Best Travel Pillow – The Complete Buyer’s Guide

Last Updated on 16 May. 2020

I recently arrived back from a big round trip involving 15 different flights. About half of them were spent without a travel pillow and filled with regret. My wife bought herself a travel pillow. I quickly borrowed it and fell asleep for most of the flight. Sorry!

Waking up after sleeping in a plane, train or even the car can often be an uncomfortable experience. Having to slowly move your head back to its proper position all the while your neck is screaming at you. Not fun.

Travel pillows solve all of this and have become super cheap which is a bonus. They’ve also come a long way from the inflatable neck pillows that had that horrible scratchy piece of material right around the middle where your neck went. Now we have lovely memory foam, microbead and all sorts of comfy materials.

Check out the table of contents below so you know exactly what to expect in this Complete Buyer’s Guide.

Top 5 Best Travel Pillows UK

1. Top Choice – Trtl Pillow Scientifically Proven Super Soft Neck Support Travel Pillow

Brand: Trtl

Filling: Frame + Cushion

Cover Material: Fleece

Shape: Pringle-Shaped

  • Cushioned Flexible Support Frame
  • Packs Small
  • Soft and Cosy

PRICE & REVIEWS

The Trtl travel pillow has redefined what a travel pillow is. At first, it seems strange and then it makes so much sense.

Why fight with a big beanbag or funny sponge to support your neck? The Trtl pillow is designed with a flexible supportive frame, covered in cushioning wrapped in a fluffy fleece scarf. It rests on your shoulder; perfectly supporting your neck.

Don’t just take my word for it. The Trtl Pillow was independently tested by the Institute of Motion Analysis and Research at The University of Dundee. 9/10 participants said they would choose the Trtl pillow over a top-of-the-range memory foam U-Shaped travel pillow.

It looks better than traditional travel pillows too. The neat wraparound design makes it look just like a big scarf. Because the design inherently doesn’t have much bulk, it wraps up and packs away neatly. Perfect for travelling light.

The key to using the Trtl pillow is making sure you get it in just the right position. Once you find that sweet spot, wrap the scarf around your neck and secure it snugly in place. You need to make sure it won’t move much.

2. Best Memory Foam – SNUGL Travel Pillow

Brand: SNUGL

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: 100% Cotton Inner, Polyester Outer

Shape: U-Shape

  • Versatile
  • Carry Bag
  • Machine Washable

PRICE & REVIEWS

The versatility of this pillow is only matched by its high-quality. Whether your favourite sleeping position is with your head back, forward, or to the side; the shape is cleverly designed to fit all preferences. Just flip and rotate it so its lumps and curves fit your sleep style.

The 100% cotton inner lining feels lovely and soft on the skin. The polyester outer acts as a low friction surface to stop the pillow unnecessarily gripping to you chair you’re in.

The memory foam filling really is a luxury on long haul flights. With your neck comfortably supported, it’ll be no problem to get that needed shut-eye.

Includes a handy drawstring carry bag with a carabiner clip to attach to the outside of your bag so it won’t take up any extra luggage space.

The regular size is truly more of a large. perhaps the sizes are intended as a men’s and women’s. If your neck is more slight than other people, make sure you opt for the small size rather than the regular. If you’re at all in doubt over your size, I suggest opting for the small; it has to be a snug fit to work correctly.

3. Best For Long Haul Flights – Chin Supporting J-Pillow Travel Pillow

Brand: J-Pillow

Filling: Foam

Cover Material: Velour

Shape: J-Shaped

  • Snap loop for easy clipping to luggage
  • Stops Neck Falling Forwards
  • Comfy for all types of In-flight Sleeper

PRICE & REVIEWS

The J-pillow is a really clever design, it sits around the back and side of your head and has a chin support to stop your head dropping forward. If you find it a bit confusing here’s a picture showing you what everything does:

See? It’s genius! That’s why it gets the Dozy Owl seal of approval. And it was invented by a mum who struggled her way through an overnight flight with her kids and decided there should be an easier way. And there is! It gives you more support than a U-shaped pillow because it takes the weight of your neck by supporting under the chin but is still super comfortable.

It’s also got a little clip at the back so you can easily secure it to your luggage while you’re in transit, it also boasts that it folds up to a little smaller than a U-shaped pillow which is great but it doesn’t make that much of a difference really.

It is the best travel pillow available if you have long flights or you’re travelling overnight. It’s great for short flights as well as the train and car too!

4. Best Inflatable – Metene Inflatable Travel Pillow Soft Velvet Neck Support Pillow

Brand: Metene

Filling: Air

Cover Material: Velvet

Shape: U-Shape

  • Machine Washable Outer
  • Inflate Button
  • Packs Down Small

PRICE & REVIEWS

This inflatable travel pillow is the ideal pillow for travelling light. Especially when you’re travelling with only hand luggage.

The plush velvety fabric is nice and soft against the skin and still manages to let your skin breathe despite the air-tight material below.

The design is genius. There is a small built-in pump, so you can guarantee it is just as inflated as you like. I like my pillow as firm as possible. I can top it up if it ever slowly deflates on long journeys. It’s like a mini air-bed for your neck.

It turns out that a pocket of air is a delightfully comfortable way to support your neck. Because it’s air there is a gentle, relaxing, bounce to the support.

It would be nice if this pillow had a clip at the front to secure it around the neck. It can also have a tendency to slowly deflate over time; but that’s no problem with the built-in pump to top it up.

5. Best For Kids – BCOZZY KIDS Chin Supporting Travel Pillow

Brand: BCOZZY

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: Fleece

Shape: Wrap Around

  • 360 Support
  • Fully Machine Washable
  • Soft and Breathable

PRICE & REVIEWS

This travel pillow solves the ergonomic issue with traditional U-shaped pillows in that it supports your chin by overlapping at the front to support your neck all around. There will be no need to worry about your head drooping forward as you doze off.

Are you a side sleeper? You can bend this pillow back over itself and double up the padding and rest against one shoulder.

The fleece lining is super soft but still allows your skin to breathe.

It’s not only for kids. It comes in larger sizes for big kids and adults too. Amazon is also the only place to get a free drawstring carry bag included.

While it is held in place with its own rigidity, it can be a bit looser around the neck than options with a fastener. If you prefer it just a little slack then it’s ideal for you. I think something to fasten it together might be a nice design tweak.

Things To Consider When Buying a Travel Pillow

There are quite a few different things you need to consider when you’re buying a travel pillow. It’s nothing complicated but it could mean the difference between sanity and insanity on a long haul flight.

Filling

The filling! The filling of your neck pillow is what provides you with the support and comfort you need for sleeping during travel. The three main fillings are Memory foam, regular foam and microbead. And air I suppose but I really don’t like inflatable travel pillows, I’m yet to try one that’s actually comfortable.

Memory Foam

Memory foam neck pillows are firmer than other pillows which are great for keeping your head supported. They’re great for dealing with neck pain in flight so I highly recommend pillows with memory foam.

Regular Foam

This is just regular pillow foam so very spongy and nice and comfy. Less support than their memory foam counterparts but very comfortable for a great sleep.

Microbead

I really like microbead pillows, they mould nicely to fit your head and neck giving you great support and comfort. They also don’t get too hot while you wear them which is a bonus for those of us who tend to overheat while we sleep.

Outer Material

You want the outer material to be nice and soft since it will be the part that is in contact with your bare neck. The travel pillows recommended here have either a velour cover or polyester plush covers. Lovely and soft if you have it on your bare skin.

Shape

Shape is also a hugely important factor as that defines what type of support your neck gets. The most common shape of neck pillow are:

U-shaped

This is the type that wraps around your neck and sits on your shoulders. Classic and comfortable it feels nice on your neck and lets you rest your head back or to the side for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Tube Shaped

Less restricting than the U-shaped pillow Tube travel pillows are more diverse and can function as a regular pillow in other scenarios (like the bath or yoga) But they can be more difficult to get comfortable while sitting on a plane and they are more likely to fall out of place while you sleep.

J-Shaped

These are a little more unusual but can be really great for ultimate comfort and support if you get used to them. I’m not going to say too much about them here so read on to the best pillow section for more on the J-shaped travel pillow.

Storage

Finally we have storage, once you’ve travelled somewhere you’re going to have to carry your neck pillow about so you need to take into consideration what you’re going to do with it. Can you clip it to your luggage or do you need to give up valuable space inside to store it?

I’ve found the pillows with clips are best since you can just clip it onto any backpack or suitcase you have and then take it off once you’ve made it to your hotel/hostel/hammock wherever you happen to be staying and keep it in your room till it’s time to go.

F.A.Q.s

Will these pillows make it easier to sleep on international flights?

I would say yes, they provide you with more comfort and I definitely found it easier to sleep. I once sat next to a woman who decided to curl up on the floor and use her seat as a pillow. I know for sure I was more comfortable and slept better than she did with a travel pillow!

My neck is too long for a horseshoe-shaped pillow, what should I use?

You definitely want to try out the J-shaped pillow at the top, the way it’s shaped means neck length isn’t a problem so you’ll get a better sleep and be free of neck cramp.

Are travel pillows worth it?

Travel pillows became popular because economy class seating in flights are so famously uncomfortable. Having a neck pillow is the difference between having neck support at all.

While some people might complain about travel neck pillows; often the issue is that they are simply not suited to the user. Everyone has a different sleep style and so need different kinds of support.

When you’re facing a long haul flight, you have the choice of entering into the journey prepared or not. For many, having a travel pillow can be that difference which helps them find a comfortable position and get some shut-eye.

Does a pillow count as a carry on?

Most airlines will allow one piece of carry on luggage and a “personal item”. Things like laptops and cameras would count as a personal item.

Want to know the really neat part? Travel pillows don’t count toward either of those quotas. Many airlines let all sorts of items on board which don’t count toward your carry on allowance and travel pillows are one of them.

So, simply put, you can bring your travel pillow on a flight and you don’t need to leave anything else behind.

Other Travel Pillows Reviewed

Memory Foam Travel Pillows

FYLINA Travel Pillow, Memory Foam Neck Travel Pillow with Carry Case, Eye Mask and Ear Plugs

Brand: FYLINA

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: Velour

Shape: U-Shape

  • Fastening Drawstring
  • Super-Breathable Inner Lining
  • Pouch, Eye Mask, and Ear Plugs Included

PRICE & REVIEWS

This pillow is of excellent quality. It is soft and moulds to support your neck just right. There is the perfect amount of padding at the back to mimic the feeling of a regular pillow behind your head.

The pillow has a drawstring to fasten it snugly around your neck. It’ll stay put and support you where it should.

It’s easy to shove into the drawstring pouch it comes with and the pouch easily ties to your luggage.

It is certainly bulkier than other designs. This is an aspect which comes down to your preference. It might be too bulky for some.

Homely Lee Luxury Memory Foam Pillow

Brand: Homely Lee

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: Velour

Shape: U-Shape

  • Firm and Supportive
  • Soft and Warm
  • Machine Washable Cover

PRICE & REVIEWS

The material is warm and cosy yet it won’t get too hot. Superbly supportive in my opinion. It packs down much smaller than you might expect into that little drawstring bag and won’t loose shape.

The cover can be easily removed for machine washing.

The button fastener could be improved. It can come undone quite easily. It is also particularly firm; while this does mean supportive, it could be too firm for some.

Travel Pillow – Memory Foam Neck Pillow Support Pillow

Brand: Life Hall

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: Velour

Shape: U-Shape

  • Removable Washable Cover
  • Light and Easy to Carry
  • Well fitted and supportive

PRICE & REVIEWS

This travel pillow really does keep things simple yet effective. It has a traditional U-shape with no lumps or bumps to complicate things. With a straightforward button fastener, it won’t slip off your neck while you doze.

Excellent value for money, plush, and comfortable.

It’s a shame this pillow doesn’t come in a range of sizes. While it will suit fairly average necks, slimmer and larger necks might want a little more or little less bulk for the ideal fit.

Motion Performance Memory Foam Travel Pillow

Brand: Motion Performance

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: Velour

Shape: U-Shaped

  • Available in a HUGE Range of Colours
  • Great Neck Support
  • Removable Washable Cover

PRICE & REVIEWS

First off when you first get it, it might have a strange smell. Don’t worry this is true of all memory foam products and goes away after you air it for a while. Usually 72 hours but 12 hours because it’s small should do the trick nicely.

Motion Performance have a great memory foam Travel Pillow. Offering superior neck support because of the memory foam it is wonderful for anyone who has real trouble with their neck while they’re watching sleeping on a flight.

I like this one because it comes in a huge range of colours from obnoxious leopard print through to the plain blue shown above. It also has a machine washable cover which means you can use it for the long term!

A great travel pillow for those with neck problems.

BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow

Brand: BCOZZY

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: Fleece

Shape: Wrap Around

  • 360 Support
  • Fully Machine Washable
  • Soft and Breathable

PRICE & REVIEWS

The child-size of this pillow is the top-rated number 5 of this buyer guide. This is the adult size.

At first glance, this might look like a traditional U-Shaped travel pillow, but it overlaps under your chin to support your neck from every angle.

The material is soft, fluffy, and still allows your skin to breathe.

An aspect of the design I really like is that this pillow doesn’t bunch up too close to your ears, making it headphone friendly. Being able to use noise-cancelling headphones with your travel pillow can be a massive advantage in getting a good nights sleep.

You’re guaranteed to get the right thickness of support when you can bend the pillow back over itself for extra support. Perfect for side sleepers too.

Microbead Travel Pillows

Zizzii Microbead Travel Neck Support Pillow

Brand: Zizzii

Filling: Microbead

Cover Material: Polyester

Shape: U-Shape

  • Soft and forms to you
  • Petite Size
  • Excellent Value

PRICE & REVIEWS

Microbeads do an amazing job of forming around and supporting your neck, and this pillow is no exception. The smooth fabric has a nice softness against the skin.

This pillow is certainly smaller than other options. Bordering on child-size, it might be too small for some. A nice design tweak would be a way to fasten it in place.

With its petite size, it is ideal for supporting a child’s neck while in a car seat.

Samsonite Global Travel Accessories Microbead Travel Pillow

Brand: Samsonite

Filling: Microbead

Cover Material: Jersey

Shape: Tube Shaped

  • Versatile
  • Sturdy, supportive, and forming
  • Lovely soft cover

PRICE & REVIEWS

Tube shaped pillows are so versatile. Why restrict yourself to a pillow that is permanently U-shaped when you can have one that functions both as a regular pillow and can be bent around your neck.

It’s great for supporting your lower back and legs as well as your head.

It has a fastening clip which is great. I think it would be improved with less length at either side of the fastener so it can be tightened a little more.

Micro Bead Travel Neck Pillow Aeroplane Car Soft Velvet Cushion

Brand: Pro World

Filling: Microbead

Cover Material: Velour

Shape: U-Shape

  • Simple and Effective
  • Petite
  • Button Fastener

PRICE & REVIEWS

Available in a choice of black, blue, and red, this straightforward, no-frills, travel pillow keeps it simple and effective.

The microbead filling moulds easily to your neck yet still holds its own to support your head. The simple button fastener will hold tight while you snooze.

It could do with a bit more filling, but that’s more from my preference. It is also quite a small size. I recommend this more for kids or people with slight necks.

Daydream MICROBEAD TRAVEL PILLOW

Brand: Daydream

Filling: Microbeads

Cover Material: Polyester Plush

Shape: U-Shaped

  • Moulds to each person with the Microbeads
  • Great Neck Support
  • Soft Plush Cover

PRICE & REVIEWS

The Daydream pillow is a great microbead pillow, it has a super soft plush cover and is U-shaped to help support the neck.

If you haven’t used microbead pillows before you should know that it can be a little fiddly to get them into the right shape because the beads can bunch up to one side. But it doesn’t take long to get them into the right place and the result is a really comfy well-supported pillow that helps you sleep properly no matter where you’re travelling to.

This is a bit bigger than the other U shaped pillows so if you have a particularly long neck then this could be just what you need. (Within reason of course!)

Travel Pillows For Kids

BCOZZY KIDS Chin Supporting Travel Pillow

Brand: BCOZZY

Filling: Memory Foam

Cover Material: Fleece

Shape: Wrap Around

  • 360 Support
  • Fully Machine Washable
  • Soft and Breathable

PRICE & REVIEWS

This travel pillow solves the issue with traditional U-shaped pillows in that it supports your chin by overlapping at the front to support your neck all around. There will be no need to worry about your head drooping forward as you doze off.

Are you a side sleeper? You can bend this pillow back over itself and double up the padding and rest against one shoulder.

The fleece lining is super soft but still allows your skin to breathe.

It’s not only for kids. It comes in larger sizes for big kids and adults too. Amazon is also the only place to get a free drawstring carry bag included.

While it is held in place with it’s own rigidity, it can be a bit looser around the neck than options with a fastener. If you prefer it just a little slack then it’s ideal for you. I think something to fasten it together might be a nice design tweak.

Surea Children’s Travel Pillow Plush U-Shaped Neck Pillow

Brand: Surea

Filling: PP Cotton

Cover Material: Plush

Shape: U-Shape

  • Choice of cute animal designs
  • Same filling as a regular pillow
  • Hypoallergenic

PRICE & REVIEWS

Available in a choice of different animal designs, from panda to pig, your little one is sure to love this pillow.

With a PP Cotton filling, this pillow is pleasantly hypoallergenic and best of all, this is a filling used in regular pillows. So it feels like a regular pillow.

It would be great if there was a little drawstring bag to stow this pillow away in. Without a chin fastener or carry bag, it has to be stored in luggage. Not a problem if you plan for your child to use this in a car seat or stroller.

URAQT Kids Travel Neck Pillow with Sleep Mask

Brand: Uraqt

Filling: PP Cotton

Cover Material: Velvet

Shape: U-Shape

  • Superhero Design
  • Eyemask Included
  • Soft and Cosy

PRICE & REVIEWS

Does your kid love superheroes? The Uraqt travel pillow comes in a choice of Captain America and Batman designs.

The outer material is super soft and feels lovely against the skin. The PP Cotton filling is super supportive, breathable, and hypoallergenic.

Comes with an eye mask too which will both give that superhero look and help them to nod off.

It is a bit on the large side. I would say the size suits an older kid or early teen.

Kids Travel Pillow Emoji Panda Child Neck Pillow

Brand: Emoji Panda

Filling: PP Cotton

Cover Material: Plush

Shape: U-Shape

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Chin fastener
  • Cute Panda Design

PRICE & REVIEWS

Who doesn’t love pandas? I’m betting your little one certainly does.

Soft and fluffy, with minimum abrasiveness against the skin. The small size is perfectly suited to little ones. The filling is both hypoallergenic and supportive.

Not many kids travel pillows have a fastener at the chin. It’s a simple little attention to detail and makes sure the pillow stays put while your kid snoozes.

Finest Dreams Kids Travel Pillow

Brand: Finest Dream

Filling: Polyester

Cover Material: Polyester Plush

Shape: U-Shaped

  • Super Cute Design
  • The RIght Size for Kids
  • Soft Plush Cover

PRICE & REVIEWS

Is this not just the cutest thing ever? I love the design of this and the other ones sold by the same person on Amazon. It’s suitable for kids around age 5 and up in terms of size and the covering is nice and soft.

It’ll stop your kids head lolling about while they sleep and make them more comfortable so they stay asleep for longer. It’s a great tool to add to the arsenal of keeping your kids entertained while travelling.

Nice and comfy and a great design so it shouldn’t be difficult to get your child to wear it but let’s face it, things are never that simple!

Inflatable travel pillows

Metene Inflatable Travel Pillow Soft Velvet Neck Support Pillows

Brand: Metene

Filling: Air

Cover Material: Velvet

Shape: U-Shape

  • Machine Washable Outer
  • Inflate Button
  • Packs Down Small

PRICE & REVIEWS

This inflatable travel pillow is the ideal pillow for travelling light. Especially when you’re travelling with only hand luggage.

The plush velvety fabric is nice and soft against the skin and still manages to let your skin breathe despite the air-tight material below.

The design is genius. There is a small built-in pump, so you can guarantee it is just as inflated as you like. I like my pillow as firm as possible. I can top it up if it ever slowly deflates on long journeys. It’s like a mini air-bed for your neck.

It turns out that a pocket of air is a delightfully comfortable way to support your neck. Because it’s air there is a gentle, relaxing, bounce to the support.

It would be nice if this pillow had a clip at the front to secure it around the neck. It can also have a tendency to slowly deflate over time; but that’s no problem with the built-in pump to top it up.

Hikenture Inflatable Neck Pillow Lightweight Travel Pillow

Brand: Hikenture

Filling: Air

Cover Material: Polyester

Shape: U-Shape

  • Soft and Comfortable
  • Firm and Hardwearing
  • Packs Small

PRICE & REVIEWS

Lovely, soft, and comfortable. The Hikenture packs up small and blows up easily, helping you to travel light as air.

The chin fastener does a great job of holding the pillow in place. To my surprise, the welded seam doesn’t irritate the skin at all. It holds it’s pressure well too.

There is a nack to putting the stopper into this pillow when you have fully inflated it. I would also prefer a little more bulk to it once inflated.

SYCOTEK Travel Pillow Inflatable Neck Pillow

Brand: Sycotek

Filling: Air

Cover Material: Fleece

Shape: U-Shape

  • Soft Fleece Cover
  • Firm and Supportive
  • Chin Fastener

PRICE & REVIEWS

I love that you can still get a fleece cover with an inflatable pillow. It gives such a soft luxurious feeling while packing down small for easy carrying.

Excellent design quality and inflates easily. The lumps at the back of the neck provide some well-needed support in just the right place. It also includes an eye mask and ear plugs

Deflating can be a bit tricky though. Pulling the valve out can be tough. It takes a good grip.

Travel Ready Inflatable Neck Pillow

Brand: Travel Ready

Filling: Air

Cover Material: Velour

Shape: U-Shape

  • Machine Washable Cover
  • Dual Built-In Pumps
  • Eye mask and Ear Plugs Included

PRICE & REVIEWS

This travel pillow doesn’t take lungs of steel to inflate, just squeeze the two built-in pumps and you have a firm pillow in seconds.

Includes a little drawstring pouch and an excellent quality soft fluffy eye mask and ear plugs. The pouch can easily tie to the outside of your rucksack so it doesn’t take up any carry space.

The fleece cover is machine washable so your pillow can always be fresh and clean.

It can loose some pressure over long periods of time. Although it’s easy to top up with a few quick squeezes of the pump.

AirGoods Inflatable Travel Pillow 3rd Generation Neck and Head Support Pillow

Brand: AirGoods

Filling: Air

Cover Material: Nylon

Shape: Hollow Wedge

  • Clever frame design
  • Ideal for front sleepers
  • Easy to Inflate and Deflate

PRICE & REVIEWS

Sometimes you just want to lie on your front. Usually, when you try to sleep in a plane seat you can’t lie on your front. You need a big headrest.

Like a massage table, with a face hole in it, the AirGoods travel pillow inflates into a massive frame-like pillow you can lean forward onto. It lets you fall asleep almost as if you are lying forward. It even has gaps in the side so you can hug it into place or hold your phone in front of yourself.

I think it’s a really clever ergonomic design.

One area is could improve on is it’s welded seams. They can be a bit rough against the skin. Although if you throw a scarf or jumps over the pillow that solves it and gives a feeling of regular bed sheets.

Conclusion

Everyone has a different sleep style. While a regular bed is can accommodate most people fairly comfortably, sleeping in a chair can take some careful thought to get it comfortable for your particular sleep style.

With each sleep style comes a different pillow design that will be particularly suited to you. With each pillow design comes the myriad of fillings and outer materials to choose between for your particular preference.

While everyone is different, this buyers guide should be covering all the bases so you can find the perfect travel pillow for your particular sleep style and needs.

Related Reading From The Blog

Best Bed Pillows

Best camping beds

Best Sleeping Bags

Best Air beds

Best Air Bed Pumps

Further Resources

More advice on comfortable travelling from the NHS

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