pillow Reviews
Trtl Travel Pillow
The Trtl Pillowis more like a turtleneck or scarf than an actual pillow. Since one side of the scarf masks a firm neck support, It’s designed to be wrapped around the neck and support your head on one side so you’re not falling into your neighbour. It’s gotten excellent reviews on Amazon, and its portability coupled with its price make it a strong contender. One of the few recurring complaints that I noticed was that it received mixed reviews among tall people. One of the benefits is that on planes where there is no adjustable headrest (such as on budget airlines) the Trtl Pillow provides the neck and head support needed to catch some Z’s.
Others reported that it just made their neck really hot because of the scarf-like quality.
I was ready to dismiss the Trtl travel pillow because it looked a bit too gimmicky, but this video review from a Top Amazon reviewer made me give it a second look. He’s a tall dude who seems like he loves it to bits.
J-Pillow Travel Pillow Review
The fine folks at J-Pillow sent me one of their travel pillows a few years back, and I included it as one of my picks for stocking stuffer ideas for men who travel. I kinda fell in love with it. I had mentioned that there were a couple of things that I didn’t like about it, with the primary thing being it looks like a giant blue penis. It’s not the most discrete looking thing on the market, but it is currently the number one selling travel pillow on Amazon right now, so it must be doing something right.
The J-Pillow also won British Invention of the Year for 2013. It’s unique design makes it a great travel pillow for head, chin and neck support, and it does a fine job of staying in place even though it’s not wrapped around your neck like those U-shaped travel pillows.
The other thing that I noticed after a while is that while it does a great job of overall support, for long-haul flights I found myself adjusting it more and more the longer I used it. I blame this on my heavy head and my freakishly long neck. While I did love the J-Pillow for shorter naps, the J-bit under my neck would compress down the longer I used it. I think it’s best suited to people with a more average head and a more normal neck, (if that makes any sense.)To read more reviews and check current pricing of the J-Pillow, click here.
Well there you have it, my round-up of best travel pillows.
Whats your favourite?
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