Sleeping on planes (or trains or long car rides) can be a challenging endeavor. Investing in a high-quality travel pillow, though, can make a huge difference in how comfortable you are during your trip and how refreshed you feel once you arrive at your destination.
To help you find the very best pillow for your next journey, we’ve asked travel experts, ranging from luxury travel bloggers to Emmy award-winning journalists, for their top picks in terms of comfort, style and versatility.
Neck support for any sleeping position
Experts we interviewed named the Trtl Travel Pillow their go-to pick, praising its super supportive design, compact size and breathable (and machine-washable) fabric. “The design is genius—it fits snugly around your neck with built-in structure to keep your neck supported,” says Kiki Rich, founder of the solo female travel site The Blonde Abroad. She also mentioned that it’s “flatter than traditional travel pillows so it doesn’t take up extra space” in your luggage.
We also loved the machine-washable Trtl pillow, and while it could be a taut for someone who doesn’t like, say, a snug scarf feeling, we found it both comfortable and supportive.
The fact that this pillow inflates easily and effectively is what makes it such a must-have, says Scott Keyes, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “It folds up really small in your bag,” he says, “and you can inflate or deflate it to control the firmness.” It can be worn multiple ways: nestled around your head and neck, attached to a car headrest or placed on the back of a plane seat. Keyes also loves the pillow’s comfort level, “especially if you prefer to lean against the window” during a flight. When we tried it out for ourselves, we loved the pillow’s unique shape and the ultra-quick push-button inflation process, but found it to be slightly less soft and cozy as we would’ve preferred, given its inflatable nature rather than the more plush foam options we tried. That said, it’s a solid pick for people who prefer firm pillows.
Oneika Raymond, an award-winning writer and travel host for NBC New York and Travel Channel, recently purchased this “soft and compact” travel blanket, which zips up into a pillow. She loves that it’s a multi-purpose travel accessory, since you can use it either as a cozy blanket or supportive pillow when placed in its soft carrying case made of the same plush material. It features a luggage belt and backpack clip to attach to your. In our testing, the pillow’s softness stood out to us the most—-seriously, that fabric is so plush you can sink into it. That feature helps ensure that you’ll sleep comfortably and have a cozy companion during your travels.
As its name implies, the Infinity Travel Pillow can be twisted and wrapped in seemingly endless ways creating a custom, supportive cushion around your head and neck. Its chameleon-like design can fit easily in spaces from cramped airplane seats to the backseat of a car, which is why Lydia Mansel, founder of the travel tips site Just Packed, considers it her go-to. In a window seat, “the pillow rests perfectly between me and the side of the plane,” she says, while in a middle seat, “the pillow supports my neck so I don’t wake up stiff and in pain.” She also loves that the machine-washable pillow can work “as an eye mask or noise-canceling” device depending upon how you wrap it about you. When we tried the pillow, we found it to be bulkier than more traditional pillows, but comfortable and surprisingly breathable despite its ample size.
Made of dual-density memory foam with a thick, supportive design, this pillow is a favorite of Carolyn Ray, CEO and editor of the women’s travel resource site JourneyWoman. “It’s soft, comfortable, and has a high wall on the collar that holds your head in a neutral position,” she says. Ray also notes the pillow features a clasp that helps “keep it snug around your neck,” as well as a backpack clip and headphones pocket. Claire Soares, founder and CEO of the luxury travel brand Up in the Air Life, also swears by the Cabeau pillow, noting that the pillow’s neck cushion is “high, thick and firm so you have strong support as you doze off in your seat.” When we tried it out, we also found it supportive and conveniently adjustable, and we appreciated the included travel bag which allows you to compress the pillow down to half its size and save valuable room. And as a bonus, the pillow cover is machine washable, so you can keep it looking fresh no matter how often you use it.
Luxe travel set
At nearly $400, this set is the highest priced on our list, andt if you can swing the cost, the cashmere blanket, socks, eye mask and carrying case (which can be turned into a pillow) are well worth the money, says Carolyn Addison, head of product at the luxury travel company Black Tomato. “Given that sometimes flying means dealing with the unpredictable, having a little luxury set like this that is easily packable makes getting to sleep that much easier,” she says. The case can fit over most pillows provided by airlines.
For a more affordable option that still offers high-quality comfort and support, we like this classic pillow from Cabeau. The memory foam pillow has a thin flat back and raised edges to hold your head up, no matter what position you’re sleeping in or how much room you have in your seat. That head support comes via the pillow’s notably solid structure, which sits high on your neck and keeps your head secure. It’s not the most compact pillow we tried, but there’s still a lot to like about it, including its soft velour (and machine-washable) cover with cushy memory foam inside.
The advice, recommendations or rankings expressed in this article are those of the Buy Side from WSJ editorial team, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by our commercial partners.