What type of pillow?

Yesterday, you guys gave me some really great advice. I will be calling my hotel in Manila to check on their status tonight. For now, though, I’m moving forward on the assumption that I will be going.

My question today is pillows. On this trip, instead of having a day to recover before my meetings start, I will land after 25 hours of travel, go to the hotel and change, and head straight to the office. Oy. I have requested a business class upgrade, but I haven’t gotten confirmation that I’ve received it yet. Just in case, I want to be super prepared for 14 hours of comfort in coach. I’ve got a travel blanket that I’m happy with (I think–may have to double check that one), earplugs, an eye-mask, and my trusty Tylenol PM, but I’m not totally sure about the pillow. In the past I’ve used a buckwheat pillow and a memory foam pillow, and honestly, neither one has been ideal. So I am interested in hearing from you guys about what types of pillows you have used and how they’ve worked.

Here are the types I’ve seen:

Buckwheat. The U-shape works well for people want to support their head and neck, and plan to sleep upright. I prefer to lean against the side of the plane, which is not what these pillows are made for.

Memory foam. The one I have is made to go around the head rest of the seat. Again, I like to lean against the side of the plane. Has anyone seen one of these that isn’t contoured? Does it even work if it’s not contoured?

Inflatable. I’ve never used one, but they sure do seem cool. Taking up minimal space in your bag but offering super comfort once you blow it up? That sounds awesome. Who has one, and what do you think about it?

Any pillows that I missed? Any suggestions? Hooray, long flights!


  1. Inflatable pillows are not at all comfortable, in my opinion. Personally, I’d recommend the Memory Foam pillow. I have one that comes with me on all of my trips & wouldn’t be able to sleep without it! Good luck…

  2. I’ve used an inflatible pillow for years on international flights now, and while it’s not the most comfortable pillow out there, when I’m tired it does the job, and takes up almost no space in my bag. They’re so cheap I think it’s worth it to try it out!

  3. I roll with the blankets and pillow provided by United. It is nice when there is an empty seat next to me so I can use that pillow for lower back, but it’s not a necessity. I went from ORD-SIN and back in United Business and I really didn’t think the pillow was much better up front (and up top) than in the back. I sleep better on planes (most of which is in E+) than on my bed, so it can’t be that bad.

  4. I use an adjustable padded neck collar with Velcro tab. It keeps my head upright in any seated position. No more neck aches. It’s easy to put on or take off and opens flat to fit in a briecase or tote.

  5. I vote for inflatable! There are several different models of inflatable pillows out there – the best are found on amazon.com and not in an airport shop. I like memory foam too – especially a tube shape pillow for my back – but it takes up precious space in my carry-on. By the way, have you ever seen those sleeping contraptions that look like backwards baby backpacks? (Usually guys have them, not girls.) They are complex and large and I think a person looks pretty weird strapped into them and sleeping upright, but they do seem to work.

  6. I use a inflatable neck pillow that is “flocked”. It is very easy to store and is comfortable enough for me to get some sleep in coach or ‘barca lounger’ biz seats. The bare plastic inflatable pillows are sweaty.

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