Long-haul, red-eye or just plain long flight?
One way to reduce the impact of jet lag and is to catch some shut-eye on your flight.
But let’s be real: Sleeping on a plane isn’t easy.
Travel pillows have come a long way from the simple U-shaped models of yesteryear (though you can still find those if a bobbing head and stiff neck are your thing—we don't judge).
Most modern travel pillows sport specialized designs to deliver support where you need it most. They’re built for sleeping sitting up.
Some even cater to specific sleeping styles, so you can catch some shut-eye in your preferred position.
Check out our awesome line-up of the 10 best travel pillows of 2021.
Too tired too shop around? We feel you. Skip straight to the top pick, the super supportive and ultra adjustable trtl Plus.
Why a Good Travel Pillow is Essential
Whether you were born to explore or only venture out on business, traveling can be downright exhausting. The good news? The right travel pillow can help you arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to go. Here's how.
#1: Reduces the Impact of Jet Lag
Jet lag is a disruption to your circadian rhythm characterized by crossing many time zones in a short period of time.
It affects virtually everybody who flies to a different country, causing exhaustion, inability to concentrate, overeating and irritability.
One way to reduce the impacts of jet lag is to try to catch some sleep on your flight. But drifting off when you're uncomfortable can be nearly impossible.
And when you’re trying to sleep on a long-haul flight, you’re trying to sleep sitting up. By cushioning your head and neck, a travel pillow can help you relax enough to fall asleep.
#2: Stay Asleep for Longer
Namely, long enough to benefit from the sleep you do get.
Even if you're the type of person who can fall asleep anywhere, at some point your head will inevitably start to slide. This results in a vicious cycle of drifting off and snapping awake.
With a travel pillow to cradle your head and support your neck, you can fall asleep and stay asleep long enough to benefit from your nap.
#3: Wake Up Without Pain
Let's imagine you have no problem falling and staying asleep while seated.
Now let's imagine how you'd feel after an hour or two of sleeping with your neck at an awkward angle. Stiff, sore, and grumpy.
With a travel pillow to support key areas, you're more likely to reduce muscle soreness from your flight nap. Since you’re already subject to several health impacts from flying and sitting for so long, this is a relief to your system.
Pro Travel Tip: Most of us focus primarily on side support, but when you're sitting upright, your head can just as easily loll forward. For total comfort, consider a travel pillow that offers support for your chin as well. We’ve got you!
Check this out: https://www.flightfud.com/blogs/travel/red-eye-flights
How to Choose the Best Travel Pillow for You
Comfort is relative and what works for a friend or relative might not necessarily be ideal for you, but there are still a handful of key elements that every travel pillow should have.
Hanging a travel pillow around your neck won't do much good if it doesn't support your head and neck. Look for a pillow that offers extra support where you anticipate you'll need it most. For many, this means extra cushioning on the sides, but support for your chin shouldn't be overlooked, either.
No one enjoys having scratchy fabrics rubbing against their skin and a soft, smooth cover is something most of us can appreciate. If you sleep hot, breathable fabrics and an open design can help you stay cool.
Sometimes pillows need some tweaking before we're able to feel truly comfortable. Most of us also change positions at least a few times while sleeping. Travel pillows that can be adjusted (even if it's just a little bit) will allow you to customize your sleeping comfort.
Opt for something that folds down nice and small so you can tuck it into a corner of your carry-on. If that's not possible, a dedicated carry bag for a larger pillow can make things a little easier. Just be aware that your travel pillow will probably count as your personal item if it isn't packed into your carry-on.
The 10 Best Travel Pillows of 2021
Ready to shop? We scoured thousands of reviews on Amazon, Google, and Facebook by frequent flyers, flight crews, and travel enthusiasts to find the top travel pillows of the year.
#1. trtl Plus
The original trtl Pillow was a runaway hit with tired travelers from around the globe, but it wasn't without a couple of minor kinks. Namely, it's potential to cause overheating and one-size-fits-all neck height.
The new and improved trtl Plus is based on the same innovative scarf-cum-neck brace design that made the original so supportive but addresses its predecessor's two biggest pitfalls with a breathable mesh lining and adjustable neck height. As an added bonus, the trtl Plus also comes with extra padding for cloud-like comfort.
- The firm, but flexible internal structure delivers brace-like support for the head, neck, and chin
- The updated design is adjustable to fit varying neck lengths
- Can easily be positioned to provide support where you need it most
- A combination of breathable mesh and plush microfiber help users stay cool and comfy
- Compact when folded
- Costs twice as much as the original trtl Travel Pillow
- If you're the type who just can't tolerate scarfs or tight collars, you might find the trtl a bit too restrictive
The Cabeau Evolution S3 effectively solves the "bobbing head" problem with extra high contoured sides, 360° support, and a patented Seat Strap System that attaches to your headrest to keep your head from dropping forward.
The only caveat is the Seat Strap System won't work unless your seat has an adjustable headrest with wings. The good news? It's still super comfy and exceptionally supportive even without this feature.
- Quality memory foam combined with raised sides and carefully placed contours delivers serious support
- A flat back keeps the pillow from pushing your neck forward
- The adjustable front clasp offers a customizable fit and can be cinched for extra chin support
- Features built-in side pockets
- Rolls up and comes with a handy carry case
- The cover is fully removable and washing machine-friendly
- Bulky even when folded
- Seat straps don't work on every seat
- High sides can interfere with headphones
You have to love a travel pillow that places no limits on how you use it, and that's exactly what makes this option so popular. Ridiculously simple, yet surprisingly effective, the BCOZZY travel pillow features overlapping ends that allow users to double-up on support wherever it's needed.
If your chin routinely ends up on your chest, wrap the arms around the front of your neck. When you're ready to change position, simply turn the pillow so the arms are supporting the side of your head. Snoozing in a window seat? Try folding it in half for extra cushioning.
- Specially designed to provide extra chin support
- Flat back won't push your neck forward
- Highly adjustable
- Soft and comfy
- Easy to use
- The whole pillow can be tossed in the washing machine
- Polyester fiberfill is likely to lose shape after a while
- No velcro fasteners to help keep the ends in place
- Doesn't offer firm support, but this can be a bonus for those who prefer softer pillows
Side sleepers and restless travelers, this one is for you. Unlike other travel pillows, the Travelrest Ultimate provides lateral support for the entire upper body. This means you can snuggle into the pillow and catch some Zzz's without having to lean against a window or your partner's shoulder (awesome!).
The straps can be secured directly to an adjustable headrest or worn messenger bag style over your torso for shift-free use. It's also snuggly soft, thanks to a velour cover and folds up nice and small after deflating.
- Eliminates aches and pains by keeping the head and neck in proper alignment
- Can be secured in two different ways
- Easy to move from left to right when you need to change position
- Inflates quickly and easily (two to three breaths is all it takes)
- Deflates in seconds and takes up very little space
- Some users felt it was more comfortable with another cover pulled over the pillow
- As with any inflatable option, there will likely come a day when it doesn't hold air as well as it used to
If cervical collars promote proper spinal alignment and reduce strain on the neck, it stands to reason that a travel pillow with a similar design will do the same.
While it might not be the most popular option out there, we think the unique design of the ComfoArray is sheer genius. Not only does the brace-like structure deliver 360° support, but the sides also feature varying heights to fit different neck lengths.
A quality memory foam construction coupled with a breathable cotton cover score this pillow some serious comfort points as well.
- The wrap-around design delivers 360° neck support
- Effectively reduces strain by holding the neck in a neutral position
- Soft and comfortable, yet highly supportive
- Accommodates different neck lengths
- Easy to adjust
- We suspect things can get a tad warm in there
- Some users complained that the Velcro fasteners weren't particularly durable
This oddly shaped pillow can take some getting used to, but travelers who just can't get comfortable with traditional travel pillows swear by it.
In case you're wondering how it works (don't worry, you wouldn't be the first), the top of the J is designed to cushion your head while the arm supports your neck and the bottom curve holds your chin up.
Honestly, we can see why some users love it. It's plush, cushy, and pretty lofty. What's not to love, right? If you have the patience to figure it out, this travel pillow could be a game-changer.
- Soft, cozy, and snuggly; much like a regular pillow
- Open design is ideal for those who overheat easily
- Chin support works surprisingly well once you get the hang of it
- Doesn't create an excessively warm atmosphere around the neck
- Comes with a carry bag and can also be compressed enough to fit into your carry-on luggage
- The entire pillow is machine washable
- Takes some practice to use comfortably
- Polyester fiberfill may eventually lose shape
- Might shift if you move your head around a lot while sleeping
If you don't mind carrying a little extra bulk, the endless loop that is the Infinity Pillow might just help you find your in-flight sweet spot.
This Möbius-shaped "pillow" can be adjusted and used in so many different ways, it's nearly impossible not to find a configuration that works for you.
It's also made with a blend of bamboo and polyester microfiber, so you can count on it to keep you feeling cool and comfortable.
- The extra length makes it easy to "build" enough support in all the key areas, including under the chin
- Hands-down the most versatile travel pillow out there right now
- With a little patience and some practice, most users find it extremely comfortable and highly supportive
- Washing machine friendly for fuss-free cleaning
- Can take up quite a bit of space when it's not rolled up
- We recommend practicing different sleeping positions at home first
- Pretty bulky even when rolled up
Ever wished you could mold your travel pillow into a different shape? With this bendable memory foam cylinder, you can shape a "new" travel pillow every time you nap.
A flexible spine encased in supportive memory foam delivers amazing comfort and adjustability. Plus, the removable pillowcase comes with snap closures on either end so you can secure it around your neck.
- Can be twisted into a variety of shapes to accommodate different sleeping positions
- Cylindrical design works well for lumbar support between naps as well
- The removable cover can simply be tossed into the washing machine when it's time for a clean
- Versatile and easy to use
- Not particularly firm
- A few users complained that they could feel the flexible rod through the foam
- Bulky and difficult to pack, though it can be attached to carry on luggage using the snap closure
When it comes to weird and wonderful designs, the CORI Travel Pillow takes the cake. But while it definitely looks a little strange, it's also beautifully adjustable and unbelievably compact.
This option has a modular design that consists of a long strap and two memory foam cushions (one short and one tall) that can be stuck onto the strap in a variety of configurations for customizable support.
If you don't have much room to spare in your carry-on and don't mind a bit of fiddling before you get comfortable, the CORI is worth trying.
- Adjusts to suit all sleeping positions (you can even wrap it around your eyes and prop your head against a window)
- The cushions consist of high-quality memory foam encased in a silky soft cover
- Extremely compact
- Cushions are available in a variety of fun colors
- Requires a bit of experimenting to get the cushion positions just right
- We foresee some issues with changing sleeping positions (wake up, move cushions, adjust the strap...seems like a lot of work.)
We love multitasking products that give you a little extra bang for your buck, and these plush pillow-blankets do just that.
Both the blankets and the bags are made of micro plush polyester for cozy comfort, and with the blanket folded inside the case, they make a snuggly soft basic travel pillow.
If you get creative, you could even use both at the same time by removing the blanket and stuffing the case with a scarf or a jersey (we promise you won't miss either once you're all wrapped up).
- Luxuriously soft and cozy
- One product takes care of both your travel blanket and pillow
- Bags come with a carabiner attached to the zipper as well as a hand luggage belt for hands-free carrying
- Available in a variety of colors
- Comes with two blanket pillows
- Ideal for gifting
- Definitely not the most supportive travel pillow on our list
- Somewhat bulky
And there you have it—10 amazing travel pillows to help you catch some much-needed shut-eye on your next trip.