9 top-rated travel pillows to consider in 2022 – NBC News

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This summer, flight cancellations and delays have made traveling an ordeal for many. But even under normal circumstances, sleeping on a plane or train can be difficult (and uncomfortable). A travel pillow can be a good accessory for getting a bit of shut-eye, especially during long and exhausting travel periods. We consulted sleep and travel experts about what to consider before buying a travel pillow and compiled some of the best ones that have high ratings from shoppers.

SKIP AHEAD Best travel pillows to consider | Factors to consider when buying a travel pillow

What are the benefits of travel pillows?

Whether your airplane seat is too small or your bus ride, bumpy, it may be difficult to relax on a long trip. Plus, add noisy conversations and frequent overhead announcements and you have multiple barriers in your way to getting a good nap. Dr. Andrew Varga, a board-certified physician at The Mount Sinai Integrative Sleep Center, said one of the main reasons people struggle to sleep while traveling, especially on international flights with time changes, is because they’re trying to sleep at a time with “low circadian and homeostatic drive,” which means it’s not a time when they would normally sleep, so they’re not as tired. The other factor, according to Varga, is the sleeping space, which is usually cramped and doesn’t let you lie recumbent or change positions, except in typically pricey business- and first-class cabins.

“Not everyone is an equally deep sleeper, and people with any sleep issues at baseline will often have a harder time sleeping in a louder and less comfortable environment — such as an airplane,” added board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Alex Dimitriu, a sleep medicine specialist. He noted that posture plays a big role in the discomfort we feel — and as anyone who has slept on a plane knows, “the head tends to fall off to the side or forward, which is both uncomfortable and can cause neck pain, and [can] even make breathing less efficient.”

“Sleeping upright is not at all a natural position,” said Dr. Mayank Shukla, a board-certified pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist in New York City. “Our head weighs almost 10 pounds and flops around the neck when sleeping upright, leading to aches and pain with all that muscle strain.”

Experts noted that travel pillows can provide support for the neck and head, alleviating some pain and discomfort when combating an upright sleeping position while traveling. They’re typically portable, lightweight, ergonomically designed and come in different sizes to fit every type of person, plus some have additional high-tech features like temperature regulation. This can be a good tool for frequent flyers, who hope to maintain a semi-regular sleeping schedule when going on trips.

Best travel pillows to consider

We rounded up these travel pillows based on high ratings and expert advice.

Ostrich Pillow Light Travel Pillow

Ostrich offers a variety of unique pillow alternatives, from the napping pillow to the mini handy pillow, and their microbead-filled travel one is a good option for trips. It can be worn around your neck, as an eye cover or around your forehead depending on your preferred sleep position. It’s reversible, portable and includes an integrated adjusting cord for a more comfortable and personalized fit. It has a 4.2-star average rating from over 420 reviews on Amazon.

Away The Travel Neck Pillow

Away — a Select-favorite brand — offers a neck pillow that is designed with an antimicrobial finish on the outer fabric and folds down to fit into an antimicrobial pouch. The neck pillow’s interior core is constructed from shredded foam and the exterior is wrapped in a quilted shell. Its fabric uses thermoregulating particles to help you cool down when you’re hot or warm you up when you’re cold, the brand says. The machine washable neck pillow also has an adjustable closure in the front so you can customize its fit. It’s available in three colors: Black/Grey, Navy/Gray and Green/Gray.

Calpak Neck Pillow and Eye Mask

For long flights or car rides — especially during the day — this matching travel pillow and sleep mask set from Calpak is a stylish option. The exterior fabric is made from silk, which is both soft and potentially good for your skin. Dr. Michele Farber, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, previously told us in our guide to silk face masks that the material is good for acne-prone and sensitive skin, as it does not result in as much friction — and therefore, irritation — as other fabrics. The set also comes with a clear carry bag for traveling. It has a 4.7-star average rating from over 40 reviews on Calpak.

BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow

Few things can jolt you awake faster than your head falling forward while you’re seated. This ergonomic option offers an adjustable front loop for chin support and a flat back to avoid pushing your head forward. It’s fully machine washable and features a strap that can be hooked to your luggage or hung up in your car. The pillow comes in multiple colors, including Purple, Pink and Navy, and you can choose between various sizes ranging from Kids Small to Extra Large. It has a 4.3-star average rating from over 21,000 reviews.

Travelrest Memory Foam Travel Pillow

The Travelrest memory foam pillow has contoured cut-outs to mold with the natural contours of your neck, shoulders and head. It includes a non-slip backing that’ll keep the pillow against your seat, along with an adjustable velcro strap that can customize the fit of the pillow around your neck while preventing it from slipping or moving around, the brand says. It has a 4.2-star average rating from over 1,000 reviews on Amazon.

Sunany Inflatable Neck Pillow

This inflatable pillow’s ergonomic shape can soothe discomfort in your head, neck and shoulders, while the design follows the natural curve of your neck to reduce pressure, according to the brand. It includes a pouch for storage, a matching eye mask and earplugs. It has a 4.3-star average rating from over 4,500 reviews on Amazon.

Trtl Travel Pillow

For those who don’t find enough support from traditional U-shaped travel pillows, this unique option features a hidden inner support that can hold your head and neck at any position that’s comfortable for you. You can adjust the support to contour your neck, shoulder or jaw, while the fleece exterior is soft and machine washable. It has a 4-star average rating from over 28,000 reviews on Amazon.

MLVOC Travel Pillow

This travel pillow is made of memory foam and comes wrapped in a cover that is both machine washable and sweat resistant, according to the brand. It also comes with a travel bag that folds the pillow to half the size and a snap strap for latching onto your suitcase. It has a 4.3-star average rating from over 23,000 reviews on Amazon.

World’s Best Feather Soft Microfiber Neck Pillow

This neck pillow has a fill made of polyester blend with recycled fibers and a fleece cover. According to the brand, the pillow is made with entirely hypoallergenic materials and is completely machine washable — not just the cover. It has a 4.5-star average rating from over 7,100 reviews on Amazon.

Factors to consider when buying a travel pillow

The best travel pillow is one that you find the most comfortable to use for extended periods of time. Ideally, Dimitriu said to test out the pillow on a seat similar in size to an airplane seat and see whether it’s comfortable and how it changes shape. “The emphasis for most users should be to see how comfortably the pillow lets you rest with your back to the seat and without your head falling forward,” he said. And while larger pillows tend to provide more cushioning, he noted “airplane seats are tight, and there is such a thing as too much pillow.”

Inflatable vs. non-inflatable

When going on a long-haul trip, most travelers don’t want their pillow to be an extra thing to lug around. “Inflatable pillows may allow for more cushion and can fold to a smaller size,” said Dimitriu, adding that because of this, they won’t take up too much space in your luggage. They’re also typically more adjustable — you can change the amount of air to get more or less firmness, depending on your comfort level.

Non-inflatable travel pillows can include various types of filling material, including memory foam, polyester fiberfill and microbeads. While the different materials can make it easier to find a more comfortable fit, non-inflatable pillows tend to be bulkier than inflatable ones. When it comes to cleaning, both inflatable and non-inflatable pillows typically have removable covers that can be machine washed or spot cleaned.


If you’re on a multi-part journey or backpacking through Europe, let’s say, the size and portability of your travel pillow can be just as important off a plane as it is on it. Some travel pillows have straps that you can attach to your luggage, while others can be folded to fit inside a small bag. But for shorter trips, sometimes carrying an additional item can just be a hassle.

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