As you may already know, the small pillow you’re given on the plane is rarely ideal if you need to get some decent sleep after you’ve watched a movie or two.
I’m a frequent flyer, making several gruelling intercontinental trips per year. And I’ve tried many different travel pillows over the years – from those you pick up in the airport at the last minute to innovative new inflatable and memory foam pillows.
In this review, I’ll be recommending the most comfortable and practical ones I’ve found so far. And I’ve included photos of me using them on different flights to give you an idea of the different styles and sizes.
Best memory foam travel pillow, with high neck support that taller adults will appreciate
If you need a pillow that will provide great support and keep your head in a comfortable position, the Cabeau is my recommended choice.
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.
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, shaping nicely to your head during the journey. And the cover is a soft velour that feels gentle on the skin.
It comes with a small travel bag that it compresses 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.
- Near 360 degree support.
- Helps keep your neck and head in a comfortable position.
- Quality memory foam that cushions well.
- Soft velour cover that’s machine washable.
- String lock mechanism keeps it in place.
- Compacts well into the carry bag.
- Perhaps too high sides for adults with short necks or children.
- Despite shrinking into its bag, it’s still one of the less compact travel pillows.
The Cabeau is an excellent travel pillow and has long been my personal favorite on long journeys. The combination of near 360-degree support and high sides will go a long way to helping you sleep comfortably on your journey.
Best micro-fiber travel pillow – ideal for adults with shorter necks, and also children
The versatile Bcozzy will suit a wide range of neck shapes in adults, and also children because of its friendly look and feel. It provides complete 360-degree neck support, and you can 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.
- 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 good 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 importantly, it feels gentle and soft on the skin.
Best inflatable travel pillow that compacts well for hand luggage
If you need a travel pillow that takes up as little space as possible in your luggage, the Purefly is the most comfortable of the many inflatables I tried. 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 forward too much. I took it on a recent flight to Iceland and found it was surprisingly comfortable for an inflatable.
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 a plane and a travel pillow is just a bonus, it’s worth considering if you’re not keen on carrying a larger pillow.
A 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 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 your bag, or use the strap to tie it to your hand luggage. But it does still take 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.
- The 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 traveling 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.
Compact inflatable pillow, ideal 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.
My main complaint is that it didn’t stop my head drooping 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 traveling 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 might like the comforting feeling of the arm across their body – especially on long car journeys.
Large and comfortable pillow with a plush cover
The Cloudz neck pillow is one of the best micro-bead travel pillows I’ve tried. I particularly liked that it’s large enough to keep your head reasonably upright, which isn’t always the case with this style.
It’s helped by a convenient snap closure, which is right on the ends of the pillow. That allows for a tighter fit around your neck, meaning your head is less likely to droop at an awkward angle.
Like so many of this style though, the sheer quantity of material in the back section means you might need to play with it to find a comfortable position on a plane.
I found it was ok for reading and watching movies, but when I wanted to sleep, I had to turn it sideways so it didn’t push my head forwards. I liked that the external cover feels soft on the skin, and found you can easily rest your head on it for many hours.
I have two criticisms though. Firstly, the pillow is large and doesn’t compact in the slightest. So you’ll need to tie it to the outside of your hand luggage. Or be that person that walks through the airport with the pillow around your neck!
Secondly, the company seems to sell the point that it has millions of micro-beads. That might be good for comfort, but not for the environment (says the man who flies a lot!).
- Large sides and generous fill supports your head well.
- It feels soft on the skin.
- A well-designed snap lock helps keep your head upright.
- Large and doesn’t compact well.
- Millions of micro-beads that will end up in a landfill site.
If you’re a fan of micro-bead pillows, there’s no denying that the Cloudz pillow is a great design. It provides more than enough support to lean against and gets the basics of comfort exactly right.
It’s perhaps not the right one if you’re conscious of space in your luggage or the environment though.
Very compact, simple inflatable travel pillow with 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 there’s 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 it 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 good space-saving choice if you don’t have room for one of the bulkier pillows.