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6 Travel Pillows That Experts Swear By for Sounder Sleep

For the comfiest flight ever, don't leave home without one of these fabulous travel pillows.

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Sleeping in your own bed is tough enough. (Hello, insomnia!) But sleeping on a plane, train or car? It’s the worst. Thankfully, there are little tricks to remedy that—namely, travel pillows. These practical accessories are designed specifically for seated positions so you can snooze comfortably, even when you’re stuck in coach. We interviewed frequent-fliers, flight attendants, chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons to find the best travel pillows on the market. Add a weighted eye mask and a little lavender mist and you may have your best sleep ever.

Which pillow is best for travel?

Just like choosing the best pillows for your bed, choosing an excellent travel pillow depends on your unique needs, including your method of transportation, preferred sleep position and areas of the body where you experience pain or require extra support.

There are a few travel pillow shapes to consider. According to Rahul Shah, a board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon, placing a pillow behind the back supports the low back muscles to prevent low back pain and fatigue. A U-shape design prevents the neck from moving excessively and provides comfort while sitting against your seat in a chair. A scarf or wrap-around pillow offers neck and chin support to keep the head in line with the pelvis.

What is the correct way to use a travel pillow?

“Sleeping on a plane or in a car can offer a lot of obstacles,” says Kevin Lees, Doctor of Chiropractic at The Joint Chiropractic. “Just as using a pillow in bed, your neck needs to be supported if you plan on sleeping during travel.”

The easiest way to find a travel pillow that accomplishes that? Try each shape and fill type for yourself. “I recommend trying the different pillow types for 15 minutes while mimicking the posture of the seat,” says Shah. “In that 15 minutes of trial, one can assess the quality of the fit and comfort.”

Evaluation Criteria

We started by consulting chiropractors, surgeons, frequent-fliers and flight attendants to discover what they look for in a travel neck pillow, and which ones they find most effective. We also combed through user reviews to find highly-rated and universally-loved options. To elevate your pillow game entirely, don’t miss the best down pillows, cooling pillows and our editors’ favorites: Trtl pillow and Cube pillows.

The best travel pillows

Best overall travel pillow: Trtl Pillow 
Best budget travel pillow: Cloudz Microbead Travel Neck Pillow
Best splurge-worthy design: Huzi Infinity Pillow
Best inflatable travel pillow: Kimiandy Inflatable Travel Pillow
Best memory foam travel pillow: Phixnozar Memory Foam Travel Pillow
Best cooling travel pillow: Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow

Trtl Pillow Editor Tested Ecomm Via Amazon.comvia merchant

Best overall travel pillow

Trtl Pillow

“This is the best pillow I’ve ever owned,” says Karen Akpan, content creator for The Mom Trotter. “It’s small, lightweight and easy to travel with.” Our editors put the Trtl to the test and agree. It also happens to be one of the most popular travel pillows on the market—with more than one million sold.

Trtl is ergonomically designed to keep your head in an upright position. The super-soft fleece construction has a hidden internal support system. It looks like a scarf, and is adjustable to fit your needs. After traveling, simply throw it in the washing machine.

Pros

  • Wrap-around design supports the chin and neck
  • Lightweight (4.5-ounces, the same as an apple)
  • Machine-washable

Cons

  • May require experimentation to get the best wrap for your body
  • Doesn’t fold flat

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Cloudz Microbead Travel Neck Pillow Ecomm Via Amazon.comvia merchant

Best budget travel pillow

Cloudz Microbead Travel Neck Pillow

This Cloudz pick is affordable, but it’s whats on the inside that makes it noteworthy. “Microbead pillows are a good choice as the material conforms to the neck,” explains Shah. This one features a plush material on one side and a spandex fabric on the other, so you can choose your experience. It comes in 30 fun colors and patterns—like turtles, flowers and star fish—and has an under $20 price tag.

A snap closure secures to your neck in-flight, then attaches to luggage during transit. It’s earned over 9,000 five-star reviews, including one from Terry D, who writes: “I travel a lot and was visiting the chiropractor after each trip—he missed me since I’ve had this pillow. I love the beads, as it can change the pressure. It’s great if you want to travel without a sore neck!”

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Dual sides gives you two pillows for the price of one
  • Filled with supportive, contouring microbeads
  • Snap closure secures to your neck or luggage

Cons

  • Not firm enough for some users

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Huzi Infinity Pillow Soft Neck Ecomm Via Amazon.comvia merchant

Best splurge-worthy design

Huzi Infinity Pillow

Katie Golde knows a thing or two about the best sleep products, she’s the head of sleep research for MattressClarity.com and a certified sleep science coach. Golde names the Huzi Infinity Pillow her favorite because it’s comfortable, easy to clean and versatile. “The pillow’s design looks a little bit more like an infinity scarf with stuffing than a pillow, but you can twist it, shape it and manipulate it in so many ways that it’s easy to get comfortable—no matter where you’re traveling or what form of transportation you’re taking,” she says.

You can wrap it into a small pillow to use on a plane or train, place it around your eyes and ears to block out sound and light or put it behind your lower back for lumbar support. It’s easy to throw in the wash after a long trip, too.

Pros

  • Unique scarf design allows for versatility
  • Eight colors
  • Machine-washable

Cons

  • May not be firm enough for some

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Inflatable Travel Pillow Ecomm Via Amazon.comvia merchant

Best inflatable travel pillow

Kimiandy Inflatable Travel Pillow 

Sitting with your head against the seat isn’t the only way to sleep on a plane. If you find you tend to lean over the tray table, then give this Kimiandy pillow a try. The inflatable piece allows your head and neck to lean forward while your arms rest inside (and yes, you can use your phone in there, too!). It inflates with just five breathes and folds up into a small drawstring bag that weighs less than a pound. Even more: It comes with a free eye mask and ear plugs to help you get comfortable on the plane.

This travel pillow has thousands of glowing reviews, including from Kimberly Mozuch who declares: “I’ll never go on another trip without this magical pillow! I used this on the plane and was able to fall asleep within a few minutes because it was so comfortable. Your head is supported perfectly! I didn’t have a stiff neck when I woke up, like I normally would after sleeping on the plane.”

Pros

  • Allows you to sleep in a forward position
  • Easy to inflate and deflate
  • Comes with free accessories

Cons

  • Not machine washable
  • May draw stares

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Phixnozar Memory Foam Travel Pillow Ecomm Via Amazon.comvia merchant

Best memory foam travel pillow

Phixnozar Memory Foam Travel Pillow

Laurel Samuela, owner of True Tahiti Vacation in Los Angeles, says she never travels without this Phixozar pillow. It holds your neck in place so you won’t feel sore when you get off the plane. It’s also sweat-resistant and soft, and comes with a gratis sleeping mask. Memory foam is also doctor approved. “Pillows made with gel-infused memory foam can fit the back of your chair much better than standard pillows made with cotton or polyester,” says Shah.

It’s sturdy and versatile: Wear it the way it’s pictured to prevent any ache-inducing leaning, turn it around to support your chin or put it on the airplane tray as a headrest. Now that you’ve got the best travel pillow, here’s the best affordable luggage.

Pros

  • Supportive memory foam material
  • Machine-washable pillowcase
  • Adjustable rope lock

Cons

  • May not prevent chin drooping
  • Only available in two colors

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Cabeau Evolution Cooling Travel Pillow Ecomm Via Amazon.comvia merchant

Best cooling travel pillow

Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow

Travel pillows don’t have to cause you to break a sweat. The Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow contains vents to keep you cool and offers tons of support for the neck, says Alex Tran, a former flight attendant. While it technically looks like a neck pillow, it’s designed to support your head whichever way it leans. Bonus: It comes in a variety of colors and can compress into a small roll (and into a small bag) for easy carrying. When you’re done with your travels, throw the cover into the washing machine. Want an even better travel experience? Here are some more brilliant items that travel pros never fly without.

Pros

  • Contains vents to keep you cool
  • Machine-washable pillowcase

Cons

  • Somewhat expensive

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Sources

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Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is a lifestyle writer for RD.com covering home, holidays, fashion, and beauty. She is based in New York City and spends most of her time trying new yoga classes and rearranging her tiny apartment.