Like most people, do you find it difficult to sleep well when flying? Was your last travel pillow just not quite right, or leave you with a stiff neck?
If you have to spend several hours in the sitting position, a good travel pillow can make all the difference. By supporting your head and neck properly, you’ll have a much better chance of getting some decent sleep.
I’m a frequent flyer, making several grueling intercontinental flights every year.
I’ve tried many travel pillows over the years, from those you grab in the airport at the last minute, to innovative new memory foam and inflatable pillows.
In this review, I’ll be recommending the best ones I’ve found so far. You’ll find photos of me using them on different flights, which should give you an idea of the different sizes and shapes available.
This turned out to be an epic review, as I wanted to make sure I covered all the essential points about each pillow. If you don’t have time to read all the way through, here’s a quick look at the top 3.
Ideal for short to medium height adults, with a child size available
The Bcozzy is one of very few travel pillows that provide 360 degree support, and it does a great job of keeping your head in a comfortable position. The internal material is a micro-fiber that feels lovely and soft, and it has a plush external cover.
It’s designed so that you can create different support heights with the coil, so it’s a great option for shorter to medium height adults, and also children. However, if you’re tall, I’d recommend the Cabeau below instead.Buy from Amazon
Best memory foam travel pillow, good for medium to tall adults
The Cabeau is my recommended pillow if you’re tall, but will also work very well if you’re of medium height. It has higher sides than any other pillow, along with a supportive memory foam that provides excellent wrap-around support for your head.
The cover feels very soft on the skin, and it has a handy drawstring lock to tighten the pillow and keep your head upright if needed. It’s not the most compact of pillows because of its size, but it does shrink considerably into its carry bag, and can be attached to hand luggage.Buy from Amazon
Most compact inflatable travel pillow, good for serious travelers
If you’re regularly on the move and you need a travel pillow that takes up the least amount of space possible, I recommend the PureFly.
There are many inflatable pillows with a similar design – internal hand pump, plush machine washable fabric and raised head support domes. But of those, the Purefly compacts the smallest and has the softest material.
It’s not as comfortable as non-inflatables, but it still provides reasonable support, and can be neatly tucked away in your luggage.Buy from Amazon
Nowadays, there are many different fabrics, shapes, sizes and styles of travel pillows. The majority have a similar soft feel to the external cover – usually described as plush, velour or micro-plush.
So what really separates them is the type of internal material, the shape/design and overall size. Let’s take a quick look at the main options:
Memory foam pillows usually feel very comfortable, and can provide great support for the head and neck. But it’s worth checking if they can be compressed into a small carry bag to save space.
These tend to be a little softer than memory foam pillows, and can feel very comfortable to use. However, they don’t tend to compress as well as other styles.
If your main priority is saving space, an inflatable pillow is the way to go. However, they aren’t as comfortable as material pillows. And it’s important to find one that doesn’t push your head forwards on airplane seats.
These are the kind you’ll often find sold in gift shops and service stations. They can feel comfortable, but don’t usually provide enough head support. They are also terrible for transportation as they don’t compact at all. For those reasons, there aren’t any in my top 10.
A relative newcomer to the travel pillow world, these large inflatable cubes are a bizarre sight to behold. I’ve tried 3 different ones, finding them all too small to be comfortable, but too large to want with you on an airplane. So none of them made the final cut.
In addition to the main types, there are a couple of others that try to do something different, such as the Infinity pillow and Trtl below. These unusual styles will work for some people, but not everyone. So I’d read my reviews carefully if you do like the look of them.
Versatile travel pillow that’s good for shorter to medium height adults, and also children
The versatile Bcozzy travel pillow is probably the one that will suit the widest range of adults and children. Just to be clear from the outset, it’s taller people that it might not be the best option for, in which case I’d skip ahead to the Cabeau below.
What’s great about the Bcozzy is that you can use it in different ways. Unusually for a travel pillow, you can have complete 360 degree neck support, and create different support heights with the overlapping ends.
If you have a shorter neck, you can lean your head on just one level of the pillow. And if you have a longer neck, you can double the ends together to get more support. You can also fold it in half to get even more cushioning if you’re in a window seat.
So it’s easy to adjust it into a position that either lets you lean slightly to the side, or keep your head completely upright without dropping forwards. And I found the flatter back section means it doesn’t push your head forwards when on a plane.
The cover material feels beautifully soft. And the interior, made from high quality polyester fiber, feels soft, yet supportive to lean on. Conveniently, the whole pillow is machine washable.
I like that it comes with a handy snap strap to tie it onto hand luggage, which is useful as it doesn’t compact quite as small as some pillows. It’s not the least compact – probably in the middle in terms of size. But if it’s essential to you that it packs as small as possible, that would be my only criticism.
- 360 degree support for your neck and head.
- Stops your head dropping forwards or sideways.
- Flatter back doesn’t push your head forwards.
- Can use it in different ways to get different support heights.
- Soft material feels lovely on the skin.
- Strap to tie it to your hand luggage.
- Adult and child sizes.
- Machine washable.
- Not ideal if you’re very tall.
- It’s not the most compact.
The Bcozzy is a wonderful travel pillow that I’ve found very comfortable on long journeys. It’s easy to find a position that you can relax in, safe in the knowledge that your head is well supported, and it feels comfortable and soft on the skin.Buy from Amazon
Best memory foam pillow, ideal for adults of medium to tall height
If you’re a tall person in need of a pillow that will provide good support and keep your head upright, the Cabeau is my recommended choice. It’s not just for tall people though – medium height adults will also enjoy the excellent cushioning it provides.
It has considerably higher sides than any other travel pillow I’ve tried. And with a simple lock mechanism on the strings, you can create the effect of 360 degree support.
I used it on a grueling 13 hour flight from Buenos Aires to London, and was actually able to get a few hours’ sleep thanks to the great support it provides.
The memory foam is medium density for a travel pillow, which contributes to the effective support you feel when you lean into it. It still feels soft though, molding nicely to your head during the journey. And importantly, the cover is a soft velour that feels gentle on the skin.
It comes with a small travel bag that it shrinks considerably into to save space. And the exterior cover can be removed and machine washed.
It also offers a unique storage space for your mobile device in the way of a side pouch on the pillow. I didn’t use it myself, preferring not to keep my phone next to me head. But the option is there if you want it.
- Great for medium and tall heights.
- Does a better job of keeping your head upright than most pillows.
- Quality memory foam that feels comfortable to rest your head on.
- Soft velour cover that’s machine washable.
- String lock mechanism keeps it in place.
- Compacts well into the carry bag.
- Near 360 degree support.
- Perhaps too high sides for shorter adults or children.
- Despite shrinking into its bag, it’s still one of the less compact travel pillows.
For tall adults, I highly recommend trying the Cabeau, and if you’re of medium height it’s also one to consider. The combination of practically 360 degree support and high sides will give you the best chance of sleeping comfortably on your journey. And if you’re a fan of memory foam generally, there’s a lot to like about the Cabeau.Buy from Amazon
Most compact inflatable pillow, good for regular travelers
If you need a travel pillow that takes up as little space as possible in your luggage, the Purefly is very compact when deflated. The Jerrybox, Mlvoc and Travelrest (see below) also fold up tightly, but I found the Purefly the most comfortable of the 4 inflatables.
It inflates to the classic U shape, but with the additional raised neck supports that seem to be the norm with inflatable pillows nowadays. Those extra domes can help a little if you’re in a seat where the pillow doesn’t push your head forwards too much.
I took it on a recent flight to Iceland, and found it was surprisingly comfortable for an inflatable. I’m used to the more comfortable memory foam and micro-fiber pillows, so have high expectations!
I did find I had to let some air out to stop it pushing my head forwards, but it was easy to find a comfortable level of inflation. I also found it was better in a reclining seat where my head didn’t need 360 degree support.
I liked the micro-velvet fabric, which really felt like a soft velvet on the skin. The cover is removable and machine washable too, which adds to the longevity.
It has an inbuilt hand pump, avoiding the need to use your mouth to inflate it. You just squeeze the little dome next to the open air valve, and it slowly inflates.
- Very compact, folding into a small carry bag.
- Raised neck contours provide extra support.
- Lovely micro-velvet cover that feels soft.
- Removable, machine washable cover.
- Easy inflation with the inbuilt pump.
- Wide back section pushes your head forwards if you fully inflate it.
- If you don’t recline in your seat, it doesn’t stop your head drooping forwards.
The Purefly isn’t as comfortable as the previous pillows, but it shines when it comes to saving space. If you find it easy to sleep on an airplane and a travel pillow is just a bonus, it’s worth considering if you’re not keen on carrying a larger pillow.Buy from Amazon
Solid memory foam pillow with the classic u-shape
And of all the basic U-shaped memory foam pillows I’ve tried, the Aeris was my favorite. It provides great cushioning and support for different heights, with high quality memory foam that molds well to your body.
It feels surprisingly soft to lean into, considering how dense the memory foam appears, and provides good cushioning for your head.
I liked that there’s a simple lock on the string, almost identical in style to the Cabeau pillow. That means people with different neck sizes will be able to adjust it to suit them.
As for height, I think it’s a decent option for most people. Even if you have a long neck, you can close the gap more. I’d probably still prefer the Cabeau, but if you don’t like that one for whatever reason, the Aeris is worth considering.
The external cover is made from a plush velour and feels nice and soft against the skin. You can remove it and machine wash it if you need to, though the zip is a little fiddly to close up again.
Considering its size, you’d think it wouldn’t squeeze into the little bag it comes with. Admittedly, it takes some effort to get it back into the bag, but once you do, it takes up a lot less space than the expanded pillow.
- Springs into a large memory foam pillow, with a wide surface area to lean on.
- Good for different heights and neck thickness.
- String lock helps keep it in place.
- Plush velour cover that feels soft, and is machine washable.
- You need a little strength to compact it back into the carry bag.
- It’s quite thick at the back, so you might need to reverse it on airplane seats.
If you like the idea of a large, supportive memory foam pillow for long journeys, that’s exactly what the Aeris will give you. I think it could be particularly good for people with thicker necks. It doesn’t compact as much as the smallest pillows, but it does a good job considering how big the pillow expands to.Buy from Amazon
Versatile pillow that’s ideal for window seats, cars and trains
The J-pillow continues with the theme of moving away from traditional U-shapes, opting for a double J shape instead. The idea being that the J section sits under your chin, stopping your head from dropping forwards.
It’s proudly advertised as winning a British invention award in 2013, so I was particularly excited to try it out. I used it on a very early morning 5 hour flight and did find it very comfortable to use when leaning up against the window.
The chin support J section really does help keep your head in place, and the side part feels great to lean into. There’s a lot of filling material, so it does feel like you’re leaning your head on a proper pillow. And the soft external velour material adds an extra layer of comfort for the skin.
The return journey in a middle seat was a slightly different story, however. It was still good, but it just wasn’t as good as when I had the support of the window to really make the pillow work its magic.
The interior material, like the Bcozzy, is made from a squishy polyester fiber. I personally like the feel of that, and it doesn’t get as hot as some memory foam pillows. I also like the fact that the whole pillow is machine washable, not just a cover.
My main issue is that the strange shape and springiness of the filling make it slightly inconvenient for storage. You can squash it down into a space in your bag, or use the strap to tie it to your hand luggage. But it does still takes up more space than I’d like it to.
- The J section in the design helps stop your chine dropping forwards.
- Can be used in various different ways to find the ideal position for your seat.
- The fluffy velour cover and soft internal material feel great to lean into.
- Whole pillow is machine washable.
- Not quite as effective on longer flights if you don’t have a window seat.
- The shape and size mean it’s not the most compact travel pillow.
I think the J-pillow is a great choice if you have a window seat, or are travelling by car or train. It’s still pretty good for middle and aisle seats, just be aware that it might not stay in place quite as well. A final point in its favor is that it’s likely to suit people of all heights and neck lengths.Buy from Amazon
Ideal for short to medium height people who need a stronger neck brace effect
The Trtl travel pillow has an innovative design that’s completely different from any other I’ve tried. It’s like a reinforced scarf, with an internal plastic brace along one side that conforms to your neck and keeps your head upright.
It works by wrapping the material completely around your neck, with velcro strips to keep it in place. With the brace placed to the side, or front, when you wrap it around, you end up with a good supportive feel, almost like a soft neck brace.
In theory, it’s a great idea and when I first put it on I really thought I’d found a winner. And I think for some people, this could be the perfect travel pillow. However, there are two small issues to be aware of that might mean you’re not one of those people…
Firstly, you need to wrap it around quite tightly to get the best hold – especially if your head tends to droop forwards. And that means it can feel quite warm – fine for one of those colder overnight flight, but not if you tend to overheat when travelling.
Secondly, it only comes with one size internal brace. I think it will feel too high for shorter people or children, and perhaps not quite high enough for very tall people.
Another point in its favor though is the small, lightweight design. It folds down nicely and takes up less space than the memory foam pillows. But it does take up more room than the compact inflatables.
As for the material, it’s a super soft fleece that feels lovely on the skin. And it’s machine washable as you can remove the internal brace section.
- Has an internal brace structure that helps keep your head upright.
- The wrap-around scarf effect provides 360 degree support.
- Soft, fleece material that feels lovely.
- Machine washable cover.
- Lightweight design that takes up less space than larger memory foam or micro-bead pillows.
- Need to wrap it quite tightly to get a good hold, which can then feel warm.
- The brace is only on one side, so you need to adjust it if you change sleeping position.
- Only comes in one size that’s not ideal for children or very tall adults.
The Trtl pillow might be ideal if you need a travel pillow that acts like a neck brace on long trips. If you’re particularly tall, I’d avoid it though. Equally, the brace will probably be too high for very short adults and children. But for anyone else, it’s a good option that should keep your head upright for hours on end.Buy from Amazon
Compact inflatable pillow, ideal for for side sleepers
The Travelrest pillow is one which side sleepers are most likely to appreciate. When fully inflated – which is remarkably quick to do – it creates a long shape that crosses the front of your body, providing a large surface area to lean against.
Considering how large it is when inflated, it’s actually extremely compact when you’re on the move. So if you’re in need of a space-saving pillow, and you’re a side sleeper at home, this could be one you like.
I think it’s important to take the time to understand how to make this one work best. If not, I can see how it could be frustrating trying to get it to stay in place.
The first way is to tie the top string around your seat – it works on planes, trains, buses and cars. Then the bottom string can either hang loose or attach to your seat belt. A better alternative is to tie the loops together and wear it around your body, free from the seat.
When set up, it provides a great area to lean against – especially if you have a window seat. But even in a middle or aisle seat you can make it work.
The main problem is that despite what the manufacturer claims, I didn’t find it fully prevented my head dropping forwards when sitting more upright. Especially when compared to some of the previous pillows. But in a reclining seat, I did find it worked very well as I’m naturally a side sleeper.
My second complaint is the size. Not only does it raise eyebrows on a flight, but it’s a bit awkward to change sides when you’ve had enough of trying to sleep leaning to one side. And if you have people wanting to get past you regularly, it’s a large object to move out of the way.
- Great for side sleepers, with a large surface area to lean into.
- Very compact and portable.
- Feels great to lean on if you have a window seat or are travelling by car.
- Can be tied onto the headrest or around your body to keep it in place.
- Comforting for children to use.
- Doesn’t provide wrap-around support to stop the head dropping forwards.
- Can be tricky to work out how best to use.
- The large size when inflated can be awkward on airplanes.
The Travelrest is potentially a great idea for side sleepers, but not for those who really need their head kept upright. It’s also good for children, who will like the comforting feeling of the arm across their body – especially on long car journeys.Buy from Amazon
Versatile pillow with lots of soft fabric to lean against
The Huzi infinity pillow is one that I really wanted to love when I first saw it, and in some ways did. I particularly liked that it offers a completely different style than the typical travel pillow U shape.
There’s just one glaringly obvious problem when you actually have it in front of you: it’s very large, and doesn’t compact down nearly enough to make it one I’d be happy to use again and again on flights.
On the positive side, I do think there are situations where it could be the perfect pillow. For example, in the back seat of a car I think it’s great. Space isn’t such an issue, and you can get really snug and cozy with it. I imagine older children and teenagers would really enjoy the wrap-around feeling of comfort that it provides.
And perhaps if you don’t travel frequently, it could also be one to try – especially if you often find travel pillows push your head forwards on an airplane.
It takes a bit of playing around to work out the best way to use it. The figure of 8 design is a little confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s fun experimenting with different positions and styles of wearing it.
I found the best way was to wrap one loop around my neck, then hang my arms inside the other loop. That added just enough tension to make the neck part nicely supportive for my head. And in a window seat, I just bundled it up against the side and sunk my head into the soft fabric.
The bamboo fabric cover feels gentle on the skin, though it has a slightly more synthetic feel than I was expecting. It still feels lovely, just not quite as fluffy as the plush velour covers of some other travel pillows.
- Versatile figure of 8 design gives you different ways to use it.
- It feels soft to lean on.
- Doesn’t push your head forwards.
- Very large and doesn’t compact well.
- You have to wrap it quite tightly to stop the head drooping.
The Infinity pillow is a nice idea, but for me is too large. You can squeeze it into the carry bag and attach it to hand luggage, but it still seems excessively bulky.
However, if you’re not overly concerned by space, or plan on using it more in a car than an airplane, it does have potential – especially if you like the idea of having enough material to create a little nest.Buy from Amazon
Very compact, simple inflatable travel pillow with raised neck support
The final 2 in the review are very similar, both to each other and to the Purefly above. All 3 have a similar inbuilt hand pump, plush external cover and the raised neck support.
The Mlvoc is very compact, folding down into the little carry case, and you can squash it down even more inside your hand luggage if you want to. For me, that was probably the main point in its favor.
It’s easy to inflate, and I like that you can choose a version you inflate with your mouth to save even more space, or a slightly larger version with the in-built hand pump. Either way, it’s very quick to inflate and deflate.
The raised arch on the Mlvoc does provide support for your head, and gives you an extra surface to lean against to the side. But I found it only really works well when you’re reclining in your seat.
I discovered that in a more upright position, it just didn’t do what I most needed it to – prevent my head from dropping forwards. You can’t tie the ends together, and there’s too much of a gap to stop your head falling forwards.
The external cover is of a similar feel to the other 2 of this style – a micro-plush velour that feels comfy and soft for extended periods of use. It’s also conveniently machine washable.
- One of the most compact, squeezing tightly into its little carry bag.
- Micro-plush velour cover that feels soft and is machine washable.
- Easy inflation with the inbuilt pump.
- When sitting upright, doesn’t stop your head dropping forwards.
- No way to secure the ends to keep it place when used in reverse.
The Mlvoc is a reasonable option if you’re in a reclining seat, or if you don’t find your head tends to drop forwards. It’s also another great space-saving choice if you don’t have room for one of the bulkier pillows. But when it comes to comfort, it just doesn’t quite compete with the better pillows.Buy from Amazon
Compact inflatable pillow with 2 inbuilt pumps
Like the Mlvoc and Purefly, the Jerry Box has the classic inflatable U-shape with the additional raised neck supports. It has 2 built-in hand pumps, which they market as meaning it inflates even faster.
I think that’s a bit of a gimmick though, as it still inflates quickly with 1 pump. And personally, when I’m on a plane with 12 hours ahead of me, it doesn’t make much difference if a pillow inflates in 10 or 30 seconds.
And in fact, I found the 2 air valves, along with the 2 raised pumps and double neck ridges just make the whole pillow look overly-complicated and a bit ugly. It also adds unnecessary bulk, so isn’t quite as compact as the Mvloc and Purefly.
The shape and neck ridges did provide a nice level of support, especially when leaning back or to the side. So if you’re in a reclining seat, it will help keep your head in line and not slumping sideways.
A plus point compared to the other two of this style is that you can fasten the ends together. And that means it won’t slip off if you choose to wear it the other way round to stop it pushing your head forwards.
However, it’s just a string and a loop with no obvious way to tie it other than with your own knot. So it offers a solution, but then doesn’t really make it easy for you anyway.
I did like the micro-plush velvet material, which feels lovely and soft on the skin. And it’s easy to remove the cover, which can be machine washed.
- Compact, with a small carry bag.
- Quick to inflate.
- It has a string to tie the ends together and keep it in place if used in reverse.
- Raised neck contours provides good support for taller people.
- The micro-plush velvet material feels lovely, can be removed and machine washed.
- The double pump selling point seems like a gimmick, and the extra pump just takes up more space.
- The design of the string tie is unhelpful.
- It looks a bit ugly with 2 pumps, air valves and multiple contours.
If you like this kind of inflatable travel pillow, and want one that doesn’t push your head forwards, it might be worth considering. But for me, the only real reason to choose this type is when space is of the essence.
When it comes to comfort and total neck support, like the Mlvoc and Purefly, it doesn’t quite measure up to the better fabric pillows.Buy from Amazon