Are you looking for the best travel pillow out there? I’ve compiled an exhaustive list of travel pillow reviews – all written by yours truly – that reflect my experience researching and testing as many travel pillows as I can get my hands on.
When you make a choice based on one of my travel pillow recommendations, you can rest easy knowing your selection will be the perfect fit for your travel needs and comfort!
The 5 Best Travel Pillows Of 2017
|Travel Pillow||Pillow Type||Cost||Buy|
|Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow||Neck||$$$$|
|J-Pillow Travel Pillow||Neck||$|
|Travelrest Travel Pillow||Body||$$|
|Therm-A-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow||Standard||$$|
|Trtl Travel Pillow||Alternative||$$$|
1. The Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow
Cabeau has gone to great lengths to address many of the common issues people encounter when using a travel pillow, and I think they did a stellar job.
Recommended for: Plane rides, train rides, bus rides, car rides
If you’re really looking for the best travel pillow on the market, quality has to be your number one concern. Luckily, Cabeau’s newest pillow just oozes “premium.” Nothing is out of place, and it’s very clear that a lot of thought and passion went into this travel pillow.
The outer cover is a polyester/spandex blend, which I was fully prepared to hate. Turns out it’s actually perfect!
The cover is comfortable, machine washable, and specifically designed to keep you at room-temperature even when using the pillow around your neck.
On the inside we have a standard, but high quality, 100% memory foam insert. The twist here is that it’s a “dual density” insert. Basically, there’s a less dense outer layer of memory foam wrapped around an inner, denser layer of memory foam.
Built into the insert are proprietary “cooling vents” that allow normal air circulation around your neck even when you’re using the pillow.
If you’ve ever felt hot, scratchy, or constricted by typical travel pillows, Cabeau’s Evolution Cool pillow is an absolute godsend.
This travel pillow provided me with the single most comfortable travel experience I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I honestly don’t have a single critique in the comfort department.
On top of the dual-density memory foam, the Cabeau features a raised neck support design that ensures your neck will remain in a neutral, comfortable position for your entire trip.
The Evolution Cool comes with extras galore: a high quality storage bag that has pouches built in for additional storage, along with memory foam earplugs attached to the pillow’s drawstrings.
They specifically designed the pillow to allow for larger, over-ear headphones too, which is yet another reason why this travel pillow totally kicks ass.
I only picked this pillow up a month and a half ago, but it’s already become my go-to travel pillow whenever I know I’ll need some heavy duty comfort assurance.
2. The J-Pillow Travel Pillow
Recommended for: Plane rides, home use, ground travel depending on personal preferences
Very impressive. It’s covered in a luxurious, plush velour material, and you’ll find yourself compulsively touching the pillow just because of how soft it is.
On the inside, the J-Pillow is stuffed with a polyester fiber filling. I’m usually not a big fan of this material for travel pillows, but it works beautifully with the J-Pillow for whatever reason. The pillow strikes a perfect balance of firmness and “sponginess.”
The entire pillow is machine washable, which is definitely a unique feature among travel pillows. I’ve washed it 4-5 times to date, and it’s just as soft and supportive as it was on day one.
This is where the pillow’s J shape really shines. There’s practically an infinite number of ways you can position this pillow.
It doesn’t matter if you need lower back support, neck support, leg support, or any other kind of support. You can position the three prongs of this pillow to perfectly address any aches your body might throw at you.
I came out of a 6 hour plane ride essentially ache-free, simply because whenever you feel that soreness start to kick in, you can reposition the pillow easily and quickly to fend off any long-term aches.
I’ve used the J-Pillow over the course of 12+ travel-intensive trips, and its held up flawlessly.
The one thing it’s lacking is any peripherals. Nowadays nearly every travel pillow comes with a complimentary storage bag, set of ear plugs, sleeping mask, and so on, but the J-Pillow doesn’t.
Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.
3. The Travelrest Travel Pillow
Recommended for: Plane rides, car rides, bus & train rides depending on how much space you have
The Travelrest pillow is the only inflatable pillow you’ll ever see on a list of the best travel pillows.
It’s hard to do inflatable pillows well, but Travelrest managed to get it down perfectly. It’s truly heavy-duty, and I haven’t been worried about it popping even once.
The whole thing is covered in a faux-velvet material – it’s not the softest material in the world, but I don’t actually have any complaints about it.
If you’re worried about the material, they also sell a separate, true-velour cover for the pillow, which will satisfy even the pickiest customer out there.
The coolest part about the Travelrest is its inflating mechanism. They’ve come up with a simple inflation method that gives you complete control over how well-inflated the pillow is.
This is super important for inflatable pillows, because it means you can change how firm the pillow is on the fly, without having to fiddle around with one of those stupid inflation things that you have to bite down on over and over again.
The Travelrest sports a “lateral” design, which means it’s a full-body pillow that hooks around one shoulder, and crosses your body to end at the opposite hip.
This is one of those designs that you’ll love or hate – I definitely love it!
If you have a lot of back pain, this is the pillow for you. It does a good job of stabilizing your whole body and keeping your spine in a neutral position even as you sleep.
It also gives you something to comfortably wrap your arms around. That might not be for everyone, but I always like holding something as I sleep and this pillow is perfect for that.
I’ve officially owned and used the Travelrest pillow for over a year now, and I’ve had zero issues. No rips, tears, or any other degradation in quality.
Travelrest is also fairly active online, and has a number of instructional videos that help you inflate, position, and even repair the travel pillow.
I eventually did buy the separate “luxury” cover that Travelrest also sells, and I really like it. I’m not a big fan of selling the two separately, but it’s a minor gripe compared to the mileage I’ve gotten out of this thing.
4. The Therm-A-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow
Recommended for: Home use, camping, hotel use, airplane use. Compressible pillows like this one pair extremely well with compression sacks, as both help to save you space while on the move.
To start: this pillow is manufactured in the USA, which is definitely a selling point for me. It’s always nice to support companies based in your home country, and I think the overall construction of the pillow really is flawless.
The outer cover of the Them-A-Rest is a “brushed polyester” that definitely gets the job done. It’s not as soft as some of the other plush, velour covers I’ve talked about, but it’s not uncomfortable either.
On the inside we have a filling of polyurethane foam chips. This isn’t my favorite filling of all time, but to be honest I’m not sure I’d even realize it wasn’t “true” memory foam if they hadn’t been so up front about it in the product description.
The entire pillow is machine washable, and I’ve washed it 3+ times with no apparent issues. There are users that have had less than stellar washing experiences, though. It seems Therm-A-Rest may have some minor quality control problems, because certain units seem to break open fairly easily when washed and dried.
I’d just be doubly sure you’re adhering to all washing/drying instructions, and maybe use a different machine if you know that your own can be rough at times.
Again, this pillow gets the job done. It doesn’t make me rave about how comfortable it is, but I don’t have any specific complaints either. It’s a very straightforward, functional travel pillow.
I’ve tried it out on longer flights and a few bus rides, and it’s definitely a big improvement over no travel pillow at all.
The Therm-A-Rest really shines when you take it off road, however. This is hands down the best camping pillow I’ve ever used.
I know, I know – a lot of people consider real pillows to be an unnecessary luxury while camping. I never had a problem using a pile of dirty clothes myself, but I knew I could never go back to that after the first time I used the Therm-A-Rest while camping.
Therm-A-Rest offers this pillow in a variety of colors, and even offers four different sizes so that you can be sure you’re getting a good fit with the travel pillow.
It doesn’t come with any extras, but does have a “pouch” built in to the case that you can use to compress the travel pillow.
Again, I would consider this a standard, no-frills, functional travel pillow that really shines when you want some extra comfort while camping, or even as a comfortable addition to any hotel room.
5. The Trtl Travel Pillow
It uses an innovative new design where you simply wrap the “pillow” around your neck, with a neck brace mechanism serving as a support wedge between your head and whichever shoulder you want to lean towards.
Recommended for: Plane use, ground travel depending on how much space is available
The beauty of the Trtl pillow is how simple it is. It’s basically a fleece scarf wrapped around a neck brace, and you can’t really mess up either one of those components too badly.
The cover is a very plush, fleece-like material, and it’s as soft as any pillow cover I’ve ever touched. It’s fully machine washable, and I don’t see it tearing, ripping, or losing it’s plushness anytime soon.
That’s a good thing, because the Trtl requires much more skin contact to use than most other travel pillows.
The neck brace piece is really just a simple, 4-pronged plastic support system that’s wrapped in the cover. Mine has held up perfectly so far, but I am a little worried that extended use could eventually cause the plastic to bend and even snap.
I think the Trtl is a very comfortable option. I’m not so sure about the “scientifically proven” claim that the company makes, but I don’t have any specific complaints about the pillow so far.
It allows for a very natural resting position by firmly but gently supporting your head in a specific direction. This does mean that you can’t really change head positions without re-wrapping the Trtl, but that’s not especially hard to do.
I’ve tried this one out on an east-to-west-coast flight, and I slept like a rock the entire time. I woke up with absolutely no neck pain, which was a welcome surprise.
It is worth noting that users with longer necks and/or narrower shoulders have reported issues using the Trtl, because its “one size fits all” model does count on fairly “standard” neck and shoulder measurements to function optimally.
I haven’t had the Trtl for more than a month or so, but I’ve definitely already gotten my money’s worth out of it.
Like I said, it’s an ingeniously simple design of two very basic pieces. Should the cover rip or the inner brace break, I can’t imagine it would be hard or expensive to replace either piece.
It would be smart for the company to release a “tall” version, and maybe even one for those with narrower shoulders.
The Trtl doesn’t come with any extras, but it’s such a unique spin on the standard travel pillow that I wouldn’t really expect it to.
Not happy with our top 5? Don’t worry – I’ve personally reviews and tested more than 30 individual travel pillows. Check out some of my other reviews below!
Cabeau’s original Evolution Travel Pillow is still one of the best memory foam travel pillows on the market. It’s not quite as high tech as their Evolution Cool alternative, but it works just as well!
The Kohbi Compressible Camping Pillow is another great entry in the camping travel pillow category. It’s rugged, comfortable, and small. What more do you need?
The original Kohbi Travel Pillow is a classic u-shaped around-the-neck travel pillow. It will keep you comfortable and pain-free while traveling!
The Daydreamer travel pillow is one of those rare, high quality inflatable travel pillows out there. Most pop quickly after you buy them, but this one is a cut above the rest in terms of quality and comfort!
With a 5 year money back guarantee, you don’t want to pass up Comfort Master travel pillow. Plush, comfortable, and portable, this is one well done neck travel pillow.
The Aeris Travel Pillow is a fantastic memory foam neck pillow that comes with tons of extras. You’ll be hard pressed to not get a good night’s sleep when traveling with this one.
Travel Pillow Buying Guide
Are you overwhelmed by how many options there are?
For this mini travel pillow buying guide, I’ve settled on the two most important metrics to keep in mind when perusing my list of travel pillows: material and form.
Below I explore exactly what these metrics mean and how they can ultimately come together in the form of the best travel pillow for your individual needs.
Travel Pillow Materials
When dealing with travel pillows, material is king.
No matter how form-fitting, fancy, or reasonably-priced a pillow is, you don’t want it if it’s made out of scratchy material and filled with packing peanuts. Even if one of my reviews sounds particularly appealing to you, don’t go with that option unless you’re sure that you like whatever material that travel pillow is made out of.
It’s important to understand the different types of materials that are used in travel pillows so that you can be sure of what you’re buying.
Beginning with the outside covering, most quality pillows utilize either a velour or velvet derivative material.
It is fairly common for cheaper travel pillows to be made with a stretchy nylon or spandex covering, but most of the higher quality pillows featured on this site utilize either velvet or velour.
While velour and velvet appear to be the same, there are some marked differences in each material.
Cutting the loops makes velour less of a shiny material than velvet is, while still feeling incredibly soft.
Because velour is a knitted fabric, the end result is a stretchy fabric that tends to be thinner than velvet.
Velour is commonly found in bath robes (see to the left), comfort clothes, and track suits.
Unlike velour, velvet is a woven fabric. Velvet does use the “pile weave” structure, which is a parallel to velour’s pile knit structure. This means that velvet is created by weaving yarns into little loops, all in the same direction.
The loops remain intact in velvet, as opposed to the cutting of the loops that occurs in the creation of velour.
Because the loops are kept whole in velvet, velvet tends to be a shinier fabric. Velvet also has very little “give” – it’s not stretchy. Velvet is a thicker fabric than velour overall.
There are many faux-velvet derivatives that vary in quality, but in my experience most tend to be rougher and more scratchy than true velvet. In short, velour = stretchy and light-weight while velvet = thicker and non-stretchy.
Knowing the difference between velour and velvet allows you to develop a travel pillow preference, which results in better and higher-quality rest when one made of your preferred material.
I personally prefer velour coverings on my travel pillows, as I feel that the stretchiness of velour better facilitates head and face comfort.
The light-weight quality of the fabric also allows the pillow to breathe more, and it doesn’t trap as much heat when in use.
Other than the cover material, we have the inside stuffing of the travel pillow. I’ve found that most travel pillows use either memory foam, polyester fiber, microbeads, or simply air as their filling.
While you can find the odd goose down travel pillow, and certain hypoallergenic travel pillows may use alternative allergy-friendly stuffing, I’ve found the former four fillings to be the most prevalent.
Memory foam filling is held by many as the best or most luxurious travel pillow filling.
As a very brief description, memory foam is polyurethane with added chemicals that increase its resistance and density (check out the memory foam article on wikipedia to learn more).
Higher densities of memory foam will soften when in contact with body heat, allowing it to mold perfectly to contours within minutes.
Memory foam is extremely compressible, and higher quality memory foam will return to its default shape very rapidly when decompressed.
In my experience, memory foam tends to trap heat more than other filler materials, which might be a deal-breaker for those who are sensitive to temperature while resting.
Polyester fiber is perhaps the most one size fits all filling of travel pillows, as it is already widely utilized in standard pillows and other cushions.
Polyester fiber is a robust material that stands up to hard abuse. Here are some characteristics of polyester fiber filling:
- Resistant to stretching and shrinking
- Resistant to most chemicals
- Quick drying
- Mildew resistant
- Abrasion resistant
- Easily washed
In other words, if you tend to be hard on your belongings or are traveling to more rugged destinations, polyester fiber filling may be the way to go.
Most microbeads are actually high quality polystyrene spheres – essentially small beads of Styrofoam.
Each individual bead ranges typically from 0.25mm to 0.7mm in diameter. Microbeads emulate memory foam in a way, as they tend to quickly reposition when subjected to pressure, giving the feeling of molding to one’s body.
Microbeads are non-toxic and actually discourage dust mites and other allergens, making them a good pick for allergy-prone travelers.
A common complaint about microbeads is that they tend to have a “new plastic” smell upon purchase, although in my experience this smell fades rapidly.
Microbeads do not trap heat and allow travel pillows to breath quite well while in use.
Many travel pillows use air as a convenient, cost-saving, and storage-friendly filling option.
When dealing with inflated travel pillows, I’ve come to realize that the quality really depends on the inflation/deflation mechanism.
A mechanism that’s intuitive and easy to access while the pillow is in use lets you inflate or deflate as needed.
This allows a more precise control over the firmness of the pillow that you miss out on with other types of filling.
Inflated travel pillows tend not to fit the contours of one’s head as well as other materials, though, and in my experience act more as support devices rather than true comfort-promoters.
Travel Pillow Form
Taking a travel pillow’s form/design into account when buying is an absolute must. There are four basic categories of travel pillow form that I’ve come across: around the neck, full-body, standard pillow, and miscellaneous/innovative.
Around the neck
Also known as U travel pillows, around the neck travel pillows are definitely the most common form of travel pillow.
When considering an around the neck travel pillow, some things to take into account and research are:
- The size of the neck opening. Do you have an especially large or small neck, and will this cause discomfort if the neck opening is not properly sized?
- Does the travel pillow have any type of button or fastener around the front that can be used for chin support?
- What style cushion is being used? Is it flat-backed, for a more form-fitting experience, or is it round-backed? Round-backed travel pillows often garner the complaint of pushing the head forward in an uncomfortable fashion.
Full-body travel pillows are often meant to provide a more complete resting experience to the user, and typically allow for better alignment throughout the entire upper body while resting.
Some things to take into account if you’re considering a full-body style travel pillow:
- Is it too big? Will you be able to easily maneuver the pillow on a cramped plane or in a cramped car, and will it give you trouble while packing?
- What kind of support does it give? Certain full-body travel pillows will focus more on body support, some focus on head support, and some try to provide all-over lateral support. What type of support matters most to you?
- Does the travel pillow have any type of clasp or strap that will keep it stable and in place during use? Untethered full-body travel pillows will often shift and become unwieldy while in use.
This style of travel pillow is exactly what it sounds like: a standard, square or rectangular pillow, although usually downsized for easier traveling and packing capability.
These pillows are perhaps the easiest to reposition during use, and can be re-purposed for lumbar support, leg support, lap comfort, and any other use that one might desire while traveling.
In my opinion, the biggest downside of a standard form travel pillow is that often, it will not interface comfortably with, say, an airplane seat, or a car seat.
This travel pillows are usually efforts to combine the best feature of various other forms.
For example, an innovative travel pillow might have 3 prongs instead of the traditionally 2-pronged U shape, which allow for increased chin and neck support.
Perhaps they simply take the around-the-neck form and enhance it by adding high-rise neck supports.
There is an endless pool of modified travel pillows to choose from, and I’ve found that innovative, non-standard travel pillows are often best for those with very specific travel comfort needs.
When you’re reading through my travel pillow reviews, remember that they do often reflect my subjective opinion.
When I go over something like construction quality or pricing, I’m always as objective as possible. But, when I’m talking about things like the shape of the pillow, how it fits around my neck, or what material it’s made out of, personal opinion does come into play.
For example, if I enthusiastically recommend a pillow made with a velour cover but you know that you hate velour, that’s ok! That travel pillow simply isn’t for you. Never make a purchase if you know for a fact that you’ll dislike something about that travel pillow, no matter how good it might sound otherwise.
At this point I’ve tested and reviews more travel pillows than I can count. This page only represents a subset of the pillows I’ve reviewed, and I’m constantly updating it and adding more content.
Please enjoy my reviews, and please contact me with any questions! I’m positive that with all of the reviews on this page, you will end up finding the perfect pillow!