The best travel pillows to help you sleep on the road

    I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who roll their eyes at fellow travelers as they drag giant, bulky pillows across the airport. But when I walk down the aisle in the middle of an overnight flight, I will inevitably see someone sleeping and realize that maybe I The person who errs, walks around a U-shaped inflatable pillow that appears to be constantly leaking air.

    After all, it can make all the difference when it comes to how refreshed you feel, and how much you actually enjoy your travels, whether it’s on a plane, train, car, or camping trip. Since my old school accessory just doesn’t cut it anymore, I tested over a dozen travel pillows of all shapes and sizes—from traditional to wacky—to help slim down head pillows worth bringing on the go. Below, the best travel pillows for every scenario, whether you’re stuck in an average seat or need total darkness.

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    Away travel neck pillow

    Best all inclusive travel pillow

    Leave it to Away’s advanced design team to take the basic U-shaped travel pillow concept and upgrade it with adjustable features that cater to every traveler: While I was skeptical at first, once I put this pillow around my neck and cut with the adjustable push-tons, it felt like a warm hug. In fact, I ended up wearing it all over the house for almost an entire day. Whether I’m drinking hot coffee or feeling the cool breeze out the window, I stay completely comfortable thanks to the thermoregulation technology. The only problem with this pillow is that at some point, you have to take it off.

    road trip pillow

    Best car trip pillow

    During family car trips as a kid, I had a small rectangular pillow that I practically played with, trying to fold it the right way to get comfortable in the back seat. As it turns out, what I really needed was a Petit pillow, which was invented and designed by French-born Toulouse maker Laurent Padiou. The triangular design grips the neck perfectly and stays in place with a carabiner that attaches to the headrest – whether you’re in the passenger seat or the back seat – so you can ignore all the bumps in the road. The best part: The handcrafted super soft pillow is made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.

    The original Ostrichpillow nap pillow

    Most Special

    Put this microbead-infused cap over your head and you’ll completely redefine the on-the-go sleep experience. From the outside, the oddly shaped headpiece may look a tad like a Teletubbies costume, but once you pull your head through the 27.5-inch opening, anywhere you find yourself—no matter how bright or high—can turn into a sleeping area. And there’s no right or wrong way to use it: On an airplane, use it to lean against the wall of a window seat, lie on the tray table of the middle seat, or lean back on the aisle seat’s headrest.

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    Ostrichpillow Small Hand Pillow

    best hand pillow

    Think of this as a glove you can sleep on. When necessary, we often use our hands as pillows to press into a slightly closed eye – this ostrich takes that instinct and adds comfortable cushioning to it. Made of soft viscose and synthetic rubber and filled with microbeads that fit whatever situation you’re in, this 2.8-ounce product is compact enough to take anywhere with you to turn wait time into nap time.

    SeatDreamzzzz Wall Cushion

    Best window seat cushion

    I’ll admit I was intimidated when I first saw that a soda can-sized travel pillow required me to blow it into an 8″ x 10″ L shape. But with only six puffs – about 20 seconds of effort – it was in a solid state to hold my head against its suede surface. The unique design allows it to rest on any surface, from a plane to a train to a car, with its straight edge, while its vertical side grips the head. And there’s no need to empty the cushion for the plane to move toward the gate as it deflates back down and into its pouch in just 15 seconds.

    Face Cradle Wanderlust II

    Best middle seat cushion

    The Face Cradle Dual Cushion System gives you multiple ways to wear it when you’re in the middle seat—especially great for front sleepers. Unfold the sides, place it on the tray table, and lean forward into it – or attach it to your seat and suspend yourself in a way that looks almost like sleeping vertically. Side sleepers can also tilt it at an angle to better suit their preferences. Overall, this invention might seem funny at a glance, but when you’re sleeping among two other passengers, there’s no doubt that they’ll be jealous that they don’t have one for themselves.

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    Organic mini avocado pillow

    Best classic travel pillow

    Avocado, which is based in Hoboken and produces everything in its own factory in Los Angeles, is best known for its organic mattresses—but it has the same sense of global responsibility and layered it on a mini travel-sized pillow. Every single piece of the product is carefully selected, from certified organic cotton and kapok fibers to their responsible standards that have earned them Greenguard Gold certification. Despite its compact size, laying your head on this pillow is no different than sleeping on a full-size pillow. It even comes with a large bag of extra filler so you can add more to your preferred firmness. I’m so intrigued that I’ve been using this pillow at home for weeks.

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    Cabeau Evolution Classic Neck Pillow

    The best U-shaped pillow.

    There’s a reason many people have a standard U-shaped pillow that dangles from a backpack or handbag—they’re simple and do the job, just like a capo. But it’s the little touches that really magnify its effectiveness: Its memory foam allows it to meet the needs of your body and your sleep, while a flat back provides better support than those on either side. Plus, the subtly defined edges give and take exactly where they should prevent stiff necks and swaying heads.

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    Cinch heat compressed pillow

    Best adjustable pillow

    Most of the time when travel pillows refer to adjustable stiffness, they are inflatable, and the difference is in the air. But the Therm-a-Rest’s clever design allows for better control of stiffness with two tight ropes that you can pull down to make it more firm. The insulated top coat smooths any clumps on the soft polyester cover, which is made from 60 percent recycled materials. The inside is stuffed with recycled foam from the company’s sleeping pillows.

    Rumble Stuffable Pillow

    Best stuffed pillow

    For luggage space connoisseurs like me, the OL trick of bringing a pillowcase into the garment seems like a good idea, until you do, and you end up with the most lumpy pillow. Rumpl solves this problem. Designed for this very purpose, recycled polar fleece on one side softens everything inside, so you focus only on the fuzzy surface. I tried to put everything from a puffy jacket and tracksuit to a hoodie and jeans inside, and the soft (and colorful) fleece kept things comfy. It’s also worry-free in many other ways, from being waterproof and packable (it also folds on itself) to being a B Corporation product that offsets its carbon footprint and donates a percentage of its sales to environmental efforts.

    horse pillow

    Best camping pillow

    Heist was born with the belief that just being outside to enjoy the outdoors doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a good night’s sleep. I channeled that mindset into outdoor mattress sleeping systems, as well as the ultra-comfortable memory foam pillow, with a curved contour to support the neck’s natural shape. The full-size 2.2-pound pillow folds down to half its size for easy portability, and is outfitted for outdoors with a water- and dirt-resistant cover in its compact 9″ x 16″ form factor. It also has a carrying loop for easy portability on any outdoor adventure.

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    Big Agnes AXL Airbag

    Best lightweight pillow

    The true strength of this inflatable pillow is just 1.6 ounces, which is its ability to turn nearly nothing into something that much. Four-way stretch nylon gives the cushion a solid grip and feel, while the I-beam design provides much-needed support on the go. Additional proof that good things come in small packages: It features antimicrobial treatment, heat-reflecting technology, and an ergonomic shape when it blows — using the wide-mouth nozzle I was able to inflate it in five breaths in about 10 seconds.

    TRTL Baby Travel Pillow

    Best for kids

    It’s a fun one-part outfit (literally turtle neck!) and one part kid comforter (designed with input from elementary and middle school kids), turning those pesky “are we there yet?” To “Please, let me sleep five more minutes!” Based on the same ergonomic design as the Trtl brand travel pillow for adults, the pint-sized version has been scaled down to kids eight and up—and weighs just four ounces. The scarf-like product makes its users count on the built-in flexible neck support that can be moved according to the way your child likes to tilt their head. The small pillow also has a quick release tab, so parents can quickly take it off when needed.