Your neck, back, and neighbor’s shoulder will thank you.

By Richelle Szypulski and Rebecca Carhart
October 07, 2019
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Courtesy of Amazon and eBags

Full disclosure: I am gifted with the ability to fall asleep anywhere. At any time, with any light or noise conditions, and in any imaginable variety of train, plane, or car seat, I can fold my body into some semblance of comfort and be totally out for the count within minutes.

I don’t say this to brag; there are downsides. For one, my friends have lovingly captured multiple photos of me comatose in the passenger’s seat, drooling onto the seat belt that’s somehow strapped across my face. And while this hurts my pride, it’s the least of my worries when it comes to pain. Because falling asleep is no problem, waking up at the end of the trip with a stiff neck, numb-ish lower back, or a delightful headache almost certainly will be.

Enter: the wonderful world of travel pillows. There are endless products out there to provide the plushy reinforcements you need to sleep better while traveling and feel better once you’ve reached your destination. I’ve rounded up a few of our team's favorites, from discreet neck pillows that could pass for scarves — or are hidden away in the hood of a jacket! — to inflatable sleep support devices that require superhuman levels of self-esteem, but are so, so worth it. 

These are the best travel pillows to shop: 

Best for Secret Support: Trtl Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

If you’ve found that U-shaped neck pillows don’t provide the support you need to doze off, the scarf-like, fleece Trtl Pillow — pronounced “turtle" — will be your sleep savior. It packs a strengthened inner rib that contours to any neck, jaw, or shoulder shape. It’s half the size of a traditional neck pillow, and in the unfortunate case of deep-sleep drool, it’s machine-washable.

To buy: amazon.com, ebags.com, $30

Best for Frequent Overnight Fliers: Trtl Pillow Plus

Courtesy of Trtl

Any gripes that users of the original Trtl Pillow may have had — the fleece wrap can get a bit warm; the support angle isn't quite right for every neck — are left on the tarmac with the launch of the Trtl Plus. The new version has adjustable neck support which allows for Goldilocks-style comfort and the fabric wrap is vented with a breathable mesh. The price point is higher, but we firmly believe good sleep is priceless.

To buy: amazon.com, $60

Best for the Can’t-get-comfortable Traveler: Huzi Design Infinity Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

The Infinity Pillow by Huzi Design is a game-changer. It has an infinity symbol shape that you can wrap in practically limitless ways. Its high-quality bamboo fabric is machine-washable, hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial, and even boasts noise-cancelling abilities if worn over the ears.

To buy: amazon.com, $40

Best for Saving Space: AirComfy Ease Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

The AirComfy Ease is the only pillow that got a perfect score when our editors reviewed 17 travel pillows. It's designed to provide either lumbar support or neck support, with an elastic band to secure it to your headrest. Just inflate it to the firmness you prefer for use and pack it flat or back into its pouch when you’ve reached your destination. 

To buy: amazon.com, $23

Best for Truly Shameless Shut-eye: Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

What the Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in comfort. When inflated, it’s shaped like a long apostrophe that tucks right above your shoulder and across your body or down your side, with a strap that can sling around your body like a guitar to keep it stable. Upon arrival, it easily deflates into a small roll designed to snap right onto your carry-on’s handle.

To buy: amazon.com, $25

Best for Serious Do-not-disturb Signals: Aeris Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow Kit

Courtesy of Amazon

The Aeris Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow Kit was made for the light sleeper. Its ventilated memory foam molds to the contours of your neck and it comes equipped with a silk sleep mask and a pair of foam earplugs.

To buy: amazon.com, $25

Best No-frills Packable Pillow: Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

If you want something that you can also use while camping or sleeping in a non-upright position on your trip, this soft, urethane foam–filled pillow packs to one-fifth its normal size and comes with a comfortable brushed polyester cover. A few minutes after you unroll the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow the foam really fills out, giving you just enough window-seat support. The small size is plenty big enough for plane sleeping, but the medium is manageable, too, if you want a little more pillow. 

To buy: amazon.com, $25

Best for the Bobblehead Sleeper: GoSleep Eye Mask and Memory Foam Pillow Travel Kit

Courtesy of Amazon

If you’re literally nodding as you attempt to nod off, the GoSleep Pillow Travel Kit will ensure your head stays cradled securely in place. The eye mask attaches to the back of your headrest with an adjustable elastic cord, but keep in mind this feature may only be useful when there’s not a screen on your seat back — avoid this one if you like flying JetBlue or Delta.

To buy: amazon.com, $40

Best for Travelers Who Get Too Hot: Cabeau Evolution Cool Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

If you overheat just thinking about a thick, fluffy pillow wrapped around your neck, the Cabeau Evolution Cool Pillow is for you. The sporty design pairs memory foam with cooling air circulation vents and sweat-wicking fabric for when the tiny air conditioning vent above you is in “does this even work?” mode.

To buy: amazon.com, ebags.com, $60

Best for Sensitive Sleepers: Ostrich Pillow Light

Courtesy of Ostrich Pillow

If bright lights and rowdy neighbors are just as annoying as fumbling around with an eye mask and earplugs, you’ll love the Ostrich Pillow Light (and you can see our editors try it out here). This adjustable ringed pillow is filled with silicon-covered micro-beads for sound reduction, setting you up for a sleep so deep you won’t even need these brilliant ways to cure jet lag

To buy: amazon.com, $45

Best for Kids: BCozzy Kids Chin-supporting Travel Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

The super-snug BCozzy pillow provides a just-right amount of support for tiny travelers on long plane, train, and car rides. It wraps beneath the chin, stabilizing the neck, and the brand makes some more fun styles like leopard print, too. P.S. The adult version is also excellent, especially if you're wearing a pair of over-the-ear headphones. I also love that the back is slim enough that it doesn't push your head outward and away from the headrest.

To buy: amazon.com, $25

Best for the Window Seat: J Pillow

Courtesy of Amazon

Even though it slightly resembles a whale tail, you’ll be far more restful than Captain Ahab with this J-shaped travel pillow. It’s specifically designed to cradle your head, neck, and chin and we think it works best when can you rest it against the wall of the plane.

To buy: amazon.com, $30

Best for Travelers Who Get Too Cold: Vera Bradley Convertible Travel Blanket

Courtesy of Zappos

The fleecy Vera Bradley Travel Blanket is lightweight to pack but plenty big enough (40" x 60") to keep you warm in a chilly airplane cabin. It folds into a pillow with a built-in trolley sleeve that easily slides over the handle of your suitcase.

To buy: amazon.com, zappos.com, from $35

Best for Forward Folders: Cloudz EZ-Inflate Cloud Sleeper

Courtesy of Amazon

PSA: Do not put your face anywhere near your tray table. A 2011 study confirmed they’re almost 10 times more germ-covered than the airplane bathrooms. Though, if downward-facing drool is your preferred sleeping position, check out the EZ-Inflate Cloud Sleeper by Cloudz, the maker of the OG microbead neck pillow. If you've got the space to pack it, this frontal pillow truly is easy to inflate — just three or four breaths will bring the face-hugging feel of a massage chair to your tray table or lap.

To buy: amazon.com, $20

Best for Packing Purists: Tumi Pax Puffer Jacket

Courtesy of Tumi

For those who pride themselves on bringing only the necessities on a trip, the Tumi Pax Packable Jacket converts into a travel neck pillow by rolling itself into a hidden pouch at the collar. When worn as a jacket, it’s both wind- and water-resistant with quilted duck down insulation.

To buy: (men's) tumi.com, (women's) tumi.com, $195

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