Oh, sleep. Why are you so elusive???
(I’m writing this from a hotel room, so this question is even more relevant than usual…)
I am a terrible sleeper. It’s the worst. In my opinion, being a good sleeper is a superpower, and people who sleep easily and deeply are the luckiest in the world. I might be given to hyperbole, but only a smidge. For instance, I look at my friend Enoc below and am just…WUT? How is that possible???
I never used to sleep on planes at all. I’d just grind through it and pull an all-nighter. But as I’ve traveled more, with several overnight flights a year, I’ve had to find *some* way to get rest on planes (or trains…automobiles are still out of my reach). I have tried a ton of different travel pillows over the years, and have used my favorite one for probably about 3 years now.
What I will say is that there isn’t one “best” travel pillow—so much depends on how you sleep, your body, where you sit, etc. that you have to understand what’s going to work for you. But I *can* share what I believe are the best travel pillows (that I’ve found) for different types of sleepers, based on my experience.
You might also like: How to Find the Right Flight…Every Single Time
The best travel pillows for different kinds of sleepers
This is my all-time favorite, and I’ve used it for a long time. For me, I love that it supports my neck and doesn’t require me to rest my head on the side of the plane. I’m a side (and occasionally stomach) sleeper, so I can’t put my head back on a pillow to fall asleep (not to mention that the plane seats now awkwardly curve forward).
Pros: It can be used even without a seatback, in pretty much any setting. It supports your neck well, helps keep you warm, and packs easily.
Cons: It can get hot on the rare long flight’s that’s too hot (it’s made of a soft, fuzzy material), and it kind of makes you look weird.
My friend @sjems5 brought this on our trip to New Zealand and I immediately fell in love. As I mentioned, I’m a side sleeper. Literally 90% of the time. So I love this side-sleeping pillow, which you can kind of hug to yourself to mimic sleeping on your side.
Pros: Inflatable, so packs super easily (I recommend getting the cover, which is softer). You tuck the fat part right under your chin/cheek so you get the neck support you need.
Cons: I sometimes found it challenging to hold it in place when hugging it. My biggest “con” is my issue with inflatables in general…because I’m such a terrible sleeper I feel like they conduct cold/noise/vibrations on planes, so I can’t have it up against the window/wall of the plane.
I really wish I could use moon pillows well, because this is the firmest, softest, squishiest thing ever and I love it. Or I want to love it. My neck and my sleep style, sadly, do not. But I dream of a day when I am a good sleeper and can use it. Until then, it sits in my giant basket of travel things and looks at me, wondering why I don’t love it enough.
Pros: Super soft yet firm, and because it’s not hollow (a.k.a. inflated), you don’t get as much noise and vibration coming from the plane (if you have it against a window, for instance). It’s seriously awesome.
Cons: It definitely takes up space…you actually have to have room for it or tie it to the outside of your carry-on (easy enough). If you’re able to use a moon neck pillow and make it work, this one is amazing and I highly recommend.
Ah, the old standby. I used this pillow for years before I tried something else, and it’s been a great solid first option.
Pros: Comfy enough, and because it’s inflatable, it doesn’t take up any space and is super easy to transport, blow up, deflate, etc. It’s a standby for a reason.
Cons: As I’ve mentioned I’ve had issues with inflatable pillows really letting noise (or vibrations) and/or cold through the pillow. This may just be me and how terrible of a sleeper I am, but is the main reason I’ve moved away from inflatable neck pillows.
This is the one that I haven’t tried myself, but my friend always used when we traveled together. It’s especially helpful if having something covering your head/face is helpful (I use a special blackout mask instead).
Pros: Comfy, covers your head too (so very snuggly).
Cons: To me it’s a little bulky, I wouldn’t want to have to fit it in my carry-on with everything else.
I’m hoping this helps give you a sense of which types of travel or flight pillows might work for you. I’d love to hear your questions, experiences, and more—any others I should consider? Have you tried the TRTL, my fave??
Other travel tips you might find helpful:
- 20+ Tips to Survive & Thrive on a Long Flight
- A Guide to Finding the Right Flight Every Single Time
- How to Choose the Best Hotel or Rental Every Time
- How to Create Epic Itineraries…Whether Weekend Getaway or Bucket List Trip
- Epic Trip Planning 101: Tips from Start to Finish (free e-book download)
- 10 Things You Have to Do Before Every Trip
Pin this image!