Our editors tested each pillow for support, comfort, portability, and public shame potential.
A travel pillow will see you through one of your most vulnerable travel moments: sleeping with dozens of strangers on public transportation. That is, if you're able to find one that works for you, which can be an exhausting (and expensive) endeavor.
But fear not, your trusty Travel + Leisure editors have used our frequent flying habits to test out all of the most popular pillow options — from the subtle to the “interesting” to the just plain wacky — so you don't have to.
Related: The Best Sleep Masks for Traveling
The portable pillow market is continually expanding beyond the standard, U-shaped neck pillow — which, side note, is still hanging onto the sixth-place spot — to all sorts of head-supporting contraptions that use Velcro, memory foam, hidden support structures, and, of course, your very own breath to help you feel as comfortable as you possibly can whilst desperately attempting to doze off in the middle seat.
Our Review Methodology
During testing, we took four categories into account and gave each a rating between one and five — one representing poor performance and five, perfection.
- Support — Does the pillow hold up your head or is it too flimsy?
- Comfort — Is the material soft? Does the design make it easy to use?
- Portability — How packable is the pillow? Is it too much of a burden to bring?
- Public Shame Potential — Is it inspiring envious looks or stifled laughter from fellow passengers?
Then, to get a total score, we weighted the categories to favor those that matter most: support and comfort were each worth 35 percent, with portability at 20 percent, and the embarrassment factor coming in at 10 percent.
Below, ranked from worst to best, see the surprisingly good, the pretty bad, and the really ugly (but oh-so-worth-it).