best travel pillow

7 Best Travel Pillows for Peaceful Sleep on Flights (2020)

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Tired of aching necks and burning back pain on flights? Fed up with using the bog-standard pillows handed out by flight attendants? Fear not, as there’s a travel pillow for everyone on the market.

Quick Picks

Don’t have time to read through? Not a problem. We have seven pillows in all to pick from. Whether you’re a side sleeper, need extensive neck support, or want something lightweight, use our quick picks to get you to the pillow that best serves your needs.

Best Overall Travel PillowCabeau Evolution S3 Travel Pillow
Best Inflatable Travel PillowUrophylla Inflatable Travel Pillow
Best Pillow for Front SleepersSunany Inflatable Neck Pillow
Best J-Shaped Travel PillowJ-Pillow Travel Pillow
Best Versatile Travel PillowDot&Dot Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow
Best Microbead Travel PillowCloudz Dual Comfort Microbead Travel Pillow
Best Lightweight Travel PillowOstrich Light Travel Pillow

7 Best Travel Pillows – In-Depth Breakdown

best travel pillow
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With a range of comfortable materials and thoughtful designs to choose from, travel pillows are a far cry from your basic bedroom pillow. Different designs cater to different types of sleepers. This allows you to choose a travel pillow that’s just right for you. Together, we’re going to take an in-depth look at seven of the best travel pillows money can buy.

If you’re keen to learn more about each pillow, we’ve broken each down into three important categories:

Shape and Design – The kicker. Some people like to sleep face down. Others prefer resting their head to the side. A fortunate few can sleep in any position. Picking a design that works for you is critical in making sure you can sleep peacefully on any flight.

Materials – Knowing what a pillow is made from is also important in making the right decision. Whether you purr at the feel of velvet, or rejoice as you sink into microbead, we’ll breakdown the composition of each pillow for you.

Ideal For – Lastly, we’ll identify the type of traveler that would benefit most from this pillow. A backpacker living out of a carry-on is not going to want to lug a large pillow across the landscape with them. On the contrary, a business traveler on a long-haul flight would happily travel with a large pillow if it helped them sleep.

So, without any further ado, let’s delve into the dreamy world of travel pillows and take a closer look at our best seven picks.

Best Overall Travel Pillow

1 – Cabeau Evolution S3 Travel Pillow

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Shape and Design

Cabeau’s landmark design is not only the result of detailed sleep studies, its back-strap feature has also been patented. Using the strap, you can hold the headrest upright by attaching it to the back of your seat.

Not only does this keep you upright, but it also gives you excellent support on all sides. No longer do you need to worry about your heading dropping to the front or side when you fall asleep, waking you up in the process.

Its U-design shape also has an opening at the front. This is to allow blood to travel from your body to your neck effectively. Other pillows that wrap too tightly at the front can restrict blood flow, which can lead to overheating and sweat breakouts. The adjustable pull chord at the front allows you to adjust the arms to the right position.

Cabeau’s ground-breaking design has been a game-changer in the industry. For an expert design crafted by science, you’ll struggle to find better elsewhere.

Materials

The body of the pillow is made from responsive memory foam. This stops any friction or discomfort against your neck and jawline, while maintaining the necessary support. It’s very soft and soothing against the skin.

To combat overheating, the pillow comes with a 100% polyester cover. Not only does this cooling layer add to the softness, but the fabric is also moisture-wicking. This will keep your neck and jaw both cool and dry, while also eliminating any odor and bacteria.

The cover is fully machine washable, so you can make sure your travel pillow is clean and fresh before every trip you take.

Ideal for

Anyone who struggles badly to sleep on flights. Cabeau really has pulled out all the stops, using science to create a product that tackles all the issues with posture and temperature head-on.

Naturally, it’s a larger travel pillow. The excellent carry-case, however, does half the total capacity. If you’re happy to accommodate a little extra space for it, this is an excellent choice for anyone who struggles with pain, soreness, sweating, and really struggles to fall asleep in an uncomfortable environment.

ProsCons
Expert U design stops restrictive blood flow at the neck, allowing you to use the pillow without the feeling of pressure on the neck.For the ergonomic design and its features, the pillow is large. If you’re traveling light or with a small carry-on, it may be too bulky.
Patented strap design means no other pillow on the market can offer this critical feature of strong, upright hold.The strap needs to be applied to the seat-rest behind you. There is definitely a little set-up and fiddling to do before you get the position right.
Polyester cover is not only very soft, but the moisture-wicking is a welcome relief if you’re particularly prone to sweating under heat.While the ergonomic positioning is excellent, it doesn’t solve the issues of light sensitivity when sleeping in an upright position. An eyemask and ear plugs may also be needed for an ideal sleeping environment.

Best Inflatable Travel Pillow

2 – Urophylla Inflatable Travel Pillow

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Shape and Design

The inflatable travel pillow, while needing a little effort to inflate, saves you plenty of space in your backpack or carry-on. Many travel pillows adopt the inflatable model. However, with its ergonomic design and comfortable fabric, our top pick is from Urophylla.

Inflated within just ten seconds, it’s u-shape design gives you a decent amount of breathing space for the front of your neck. Where the design excels, however, is in its raised wing design at the rear. This provides extra support for your neck and allows you to shift more weight to the back. It can be inflated to a soft, average, or firm hold, depending on your preference.

Tight seals mean fewer air leaks than other pillows. The pillow also comes with a handy drawstring case. Once folded inside, you have a compact 6.7” x 3.7” bag to stow away with relative ease in your hand luggage.

Materials

The pillow itself is made from PVC material, which is covered with a soft velvet pillowcase. Available in four gorgeous colors, the velvet is soft and allows your skin to breathe. The case itself is easily removed and can be cleaned.

Ideal for

With a neck range of 10.5” to 16”, Urophylla’s inflated travel pillow is an excellent choice for someone looking to save space while traveling. Its ergonomic design and u-shape combination give it more than an edge compared to other inflated options on the market.

Yes, you’re not getting the same amount of support as the Cabeau Evolution, but the fact this can be packed down into a 6.7” x 3.7” drawstring bag is a huge advantage if you’re traveling light, or want to save carry-on space. Plus, the soft velvet is a great choice if your skin is particularly sensitive.

ProsCons
The soft velvet casing is soothingly smooth against your skin, while maintaining the skin’s ability to breathe and stay cool.Naturally, no matter how many measures are put in place, like all inflatable it’s still going to slowly deflate over time. On long-haul, keep your eye on the firmness.
Its ergonomic raised design gives you much better neck support, compared to the traditional U-shaped pillow model.Not everyone will dig the raised ergonomic design. The raised bumps may not feel as natural as the standard curved surface.
Inflatable design and ability to deflate, along with the carry case, mean it can be packed away nicely in your carry-on with minimal fuss.While the inflate time of 10 seconds is still impressive, there are other inflatable travel pillows on the market that claim to inflate faster.

Best Pillow for Front Sleepers

3 – Sunany Inflatable Neck Pillow

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Shape and Design

Not all of us can fall asleep facing upright, or with our heads to the side. Some of us sleep on our front. And that will be a problem with the traditionally designed u shaped and standard surface pillow. The unnatural feel of facing outward, no matter how quiet or subdued the environment is, can be more than enough to keep you awake.

But front sleepers, never fear. Step forward the inflatable neck pillow. Admittedly, several companies use this design of pillow. But we’re very impressed by Sunany and their excellent neck pillow model.

Firstly, the pillow is very straightforward to inflate, taking only up to five breaths. At maximum capacity, you have 5.9” x 4.7” x 2.3” soft pillow with a curved exterior. However, instead of placing it around your neck, instead you place it on your lap. There are two cut-outs to hold your head, allowing you to lay horizontal, or use the top cut-out for a more upright position.

Slide your arms between the cut-outs on either side, and you’re good to go. Mimicking the position of laying your head between your arms to sleep, the bulk of the design allows for plenty of support. This will massively help reduce, even eliminate, head, neck, and shoulder pain associated with this posture.

And, because of the hollowed interior, you can lay your head down and play on your phone, or watch a movie, using your hands between the gaps.

Once you want to pack it away, you simply press a button and the pillow deflates in an impressive three seconds. The whole thing wraps up nicely into a very lightweight 0.7lbs carry back. At 7.1” x 4.1”, it will take up little room in your carry-on. A truly exceptional design that accommodates a common sleeping position for many people.

Materials

Naturally, the idea of your head resting full weight in-between the arms of a material may cause you concern. Luckily, the travel pillow is made from 100% Raylon and PVC flocking.

Raylon is very absorbent and stretchy, allowing the pillow to inflate properly. The PVC flocking then applies the smooth, soothing texture that feels great against your skin. Raylon’s absorbent properties keep the pillow dry, and reduce the chances of pooling sweat.

This pillow has been designed to feel as close to a normal feather pillow as possible, even though you’re resting your head on air.

Ideal for

If you’re a front sleeper, this is very much the travel pillow for you. As remarkable as the design is, not everyone enjoys the feeling of looking down, the majority of the sides of their face against material.

The great thing is too, as with all travel pillows, you can simply use it as a support. Watch movies or multimedia on your phone or tablet as you relax and let the pillow take the weight. And, due to the fact it’s an inflated pillow, the considerable bulk will not be an issue once it’s packed away.

Light sensitivity, cold air against the face, and other stimuli can all wake you up when your face is upright. You will not have this problem, face down into the pillow, with the Sunany inflatable neck pillow.

An innovative design, and one that gives front sleepers the travel pillow they’ve been desperate for. And, it comes with a free eye mask and ear plugs.

ProsCons
An absolute must-try for front sleepers. Mimmicks the face-down position well, while allowing you to breathe.Once inflated, considerably bulky and takes up a lot of space. It is going to occupy a large chunk of the space in front of you.
Cut-outs for arms allow you to use this travel pillow for resting, and still entertain yourself with your phone or tablet.Worth trying, but not ideal for those who do not like to sleep on their front, or the feeling of resting their face through a cut-out.
As it’s inflatable, can easily be stowed away and carried in your carry-on at a much smaller capacity.Despite the button feature, as with all inflated products, the gradual deflation over time is difficult to prevent. On very long flights, check the firmness after hours of use.

Best J Shaped Travel Pillow

4 – J-Pillow Travel Pillow

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Shape and Design

Another innovative solution that’s tearing up the travel pillow market. J-Pillow was voted British Invention of The Year in 2019. Their latest model comes with an improved and tweaked design.

Essentially, the J-Pillow addresses the issue of your head tilting too far forward or to the side when you fall asleep. The stress those positions put on your back, neck, and shoulder, over long periods, is very bad for your posture and circulation.

The J-Pillow uses its three-arm design to wrap around one side of your neck. The base arms help hold your neck upright from the front, side, and back. The top arm curves, and provides pillow-like support for your head. With only a slight tilt, the pillow successfully keeps you from falling forward or to the side.

What’s excellent about this pillow is its flexible design. All three of its soft, bulky arms can be twisted into different positions to accommodate your neck, shoulder, and head shape. This way, you can tailor the position to support your chin, head, and neck, all at the same time.

For a pillow so simple and compact, it’s incredibly effective in the way it can support your sleeping position specifically.

Materials

Made from 100% polyester fiber, the pillow very soft against your skin. The composition of the pillow also allows for the twisting and molding to be achieved with ease. The arms are not too lose but hold their position well once you’ve twisted them into position.

This polyester approach does give you more flexibility compared to the standard memory foam travel pillow models.

The pillow does not come with a washable cover, but the pillow itself is machine washable. You get a choice of three colors, and a snap-loop fastener has been weaved into the seam at the top. You can easily attach it to your carry-on luggage or use the nifty little drawstring bag provided.

Ideal for

People who sleep with their head to the side, or who find the U-shaped model provides very little chin support. Rather than surrounding your neck in a circular motion, the innovative J-Pillow shape provides all the necessary support from one side, then stops a side-tilt with neck and head support.

Its twisting arms allow it to be packed smaller than a large U-shaped pillow too. If you’ve had very little luck with the U-Shaped model, this is well worth giving a try. Its unique design feels far less constricting than many other travel pillows on the market, and on this list.

Plus, if you’re tendency is to fall asleep with your face to the side, this design will feel far more natural than other pillows that surround the circumference of your neck.

ProsCons
Far less constricting than the standard U-shape, allowing your neck to breathe and keep circulation high.While providing good support, the design means you are still leaning into the pillow. It isn’t holding you completely upright.
Excellent for people who fall asleep with their head to the side, and wake up with agonising neck, shoulder, and back pain on one side.Will take up more space than an inflatable model, so you may want to attach this to your luggage, rather than stow it inside.
Soft, flexible polyester arms give you the opportunity to mould a design that best suits your sleeping position and feels most comfortable.If you want to shift your head to the other side, you will have to physically move the pillow to your other shoulder and re-position it.

Best Versatile Travel Pillow

5 – Dot&Dot Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow

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Shape and Design

If you’re willing to forgo your travel pillow keeping you strictly upright in exchange for incredible versatility, Dot&Dot has a great travel pillow for you.

Whereas most travel pillows do their best to keep you in a particular position, Dot&Dot’s twist pillow allows you total control over the shape of pillow you want. By twisting the fabric, you can create a pillow that supports you in different positions.

The built-in snap closure allows you to position it as a standard u-shaped pillow. If you want more support on one side, or for your face, the fabulous twisting arms can be placed into any position that feels best for your position and posture.

Even the J-Pillow, with its molding design, cannot compete with the level of versatility here. Plus, it can also be used to support your back instead of your neck, if that’s a particular area you’re feeling pain.

Materials

The pillow itself is made of flexible memory foam, to allow you to mold a position of your choice. Over the top, you’ll have the pleasure of resting your tired body against a soft cotton cover.

Very breathable, the cotton is light against your skin. And, after every trip, you can simply slip the cover into the washing machine, ready for your next trip.

The snap closure, while acting as a U-shaped pillow, also allows you to snap the pillow around your luggage. This means you can carry it without having to pack it away. A nifty little feature that can help save space.

Ideal for

Dot&Dot’s twistable pillow is a great choice for people that don’t have too much trouble falling asleep but do like to move around a lot. A pillow you can twist and shape into so many pillow types allows you to sleep in a variety of ways.

Plus, its versatility lends itself well to be a support pillow. If you don’t want to sleep, but want something under your knees, or supporting your lower back, you can achieve this very easily.

If you’re one of those people that fall asleep quickly, then wakes up and quickly changes sides, then falls asleep again, give this a try. Its flexible, soft design will give you that extra level of comfort in any position of your choosing.

ProsCons
Twistable arms allow you to pretty much decide what position works best for you. An excellent feature few travel pillows can offer.With the versatility, you do sacrifice the support of, say, the Cabeau or Sunany, that pull out all the stops to keep you comfortably in one singular supported position.
The cotton cover is soft and light against your skin, and doesn’t feel constricting.Bulky, and can’t be packed away as easy as the inflated pillows. This may largely need to be clipped around your carry-on.
Can be utilized in many ways. If you need leg support or back support, you can twist this pillow into position.Clasped u-shaped position doesn’t provide as much breathable space for your neck as other u-shaped pillows do.

Best Microbead Travel Pillow

6 – Cloudz Dual Comfort Microbead Travel Pillow

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Shape and Design

Cloudz has a renowned reputation in the travel pillow market. While materials such as memory foam have emerged in the market, Cloudz continues to opt for microbeads in their travel neck pillows.

With their pioneering design, you get a u-shaped pillow filled with premium microbeads. Microbeads, in a similar vein to bean bags, give you that versatile sweeping comfort a singular surface of fabric cannot provide in the same way.

Cloudz has gone to great lengths to make sure the microbeads are durable. You should not have issues with crushed beads with their latest pillow.

With dimensions of 12” x 12” x 4”, you get a pillow that accommodates a wide range of neck and head sizes.

At the front, the snap closure allows you to create a stable u-shape for the pillow. Its simplicity also reflects its versatility. While operating as a neck pillow, you can also use it for lumbar support, or for facing downward. And with the snap closure, you can carry it with confidence attached to your luggage or carry-on.

Materials

Where the Cloudz design truly excels is in its dual-layer design. The top half of the pillow gives you a cozy plush feel, soothing against the skin. If you flip it over, you’ll get cool spandex on the other.

This gives you the choice of prioritizing cool temperature, or comforting texture. It’s an excellent feature that gives you options on a standard u-shape design.

In combination with the soft plush, cool spandex, and premium microbeads, the seams are double-sewn and extra-reinforced. This makes this one tough pillow, and gives you extra protection against rips and tears.

Ideal for

Travelers who aren’t too keen on memory foam, and want a simple travel pillow that can be used in many ways. Depending on the feel and level of support you’re after, some people are much bigger fans of microbead.

Naturally, you aren’t going to get the highly reinforced support of the Cabeau pillow. But, its dual-layer and flexible design allow it to be used in a variety of positions and scenarios.

ProsCons
Dual-layer design gives you the option of both a comfortable material and a cool material, depending on your preference.Compared to inflated options, it is difficult to pack into your luggage due to its size. The clasp allows you to carry it on your luggage, but it’ll be tough to squeeze it into your backpack or carry-on.
Microbead texture gives you plenty of flexibility and give. If you’ve never been a fan of memory foam, this pillow is more than worth taking a closer look at.For those that need a higher level of support, you should look to the memory foam and reinforced options, such as the Cabeau.
Versatility allows it to be used not only for your neck in an upright position, but also your back, or lying face down for front sleeping.Design-wise, it isn’t as innovative as some of the other pillows on the list. Naturally, equipped with the traditional pros and cons of a standard u-shaped travel pillow design.

Best Lightweight Travel Pillow

7 – Ostrich Light Travel Pillow

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Shape and Design

A truly unique product to lay your eyes on. The Ostrich Light employs one of the simplest designs on this list. You simply slip it on over your head and position it where you feel most comfortable. Whether that be over your forehead, covering your eyes, or fully down and around your neck, you can find a position that best suits you.

At the rear of the pillow, you’ll find a fastener. This will allow you to pull the pillow into position once you’re happy. And, with a reversible design, you can choose one of two colors to reflect your mood.

The ability to wear the pillow over your eyes and ears also addresses the issues of both light sensitivity and noise disrupting your sleep. Close your eyes, and enjoy the snugness in your very own little cocoon.

The ability to cover the full circumference of your head allows you to rest against an array of surfaces. You can rest against the window, or on the tray in front of you. The soft fabric and microbead combination gives you a comfortable buffer between your head and even the hardest of surfaces.

At just 0.6lbs, it’s breathtakingly lightweight. The microbead interior allows you to fold and twist it with ease, so it can easily be stowed or packed in your backpack or carry-on. Or, you can simply wear it around your neck before you board your flight.

Materials

Inside the pillow, you’ll find millions of next-generation microbeads, for a flexible, comfortable feel. The fabric itself is a combination of 95% viscose and 5% elastomer. This gives the pillow a uniquely flexible feel, while also being smooth and soft against your skin.

Although not machine-washable, you can still hand wash it and let it air dry before each and every journey you take.

You also get four gorgeous designs to choose from, each reversible depending on your mood and preferred color for that day.

Ideal for

People that don’t need sturdy and reinforced neck support and like to sleep while leaning. Delightful and innovative, it’s breathtakingly lightweight and very simple to carry with you. The ability to cocoon yourself and block out both light and noise (reduced, not entirely) without an eye mask or earplugs is a great feature.

If you don’t have too much trouble falling asleep in an array of different positions, this pillow will give you a great buffer for a range of surfaces. And it will provide some much-needed support.

ProsCons
Very easy and lightweight to travel with, and can be packed with ease into a backpack or carry-on.With the focus more-so on wearing it over the head, those needing extensive neck support may need to look elsewhere.
Innovative design over the head means you won’t need an eye mask, and may not even need earplugs.Not everyone will enjoy the ‘cocoon’ feel. For some, wearing it over your eyes and head may feel claustrophobic.
Fashion-wise, seamlessly beautiful compared to a bog-standard travel pillow. The fact it can be worn around your neck means you may not even need to take it off.Does not address the issue of your head falling forward, as there’s no chin support.

Best Travel Pillow Summary

And that is a wrap, my dear friend. As you can see, travel pillows have come a long way from the bog-standard miniature bed pillow handed out for free on flights.

The critical choice is in the design. Identifying how you sleep, and which design best suits that position, can be the difference between a wonderful and an awful travel pillow. But with a range of designs and materials covered in this list, there should be something to suit sleepers of all types.

So, one final time, here’s a quick overview of all the travel pillows we took a close look at:

Best Overall Travel PillowCabeau Evolution S3 Travel Pillow
Best Inflatable Travel PillowUrophylla Inflatable Travel Pillow
Best Pillow for Front SleepersSunany Inflatable Neck Pillow
Best J-Shaped Travel PillowJ-Pillow Travel Pillow
Best Versatile Travel PillowDot&Dot Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow
Best Microbead Travel PillowCloudz Dual Comfort Microbead Travel Pillow
Best Lightweight Travel PillowOstrich Light Travel Pillow

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