The best travel pillow for every type of airplane sleeper

Flying is by far the fastest and easiest way to travel. It’s relatively affordable, gets you from point A to point B quickly, and is the only way to make most international travel a reality. And if you manage to fall asleep along the way, waking up at your destination is one of the best feelings in the world.

But let’s be honest, sitting upright in a pressurized steel tube with little to no legroom for hours on end isn’t exactly what I would call comfortable. This is where travel pillows come in.

Of course, you can just drop by the airport gift shop and buy a basic, overpriced neck pillow since you saw someone else queuing with one. The truth is, these basic travel pillows are just that – there’s really nothing special about them, and they’re not for everyone.

So we wanted to dive a little deeper and find the best travel pillow options for each type of airplane sleeper. To help flesh it all out, we spoke to a West Coast-based flight attendant to bring her experience on board. Let’s see what she had to say and help you find the perfect travel pillow for you.

What are travel pillows?

Before we get into the best types of travel pillows, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what we’re talking about. If you’ve ever been to an airport or flown on a plane before, I’d be willing to believe you’ve seen people with those U-shaped pillows around their necks. Well, it’s a travel pillow, folks, and by far the most common type.

Often referred to as “neck pillows”, they simply sit around your neck and allow you to rest your head during the flight so you can get a little more comfortable and maybe fall asleep. The thing is, these U-shaped pillows really aren’t as great as you might think due to their popularity.

According to our flight attendant source, she actually sees “more people sleeping on the plane without a travel pillow.” She went on to say that in her opinion, “I don’t really like the U-shaped pillow. I’d rather roll up a sweatshirt and make my own pillow.

So those cheap travel pillows from airports might not be your best option. Instead, let’s find one that works for you and what you’re really looking for in a travel pillow.

Best Overall Travel Pillow

Trtl Travel Pillow, $44.99

If you’re looking for anything on travel pillows, chances are you’ll find the Trtl Travel Pillow listed as one of (if not the) better options. With its popularity, there’s no reason to get cute here and recommend anything else. So without further ado, here is the best travel pillow on the market.

The Trtl is not like your standard travel pillow. It’s more like a high quality wrap with extra support designed specifically for sleeping on an airplane. It wraps around your neck like a scarf and has an internal structure that keeps your head almost upright while you sleep. This prevents neck pain, nodding and awkward sleeping positions. If you’re just here to get the best travel pillow possible, this is the one to consider above all others.

Best Budget Travel Pillow

World’s Best Microfiber Neck Pillow, $10.55

World's Best Feather Soft Microfiber Neck Pillow, Charcoal

While the Trtl travel pillow above might be the best option overall, its $44.99 price tag is a bit steep for some travelers. If your budget is a little tighter and you want something to help you sleep without breaking the bank, you might want to opt for a standard U-shaped pillow. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The World’s Best Microfiber Neck Pillow (I promise that’s the manufacturer’s name) is a popular Amazon option that can be yours for just ten bucks. You won’t find any frills or extra features with this pillow, but the soft microfiber fabric is comfortable to lay on and will help you fall asleep faster. And for $10, you really can’t go wrong.

Best Travel Pillow for Window Sleepers

J-Pillow Travel Pillow, $34.95

J-Pillow Chin Support Travel Pillow

Sitting in a seat near a window gives you the opportunity to rest your head against the side of the plane to make yourself comfortable. But if you’ve done it before, you know it’s not exactly conducive to sleep, and that’s where a window pillow comes in. When asked about it, the flight attendant based on the west coast said: pillow…It hurts my head after a while of putting it on a hard surface.

I couldn’t agree with her more, and that’s why the J-Pillow Travel Pillow made this list. Uniquely designed to provide chin support and a padded surface on the side of your head, you can lean against the side of the plane and be as comfortable as lying in bed.

Best Travel Pillow for Different Sleeping Positions

Huzi Infinity Pillow, $39.90

Huzi Infinity Pillow - Home Travel Soft Neck Scarf Support Sleep

Anyone who likes to change positions a lot while sleeping may find it difficult to use most standard travel pillows. Many of them really only give you one way to sleep because they are rigid and can only really hold your head in one place. So if you want something you can change up a bit, then an infinity pillow is the way to go, like this option from Huzi.

These pillows get their name from their shapes, which are basically a long, skinny cylindrical pillow that mimics the shape of the infinity symbol. But don’t worry, the entire pillow is flexible, so you can easily bend it into any shape or orientation you want.

This allows you to put it against the window, around your neck, on the tray table or any other way you want to sleep. It’s the most versatile travel pillow on the market and it lets you sleep the way you want.

Best Cooling Travel Pillow

Cabeau Evolution Cooling Travel Pillow, $59.99

Cabeau Evolution Cooling Travel Pillow

If you’re like me, you prefer your pillows to be cool to the touch. Heck, even the pillows on my bed at home are memory foam cooling pillows. So when it comes time to travel, having a cooling memory foam travel pillow can make all the difference. Especially since it seems that AC is more and more present in these planes lately!

Arguably the best option on the market is the Cabeau Evolution Cooling Travel Pillow. Although it’s a bit more expensive than some of the other pillows on this list, it’s worth every penny if you want cooling memory foam combined with breathable air vents. It also has more support than other pillows on the market thanks to the raised sides and flattened back, so you get more for your money.

Best Inflatable Travel Pillow

Travelicons Inflatable Travel Pillow, $21.99

Travelicons Inflatable Travel Pillow

Last, but not least, let’s talk about inflatable travel pillows. As the wording suggests, these are travel pillows that you inflate with air and then use like a normal pillow. The biggest concerns that many people have with them are usually the difficulty in using them and their hygiene.

When asked about these issues, the West Coast-based stewardess said it “didn’t seem that complicated”, but she went on to say she was “not sure how clean this pillow is.” of travel”.

They are therefore not very complicated and, fortunately, companies have found ways to alleviate the sanitary problems. The Travelicons Inflatable Travel Pillow, for example, has a built-in pump to inflate it, so you don’t have to worry about putting your mouth on it and catching all those airport and plane germs!

Other ways to stay comfortable in flight

Although I personally recommend a travel pillow for the best flight experience, some people prefer not to use them at all. In fact, speaking to our flight attendant friend, she said she saw “more people sleeping on the plane without a travel pillow.” She went further saying that, for her personally, she “prefers to wear lots of layers and make my own pillow with a puffy jacket.”

You can also get a little more comfort during the flight by upgrading to First Class or Comfort+. That said, the stewardess said “if it’s a short flight, it doesn’t matter where you’re seated. However, for a longer flight, extra legroom in First or Comfort+ will make all the difference.