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Best Travel Pillows

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 28 Models Considered
  • 7 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 209 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best travel pillows

    Last Updated December 2018

    Anyone who’s ever tried to sleep on a plane, train, or simply in the passenger seat of a car will know that it’s nearly impossible to have a comfortable nap while sitting upright. However, with the right travel pillow, it doesn’t have to be that way.

    A travel pillow that offers the right amount of support and padding can help you get some shut-eye in the most uncomfortable places. The only question is: which is the right travel pillow for you? U-shaped or wrap-around? Polyester-filled or memory foam? You’ll find all kinds of travel pillows out there, and it can be tough to figure out the best one for your snoozing needs.

    At BestReviews, we make shopping dilemmas a breeze with our top recommendations and information-packed shopping guides. If you’re ready to purchase a new travel pillow, keep reading for all you need to know before you buy.

    Make sure your travel pillow isn’t too large for compact airline seats. You don’t want to encroach on someone else’s space.

    Types of travel pillows

    U-shaped travel pillows

    One of the most common options, U-shaped travel pillows sit around the back and sides of your neck, leaving an opening in the front. They’re available in a wide range of materials, colors, and styles, so you can probably find one to tick all your boxes. However, these travel pillows don’t offer any chin support, so some users find their heads flop forward onto their chests while sleeping, meaning they don’t get much benefit from a U-shaped travel pillow.

    Wrap-around travel pillows

    Wrap-around travel pillows are like U-shaped models but closed at the front, offering full 360-degree support for the neck. This solves the problem of your head flopping forward as you sleep, but some people find wrap-around travel pillows feel too hot or restrictive for sleeping.

    Rectangular travel pillows

    Much like a smaller version of a standard bed pillow, rectangular travel pillows can work well for leaning up against a window. If you’re lucky enough to be in a seat where you can sleep flat or with a large degree of recline, rectangular travel pillows are ideal. However, with these travel pillows, your head is more likely to flop sideways or forward when sleeping in an upright position.

    Convertible travel pillows

    You can find travel pillows that fold in on themselves to convert from rectangular pillows to U-shaped pillows. This is a good option if you like to sleep up against a window, if given the choice, but would like to have the option of using a U-shaped pillow in case you get a middle or aisle seat.

    Non-standard travel pillows

    The majority of travel pillows fit into one of the categories above, but you can find some non-standard types that are more unusual or are patented and made by a single manufacturer. Popular non-standard types include J-shaped travel pillows, which offer extra chin support, and crossbody travel pillows, which can work well for side sleepers.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you’re worried a memory foam travel pillow will be too hot for sleeping, look for one with ventilation holes.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Features to consider for travel pillows

    Outer material

    A travel pillow’s outer material is what will be touching your skin, so you want it to feel soft and comfortable. Plush velour, fleece, and soft cotton jersey are common outer materials that are comfortable to rest on.

    Filling material

    The three most common fillings for travel pillows are memory foam, polyester hollow fiber, and microbeads. No option is perfect, but you’ll likely find one suits you more than the others.

    Memory foam is an extremely comfortable material that molds to the shape of your head and neck and can be compressed to a fairly small size. Travel pillows with memory foam fillings are the most expensive options. The only problem with memory foam is that it can feel hot to sleep on.

    Most standard bed pillows are filled with polyester hollow fiber, so you’re probably used to the feeling of sleeping on this filling. Polyester hollow fiber is comfortable and supportive, but it does tend to clump over time. You’ll likely have to replace this type of travel pillow more often than others.

    Travel pillows filled with microbeads tend to be inexpensive, but it’s not the most comfortable filling, and the microbeads can make a rustling noise as you move. Plus, microbeads aren’t at all environmentally friendly.

    Color

    While there are obviously more important things to consider about a travel pillow, there’s no harm in choosing a color or pattern that you like. Your travel pillow is going to come on every flight, train journey, and bus trip with you, so you don’t want to be stuck with a color you dislike. If you regularly travel for work, you may want to stick with a neutral color, but go with whatever shade pleases you.

    Carrying case

    Some travel pillows come with a carrying case to make them easier to pack into your carry-on bag. You can even find carrying cases designed to compress the pillow so that it takes up less space. However, if your carrying case compresses your travel pillow, make sure the pillow doesn’t take too long to plump up again, in case you want to start your nap straight after boarding.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some travel pillows are sold as a set, complete with items such as an eye mask and earplugs.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some travel pillows offer a degree of grip or traction to keep them in place if your head moves around while sleeping.

    Prices for travel pillows

    You can find travel pillows in a range of prices to suit different budgets. While you don’t have to spend a fortune on a travel pillow, you do tend to get what you pay for, so the cheapest options are not likely to be very comfortable.

    You can find basic travel pillows starting at less than $10, including some simple U-shaped, polyester-filled options. While they might be comfortable for a trip or two, these travel pillows are unlikely to stand the test of time.

    Around $20 to $30 will buy you a decent mid-range travel pillow. These travel pillows might not have the most innovative designs, but they’ll provide comfortable support.

    Some travel pillows cost as much as $50 to $60, including ergonomically-designed memory foam options. These high-end travel pillows are great for frequent fliers.

    Tips

    • If you need to pack light, consider an inflatable travel pillow. It might not be as comfortable as other options, but an inflatable travel pillow takes up no room when deflated.

    • Make sure your chosen travel pillow offers adequate support. However, U-shaped or wrap-around styles shouldn’t be too tight or restrictive.

    • Think about how often you’ll use your travel pillow. If you go on weekly business trips, it’s probably worth paying more for a top-of-the-line travel pillow, but you can get away with a cheaper model if you only vacation once a year or so.

    • Check whether your chosen travel pillow is washable. Sometimes the whole pillow is washable, while other times a travel pillow will have a removable, washable cover.
    You can find hypoallergenic travel pillows, which is great news if you’re an allergy-sufferer.

    FAQ

    Q. Will a travel pillow guarantee that I get better sleep while traveling?

    A. Don’t expect a travel pillow to make it feel like you’re spending the night at the Ritz, but you should certainly get better-quality sleep when using a travel pillow. It’s not magic, but it will provide you with some comfort and support, so you hopefully won’t wake up with a horrible crick in your neck.

    Q. I hate feeling too warm when I sleep. What’s the best type of travel pillow for me?

    A. Some people really dislike feeling too warm while sleeping, which can be a problem with some travel pillows that hug your neck. We recommend avoiding memory foam U-shaped or wrap-around travel pillows, but you may tolerate these styles with polyester or microbead fillings, as they’re more breathable. Look for pillows with outer covers made from cotton, bamboo, or other natural materials, which feel cooler. Rectangular and crossbody travel pillows don’t go around your neck, so they won’t make you feel so warm.

    Q. What type of travel pillow is best for me if my head drops forward when I sleep sitting up?

    A. When your chin drops forward onto your chest while sleeping, it generally disrupts your rest and leaves your neck feeling sore. Look for travel pillows that offer some chin support at the front of your neck, such as wrap-around or J-shaped models. This will help your head stay upright and give you a much more comfortable sleep.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Austin
      Austin
      Writer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katherine
      Katherine
      Editor
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Linsay
      Linsay
      Editor
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer

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