What is the best travel pillow?

a grey pillow with a strapA friend of mine is going on a trip to Europe soon, and is worried about sleeping comfortably on the plane. Those of us who travel internationally in coach on a regular basis know that while “comfortably” may be a stretch, there are definitely ways to make sleeping upright a little better.

One of his specific questions is which is the best travel pillow. The problem with trying to recommend travel pillows is that there are so many types, and it really just boils down to personal preference. Even on coach, airlines tend to give you some sort of pillow and blanket. But is that the best way to go?

A few of the options available are:

Neck pillow. There are so many options of neck pillows available. You can get a soft material, fuzzy material, or a kind of felt; full of seeds or normal stuffing; sized small, medium, and large; the list goes on and on.

Traditional pillow. A classic for a reason, rectangular pillows are available in all of the variations mentioned above.

Blow up pillow. I don’t hate blow-up pillows. In fact, I like them for their packability! My mom has several in different shapes and swears by them. However, I find regular pillows to be more comfortable (if a little less convenient).

Foam pillow. My best friend swears by her memory foam pillow and says it’s the secret to waking up refreshed after a trans-Atlantic flight.

The best advice I can give is to try a few different kinds out before your trip. Set a chair up against the wall, and see what feels best when you’re leaning over. But the thing that helps me sleep the best is a Tylenol PM taken about thirty minutes before my ideal “bedtime.”

My personal preference is a regular neck pillow stacked on top of the airline pillow, which I use to recline more comfortably against the wall of the airplane. I like a neck pillow (rather than a normal-shaped pillow) because I feel like it offers more flexibility. While I have several, my favorite is a little fuzzy and has a built in snap for easy carrying.

(Although I must admit I’m intrigued by this twisty pillow! A neck pillow or a side pillow in one? Also that strappy pillow pictured above looks pretty awesome. Maybe on my next trip overseas I’ll do a little testing!)

Regardless of which pillow you choose, don’t forget an eye mask, ear plugs (or ear buds with a white noise app), and your choice of sleep aid.

Readers, what do you consider the best travel pillow?


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  1. I’ve tried quite a few different pillows over the years. My personal favorite is the J pillow. You can pick one up on eBay for around $20. The neck support of the J pillow mitigates the downward head bob action that typically wakes me up. I’ve been able to sleep using this pillow regardless of seat: middle, aisle or window.

  2. I’ve tested a bunch and the only that works for me is the Trtl pillow (really a scarf/neck support) with ear plugs and eye mask.

  3. I’ve found Trtl to be the least bad. Like a comfy version of a neck brace.

  4. My new favorite pillow is the Turtl Pillow. While maybe not the most compact travel option, I *love* the lateral neck support and even more so the scarf wrap design – keeps you warm and can be pulled over your face/nose to mitigate harsh airplane light and unpleasant airplane smells. For long-haul flights I do not leave home without it.

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