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The best travel pillow for every kind of plane sleeper

Stop wasting $40 on a basic travel pillow at the airport gift shop.

Sleeping is the best way to pass time on a plane. Here's how to do it comfortably

Amazon

Flying is far and away the fastest and easiest way to travel. It is relatively affordable, gets you from point A to point B quickly, and is the only way to make most international journeys a reality. And if you’re able to fall asleep along the way, waking up at your destination is one of the best feelings in the world. 

But let’s be honest, sitting upright in a pressurized steel tube with little to no legroom for hours on end isn’t exactly what I’d call comfortable. That’s where travel pillows come in.  

Sure, you could just swing by the airport gift shop and buy a basic, overpriced neck pillow since you saw someone else standing in line with one. The truth is, those basic travel pillows are exactly that – there really isn’t anything special about them and they’re not right for everyone. 

So we wanted to dive a little deeper and find the best travel pillow options for every type of plane sleeper. To help flesh everything out fully, we talked to a West Coast-based flight attendant to bring her experience onboard. Let’s see what she had to say and help you find the perfect travel pillow for you. 

What are travel pillows? 

Before we get into the best types of travel pillows, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what we’re talking about. If you’ve ever been to an airport or flown on a plane before, I’d be willing to be that you’ve seen people with those U-shaped pillows around their necks. Well, that’s a travel pillow, folks, and by far the most common type out there. 

Often referred to as a “neck pillow”, these just go around your neck and give you a way to rest your head while flying so that you can be a bit more comfortable and maybe fall asleep. The thing is, these U-shaped pillows really aren’t as great as you might think based on their popularity.  

According to our flight attendant source, she actually sees “more people sleeping on the airplane without a travel pillow.” She went on to say that, in her opinion, “I do not really like the U-shaped pillow. I would rather roll up a sweatshirt and make my own pillow.”  

So these cheap travel pillows from the airports really might not be your best option. Instead, let’s find one that works for you and what you’re really looking for out of a travel pillow. 

Best overall travel pillow

Trtl Travel Pillow, $44.99 

trtl Pillow - Scientifically Proven Super Soft Neck Support Travel Pillow - Machine Washable
trtl
amazon.com
$44.99
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If you look up anything about travel pillows, chances are high that you’ll find the Trtl Travel Pillow listed as one of the (if not the) best options. With how popular it has become, there’s no reason to get cute here and recommend anything else over it. So without further ado, here’s the overall best travel pillow on the market. 

The Trtl is not like your standard travel pillow. It’s more like a high-quality scarf with added support designed specifically for sleeping on an airplane. It wraps around your neck like a scarf and has an internal structure that keeps your head nearly upright while you sleep. This prevents sore necks, nodding heads, and uncomfortable sleeping positions. If you’re just here to get the best travel pillow you can, this is the one to consider above all others. 

Best budget-friendly travel pillow

World’s Best Microfiber Neck Pillow, $10.55 

World's Best Feather Soft Microfiber Neck Pillow, Charcoal
World's Best
amazon.com
$10.55
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While the Trtl Travel Pillow above might be the overall best option, its $44.99 price tag is a bit high for some travelers. If you’re on a bit tighter budget and want to get something to help you sleep without breaking the bank, you might have to opt for a standard U-shaped pillow. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

The World’s Best Microfiber Neck Pillow (I promise that’s the name of the manufacturer) is a popular option from Amazon that can be yours for just ten bucks. You won’t find any frills or added features with this pillow, but the soft microfiber fabric is comfortable to lay on and will help you get to sleep faster. And for $10, you can’t really go wrong. 

Best travel pillow for window sleepers

J-Pillow Travel Pillow, $34.95 

J-Pillow Chin Supporting Travel Pillow
J-Pillow
amazon.com
$34.95
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Sitting in a window seat gives you the option to lay your head against the side of the airplane in an effort to get comfortable. But if you’ve ever done it, you know it isn’t exactly conducive to sleep, which is where a window pillow comes in. When asked about these, the West Coast-based flight attendant said, “I do actually like a window pillow… Hurts my head after a while laying it on a hard surface.” 

I couldn’t agree with her more, and that’s why the J-Pillow Travel Pillow made this list. Uniquely designed to offer chin support and a cushioned surface on the side of your head, you can lean right up against the side of the plane and be as comfortable as if you were laying in bed.  

Best travel pillow for different sleeping positions

Huzi Infinity Pillow, $39.90 

Huzi Infinity Pillow - Home Travel Soft Neck Scarf Support Sleep
Huzi
amazon.com
$39.90
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Anyone that likes to change positions a lot while sleeping might have trouble using most standard travel pillows. Many of them only really offer one way for you to sleep since they’re rigid and can only really hold your head in one place. So if you want something that you can change things up a bit, then an infinity pillow is the way to go, like this option from Huzi

These pillows get their name from their shapes, which is basically a long, skinny cylindrical pillow that mimics the shape of the infinity symbol. But don’t worry, the entire pillow is flexible so you can easily fold it up in just about any shape or orientation that you want.  

This allows you to put it against the window, around your neck, on the tray table, or any other way that you want to sleep. It’s the most versatile travel pillow on the market and lets you sleep the way you really want to. 

Best cooling travel pillow  

Cabeau Evolution Cooling Travel Pillow, $59.99 

Cabeau Evolution Cooling Travel Pillow
Cabeau
amazon.com
$59.99
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If you’re anything like me, then you prefer your pillows to be cool to the touch. Heck, even the pillows on my bed at home are cooling pillows made of memory foam. So when it comes time to travel, having a cooling memory foam travel pillow can make a world of difference. Especially since it seems like the AC has been out in these planes more and more lately! 

Arguably the best option on the market is the Cabeau Evolution Cooling Travel Pillow. Although it’s a little pricier than some of the other pillows on this list, it’s worth every penny if you want cooling memory foam combined with breathable air vents. It also has more support than other pillows on the market thanks to the raised sides and flattened back, so you get more bang for your buck.  

Best inflatable travel pillow

Travelicons Inflatable Travel Pillow, $21.99 

Travelicons Inflatable Travel Pillow
Travelicons
amazon.com
$21.99
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Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about inflatable travel pillows. Just like the wording suggests, these are travel pillows that you inflate with air and then use just like a normal pillow. The biggest concerns that many people have with them are typically how much of a hassle they are to use and how sanitary they are. 

When asked about these issues, the West Coast-based flight attendant said that it "does not seem like that big of a hassle," but she continued that she was “not sure about the cleanliness of that travel pillow”. 

So they’re not actually much of a hassle and, thankfully, companies have come up with ways to mitigate the sanitary concerns. The Travelicons Inflatable Traveling Pillow, for example, has a built-in pump to inflate it, so you don’t have to worry about putting your mouth on it and getting all those airport and airplane germs on it! 

Other ways to stay comfortable while flying 

While I personally recommend a travel pillow for the best flying experience, some people prefer not to use them at all. In fact, when talking to our flight attendant friend, she said that she sees “more people sleeping on the airplane without a travel pillow.” She went further to say that, for her personally, she “prefers to wear lots of layers and make my own pillow with a puffy jacket.” 

You can also get a bit more comfort out of the flight by upgrading to First Class or Comfort+. That said, the flight attendant said “if it’s a short flight it doesn’t really matter where you sit. However, for a longer flight, extra leg room in First or Comfort+ will make a world of difference.”