Share on Pinterest
Who says you have to sacrifice sleep for travel?

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Sleep impacts our health and well-being in many ways. You need enough good quality sleep to maintain your overall health, quality of life, and safety. This is because when you sleep, your body is supporting the healthy function of your brain and physical health. Sleep also helps with development in kids and teenagers.

If you’re sleep-deprived, your thought process, reaction time, ability to absorb information, and patience can be adversely affected. More importantly, your risk for chronic health problems can increase as well.

Many factors play into a solid night’s rest, with a good pillow being one of them. Essentially, whatever makes you as comfortable as possible will aid in getting that quality sleep you need. This includes your pillow since it conforms to your unique shape as it supports your skull and neck with an even and appropriate amount of pressure along the vertebrae.

If you’re traveling and don’t want to compromise on that much-needed quality sleep, the good news is you don’t need to. This is where travel pillows come in. The thing about them, though, is that they come in all sorts of variations. You’ll find differences in everything from shape and size to density and weight.

Here are common factors to consider when choosing the right pillow for you and your travels.

Shape and size

If you need to pack light, you might appreciate a small or compressible travel pillow. It might seem like a minor thing, but when you’re traveling (especially if you’re a frequent jet-setter), the weight of each item adds up fast. However, some people prefer the extra cushion that a larger pillow offers, which they see as well worth the extra weight in their bag.

Shape is important, too. Your travel pillow doesn’t have to be the common u-shape of many models. You can also choose from a j-shape, hourglass, wrap, rectangle, or other shapes, each impacting the pillow’s versatility, performance, and compactness.

Firmness

Firmness directly affects how supportive and comfortable a pillow can be. Just like with a mattress, everyone has different preferences when it comes to how firm a pillow should be.

While most travel pillows don’t specifically indicate firmness, you can usually tell by how it’s constructed. For example, inflatable pillows are usually quite firm when inflated fully and softer when inflated less. Microbead and fiber-filled pillows are typically quite soft, while polyfoam and memory foam are often a great balance between support and softness.

We came up with this list of the best travel pillows based on these factors:

  • quality of materials
  • cost
  • customer experience and reviews
  • portability and size
  • level of support
  • ability to adjust or customize

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$50
  • $$$ = over $50

Best overall

Sleep Artisan Natural Latex Travel Pillow

  • Price: $$

If you’re looking for an all-around comfortable, quality travel pillow that won’t break the bank, check out this one from Sleep Artisan. It’s made with an eco-friendly shredded latex down-alternative blend that keeps you cool while supporting and cushioning your neck and head. You can even add or take out fill to customize the pillow’s feel to your preferences. This pillow is an ideal choice because the recessed shape relieves pressure points while you sleep upright.

Best budget buy

Sleep Number U-Neck Pillow

  • Price: $

This travel pillow is proof you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a truly useful product that you’ll use for years. Sleep Number’s compact U-Neck pillow keeps you cool thanks to its down-alternative fill. Plus, its microfiber cover is great for anyone with sensitive skin or allergies.

The ergonomic, comfortable cushion is greatly supportive for the neck and head, meanwhile, the 4-inch profile keeps in place as you snooze. Thanks to its removable insert, the pillow is also easily washable — something you might be grateful for after a long trip.

Best for sensitive sleepers

Ostrich Pillow Light

  • Price: $$

If you struggle to catch some shut-eye while you travel, you’ll want to check out the Ostrich Pillow Light. It’s a reversible ringed pillow filled with silicon-covered microbeads that reduce sound, allowing you to sleep deeply in transit. It’s designed with versatility in mind since you can wear it as an eye cover or around your neck. It’s also adjustable, allowing you to find your comfiest fit. However, if you need more neck support, you may want to opt for a different pick since this pillow isn’t as supportive as others on our list.

Best memory foam

Travelrest Nest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow

  • Price: $$

If you’re a fan of memory foam mattresses, why not take a step further and try the material in your travel pillow? This nonslip, adjustable memory foam pillow from Travelrest conveniently lays flat on your seat, keeping you aligned with the headrest. It features contoured cut-outs that naturally shape to your neck, head, and shoulders. Reviewers found that the memory foam was comfortable, cool, and easy to pack since it hooks onto luggage handles.

Best adjustable

MLVOC Travel Pillow

  • Price: $

There’s nothing like a great fit, even when it comes to travel pillows. This breathable, sweat-resistant model from MLVOC features a drawstring that can be used to tighten the pillow around your neck for a comfy, snug, and supported fit.

Reviewers liked the memory foam that adjusts to fit while still maintaining support. They also liked the small size, which makes it easy to fit in a travel bag without taking up too much room. However, once you take it out to use, it expands, allowing for users to experience utmost comfort.

Best for lengthy travel

Calpak Neck Pillow and Eye Mask

  • Price: $$$

Whether you’re flying internationally or you’re in for an overnight road trip, Calpack’s Neck Pillow and Eye Mask is a must-have. The sleep mask that comes with this stylish neck pillow will black out any distractions so you can relax and catch some shut-eye.

This matching set is made from soft, hypoallergenic silk that’s easy to take care of thanks to its removable and washable cover. Plus, the handy carrying bag makes things easy and keeps everything clean when you’re on the go.

Best compact pillow

AirComfy Ease Pillow

  • Price: $

This compact travel pillow is great for those who need to travel light. Weighing less than half a pound, it can even compress and pack flat into an enclosed sack — a real space-saver. The carabiner enables you to clip it to your luggage so you can free up your hands for other items in transit.

The pillow conveniently comes with the option of neck or lumbar support, giving you freedom of choice at any point. All you need to do is inflate it to your desired firmness and loop the elastic around your seat.

Best for shameless naps

Travelrest All-in-One Ultimate Travel Pillow

  • Price: $$

Okay, this isn’t the most subtle travel pillow out there, but if you really want to sleep well, it may be the right one for you. Travelrest’s Ultimate Travel Pillow offers plenty of lateral comfort and support across your entire body with its long, narrow shape that sits just above your shoulder and down your side or torso. This makes your neck and head align properly and stay still so you won’t experience that awful stiffness or pain after your rest.

The pillow’s strap keeps it snug and secure against you as you sleep. What’s especially nice is that, once you’ve woken from your slumber, you can simply deflate the pillow into a small roll that conveniently snaps onto your bag.

Best lumbar support

Therm-a-Rest Lumbar Travel Pillow

  • Price: $

If you deal with a bad back, a travel pillow with lumbar support can really help alleviate it when you’re sitting for long periods. After trying the self-inflating Therm-a-Rest Lumbar Travel Pillow with its technology that relieves pressure from the spine, many reviewers felt more comfortable, even on long flights. The pillow also packs quite small — one reviewer equated it to a medium-sized water bottle — so you’ll have plenty of luggage space for other items.

Best for neck pain

Coop Home Goods Original Travel and Camp Pillow

  • Price: $$

This compact, lightweight pillow from Coop Home Goods is great for anyone who experiences frequent neck pain. Its microfiber and shredded memory foam fill and medium-firm support provide alignment, pressure relief, and support to the neck. You can relax easily as the pillow conforms to the body.

Another plus to this particular pillow is its size compression. It goes from 13 x 19 inches down to 6 x 10 inches, which makes packing it into its water-resistant travel sack a breeze.

What are the benefits of a good travel pillow?

If you’re a long-haul traveler or even in need of shut-eye on shorter trips, travel pillows can help make you comfortable and increase your chances of catching some quality sleep.

Travel pillows offer comfort and relief from distractions such as snug, uncomfortable seats, conversations, or background noise — and, depending on the pillow’s configuration, you can just shut the world out. They also offer support for the neck and head. This helps relieve discomfort and promotes good posture in an unnatural upright position, helping to put you to sleep.

What should I look for in a travel pillow?

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to travel pillows, and there are many types out there. Pay attention to a pillow’s shape, size, material, portability, support, weight, and density specifications. Everything serves a different purpose for different needs.

No matter how long your journey may be and whether you’re traveling by air, rail, road, or water, a good travel pillow can come in handy. It makes all the difference in your comfort and getting that quality sleep we all need.

Before you buy, just think about the things that are important to you in a travel pillow, do your research and, if possible, check some out in person.


Emma Caplan is a writer and editor with over 10 years of experience in various content types and topics, like health and lifestyle, home and design, local events and news, travel, the outdoors, real estate, business, and tech. Emma edits marketing content, as well as fiction and non-fiction books. Her work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune and on Nexstar Media, Narcity Media, and BobVila.com.