One of the most obvious downsides to traveling is how uncomfortable flights, bus rides, and rail journeys are. Being crammed like a sardine into a seat that’s half the size it should be just isn’t enjoyable for anyone, especially on those long-haul flights.
Besides our favorite travel accessories like earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, and an an eye mask, travel pillows are a must-have to make air travel more bearable and help you catch some ZZZ's. And while there are many options on the market—from inflatables to U-shaped pillows to the classic microbead ones you’ll find at any duty-free store—there’s no doubt that some offer better support and are more well-constructed than others. So, to sort out the doozies from the duds, we spent countless hours testing 13 of the most popular travel pillows on the market and ranked them based on their support, comfort, portability, and durability.
Our top pick is the Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow(available at Amazon) for its high-quality memory foam and 360-degree support that keeps your head and neck elevated and aligned. We’ve also detailed the best pillows for each type of sleeper and evaluated pillows of all different shapes, sizes, and prices, too.
These are the best travel pillows we tested ranked, in order:
Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow
J-Pillow Travel Pillow
Huzi Design Infinity Pillow
BCOZZY Chin Supporting Patented Travel Pillow
AirComfy Inflatable Neck Travel Pillow
Sunany Inflatable Neck Pillow
Samsonite Travel Pillow
Travelmate Memory Foam Neck Pillow
Therm-a-Rest Trekker Stuffable Backpacking Pillow Case
Cloudz Dual Comfort Microbead Travel Neck Pillow
Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow
Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow
For the best all-around comfort and neck support, we found that the Cabeau Evolution Classic Pillow cannot be beaten. It’s an elevated take on a classic U-shape pillow with a contoured memory foam design that keeps your head upright and offers the perfect amount of support in the areas you need it. The sides are tall and thick enough that the pillow rests comfortably just below your earlobes, which prevents your head from flopping in any one direction.
We also loved its adjustable clasp which allows you to bring the front sections closer together or further apart, depending on how tight of a fit you prefer. This toggle can also be unclipped so the pillow is easy to remove from your neck, and can be attached to your luggage for no-fuss transportation.
We were also thoroughly impressed by the Cabeau’s high-quality materials, from its plush, cushioned memory foam down to its ultra-cozy velour cover that can be unzipped and popped in the wash after each trip. To test its durability, we even poked and prodded the Cabeau with scissors, pens, and keys—common items that it may come into contact within a bag—and as we suspected, it was not damaged in the slightest.
Thanks to the supple memory foam, the Cabeau also compresses down to a fraction of its normal size if you ever need to squeeze it into a carry-on. We also found that even with a 15 lb. weight stacked on top of it for several hours, the pillow sprang back to its full 5-inch height within seconds after removing the weight. Still, it’s a larger pillow than most, so if you’re trying to travel light, you may want to opt for one that’s easier to pack.
As an added bonus, the Cabeau Evolution can be found inside most airport gift shops and newsstands, making it not only the best pillow you can buy online but also in any airport store. Based on our testing, we’d venture to say this pillow could last you countless trips, and make each one just as relaxing as the last.
For side sleepers, finding a travel pillow that offers ample chin and neck support can be a challenge, especially as traditional U-shaped pillows often work best for those who rest with their heads tilted back. But the J-Pillow—which was designed by a former flight attendant—excels here because of its innovative J-shaped design.
In testing, the J-Pillow scored highest of all the travel pillows we used in terms of comfort and portability. It cradles your chin and keeps your head from sliding all the way forward, while the curved end delivers a supple cushioning effect that we loved.
Made from soft velour-like material, the J-Pillow is snuggle-friendly and looks a bit like a stuffed elephant—hence why we’ve dubbed it “Harry Elephante'' around the office. While part of the appeal of the J-Pillow is that it isn’t a U-shaped pillow, it can be adjusted to be worn in a U-shape style, which adds to its overall versatility.
The J-Pillow does come with a few notable downsides, however. With its large trunk-shaped front, the pillow’s design isn’t naturally intuitive and several of our testers needed to pull up a picture for reference before using it. Additionally, while it’s not large, the fact that the J-Pillow doesn’t deflate or easily compress into a backpack or purse means it might be more cumbersome to travel with than some other travel pillows we’ve tested. However, it does come with a carrying bag and snap-loop fastener, which makes it easy to attach to luggage or backpacks. All in all, for side sleepers, this unique pillow seems like a delightful option.
The Huzi Design Infinity Pillow is actually not technically a pillow at all. It’s more of a fluffy infinity scarf with very plush stuffing on the inside. That said, we were surprised at how much we loved the Huzi in our testing. Something about it, perhaps its luxuriously soft fabric or cocoon-like feeling, kept drawing us back in.
The beauty of the Huzi lies in its versatility. You can configure it a million ways and make it as firm or as soft as you want it by twisting and looping it. During testing, I found my preferred method was to wrap it twice around my neck, and stick an arm in the bottom loop like a sling, so it's pulled taut and remains snug. While I like the support this position offers, others may not.
However, the Huzi essentially conforms however you want to use it, and can be maneuvered any which way to add comfort. You can ball it up and stuff it behind your back, lean against it in the window seat, or create a supportive cradle by laying it across the back of your neck and placing your hands in the loops. You can even use it as a makeshift eye mask to block light out or wrap it around your head to cover your ears and muffle sounds. The options are virtually endless, making it the only truly multipurpose pillow on our list.
While there’s plenty to appreciate about the Huzi, it’s not the easiest contraption to store away. The instructions state you’re supposed to roll it up like a yoga mat and use the Velcro binding to secure it, but we found this process a bit cumbersome and tedious. Regardless, for the versatility aspect alone, the Huzi was a winner in our eyes.
Hi, I’m Isabelle Kagan, one of the e-commerce writers at Reviewed. Sleeping and traveling are two of my greatest passions in life. I’ve traveled to five continents and dozens of cities, which means I’ve spent my fair share of time trying to get some shut-eye on lengthy plane rides. I’m also notoriously fidgety and somewhat of a restless sleeper, which makes it all the more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when I’m anywhere but my own bed. Reasons like these are why I jumped at the chance to test travel pillows, so I could finally find a solution to the neck cramps, backaches, unsatisfactory naps, and other air travel woes that plague me and my fellow jet setters.
To find the best travel pillows, I first began my research by perusing Amazon for the most highly-rated pillows with the most reviews and scoped out other major publications’ lists for their top picks. After selecting thirteen of what I gleaned to be the most popular models on the market, we decided on a testing procedure that would allow us to spend the same amount of time—45 minutes, to be exact—familiarizing ourselves with the pillows by trying each one out in the following three positions: head and chin bobbed down (or entirely face down on a desk, depending on the pillow’s design), head leaning sideways against a wall, and head leaning back in a high-backed chair. This was intended, of course, to simulate common sleeping positions on an airplane as closely as possible.
These tests were carried out in 15-minute intervals, upon which we evaluated the various pillows based on how comfortable they were to wear in each position, in addition to the overall fit and support they provided. We used a numerical scale for our scoring and weighted each category, prioritizing support as the most important criteria, followed by fit, sideways and leaning back comfort, and finally, face down comfort. In another round of testing, we also took into account each pillow’s portability, ease of use, build quality, ease of cleaning, and compactness, to ensure we were surveying all the key features that may come into play over the course of owning one.
From there, the three top-performing pillows advanced to our second round of testing, which was more involved than round one as we set out to not only test these pillows for a longer duration of time and on public transport (to get a more realistic sense of their performance), but also to measure their durability and compression levels, which are important to determine the longevity of each pillow. In the end, our testing provided a comprehensive understanding of what makes a travel pillow great–and what you’ll definitely want to look out for before choosing the one that’s right for you.
What You Should Know About Travel Pillows
Simply put, travel pillows are one of the cheapest luxuries to have on a flight, or basically in any situation where you’re trying to sleep upright. They provide much-needed support to your head, neck, and chin, lowering the chances that you’ll fall asleep in an awkward position, and wake up with an annoying crick or muscle ache. There are plenty of things to consider before deciding on one though, namely your sleeping patterns on flights (i.e., which direction your head tends to droop when you fall asleep) if you prefer more plush or firm support, and how compact you’d like it to be.
While no two travel pillows are the same, there are a few general rules of thumb in terms of what sets certain pillows apart from others that you’ll want to keep in mind. First and foremost, high-quality pillows should offer plenty of support and be able to keep your head nice and stable, even on those bumpier flights. Next, you’ll want your pillow to be easy to transport, whether it folds up or features a clip that attaches to the outside of your suitcase so that it doesn’t take up too much space in your bag. You’ll also want the outside of the pillow to feel soft against your skin but not too insulated or fleecy, so you won’t overheat. Finally, as we all know how germ-ridden planes can be, your pillow should either be easy to wash or have a removable cover that’s machine-washable.
Different Types Of Travel Pillows
A traditional travel pillow is usually shaped like a giant U that’s designed to fit snugly around the circumference of your neck. Generally speaking, there are three main types that one can choose from: microbead, memory foam, and inflatable. This excludes, of course, some of the stranger designs and unique innovations that we put to the test. There are both pros and cons to each type of pillow, so in the end, much of the buying process comes down to personal preference.
For instance, while many people find that memory foam pillows are more comfortable and cushiony than their bead-filled counterparts, their velour exterior can provide too much warmth for some. In that case, a microbead pillow might be a better option due to its more breathable materials. If saving space is a priority for you when traveling, an inflatable pillow may be your best bet because of its ability to be compressed into a small size when not in use. However, their airtight design does not offer much give, not to mention you run the risk of springing a leak and ruining the pillow if you puncture the fabric. The bottom line is that before buying a travel pillow, figure out what you value most highly—whether it’s comfort, support, ease of use, or portability—and go from there.
Other Travel Pillows We Tested
Bcozzy Travel Pillow
Throughout our testing of travel pillows, we came to the realization that very few are designed for those who nod forward when they fall asleep. Except for the Bcozzy, that is. This pillow is essentially shaped like a giant worm, for lack of a better analogy, with ends that overlap to provide ample chin support when leaning forward. With its open-ended, circular design, the pillow can be worn as tight or as loose as you want it, allowing each user to adjust it based on how much overlap and support they crave.
While it’s great to nestle your head in and stabilize your chin, it doesn’t offer much in the way of side support for your neck, unless you continuously move the area that stacks to the side you are resting on. For that reason, we don’t think the Bcozzy is a great choice for fidgety sleepers, as it’d need to be readjusted each time your head changes positions mid-snooze. We also noticed that it can slowly unravel a bit over the course of a nap, which could easily be solved if the company added Velcro between the two overlapping pieces to make it stay in place, but alas.
The Bcozzy features a button-clasp loop that clips to the outside of your luggage, so while it’s not the easiest to stow away, it’s still relatively portable. It’s also one of the few pillows that didn’t interfere with me wearing my Bose over-ear headphones, which I appreciated.
Although a bit unconventional, the Trtl has gained a cult-like following for its ingenious, minimalist design. It’s less of a pillow in the strictest sense of the word and more of a neck brace that offers support thanks to a flexible plastic frame that’s tucked inside a fleece wrap. It’s also the smallest and lightest pillow of the models we tested.
While we liked how the Trtl contoured to the neck and were impressed by how strong the Velcro tab was to secure the pillow in place, we found that it did take some maneuvering before finding just the right spot to sleep in. As someone with a shorter neck, I also felt as though the plastic insert jabbed my collarbone, and also applied a bit too much pressure on my ear for my liking.
That being said, Reviewed’s executive editor of growth, Megan McCarthy, is a huge fan of the Trtl: "It's the only thing I've used that lets me have semi-decent sleep on a flight. It holds my head up better than any of those puffy donut-shaped pillows you see in airport stores, and it takes up so much less space in my bag."
Despite my personal gripes with the Trtl, I still think it’s a great pick for the more low-profile traveler who wants something they can easily stash in their bag. After all, since it’s basically just a fleece scarf, it’ll take up much less luggage space than a traditional U-shaped pillow. Keep in mind though that the Trtl is only designed for one-sided support, so it might not be the best choice for those who tend to toss and turn mid-flight. Having said that, it’s also a pillow that offers a much-needed surface to lean on in both middle and aisle seats.
If you’re looking to go the inflatable route, we’d recommend the AirComfy as the way to go. This inflatable U-shaped pillow, which comes with a built-in inflation pump, consistently ranked well with our testers in terms of comfort, design, and portability.
Designed with a micro-velvet pillowcase, this pillow is soft to the touch and easy to clean, since the liner itself is machine-washable. While it took us longer than 30 to 60 seconds to inflate the pillow—for our testers, the estimated time was about 120 seconds (2 minutes)—the ability to easily inflate or deflate it makes this pillow ideal for travelers who want more control over their pillow’s firmness level. It also comes with contoured neck support, which looks like two cat ears are jutting out from the pillow when it’s not in use.
For portability, the AirComfy excels because it can be packed down into the plush, lightweight packsack that it comes in, which features a carabiner clip that’s easy to attach to luggage. Because it’s a U-shaped pillow, it may not be the preferred choice for side sleepers, but for those who want good neck support, this travel pillow is a solid mid-range option.
We didn’t expect to like the Sunany as much as we did. This innovative pillow is designed to be inflated and rested on top of your lap (or tray table, depending on your height), so you’re able to lean forward and place your head in an opening, not unlike a massage table. It features holes on the front and sides as well, so you're able to flip the pillow around, hug it as you fall asleep, and also have the ability to place your phone, kindle, or other devices inside for entertainment as you rest your head.
When we tested the Sunany, we were impressed by the design of the inflation valve, which makes it super easy to inflate in about ten breaths or less. To deflate, all you have to do is open the valve and squeeze gently. Another highlight was how easy it was to roll up and fold away in its storage bag. And as an added bonus, the pillow comes with a set of earplugs and a surprisingly comfortable eye mask. All in all, our experience with the Sunany was one of the more unforgettable ones.
Ideal for those who only want the bare essentials when they travel, Therm-a-Rest’s stuffable pillowcase is best-suited for campers, backpackers, or simply those who can’t be bothered to carry a travel pillow around with them. It’s essentially just a sack that you’re meant to stuff a sweater or jacket into, eliminating the need for a travel pillow entirely.
While we found the material to be soft and breathable, and we certainly recognize how a space-saving sack could be useful for some, ultimately there’s nothing really special about this mini pillowcase. If traveling light is your biggest concern, you should probably opt for the Trtl instead.
If you’re looking for a simple and affordable pillow, the Clöudz is a straightforward choice that you can’t go wrong with. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect in terms of a standard U-shaped pillow, offering firm support that holds its shape even with the full weight of your head pressed against it. What elevates the Clöudz over other pillows in its price range are the handy snaps at the ends, which keep the pillow snugly in place around your neck. They’re also perfect for attaching the pillow to your luggage when you’re not using it. We also thought it stood out for its dual-sided comfort, with one side featuring a warm, cozy fabric and the other a smooth spandex. These small details on the Clöudz actually make a big difference and place it a cut above the rest of its cheap microbead competitors.
There’s plenty to admire about Samsonite’s Magic 2-in-1 pillow. It’s actually quite a groundbreaking design, as one can choose from using it in the form of a U-shaped pillow, or converting it to a square-shaped pillow in a matter of seconds. The pillow has both an ultra-soft fleece side and a more breathable polyester fabric, depending on if you tend to sleep hot or get chilly on flights. One feature that also stood out to me was the durable carabiner, however, due to its placement, you’re only able to access it if your pillow is in the U-shape.
Despite these practical features, my main problem with the Samsonite is that it doesn’t provide stellar support in either shape. The pillow itself seems a tad too large, which causes the microbeads to shift out of place as soon as you rest your head on it. The U-shape also seems boxier than normal, meaning that the sides of the pillow don’t wrap around your neck very well, which is necessary to keep your head from drooping. If you have your heart set on a microbead pillow, we’d recommend opting for the Cloudz instead.
The Travelmate pillow was a solid, middle-of-the-pack performer in our tests. While we found the memory foam to be soft and cushiony, there wasn’t much that made it stand out in a crowd of worthy competitors. One feature that we did enjoy was the removable foam insert, which lets you adjust the thickness of the pillow from behind, and also allows it to better conform to the back of your airplane seat so it doesn't push your head forward.
We also took notice of the built-in elastic strap. While we assumed it was intended to place over your headrest for a no-slip hold, it’s actually meant for attaching the pillow to luggage according to the instructions. This seems like an odd, time-consuming method of attachment, as you’d have to find something to loop or tie it around as opposed to an easy-to-use clip or snap closure. We also think this pillow could seriously benefit from a front clasp, as we found ourselves all too aware of the open-U design that fails to offer any support in the front.
While we had high hopes for the uniquely designed Travelrest pillow, we were ultimately left disappointed by its bulky feel and scratchy material. We found ourselves constantly adjusting this pillow to try and find the most comfortable position to no avail, and also felt that the seam that runs the length of the pillow irritated the skin on our necks.
Designed for side sleepers, the Travelrest is meant to be slung across your body like a guitar, with a cord to loop around your headrest so it won’t budge out of place. While the concept of the pillow itself is certainly interesting, ultimately we found that the Travelrest fails in its execution. The pillow was either too stiff or saggy for us to get comfortable, and we just couldn’t look past the rough material in the end.
In a word, the Ostrich pillow is awful—just absolutely awful. Designed to block out light and give the wearer an “immersive nap experience,” the Ostrich Pillow was the most expensive one that we tested and functions more like a weird mask that made us feel like one of the aliens from The Simpsons. It completely covers the wearer’s face and hair except for one small hole, which makes it difficult to see and talk to others. Because of its design, you also can’t wear it and use headphones and/or earbuds, both of which are crucial on long trips.
Aside from its bizarre cocoon-like shape, the Ostrich Pillow just doesn’t work well as a pillow, period. It’s filled with microbeads that move around as soon as you lean into or against the pillow, so it barely offers support or cushioning to the neck or head. The only way it “works” is if you lean forward and completely bow your head down so it’s flush with a hard surface, but that’s an extremely uncomfortable position to stay in for more than just a few minutes. The pillow is also large and unlike other pillows we tested, it doesn’t have any strap or built-in functionality that makes it easy to store in a backpack or in luggage when it’s not in use. It also has a plastic-y, synthetic smell to it that did not seem to fade over time and is especially pungent when your head is inside the pillow.
After weeks of testing, we feel confident saying that the only thing the Ostrich Pillow has going for it is its novelty factor. No other travel pillow looks anything like it, but we think that’s a good thing because at least those pillows are actually comfortable and travel-friendly. In our opinion, you’d be better off with no travel pillow at all than having to use this one.
Shayna started her writing career doing film reviews for The Weekly Dig in Boston, Mass., and she's been covering a variety of topics ever since, including consumer education, sex tech and wellness, relationships, and more. She's written for Bustle, Elite Daily, PopMatters, and other outlets. In her spare time, she likes to make candles, brew kombucha, and go to the movies.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.