The best way to make a flight go by faster is by sleeping through it. But as airlines cut costs, charge you for the flight and all of your baggage, make the leg space smaller, and prevent seats from reclining, flying is not exactly a stress-free and sleep-friendly activity. Still, you can set yourself for a decent nap or several hours of sleep with a few accessories, specifically a comfortable travel neck support pillow.
Travel pillows or travel-sized pillows come in a variety of materials and options like soft versus firm support, washable covers, and more. Here are our tried and tested travel pillow recommendations for all types of travel, especially long haul flights.
Best Travel Pillows Recommendations
U shaped Pillows and Multipurpose Travel Pillows for Long Distance Flights & Short Trips
Below we have reviewed 5 of our favorite travel pillows for sleeping on long-distance flights or taking short trips naps. We have reviewed a firm support U shaped pillow, a soft support U shaped pillow option, a flat backed U shaped pillow as well as 2 freeform shaped travel pillows that are multipurpose in use and can be used for neck and head support while sleeping upright as well as for general body support.
U-Shaped Travel Neck Support Pillows
There are our favorite U shaped pillows for necks of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking for firm or soft support or perhaps a pillow that has a flat back behind your neck, below are our tried & recommended picks.
1. Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow – Best U-Shaped Memory Foam Neck Pillow
The Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow is really the top of the line travel pillow for every kind of travel, thanks to its 360-degree head & chin support.
- Built-in cooling
- 360-degree head & chin support
- Great for long necks
- Firm support
- Easy to store (travel bag included)
- Easy to clip to your luggage/backpack
- Adjustable for thin/thick necks
The Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow‘s wraparound support keeps your neck in an upright position no matter which way your head falls – forward onto your chest, sideways towards your shoulders, or back. (In fact, you can even use this pillow to sleep in a seat that doesn’t even have a headrest because it supports your neck from behind as well!).
This all-around support makes the Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow a great pillow for people with long necks. Long neck folks may find that a lot of generic U shaped pillows are too short to properly support their head because the pillows are not high enough to keep their heads up. The Cabeau brand solves this problem by making all of its travel pillows at least 5” inches high, and the Cabeau Evolution Cool model does not disappoint with a height of 5.5”.
It also comes with 2 adjustable loops that you can tighten for a better fit if you have a thin neck or loosen if you have a more built neck and shoulder area.
The Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow is made of responsive memory foam that holds its shape and support but also feels soft and pliable when your face or neck pushes up against it. It also bounces back to its original shape no matter how much weight you push against any part of it.
While we are big fans of almost all of Cabeau’s great travel pillows, we really like the built-in cooling feature of this Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow. Memory foam, in general, tends to run a little warmer the longer you use it because it picks up your body heat and retains it. And this can be a problem for people who are warm-bodied because to get a restful night of sleep, your sleeping environment should be cool. A memory foam pillow that gets warmer the longer you use it can be uncomfortable and make you wake up frequently during your sleep. However, the memory foam in the Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow is infused with a cooling gel that helps keep your travel pillow cool, no matter how long you use it.
The Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow comes with a machine washable cover that also helps compress the travel pillow into a smaller size that is easier to pack and carry. At its fullest size, the travel pillow measures about 5.5” high and 9” wide and long (in a general circle shape). But the washable cover can help compress it to between ½ to ⅔ of this size.
The washable cover also comes with a plastic hook attachment if you want to clip it to your luggage or backpack when you are not using it.
As long time users of several of the Cabeau products, the Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow is our favorite amongst all of the well-reviewed memory foam travel pillows because it is well designed for use on long and short travel, is highly supportive, has a washable cover, stays cool, and is easy to store.
BUY NOW: Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow
The Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow is really the top of the line travel pillow for every kind of travel, thanks to its 360-degree head & chin support.
2. Trtl Travel Pillow Plus – Best Soft Neck Pillow
The Trtl Travel Pillow Plus is easily the best soft neck pillow for people who want a flexible use pillow that is not rigid or force your neck and head in a specific position.
- Flat back neck
- Soft & pliable
- Great for people whos neck falls to the side when sleeping upright
- Washable cover
- Breathable fleece fabric
- Adjustable height (for tall/short necks) & width (for thin/thick necks)
- Extreme lightweight (5.2 oz or 148g)
- Great for big headphones, multiple colors (including bright colors)
The Trtl Travel Pillow Plus wraps around your head and neck like a scarf but has hidden internal support that keeps your head and neck upright and supported during sleep. The scarf wraparound is also made of soft fleece and has cushioning sewn around the internal support so that you don’t feel it while you sleep.
The Trtl Travel Pillow Plus is fully adjustable to fit the way your head falls when you go to sleep, and especially comfortable for side sleepers. To use it, you position the head support where you want it (in front of your face if you fall forward when you sleep, or to either side of your ear if you fall asleep to that side), and then wrap it around and take a nap.
It is also adjustable in height for tall or shorter necks, and width for thin or thick necks. It has 2 twisty toggles that let you adjust height and width, making this a great pillow for you no matter if you are 5 feet tall or 7 feet tall.
Made of fleece, the Trtl Travel Pillow Plus has a waterproof and removable cover that is machine washable. It also comes with a hook attachment for easy storage on your luggage when you’re on the go.
The Trtl Travel Pillow Plus is also extremely lightweight! It is only 148 grams or a little over 5 ounces so if you want a travel pillow that won’t hog up a lot of your carry on weight, this is a great pillow.
Available in at least 7 colors, the Trtl Travel Pillow Plus is also a great option if you tend to lose your stuff. It comes in a bright coral, bright aqua, and bright red colors that are easy to spot, alongside the more traditional black and grey.
3. SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow – Flat Back Neck Support Pillow
The SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow is our favorite flat-backed pillow that does not push your head forward when you sit upright because the back part of the pillow does not have any padding or filling.
- Flat back that does not push your head forward
- L-shaped supports that keep your head & neck up
- Includes an eye mask, comfortable soft fabric cover
- Removable & washable pillow cover
- Washable & waterproof storage bag with clip to hang from backpack or luggage
- Non-clumping fiber fill
The SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow has padded and filled L supports that hook under your neck while the flat back wraps around your head to keep your head and neck upright while you nap.
The SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow has a non-clumping fiber fill that stays evenly distributed no matter how much you mean lean your head or chin towards one side
If you’re also looking for an eye mask for your travel kit, you’re in luck because the SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow comes with a matching eye mask!
The SkySiesta SNUG Travel Pillow has a soft but durable performance fabric cover that does not stain easily. It can be machine washed and does not shrink after washing.
It also comes with a waterproof carry bag that is also machine washable, and has a clip for easy hooking to your backpack or luggage to keep your hands free when you’re not using it but want it keep it accessible.
Freeform Multipurpose Travel Neck Support Pillows – Not U Shaped
If you’re looking for a travel pillow that is useful for more that just neck support during upright sleeping, here are 2 of our favorite freeform options. These pillows can be used for home sleep and travel sleep.
4. VISCO LOVE ProComf Travel & Camping Pillow – Best Travel sized Rectangle Pillow/Cushion
The VISCO LOVE ProComf is our favorite rectangle-shaped pillow that can act as a cushion for airplane and train travel, and you can use it to sleep on a bed in a hotel or a guest room.
- Multipurpose pillow – great for airplane sleep and as a small pillow in hotels
- Memory foam
- Easy to store (can squish to less than half its size)
- Washable cover with loop
If you are particular about getting a good night’s worth of sleep with a consistent pillow whether you are home or away from home, or are worried about germs on pillows that are not your own, or wish you could have a mini version of your favorite pillow at home, the VISCO LOVE ProComf Memory Foam Travel & Camping pillow will be your new favorite thing.
Believe it or not, this pillow was recommended to me by a flight attendant on an overseas flight. Apparently it is popular amongst travel hospitality staff and flight attendants love it because it is more than just a travel pillow which is normally U shaped and so are only comfortable if you’re trying to sleep upright. This pillow is truly a travel pillow because it’s not just for plane or train travel, but you can use it as a primary sleeping pillow in hotel beds or anywhere else you might be sleeping.
The VISCO LOVE ProComf is made of a medium-firm memory foam that is both soft and supportive. The memory foam has tiny cylindrical holes all through the foam, which acts as built-in ventilation system that helps prevent the foam from heating up as solid memory foam tends to do.
The VISCO LOVE ProComf is also marketed as a great travel pillow for kids because at its fullest size, it is 12” inches by 11” inches (and 4” inches high), but we have found that it’s just as comfortably sized for adult heads.
However, if you’re worried that is too big of a size (it is bigger than normal U shaped pillows) to carry around, do not worry because the VISCO LOVE ProComf also comes with a removable washable cover that helps compress the pillow down to a cylinder that is 10” high by 5” diameter. This makes it really easy to store in the corner of a large purse/tote. And because it is memory foam, it easy bounces back to its original shape and size when you take it out of the bag. I have also found that even after compressing it into its travel bag, you can further minimize its not-in-use travel size by squishing it in between 2 firm objects in your luggage. Its is memory foam so it is pliable and easy to minimize its size.
The travel bag for the VISCO LOVE ProComf also comes with a loop that you can tie onto a backpack or luggage suitcase when you’re not using it.
And finally, this pillow has a removable washable cover that unzips for washing and cleaning. The cover is made of cotton and doesn’t shrink if you wash it in cold water and line dry.
5. Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow – Best Multipurpose Neck Pillow
The Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow is a great multipurpose travel pillow that can be used as a traditional U shaped travel pillow as well as a body support pillow while traveling or even while sleeping in a bed.
- Flexible joints so can be used as a U shaped pillow AND as a roll pillow
- Custom support for any body part
- Can turn into a U shaped or roll-shaped pillow
- Memory foam pillow
- Removable washable cover
- Clip to hook onto luggage for easy carry
The Twist Pillow is a cylindrical roll shaped pillow with flexible joints that let you turn it into a U shaped pillow or bend it into any other support system.
It has a cotton cover that is durable and machine washable, so you can wash it as often as you like and keep your pillow clean despite all the germs it may pick up during your travel use. The cover zips open for easy removing and the cover does not shrink when you wash it.
The Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow is made of a supportive medium-firm memory foam inner core that you can literally twist in any shape or direction that you need for support. The inner core is a firm jointed snake-like structure that allows for a lot of movement in all directions which is what lets you twist this pillow in all directions. And no matter which way you contort the pillow while you use it, the memory foam will easily bounce back to its original shape each time. The pillow is well padded so you do not feel the inner core “snake” unless you firmly squeeze it.
You can use the Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow as a traditional U shaped pillow by using the snap closures at each end of the roll shape, bringing the snaps close together and snapping them close to create the U shape.
Or you can use the Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow as a bolster or roll pillow that you tuck behind your neck, or lower back, or however else you may need support while sleeping upright.
And finally, the Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow comes with a clip attachment that makes it easy to hook this pillow onto your backpack, purse, or luggage when you’re not using it.
How do I choose a travel pillow
7 Travel Pillow Features to Look For In Travel Pillows
Here are 7 features to look at when shopping for travel pillows. We have covered many of these in our pillow reviews above.
1. Height and width of travel pillow
The overall size of the travel pillow and more specifically the height and width of the neck pillow support can be the key deciding factor for people with long necks that tend to flop over a lot in their sleep, for people with shorter necks who find standard size pillows to be too much height, and for people who have thinner or sturdier thicker necks than the average person. Any of these folks trying to use a standard size pillow will only have a disappointing experience, one where they wondered how everyone else seemed to get a great nap with these pillows but they just couldn’t seem to get the same.
Realistically, many of us have unique needs when it comes to trying to sleep upright in a plane, train or car. To start with, it is an abnormal way to sleep and most of us will never truly get used to it. And just like having a personal preference when it comes to your favorite pillow at home, it is perfectly normal to look for a pillow it is non-standard and better fitted to your neck shape and size, and one that can help give you a leg up when it comes to trying to catch a few winks during traveling.
Thankfully for all of us, neck pillows come in all widths and heights and many of them are adjustable in both ways. The adjustability of a pillow like the Trtl Travel Pillow Plus (which is our top pick for best soft & flexible neck pillow for travel), can make this an ideal pillow for a human beings who are 6 feet 6 inches tall and equally great for someone who is 5 feet.
Adjustable pillows have some kind of loop or toggle that let you change the height of the pillow and tighten/loosen the pillow to fit the girth of your neck. Even better, multiple people in the same household can use these pillows because they can easily adjust to a new neck (and their washable covers make them so easy to reuse for someone else in the family).
2. Flat back
A neck support will a flat back may be important for slim or smaller framed men and women who find that a traditional U shaped pillow with the same round girth of support all alongside the pillow, including the back that cradles the back of your neck is too much to get a proper posture when sitting or sleeping upright in a chair. If you find that this type of pillow pushes your head forward in a way that feels unnatural to the base of your neck, you will do better with a neck support pillow that has a flat back.
Flat back neck pillows have support all around your neck except behind your neck where it is either flat band or thin cushion to connect the left and the right sides of the neck support pillow. This prevents the neck pillow from pushing your neck and head more forward than the rest of your spine and instead keeps the base of your neck and head in alignment with the rest of your spine.
Flat backed pillows are ideal for people suffering from posture issues like anterior pelvic tilt or forward head that result after long periods of slouching forward because the flat backed pillow shape by preventing your head from falling forward when you sleep and keeping your spin aligned. Flat backed pillows help correct this posture and prevent your body from adding to your hours of forward slouching. Our favorite flat back pillow is the ??? because it offers a full supportive frame around your neck and head without pushing your head forward.
3. Washable – Can I wash my travel pillow?
If you buy a travel neck support pillow that cannot be washed easily, you are essentially buying a neck pillow that is disposable. At some point, the neck pillow is going to get dirty and then you end up throwing it again because there is no reliable way to clean the pillow for reuse. But you put a machine washable cover on a travel pillow with great quality foam1, and you’ll have a travel pillow that you can use, wash, and reuse for years.
All 4 of the travel pillows we have recommended in this guide have comfortable covers that are machine washable and do not shrink in the wash.
4. Support Material – Is my travel made of foam, microbeads, inflatable or something else?
Travel pillows come in all types of filling materials which can include memory foam, some other kind of foam, microbeads, or inflatable air. Personally, we don’t recommend any of the microbead or inflatable travel pillows because there are just better, more comfortable, easier to store, longer lasting options for the same price. If you’re a stickler for having space in your luggage, perhaps an inflatable neck pillow would be the thinnest pillow when stored, but compared to a memory foam pillow, inflatable neck pillows are very uncomfortable.
All in all, we recommend paying attention to the filling of your travel neck support pillow because not all of the materials are comfortable. Check out any of the 4 travel pillows we recommend above for a memory foam pillow that is made to compress to a much smaller size for easier carrying and is a much more comfortable and convenient option.
5. Travel Clip for Luggage or Backpack
Travel clips are usually hooks or clips that are either directly attached to the travel pillow or are on the pillow storage cover make it easy to hook or clip the pillow to your luggage, backpack, or purse for easy carry when you are not using the pillow. They make it really easy to carry around the pillow without having to hold it in your hand and without having to store it away in your luggage that will be checked in or stowed away in the overhead luggage compartment.
All 4 of the neck support pillows we recommend here have travel clips and covers for easy carrying while you’re on the go.
6. Multipurpose – Is it a U shape or flexible?
Normally when you consider travel pillows, you likely think of the U shaped pillows that look like a donut ring around your neck. And these are the most supportive head and neck pillows for sleeping upright in planes, trains, or cars.
However, some travel pillows are more multipurpose in their use because they may be built to assume different shapes, both the U shape and other shapes like a straight bolster pillow or another twisty S or Z shape. If you find yourself using the U shaped pillow as often as you should and wish you had a travel pillow for lower back support or another use, you should seriously consider a multipurpose travel pillow that can be contorted in more than 1 shape.
The multipurpose pillows have more than 1 use. You can use them as a cushion under your neck, head, shoulder, or lower back, and some of them even convert back to the traditional U shape. We can highly recommend the Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow if you’re looking for a pillow that easily assumes multiple shapes for various uses.
Size can matter in this case. Travel pillows with a lot of support can get somewhat bulky at a little over 1 foot wide and deep and several inches high. If the travel pillow has no way of compressing its size for packing away when not in use, then you might find its size unwieldy and inconvenient when you’re not using it. A travel pillow that compresses into a much smaller size makes it easy to shove into a purse or bag when you’re getting off the plane or when storing it away at home.
Normally memory or latex foam type of travel pillows, as well as the inflatable type of pillows, can easily compress to half of their fullest size or less. We haven’t found the inflatable travel pillows to be particularly comfortable and we do not recommend them. But memory foam pillows are excellent and many of the compresses easily due to the bounce-back nature of memory foam. Sometimes travel pillows are made of a firmer, non-memory foam that is too rigid to compress. These types of pillows can definitely offer great support for your head and neck in a U shaped pillow but you’ll have to carry them around in their full original size in between travel and this may be cumbersome.
Memory foam pillows offer the best in both comfort and convenience by offering full support while using but also compressing down to half of their size when not in use. We can highly recommend the Cabeau Evolution Cool Travel Pillow as our favorite U shaped memory foam travel pillow, reviewed at the top of this article.