Sleepfoundation.org is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

author

Written by

Daniel Noyed

Sleepfoundation.org is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

When you’re traveling, sleeping en route may seem like the perfect way to arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go. Unfortunately, aches and pains may be the unforeseen consequences of a convenient snooze. Different pressure points may develop when you sleep upright than when you lie down. Many individuals also slump over or bend their necks when sleeping in a sitting position, putting their spines out of alignment.

Travel pillows can be one of the best solutions to get some sleep on the go while limiting the discomfort often associated with sleeping upright. These pillows are typically smaller than bed pillows and tuck behind or around the neck, filling the space between the neck and the headrest while keeping the neck from bending too far.

There are many different types of travel pillows on the market to fit virtually any traveler’s needs and preferences. Below, we’ll detail the most important factors to consider when selecting a travel pillow and share some of our favorite picks.

The Best Travel Pillows

Product Details

Trtl Travel Trtl Pillow Plus

Trtl Travel Trtl Pillow Plus
Fill:
Polyfoam
Firmness:
Firm
Trtl Travel Trtl Pillow Plus
Highlights:

The Trtl Travel Trtl Pillow Plus’s adjustable design and flexible inner support system can promote better alignment for people of different heights.

Who it's best for:
  • Head tilters
  • People who are shorter or taller than average
  • Travelers without a lot of extra room in their luggage

Thanks to its compact design and adjustability, the Trtl Travel Trtl Pillow Plus balances convenience and comfort. This makes it an excellent match for many travelers.

The Trtle Pillow Plus is a wrap-style pillow with unique features. While most travel pillows are one-size-fits-all, the Trtl Pillow Plus can be adjusted to fit the owner. Toggles make it easy to increase or decrease the height of the pillow based on the length of your neck and your personal preferences, and a flexible inner structure gives ergonomic support for the neck.

Microfleece fabric on the interior gives the pillow a soft, fuzzy feel, while mesh panels allow ample airflow to help keep the pillow cool and comfortable. The outside of the pillow is gray, and buyers can select between three color options for the inner fabric: blue, black, and pink. Memory foam padding within the pillow adds cushioning and contouring.

Each pillow has a compact design and packs into a water-resistant carrying bag. The pillow itself weighs less than 9 ounces for easy transport. It is also machine washable.

The Trtl Pillow Plus ships free within the contiguous United States. Trtl has a 30-day return policy for purchases directly through the company’s website.

Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3

Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3
Fill:
Solid memory foam
Firmness:
Medium Soft
Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3
Highlights:

The Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3 has a patented Seat Strap System to fasten the pillow to your headrest to help keep your neck straight.

Who it's best for:
  • Travelers looking for exceptional support
  • Those who prefer a u-shaped design but don’t want the pillow to take up a lot of space in their luggage
  • Shoppers looking for unique color options

The Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3 pairs next-level neck support with stylish designs for the ultimate combination of fashion and function.

A memory foam core shapes to the traveler’s neck while supporting their natural alignment. The Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3 has a patented Seat Strap System that attaches the pillow to the headrest to prevent slumping and tilting. An adjustable clasp on the pillow also allows the user to secure the pillow on their neck.

Currently, the Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3 comes in three distinct colors: pink crushed velvet, blue glitter, and holographic silver. New limited-edition style options come out each season.

The polyester cover is removable and washable for easy cleaning. Each pillow can be rolled into its carrying bag for transport. Once packed, it measures 6 inches by 5 inches.

The Cabeau Colorways Evolution S3 comes with a 2-year limited warranty and a 30-day return policy. Cabeau offers free shipping within the contiguous United States for orders over $65.

Travelrest Inflatable Pillow

Travelrest Inflatable Pillow
Fill:
Inflatable
Firmness:
Firm
Travelrest Inflatable Pillow
Highlights:

The Travelrest Inflatable Pillow is a versatile option that can be attached to an airplane seat, secured to a car headrest, or worn across the body so that travelers can use it for any kind of travel.

Who it's best for:
  • Travelers looking for a versatile option
  • Those who prefer an inflatable pillow
  • Shoppers on a budget

While most travel pillows wrap around the neck, the Travelrest Inflatable Pillow goes across the body. This innovative approach gives travelers multiple options for how to use their pillow. Using its cord, the pillow can attach to an airline seat, a car headrest, or be worn like a messenger bag.

This inflatable pillow takes just a few puffs of air to inflate, and it also deflates quickly and easily. Once deflated and rolled up, the pillow can compress to 3 inches by 10 inches. Travelers can then attach the pillow to their luggage for easy access.

The Travelrest Inflatable Pillow comes in five color options: blue, navy, red, gray, and moss. It can be hand washed with soapy water, but take care to keep water out of the air valve.

Travelrest also produces a microfleece pillowcase that’s available for an extra charge. This case softens the surface of the pillow with its smooth-to-the-touch feel and memory foam cushioning.

Unused Travelrest items may be eligible for a 30-day return policy, while defective pillows are covered under a 180-day warranty.

Bedgear Ver-Tex Travel Pillow

Bedgear Ver-Tex Travel Pillow
Fill:
Solid polyfoam
Firmness:
Medium Firm
Bedgear Ver-Tex Travel Pillow
Highlights:

The Bedgear Ver-Tex Travel Pillow is a compact, lightweight option that can provide support without taking up much room in your luggage.

Who it's best for:
  • People who want a versatile pillow
  • Those who tend to overheat when they travel
  • Travelers concerned with saving luggage space

The Bedgear Ver-Tex Travel Pillow is compact and lightweight, making it an excellent choice for travelers who don’t have any room to spare in their luggage.

Given its hourglass shape, the Ver-Tex Travel Pillow can fit comfortably behind the neck, back, or knees depending on your unique needs and preferences. Some owners may also choose to use it in bed due to its versatile shape. The pillow’s soft fill gives contouring, cushioning, and support regardless of how you choose to use it. It is also designed to wick away moisture and allow air to circulate to help keep the traveler cool and dry.

A removable, machine washable cover encases the pillow, and an accompanying case makes packing easier.

Shipping is free within the 48 contiguous United States, and there’s a 30-day return window. The pillow is protected by a 1-year limited warranty.

Pillow Cube

Pillow Cube
Fill:
Charcoal-infused solid memory foam
Firmness
Medium
Pillow Cube
Highlights:

Designed for side sleepers, the unique Pillow Cube is a solid memory foam pillow with multiple loft options.

Who it's best for:
  • Side Sleepers
  • People who experience pain issues in their neck and shoulders
  • Fans of close-conforming memory foam pillows

Simple yet innovative, the Pillow Cube is a small, cube-shaped pillow made of charcoal-infused memory foam. Since your head and shoulders make something resembling a right angle when you sleep on your side, a cube is an ideal pillow shape for side sleepers. The Pillow Cube comes in two loft sizes: five, and six inches — with the taller version recommended for those with broad shoulders and larger heads.

The inner fill of the Pillow Cube consists of a block of memory foam. This foam is infused with charcoal, which helps prevent it from retaining as much of body heat throughout the night. It features a quilted cover and comes with a breathable, bamboo pillow case. The 12” size pictured here is ideal as a travel pillow and for some beds, but the 28” version is probably more practical for a bedroom.

While this unique pillow works great for side sleepers, stomach and back sleepers probably want to opt for a more traditional pillow. The Cube comes at a lower-than average price point, despite the high-quality memory foam inside. Pillow Cube offers a 30-day return policy.

What is a Travel Pillow?

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 journeys, 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.

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.

How to Choose a Travel Pillow

All travel pillows aim to make your travels more comfortable, but there are still many differences between models. Understanding the factors that differentiate one travel pillow from another can help you select the best travel pillow for your needs, preferences, and planned uses.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Travel Pillow

Below, we’ll detail some of the top criteria customers should use to assess a travel pillow. Each factor has implications for the pillow’s comfort and convenience, but individual shoppers will prioritize some features more than others based on their unique needs and preferences. While some travel pillow manufacturers may imply that their pillow is suitable for all travelers, the ideal option for you is going to depend on your personal travel needs.

Size
For travelers, the size of the pillow is important to take into account for packing. Small or compressible pillows tend to be easier to pack. However, some individuals prefer larger pillows for extra cushioning.

Shape
Many people immediately picture the classic u-shaped travel pillow that wraps around the neck, but travel pillows come in several different shapes. The shape can affect the pillow’s performance, versatility, and ease of packing. We’ll discuss the most common pillow shapes in more detail below.

Portability
Travel pillow manufacturers typically engineer their products with portability in mind. Many travel pillows come with a carrying bag to keep the pillow clean and contained. Pillows and their bags also frequently have cords so that they can be easily affixed to the outside of a suitcase for convenient access.

Weight
Even the heaviest travel pillows probably won’t seem particularly weighty when you first purchase them. However, when you’re lugging your bags from destination to destination, that extra weight may seem more impactful. Considering the weight of the travel pillow before making your purchase can help shave off a few valuable ounces off the total weight of your luggage. While this might seem insignificant to some, avid travelers and backpackers frequently pay attention to any additional weight.

Firmness Level
Firmness level can affect the comfort and supportiveness of a travel pillow. Unfortunately, most manufacturers do not indicate the firmness of their travel pillows, so customers are left to guess. The construction of the pillow can give you some hints. Inflatable pillows are typically firm when fully inflated, but they can be filled with less air for a softer feel. Memory foam and polyfoam pillows generally balance softness and support. Fiber-filled and microbead pillows usually have a softer, cushier feel.

Inflatable vs. Not Inflatable
Both inflatable and non-inflatable pillows have distinct potential benefits. Inflatable pillows can be deflated so that they take up very little room in your luggage. The inflatablity also lets travelers adjust the air level to modify the feel of the pillow. Non-inflatable pillows come in a wider array of materials, which may make it easier for shoppers to find options that are comfortable for them. However, they are usually bulkier.

Price
Like most sleep products, travel pillows vary widely in price based on their construction, materials, and quality. Budget-friendly options start at around $10, while luxury options can cost over $100. Either option may be suitable, but lower-quality pillows may not last as long or provide as much support.

Quality Materials
Material quality is often directly tied to a pillow’s performance, price, and durability. High-quality materials typically provide more support and last longer, but customers usually pay a higher price upfront. Lower-quality options tend to be more affordable, but they may break down more quickly under the rigors of travel. Ultimately, either option could be a better value depending on your needs and goals.

Temperature Regulation
The climates of airplanes and cars can be quite inconsistent, making strong temperature regulation that much more important. Many travel pillows have special cooling features, like breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics, to help keep the pillow from trapping excessive heat. However, some pillows use memory foam, which is typically more prone to heat retention.

Who Should Use a Travel Pillow?

Because travel pillows are so versatile, virtually anyone may benefit from using one. They are particularly popular with travelers, campers, and backpackers, but most people could find an opportunity to use one even if they don’t leave their homes.

Plane Travel: During long flights, sleeping may be one of the best ways to pass the time. Unfortunately, slumping over in your seat could also put a strain on your neck and leave you with aches and pains. Frequent fliers often look for a travel pillow with exceptional neck support to keep their neck relatively straight even if they fall asleep. A lightweight, compact design may simplify packing, but it isn’t always essential since many air travelers strap their pillow to the outside of their suitcases.

Car Travel: Car headrests are usually engineered for safety in case of accidents, so they aren’t always comfortable. Using a travel pillow can add support and cushioning on a long road trip. Passengers’ travel pillow choices for riding in a car may vary more based on their personal preferences.

Camping: Campers often use travel pillows to rest their heads on at night. Because of this, they generally look for an hourglass or a rectangular travel pillow with enough cushioning to comfortably cradle their head and neck. Weight and size may also be worth considering, especially if there is a hike to the campsite.

Backpacking: Like campers, backpackers frequently use travel pillows at night. Because of this, they’ll typically select a small rectangular or hourglass pillow that balances softness and support. The size and weight of the travel pillow tend to be high priorities for backpackers since they’ll be carrying it around with them.

Sleepovers: A rectangular or hourglass pillow can be a wonderful solution for kids’ sleepovers. They’re less bulky than conventional bed pillows, and they’re usually easier to clean. Since kids will need a pillow to sleep on, a travel pillow should be both cushioning and supportive.

What Types of Travel Pillows Are Available?

In this section, we’ll detail popular styles and materials of travel pillows. While these are some of the most common options, you may also find other selections that do not fall into an existing category.

Styles

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, but the shape often makes them more difficult to pack and store.

Wrap
Wrap style pillows work like a scarf, wrapping closely around the neck while built-in support helps prevent the head from tilting excessively. Since they’re less bulky than most u-shaped pillows, they are also usually quite compact and lightweight.

J-Shape
The j-shaped travel pillow is relatively new. It traditionally goes across the front of the body and loops over one shoulder, allowing the traveler to prop up their head to rest. However, their unique shape often makes them bulkier to pack.

Hourglass
Most travel pillows are built for neck support, but the hourglass pillow is more versatile. While you can tuck it under your neck on a plane, you might also use it beneath your back or knees while you’re at home. The main potential drawback is that it doesn’t provide the multi-directional neck support of many travel pillows, so you may still inadvertently tilt your head.

Rectangular
Rectangular travel pillows look more like the traditional bed pillow that you’re familiar with, but there are some key differences. They are built for travel, so they are usually compact and lightweight. A rectangular travel pillow may be a good option for campers, RVers, and backpackers, but they usually aren’t ideal for plane or car travel since your head may still tilt to the side.

Materials

Inflatable
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
Memory foam travel pillows adjust to the individual’s shape to support their neck. While memory foam is popular for its exceptional contouring and cushioning, it is also more prone to heat retention than some materials.

Polyfoam
Like memory foam, polyfoam molds to the traveler’s body. Its open cell structure makes polyfoam more breathable than most memory foam, but lower-density polyfoams also tend to be less durable.

Inflatable Non-Inflatable
Pros
  • Portability. Once deflated, inflatable pillows can usually fit in a small space for easy packing.
  • Adjustability. The traveler can empty or fill the air chamber to change the feel of the pillow.
  • Affordability. Inflatable pillows are usually some of the most budget-friendly travel pillows on the market.
  • Comfort. Non-inflatable pillows use a wider variety of materials, so many people can find an option they feel is more comfortable than an inflatable pillow.
  • More variety. There’s a wide range of different shapes, styles, and lofts for non-inflatable pillows, giving customers more options to fit their preferences.
Cons
  • Potential air loss. Over time, air may seep out of some inflatable pillows.
  • Durability. If the air chamber is torn or punctured, an inflatable pillow will no longer provide much, if any, cushioning.
  • Portability. While many non-inflatable travel pillows are designed to fit in a small space, they’re still often bulkier than a deflated inflatable pillow.
  • Price. Many non-inflatable pillows have a higher price tag than their inflatable counterparts.

Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Pillows

What style of travel pillow is best for specific types of travel?

The best type of travel pillow will depend on the type of travel as well as how you intend to use the pillow. Backpackers and campers who plan to use their travel pillow for sleeping while lying down will typically prefer a rectangular or an hourglass pillow. Travelers looking for a pillow to support their neck while they sleep upright on a plane or in a car may want to go with a u-shaped, wrap, or j-shaped pillow.

How much do travel pillows cost?

Travel pillows can vary from under $10 to over $100. This price is determined largely by their quality, materials, and construction.

How do I clean a travel pillow?

Most travel pillow manufacturers provide cleaning instructions. It’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in order to preserve the life expectancy of your pillow. Many travel pillows have removable, machine-washable covers. Their interiors usually aren’t machine-washable, but they can often be spot cleaned.

Where can I buy a travel pillow?

You can buy travel pillows through manufacturer websites, at department stores, and online marketplaces. Travel pillows are popular and widely available, so you should be able to find one at most stores that sell home goods, travel accessories, and/or sleep products.

How long do travel pillows last?

The life expectancy of your travel pillow will vary based on its quality and how well you care for it. A high-quality, well-maintained travel pillow could last for several years. However, the wear and tear of travel may shorten a pillow’s lifespan, particularly for models that do not stow away in luggage.

Are travel pillows adjustable?

Some travel pillows are adjustable to an extent. Inflatable pillows can be adjusted by filling or emptying the air chambers, thus altering their firmness. Many travel pillows also have adjustable neck closures.