Searching for the most comfortable and best travel pillow out there? Let us help, with a rundown of all the best pillows for neck support & more in 2018.
Are you aspiring to be one of those that can fall asleep pretty much anywhere? &
More importantly, not wake up with a terrible, back or neck ache?
Frequent flyer or not I think we’d all agree that…
Spending a day or two to shake off the pain or
Falling over & onto the person next to you or
Drooling over your shoulder or worse someone else’s can ruin any trip.
Besides whether you can fall asleep or not, you can stay very comfortable with the travel pillows we’ve picked out for you.
Our Top 15 travel pillows for every environment
You can find everything from neck pillows, silky smooth microfiber pillows for kids, to hug-able inflatable pillows. Some travel pillows can appear strange but the benefits most definitely transcend the awkwardness!
1. Cabeau Evolution
- Can’t use with Noise Cancelling headphones
Provides: Full lateral support
Type: Memory Foam
The Evolution Memory Foam pillow is a great choice for those who like to fall asleep whilst listening to music. The neck aid is pretty good but is not suited for petite people as it may cover a large part of the face too. The Cabeau travel neck pillow does a great job of not letting your head move forward and cause neck pain.
The pillow comes with a water resistant bag, and you can compress it to 1/4th the size when you are on the move. The outer surface is an incredibly soft velour, which can be removed and washed. Our favorite feature was the phone pouch as it allows you to fall asleep and stay hands-free.
2. BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow
- Does not come with a cover
Provides: Head, neck & chin support
Type: Polyester Blend
If your someone who is looking for a pillow that ensures that your neck doesn't snap forward then the BCozzy is the one for you. The neck and chin support on this design is unparalleled. The overall build quality is great and will remain so if the washing instructions are followed correctly.
An awesome travel pillow for short to medium range flights. The cushioning on the side and the stitches at the seams could be a bit better.
If you are traveling longer than 9 hours then you might have to readjust the Bcozzy to make sure you have the desired support at any given time. The inbuilt snap strap is very handy and does make transporting the pillow that much easier. There are 3 ways in which you can use this pillow and it can serve you well if you fold it and place it on the side too. We can't stress enough as to how much we like the added flexibility on offer.
3. Trtl Pillow
- You need to tighten it a lot for it to support your neck well
Provides: Neck Support
Type: Polyester (synthetic) fleece
Pronounced “Turtle”, this is probably the perfect travel pillow for tall people. We like the fact that the Trtl keeps your neck in a comfortable position at all times, and you can even place the scarf partially over your mouth too to prevent spreading of germs.
The U shaped memory pillows might not be great for tall people, but the Trtl travel pillow gives you great support without strangling your neck.
Most airlines will give you a basic pillow during your flights. You can use the basic pillow along with the Trtl to get even better results. A cool and comfy design to prevent stiff neck among frequent travelers. This pillow is best suited for a seated position only, and might not be comfortable if you are lying down. You can place the “supported side” in the front or the back to give you all round support.
4. Aeris Memory Foam Pillow Set
- Can’t double up as a spinal support
Provides: Neck Support
Type: Memory Foam, Microfiber Exterior
The Aeris pillow set offers amazing comfort for the frequent flyer. The super quality Visco elastic memory foam can be easily shaped to suit your neck.
Typically, a memory foam pillow is known to heat up, but the Aeris memory foam has ventilation holes that prevent this from occurring.
This pillow is perfect for sleeping on planes, buses, trains and even for reading by the pool or on the beach. The pillow displays amazing compression, with the way it bends into the carry bag. The eye mask and the foam ear plugs make for a complete and stress-free sleeping experience.
- One side support only
Provides: Chin, Neck and head support
Type: Polyester Fiber filling
A key feature that we love about the J-Pillow, is that you can pop it into the washing machine and it’s just fine. This is a super hygienic option for those who accidentally drool on airplanes in their sleep.
A minor drawback is that it can be a bit hard to carry at times, despite its light weight. If you are someone who sleeps pretty still, and is comfortable with leaning on one side for a long duration of time, then this solution is ideal for you. If you move around a lot, then you might have to pick up the j-Pillow and shift it to the other side.
This design is probably more suited for short flights, car drives and for reading on the couch comfortably. The chin support also ensures your head doesn’t fall forward a lot.
6. Daydreamer Neck Pillow
- The valve quality could be better
- Many users reported inflation & deflation issues over time
Provides: Neck Pillow
One of the best inflatable travel pillows in the market. We were pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of this U-Shaped inflatable design. It is an extremely soft pillow that offers great relief for neck pain. The characteristic we loved the most, is that you can inflate and deflate this with a simple push of a button.
You can wear the pillow the entire time, and inflate it from scratch in about 45 seconds. You can adjust the firmness by deflating the pillow, based on your preference. It weighs a mere 8.8 ounces and rests blissfully on one’s neck.
It comes with an ultra-soft micro velvet cover, which can be machine washed, as well as a compact pack sack.
7. Therm-a-rest Lumbar Travel Pillow
- The valve may loosen after frequent use
Provides: Back Support
This Therm-a-rest pillow is great if you are looking for some basic lumbar support during your travels. Its made from Polyester and is also self-inflating.
We'd like to reiterate that the lumbar support on offer is basic but effective in most cases. The pillow is slightly larger than it looks and can be used in a variety of scenarios like at work, on an airplane or even on a bus. This is something we particularly liked.
One issue that some users noted was that if you used frequently for many months the valve starts to let out some air which can affect how firm it is. The majority including us were quite happy that the firmness level could be adjusted. It is reasonably compact but doesn't come with a pouch as such.
8. JML 3 in 1 Travel Pillow
- Some users had some confusion switching between the styles
Provides: Neck (primarily) & back support
It's not often you find a versatile travel pillow that actually works and the JML is one of those exceptions for sure. We found this 3 in 1 pillow to be compact & quite comfortable as well.
Typically microbead options dont tend to provide good support but this one is a good exception. The neck pillow is soft yet firm and the square pillow is much harder which bodes well for providing a decent level of back support. Its all about levels however as if you are in need of basic level back support this serves you fine. You can very easily attach it to your carry-on or your backpack during your travels.
What some users had some confusion with is the way the pillow transforms into its different shapes. The U always changes into the square pillow before you can roll it up. So essentially you can transform it from the bolster to the cushion pillow & then the travel pillow. This is definitely not a major con in our eyes and just a minor hiccup for some initial users.
9. Travel Rest – Ergonomic Neck pillow
- The positioning proved to be quite awkward for a lot of people
- Your head can flop forward due to its shape
Provides: Full lateral support
Type: Inflatable, Memory Foam
Attention Side sleepers! This one is the pillow for you. As far as inflatable travel pillows go, this option sets the bar pretty high.
The Travelrest is one of our favorites among the best travel pillow options available. We like the idea that a person can use this pillow however they like. You can deflate the pillow easily so that it conforms to your liking. A great/ hug-able solution for folks who love to have a nap in the flight, cars, trains, wheelchairs, or even an office chair.
It’s highly portable too, and barely a quarter of the size when deflated. Natural alignment and posture are important when sleeping, and the ergonomic design prevents your head from falling forward. Luxurious cover Add-ons are available too.
10. Inflatable Travel pillow by Simptech
- Can be very uncomfortable for tall people
- Not the softest out there
Provides: Head & Neck Support
Type: PVC flocking material, Inflatable
This pillow is one for the huggers. Also if you like a pillow that can be used in multiple ways and is not just some thin blanket which you can roll and place on your back then this is a super option.
Its pretty common for us to what to use the phone to read something when we are on a bus or on a flight. Normally to read you have to strain your neck and this pillow helps you overcome that. The build is also quite good for something so light and we've seen no air escaping when we tried it out. Many other users also reported this to be their favored option over traditional U shaped pillows.
If you are tall, however, it might better to look elsewhere as you might have to hunch forward to rest your head which in turn can cause back issues.
11. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
- Not as versatile as some of the other options
- Not very good for use on flights
Type: Foam filling
If you are in search for a simple solution for the great outdoors then the Therm-a-rest Compressible pillow will serve you well. It's as simple as it gets in terms of design and filling but it is extremely compact and can be transported pretty easily. If you are used to sleeping on the side then this might not provide the necessary support when traveling.
For beginner backpackers, this travel pillow is more than enough. Some users did mention that the pillow doesn't fluff up or can be quite lumpy at times as well. The pillow does come in 4 sizes and we recommend purchasing one of the 2 larger sizes for adults. The pillow is completely fine after repeated machine washes and does retain its softness this is something that other owners mentioned as well.
12. The Ostrich Pillow by Studio Banana Things
- A bit pricey
- Can’t be machine washed or dried
Type: Flexible fabric with micro balls.
The wacky, yet surprisingly comfortable ostrich pillow is perfect if you want to disconnect from your surroundings.
It’s suitable for people older than 16 years of age. An opening is provided for ventilation near the mouth. The micro balls make for an amazingly comfortable experience.
13. Kinder Fluff - For Kids
- Does not provide any lateral support when traveling
- Can easily slide down on airplanes
Type: Polyester cluster fiber interior / 100 % cotton exterior
Safety and comfort are often at the top of the list when we look for a pillow for our kids, and the Kinder Fluff delivers both. Since the pillow is not treated with any chemicals used in processing regular cotton, it is a healthy option for children.
The fibrous interior ensures that the pillow is not too fluffy or flat, and maintains a nice balance.
The product weighs a mere 6.4 ounces. The dimensions are 18x3x13 inches, and it can be taken on board a plane, placed in the crib or used in the back seat of a car. This pillow is awesome for toddlers who like to roll around and sleep in multiple positions. The fabric is extremely soft and silky too! Your kids will love it.
14. Disney's Frozen - Kids Travel Pillow
- Only partly machine washable
Provides: Neck support for kids
Type: Microfiber/ Polyester (based on the design)
A fun neck pillow for children to wear on long trips. Can be used easily in cars so that your children can cosy up whenever they want to.
The dimensions are 14x10x1 inches. This makes it quite easy to carry around. Overall, a super cute design that we are sure fans of frozen will love.
- Doesn't work well when you have headphones
- It's quite small around the neck
Provides: Neck Assistance
A cheap inflatable pillow for those looking to sleep peacefully during their travels. The hoodie is made from 80% cotton and 20% polyester and offers some privacy to the wearer.
The adjustable strings come in really handy when head sizes differ. We didn’t much like the fact that we needed to manually blow to inflate the pillow. The HoodiePillow offers amazing value for money and is appropriate for people who are okay with their neck bending by small amounts.
Factors to consider when buying the best travel pillows for neck support & more
Whilst the level of firmness or even how soft a pillow is can be subjective there are many other traits that are pretty black & white in terms of what you need to look for. We’ve covered many of the factors like shapes, fabric, weight, supplementary things like sleep masks & ear plugs and the likes that you need to look for.
Difference between inflatable & other travel pillows
Picking between an inflatable & a non-inflatable option (like memory foam pillows) can be a tough choice for any traveler due to the trade-offs involved.
Memory foam options can conform to the characteristics of the user and provide a very comfortable experience. Inflatable pillows, on the other hand, are a bit limited in this regard. That’s not to say inflatable options are outright uncomfortable. Inflatable travel pillows where you can adjust the level of firmness are great to have.
The major advantage that inflatables have is that they are highly portable. You can simply remove the air and carry them wherever you go, unlike some of their bulky memory foam counterparts.
Q: If you were to choose, what would you pick?
A: We prefer non-inflatable options as comfort is absolutely essential for us. Plus the valve mechanisms on some inflatable options can be shakey. If air leaks when you sleep these can be ineffective to downright uncomfortable. Again, we need to stress that these can be subjective & dependent on the pillows quality.
Size & Weight: Comfort & portability are the two key areas that are affected by the size and weight of each pillow. Most pillows on our list are very light and do not cause any discomfort to the neck. A light pillow is also highly portable. Most pillows are around the 5 to 8-ounce mark which offers a nice balance.
A heavier pillow can be a burden on the shoulder and can cause pain & irritation which can, in turn, disrupt sleep. Even if some traditional u-shaped options are not fold-able, their lightweight ensures they can simply be snapped onto your backpack or suitcase when traveling. The ability to cater to a wide variety of sleeping positions was very important to us
If you are buying a travel pillow for your kids, BCOZZY has a variant just for children. Traditional U-shaped options usually work well for kids too.
Shapes: The shape more or less dictates the support on offer. If you are looking for something more than just neck support then opt for the travel rest or the J-Pillow. There are many different pillow shapes arriving yearly with significant advances made to ensure you have the most ergonomically sound product out there.
The traditional U-shaped neck pillow is still in but modifications like the ones seen in the BCozzy and microbead travel pillow offer great chin and head support. This is in addition to the neck support traditional U-Shapes offers. If you are unsure and are looking for a very simple option then pillows like the Therm-a-rest is great.
It’s important to keep in mind that you or more or less operating in tight spaces and you need an option that comforts you without depriving you too much of the limited space around you.
Q: Performance wise what characteristics should I be looking for?
A: The characteristics sometimes depend on whether you are after neck or back support mainly but there are some common traits you need to watch for.
Firstly, it should be soft on the exterior but should be firm enough to support your head/ neck & maintain the alignment with your spine. Back support pillows generally should be firmer than neck pillows but not overdo it. The pillow shouldn’t trap too much heat as well. Sometimes a pillow can be incredibly soft but can trap heat this is one of the reasons why some options are lower on our list despite being incredibly soft. It’s quite well known that people tend to fall asleep easier with a lower body temperature.
Also its pretty important to set realistic expectations with any travel pillows. Some folks tend to fall asleep in any environment, however noisy or uncomfortable it may be. For many others this is difficult. That’s where these options come in and provide comfort to help you eek out at least a few hours of good sleep in such environments. Will the replicate the same feel of the pillow on your bed? In many cases, this is highly unlikely no matter how good the design but it can definitely help you gain a precious few hours on the train or flight before you start your adventures or even head to a business meeting.
Fabric & Filling: The most commonly associated filling is either Air (Inflatable), Memory Foam, Polyester Fiber or Microbead. Pillows like the Trtl also use Fleece to maintain warmth. You need to be wary of the fabric to ensure the pillow offers the best temperature setting. You wouldn’t want to sweat throughout a light just to support your neck or chin. The inflatable options are usually the cheapest, the memory foam is usually more expensive and more comfortable at the same time.
The microbead pillows tend not to be extremely sturdy which can affect the quality of support provided. The exterior is usually Microfiber, a polyester blend or sometimes even silk. Choose an option that is most appropriate factoring in the temperature around you since these pillows might have to cover for you on a plane or on a humid bus ride through the middle of nowhere.
Q: I already have one but the surface is not something I am happy with is there anything I can do?
A: Pillow covers sometimes help augment the experience. Try to get a cover with a surface to your liking before you decide to ditch the option you already have.
Q: Can travel pillows be the cause of back or neck pain?
A: This is definitely a possibility. If a pillow doesn’t fit you properly or loses its structural integrity while you sleep, it can cause pain rather than stopping it. How breathable a pillow cover is, can also play a role in whether you experience any discomfort or not.
Durability: This is a key factor for most buyers to consider and more often than not it refers to how the pillow survives a machine wash if indeed the pillow allows for one. The pillows we have chosen don’t start coming apart and the fabric does not roughen up after wash. Pillows like the Trtl tend to feel even softer and this is a trait that is much desired. Another common issue is that the fabric can let go at the seams which can be a pain.
The inflation mechanism is something that’s key in determining how long your pillow lasts. We highly valued options that were self-inflatable & ones where you can adjust the level of firmness. Its quite common to read complaints about a pillow losing air over the course of an hour, for example. The ability of the pillow to retain air was very important to us. Read as many reviews as you can carefully to ensure that your back or neck pillow is not plagued by this issue.