This selection of the best travel pillows will help you get from A to ZZZ pain-free. Traveling is a great time to catch up on some sleep, but there’s nothing worse than waking up with a crick in your neck. That's why choosing the right pillow for you is so important.
In this guide, we look at travel pillows that are suitable for flying, train travels, long car journeys, and even camping and backpacking. You’ll want to find something comfy, but that also offers the right amount of support for your neck.
"A forward head position will bring significant stress to your neck muscles." – Tim Gumilar, physiotherapist, personal trainer, and founder of Smartphit.
We reached out to Tim Gumilar of Smartphit for his expert guidance – he’s a physiotherapist, a personal trainer, and a big advocate of proper posture and being pain-free as he’s suffered himself. “Most often, the symptoms of tension and pain occur as a result of overload of the neck muscles," he said. "This often occurs due to prolonged or repetitive loads (sitting, sleeping position, frequent turning in one direction, driving).” So, if you sleep with your head to the side, this creates tension. And if you stay in this position for at least four or five hours, this will result in tight and unhappy neck muscles.
Seated sleeping is awkward at the best of times. Finding a travel pillow that’ll help align your head over your spine will go a long way in preventing neck strain. Pair your favorite travel pillow with some of the best headphones for that perfect ‘block out the world’ combo to really help your trip fly by.
The 10 best travel pillows to buy right now
1. Trtl Pillow Plus
Why you can trust Top Ten Reviews
Clocking in at half the size and half the weight of other travel pillows, the Trtl Pillow Plus feels more like a neck brace than a pillow. However, it’s this stiff internal plastic system that is key to supporting your neck and preventing your head from lolling forwards whilst you sleep on those long journeys. Advertised as “the world’s first fully adjustable travel pillow,” the Trtl Pillow Plus is great for people either tall or small, although it does take a moment to find the right settings for you. You can use the toggles on the brace to adjust to your preferred height and then wrap the super-soft microfleece scarf around your neck and secure it in place with Velcro.
Once you’re locked in, your neck will not move. Some reviewers commented that they felt very secure whilst using the Trtl Pillow Plus and complimented the neck support, whereas others felt a bit restricted by it, like they were being choked – if you’re someone who gets claustrophobic, this might not be the pillow for you, but if firm neck support is important to you, this might just be the travel pillow of your dreams.
The Trtl Pillow Plus comes with its own water-resistant carry bag and if it does get dirty, you can just detach the fabric scarf from the internal support and pop it in the washing machine. It’s pretty lightweight and packs down quite small, so it’s great for frequent flyers.
2. Cabeau Evolution Cool Pillow
Made from dual-density memory foam, the Cabeau Evolution Cool is another great choice for those looking for firm neck support – the material is strong enough to hold your head up, but will give way a bit so you can get comfortable.
What’s most interesting about this travel pillow is its innovative cooling vent technology – between you and me, that’s just a fancy way of saying that it’s not a solid piece of material as there are mesh sides to allow air in and out. This gives the Cabeau Evolution Cool a one-up over its competitors as other travel pillows that wrap around your neck tend to get rather warm, making this the perfect travel pillow for those who run hot and need some space to breathe.
Another big advantage of this travel pillow is that its shape is specifically designed so you can still listen to music – there’s a dip in its sides so you can wear over-ear headphones without the pillow getting in the way.
To secure the Cabeau Evolution Cool in place, you just snap the magnetic toggle at the front and tighten it. This travel pillow fits most neck sizes, although those with slender necks might not get the full support they require.
Finally, in terms of portability, the Cabeau Evolution Cool comes with a travel bag that’ll compress this travel pillow to half its size – great if space is at a premium.
3. Samsonite Magic 2-in-1 Travel Pillow
Can’t decide if U-shaped pillows are for you? The Samsonite Magic 2-in-1 Travel Pillow might be what you’re looking for. Samsonite is a name known for high-quality products and this travel pillow is no exception: it’s a U-shaped pillow that can quickly convert into a square-shaped pillow when you need it to. This gives you the option to use it as neck or lumbar support. Since this pillow is so versatile, many reviewers said that they enjoyed using it at home, too.
The Samsonite Magic 2-in-1 Travel Pillow is super lightweight and has a travel clip so you can easily attach the pillow to the outside of your bag, where it won’t take up precious packing space.
Not everyone is a fan of memory foam, a common pillow filling, so instead inside the Samsonite Magic 2-in-1 Travel Pillow you’ll find microbeads that can be pushed around to get the firmness you desire – this is especially great when you want to switch up sleeping positions. However, if you’ve ever had any experience with a microbead pillow, you'll know that over time they do get a bit saggy and lose their firmness, which isn’t ideal if you require firm neck support. It also might not last as long as some of the other travel pillows on this list, but for the low price, it’s a fair trade-off as it’s still comfortable.
4. Huzi Design Infinity Pillow
This is just a hug in pillow form. The Huzi Design Infinity Pillow is by far the softest looking pillow on our list, but support-wise it probably rates the lowest. Shaped like an infinity scarf, this feels like a normal pillow compared to other specialty travel pillows. It provides low to moderate support and is more for comfort and snuggling.
Due to its unique shape, the Huzi Design Infinity Pillow can be wrapped, rolled, smushed and squeezed into pretty much any configuration you can think of, making it possible for you to find the most comfortable sleeping position for you. Drape it around your neck for neck and chin support, have it be a neck and lumbar support at the same time, or even wrap it around your eyes and ears to completely stifle out the outside world.
Although it can be compressed down and rolled up, this travel pillow doesn’t come with its own bag, which is a bummer. As it’s so soft and fluffy it’s also rather bulky, which makes carrying it a bit of a pain. If you’re worried about exposing the Huzi Design Infinity Pillow to the elements during your travels, have no fear, as you can throw the whole thing in the wash. Plus, it’s made from bamboo fabric which is known for being resistant to odor, mold, mildew, and bacteria.
5. Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow
While it seems a bit silly that you need an instruction manual to learn how to use a pillow, the Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow’s patented comma-like shape will have you rethinking what you’re looking for in a travel pillow. This weird-looking golf club-esque travel pillow is ergonomically designed to provide support to your whole upper body, not just your neck – this makes it ideal if you’re stuck in that dreaded middle seat.
Now, how to actually use it: first you need to inflate the Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow with a few quick puffs – one of the big benefits of inflatable pillows is that you can increase or decrease the amount of air to tailor the firmness to your liking. Next, if possible, you should loop the cord around the wings/seatback or headrest and then pinch the cord lock and pull the cord to tighten and secure in place. If that’s not possible, skip the first step and just wear the travel pillow like a guitar or messenger bag – you can have the pillow across your body or down the side. Even though it’s not the coolest-looking pillow, sleep cuddlers will be thankful for its long shape.
The Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow is one of the most portable and compact travel pillows we’ve seen. When not in use, you can quickly deflate it in seconds and roll it up like a croissant. However, it does get some points docked for being hand-wash only.
6. Cabeau Evolution Classic
The Cabeau Evolution Classic Memory Foam Travel Pillow has high raised sides to help cradle your head all around without feeling constrictive, whilst the flattened rear of the pillow means your neck won't be forced forward. It’s even endorsed for seated sleep by Dr. Ghodadra, M.D., a renowned orthopedic surgeon for pro athletes.
At $29.99 it’s at the lower end of the price range for travel pillows. This one in particular wows as it’s more supportive than more expensive options made out of similar due to its higher sides – you can be sure your neck will be secure and won’t move during a long snooze. However, those with thicker necks may wish to avoid this one as you might feel too restricted. Also, did we mention that the Cabeau Evolution Classic has a mobile phone pocket on the side? It sounds neat, but we’re not sure how this would affect the balance of the pillow. Maybe you can store some earbuds in there instead.
The velour cover is incredibly soft and cozy, although some have commented that this in combination with the memory foam makes for a very toasty experience. If you prefer cooler temperatures for sleeping, you might want to consider the Cabeau Evolution Cool Pillow instead.
One point against this travel pillow is that it doesn’t come with a storage bag (this can be purchased separately) and the cover material is a bit of a hair and dust magnet, but you can simply unzip the cover and throw it in the washing machine.
7. Teton Sports Camp Pillow
As the name suggests, the Teton Sports Camp Pillow is more geared for those going camping or backpacking than snoozing on a red-eye flight. It’s comfortable, convenient, and compact – it compresses down to 4 x 7 x 9 in (10 x 18 x 23 cm) and can be packed in the included drawstring storage bag so you can easily stow it away in your backpack. Note that when you first take it out of the bag, it takes this travel pillow about six hours to fully fluff up, so be sure to do this well in advance of when you want to go to sleep.
The Teton Sports Camp Pillow comes in four different plaid patterns – very lumberjack chic and perfect for the outdoors. If you like your camping gear to be matching, then you’ll be happy to know that these travel pillow designs match the liners in Teton Sports sleeping bags. And, fun fact, the Teton Sports Camp Pillow is made from the same fiber fill as their sleeping bags, so you know it’s going to be comfortable for a night out under the stars.
In terms of firmness, this pillow is on the softer side, so this pillow is better for those who sleep on their front. Side sleepers should avoid this one as they won’t get the proper support they need (or, since they’re so inexpensive, you could just buy two and stack them). The Teton Sports Camp Pillow is also a lot smaller than you might think, measuring 12 by 18 in (30 x 46 cm).
Interestingly, Teton provides a lifetime warranty and will replace or repair the product due to defects or misperformance (if the damage is due to an accident or neglect, unfortunately that doesn't apply).
8. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
If you want size and color options, then you’ve come to the right travel pillow. The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow comes in four different sizes, starting at small (12 x 16 in) all the way up to extra large (16.5 x 27 in). Out of all the pillows on this list, it has the most interesting designs by far, rather than just a solid block of color (although that’s an option too). At the time of writing, the small size was more expensive than the larger sizes, so be sure to shop around.
This is an eco-friendly travel pillow and a great choice for those with green values. The cover, made from 60% recycled polyester, is soft but durable, and the inside is actually made from excess foam from mattress production. That’s really neat and makes for a firmer pillow, but we think that might be why some users have noted it can also be a bit lumpy.
It takes a while for the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow to fluff up to its full potential (4 inches thick), but many reviewers commented that it fluffed up well – you can restore loft with a good shaking out. The only downside is that there is no separate case to protect the pillow from the elements, so you just have to fold and tuck the pillow into itself, but it does compress down well.
We’d say that this travel pillow is better suited for camping, but if you do take this on a flight, bus, or train journey, you can use it as lumbar support when you’re not sleeping. Overall, it’s a bit expensive for what it is, but can you really put a price on a good night’s sleep?
9. J-Pillow Travel Pillow
Okay, we know this one looks a bit weird, but bear with us, it’s actually REALLY comfortable. The funny shape helps cradle your chin and keeps your head elevated in the perfect position for a restful sleep. And, get this, the J-Pillow Travel Pillow is actually designed by a former flight attendant! It even won the British Invention of the Year award in 2020.
Its three-way support system works like so: the ‘wings’ wrap around your head to support it, the middle part fills the gap between your neck and shoulders, and the ‘trunk’ provides chin support to stop your head from nodding down. It’s a lot more flexible than most travel pillows due to its J-shape. It’s nice and soft, and while it does provide some support, some might feel like it doesn’t provide enough – on a scale from comfy to supportive, it tips more towards the former. A few reviewers did mention that they had trouble keeping this pillow in place and that it would slip, so if you’re a fidgety sleeper you might want to give this one a miss.
When not in use, you can stuff this travel pillow in the provided sack and compress it down. There’s also a handy snap-loop fastener at the top of the pillow that peeks out of the bag that you can use to attach the pillow to your luggage. Another bonus is that the J-Pillow is machine washable, so you can throw the whole thing into the machine.
Another point to note is that the J-Pillow Travel Pillow has a very generous return policy – if you try it and don’t like it, you can return it within six months, no questions asked. Although some customers said it did take a little while to get a response, they did get one eventually.
10. Ostrichpillow Go Neck Pillow
Elegant, stylish, clean lines – the Ostrichpillow Go Neck Pillow is definitely a first-class travel pillow. Made with high-density memory foam to provide neck support, it feels soft but is quite firm. This, in conjunction with its neck-brace design, makes it one of the more supportive travel pillows on this list. It’s also a bit heavier compared to other travel pillows, but that’s not saying much as it’s still under a pound.
Unlike the other best travel pillows on this list, the Ostrichpillow Go Neck Pillow uses a Velcro strap to create a custom fit rather than toggles. Some users, however, were annoyed to find that things kept getting stuck to the Velcro, like their hair or shirts.
There are a few color options, although it’s the color on the inside that changes instead of the outer one, so that'll appeal to those who like to keep things low-key and prefer a more minimalistic look. To clean the pillow, you just zip off the sleeve and toss it in the washing machine. It comes with a travel bag that’ll squish the Ostrichpillow Go by up to 60%. When not traveling, it’s recommended that you store it uncompressed.
The main complaint about this travel pillow is that as the sides are quite high, it’s much better suited to those with longer necks. That, and the way it hugs your neck mean it does get uncomfortably warm after a while.
Choosing the best travel pillow for you
People come in all shapes and sizes, so what might be the ideal product for you will be someone else’s idea of torture. So, while there is no one correct answer for everyone, Smartphit founder Tim Gumilar does have some advice to share based on his seven years working as a physiotherapist, along with his own experience with back pain.
Now, how can we reduce this tension? Well, one way would obviously be to get those muscles stronger, but that takes time and you’re here to learn how to pick a good travel pillow (although Tim can help you with neck exercises if you’re interested). We also need to make sure that those muscles get sufficient rest and time for recovery. Tim explains that “That’s where travel pillows come into play. Even during rest time, like lying on a bed or sitting, we don’t support our neck. Those muscles that are already overused need to work now in a rest position as well, and that can impact and cause even more tension in the neck.”
Tim maintains that “the most important thing when using any kind of travel pillow is to get your neck supported as much as possible so that our muscles can relax”. He also adds that “it’s important that our lower back is supported as well” when in a seated position for a long time and that we “give our muscles time to relax, so that they’re not under tension 24/7”. Placing a pillow behind your lower back will help support it. If you’re on a budget, you can use a rolled-up towel instead.
Now, with that knowledge under your belt, you also need to ask yourself the following questions when selecting a travel pillow.
What do you need it for?
If you’re traveling by plane, train, bus, or car and are going to be sitting for a long time, will you be sitting in the middle, aisle, or window seat? For the most part neck-brace and U-shaped pillows will be fine options for wherever you’re sitting, as long as you’re upright. But do be aware that some are better for the middle and aisle seats versus the window seat.
Whereas if you’re going camping, then a neck-brace pillow isn’t really going to be ideal as you’ll be sleeping in a totally different position and require a different kind of support. You’ll probably want something that’s less rigid and a bit softer and snugglier.
What position will you be sleeping in?
For seated sleeping it’s best to keep your neck upright, with your head aligned over your spine to prevent any muscle strain. Neck-brace style pillows are perfect for this, although some might find those a bit claustrophobic and constrictive. U-shape pillows are also a great option as they sit snuggly around your neck and keep your head from flopping about.
If you’re lying down, then you’re better off with a more traditional pillow shape as your weight will be transferred differently and you’ll need support in another way. Sleeping on your front means your head and neck doesn’t require as much support in this position, so a softer pillow is recommended. Side sleepers need a bit more support, but you don’t want a pillow that’s too high as that’ll just put your neck at an uncomfortable angle. Those that sleep on their back will find they need a bit more support as there’s more of a gap to fill, so firmer pillows will help.
What kind of firmness do you want?
The firmer a pillow is, the more support it provides. People also have different preferences for what feels comfortable for them. Sometimes you want to find the right balance between function and comfort.
The material a travel pillow is filled with will determine how firm it is – inflatable, memory foam, beads, or fiber filler. Inflatable pillows allow you to easily control the firmness of your pillow. Too soft? Give it a few puffs. Too firm? Just let a little air out.
Memory foam is praised for its soft yet firm properties, but it does retain heat. It’s one of the top choices for support and comfort, but can be a bit bulky and more expensive.
If you’re not a fan of memory foam, then a good middle ground would be a pillow filled with some kind of micro beads or fiber. Pillows filled with microbeads are quite malleable and the more you squish them the firmer they become. Fiber-filled pillows can vary in firmness depending on what exactly they’re filled with and how much.
How much space do you have?
When you’re traveling, it’s better to save space and pack light if you can. Most travel pillows come with their own storage bag that allow you to compress them even further which makes transporting them a lot easier. For example, inflatable pillows are much more portable because you can remove the ‘filling’ and just roll them up. Whereas something like a memory foam pillow keeps its shape but takes up more room.
What’s your budget?
Consider how much you want to spend. Travel pillows tend to be in the $15-$80 range. Just because one is more expensive, doesn’t necessarily make it better. If you’re a frequent traveler then it makes sense to invest in a decent quality pillow that you’ll be able to get a lot of mileage out of. If you only occasionally travel, then it might not be worth shelling out the big bucks for something you’ll only use a handful of times.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.