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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.
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The Ergonomic Travel Neck Pillow from Cushion Lab is a standout product for a few reasons. The pillow’s core is made up of solid Hyperfoam memory foam, a dense material that conforms evenly and precisely around the head and neck. Designed to provide 360 degrees of neck support, this pillow is ideal for people who tend to tilt their heads while sleeping upright, as well as anyone who experiences neck pain during their travels.
The cover is made from a recycled blend of polyester and rayon that delivers consistent cooling and won’t absorb too much heat. You can unzip and remove the cover whenever it needs to be cleaned, as it may be washed and dried in any household machine, but the foam should only be spot cleaned if necessary.
Cushion Lab offers two sizing options for the pillow. The medium size is best suited to people who stand 5 feet 7 inches or shorter, while the large size is optimal for taller people or anyone looking for more neck support. You can also choose a grey or blue color. The pillow can be compressed to a very compact size, allowing it to fit inside any travel bag or suitcase.
The Ergonomic Travel Pillow is reasonably priced and Cushion Lab will ship it for free anywhere within the contiguous U.S. You may return or exchange the pillow within 30 days of your original purchase.
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Sleep Number’s reputation for stellar products goes well beyond the company’s mattress line. Take the U-Neck Pillow, a luxurious take on the quintessential travel pillow. The fill consists of down alternative fibers that mimic the plush, lofty feel of real down without absorbing heat or triggering allergy symptoms. The composition should also appeal to anyone who refuses or prefers not to buy animal-derived products. A smooth microfiber cover encases the fill. The fabric is easy on sensitive skin, and also sleeps fairly cool.
The U-shape allows you to sleep comfortably while sitting upright, whether you’re flying, traveling by train, or riding in the backseat during a long road trip. A medium soft feel ensures comfortable cushioning for the head and neck, but the pillow’s 4-inch profile should prevent uncomfortable bobbing while you doze. A removable insert allows you to wash and dry the cover without damaging the fill, which may be necessary to keep the pillow hygienic after a long journey.
The price-point is very reasonably priced, even by travel pillow standards. Sleep Number also provides free ground shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. You’ll receive a 30-night sleep trial with your order, as well as a 1-year warranty should you decide to keep the pillow.
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The Sleep Artisan Natural Latex Travel Pillow contains a plush blend of shredded latex and poly-silk down alternative clusters, which provide a comfortable balance of cushioning and support for your head and neck. The pillow also features a recessed shape for excellent pain and pressure relief when you’re sleeping upright.
You can add or remove the fill to adjust the pillow’s loft and overall feel, making this pillow highly customizable for different sleep settings during your trips. Sleep Artisan will replenish your supply free of charge whenever you run out. The latex and down alternative fibers also allow the pillow to sleep cool in most environments, as does the breathable cover made from a blend of organic cotton, hemp and polyester.
The cover can be removed and washed in any household machine, but you should avoid laundering the fill. The fill is naturally hypoallergenic, and should also resist dust mites and other allergens over time.
Given the Natural Latex Travel Pillow’s premium materials and high-quality construction, its sticker price is very approachable. Sleep Artisan also provides free delivery for all orders, including new fill shipments. The pillow comes with a 30-night sleep trial, which allows you to return it for a full refund even if you’ve used it, and you’ll also receive a three-year warranty with your purchase.
Best for Neck Pain
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The Coop Home Goods Travel and Camping Pillow is a small and lightweight model that uses shredded memory foam and microfiber to offer ample pressure relief and support to sleepers with neck pain. This pillow is a miniature version of the Coop Home Goods Original Pillow, making it a great choice for travelers who want an adventure-ready pillow that offers the same level of comfort and support as a standard pillow.
The pillow has a medium firm level of support that is designed to keep the head and neck in healthy alignment. The memory foam and microfiber fill conforms gently to the body, allowing the muscles in the neck and shoulders to relax. Sleepers who experience tension or pain in their neck will likely enjoy this pillow’s above-average pressure relief. The pillow is also suitable for side and back sleepers, who require a balance of support and contouring. Sleepers may add or remove fill to adjust the loft to an ideal height.
The pillow measures 13 inches by 19 inches but is capable of compressing down to 6 inches by 10 inches, allowing it to fit into a water-resistant nylon travel sack. The pillow and sack together weigh just 36 ounces. Both the pillowcase and the removable pillow cover can be machine washed in cold water, which may come in handy for pillows that accumulate dirt during travel.
The Travel and Camping Pillow has certifications from GREENGUARD Gold and CertiPUR-US, meaning that the pillow has been tested for the presence of harmful substances and releases few volatile organic compounds. Coop Home Goods offers free shipping to addresses in the contiguous United States for orders over $100. Pillows may be returned for free within 100 days.
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Avocado specializes in mattresses, pillows, and other sleep products made from sustainably sourced materials. Even the brand’s travel pillow – dubbed the Mini Pillow – follows this trend with eco-friendly components inside and out. The fill is a blend of shredded, GOLS-certified organic latex and fibers from the kapok tree. The latex conforms and is lightly responsive, while the kapok fibers carry the indelible softness of natural down. Together, these materials create a feel that cushions and supports in equal measure.
The fill is also removable, allowing you to achieve your preferred pillow loft. Avocado supplies each customer with a half-pound bag of additional fill if you prefer travel pillows at full volume, or in case your original fill becomes damaged and you need a replenishment. A cover of GOTS-certified organic cotton encases the pillow. All of the materials are known for their natural breathability, so the pillow should sleep quite cool no matter where you’re headed.
The cover can be washed and dried in machines, but you should avoid laundering the fill. Avocado offers free shipping to customers in all 50 states. Each purchase is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a 1-year warranty against structural defects.
Best for Camping
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The innovative Hest Pillow is engineered for outdoor use. The reversible construction consists of an outer shell made of tough nylon twill with polyurethane backing that resists stains, cuts, and general wear and tear. Unzip the shell and turn the design inside out to access the pillow, which contains a blend of shredded memory foam and polyester fibers. Secure the zipper and the pillow takes full shape, offering 8 inches of luxurious cushioning wherever you rest your head.
Since the pillow is quite lightweight – 2.2 pounds in all – and compact when the shell is on the outside, making it the perfect accessory for car camping or long road trips. You can also adjust the loft by adding or removing the fill to avoid neck and shoulder aches when sleeping on uneven terrain. The cover is machine-washable, so you’ll be able to clean the pillow between treks.
The pillow is quite reasonably priced considering how practical and innovative it is. Shipping rates are also low for all customers in the U.S. Your order comes with a trial period that spans 100 nights in length, and Hest will accept returns even if the pillow has been used.
Best Inflatable Pillow
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Inflatable travel pillows get a bad rap for losing air and becoming uncomfortable during the night, but the PineTales Self Inflatable Travel Pillow is one of the major exceptions. A leak-free valve attached to the inner chamber prevents air from escaping, which allows the pillow to remain fully inflated throughout the night.
Another criticism about air pillows is lack of support and added neck pain. The pillow remedies this problem thanks to an ergonomic shape that cradles the head and neck without causing issues with spinal alignment. A thin layer of fiber padding creates some cushioning, as well.
Since the pillow is self-inflating, you won’t need to pack an air pump or any other accessories when you travel. The pillow weighs half a pound when deflated and is quite compact, allowing it to easily fit inside your luggage without taking up too much space. Your purchase includes a complimentary carrying bag that shares the pillow’s eye-catching pattern.
The Self Inflating Travel Pillow is reasonably priced given its nifty design and PineTales will ship it for free anywhere in the contiguous U.S. If you decide the pillow isn’t right for you, the company accepts returns within 45 days of your original order.
Best for Side Sleepers
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Simple yet innovative, the Pillow Cube Classic 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 Classic 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 Classic 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 Classic comes at a lower-than average price point, despite the high-quality memory foam inside. Pillow Cube offers a 30-day return policy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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