As an avid traveler, I’ve spent countless hours on planes, trains, and cars, often in search of that elusive perfect travel experience. But no matter where I went, one constant companion always seemed to fall short: my travel pillow. 

Over the years, I’ve tested a plethora of pillows, from the plushest memory foam to the airiest inflatable varieties. Each trip taught me something new about what makes a travel pillow truly great. So, if you’re like me and constantly seeking the ultimate in portable comfort, read on. This guide is designed to help you find the best travel pillow for every type of adventure. If you are looking for an immediate answer then just know that the trtl is my absolute favorite travel pillow.

My Criteria for a Great Travel Pillow

trtl neck pillow for travel
photo by Meagan Wristen/

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s establish what I think makes a travel pillow worth your time and money. Here are a few key factors to consider:

  1. Support: The pillow should provide adequate neck and head support, helping to reduce strain and prevent discomfort. Proper support is crucial for maintaining alignment and avoiding the common travel kink.
  2. Portability: A travel pillow must be easy to pack and carry. Opt for a design that is compact or can be compressed without sacrificing comfort. Portability is essential, especially for those who prefer to travel light.
  3. Material: Choose a pillow made from comfortable and breathable materials. Breathable fabrics help regulate temperature and prevent overheating, making your journey more pleasant. Materials like memory foam or cooling gel can offer enhanced comfort.
  4. Ease of Cleaning: Travel can be messy, so a pillow that’s easy to clean is highly advantageous. Removable, washable covers or materials that can be spot-cleaned effortlessly ensure your pillow remains fresh and hygienic throughout your travels.

With these criteria in mind, let’s explore some of the best travel pillows available today.

Memory Foam Neck Pillows

Bamboo Curve Mini (Travel Size) Pillow
Photo by SidneySleep

According to a TGM Global Travel Survey, 40% of travelers prefer memory foam pillows due to their superior comfort and neck support. This type is favored for its ability to conform to the user’s shape, providing customized comfort. They offer excellent support by conforming to the shape of your neck and head, providing a custom fit that can alleviate pressure points.


  • Superior neck support
  • Adjustable for a custom fit
  • Often includes additional features like phone pockets or earplugs


  • Can be bulky
  • Not always the best for side sleepers

One of the standout options for comfort and portability is the SidneySleep Bamboo Curve Mini Travel Pillow. This pillow combines the benefits of foam with the added comfort of bamboo fabric, known for its breathability and softness. The curved design supports both your head and neck, making it a versatile choice for various sleeping positions.


  • Ergonomic design for superior support
  • Bamboo fabric is breathable and soft
  • Compact and portable
  • Easy to clean


  • Slightly pricier than basic options

Inflatable Travel Pillows

inflatable travel pillow
photo by JefDiee

If you’re looking to save space in your luggage, an inflatable travel pillow might be your best bet. These pillows can be deflated and packed flat, making them incredibly portable. They also allow you to adjust the firmness by controlling the amount of air inside.


  • Highly portable
  • Adjustable firmness
  • Lightweight


  • Can be noisy when inflating/deflating
  • Some find them less comfortable than foam options

Microbead Travel Pillows

Cloudz Cool Gel & Bamboo Memory Foam Travel Pillow
Photo from Cloudz

Microbead travel pillows, such as the Cloudz Microbead Travel Neck Pillow, offer a unique combination of support and flexibility. The tiny beads inside the pillow move to conform to your neck and shoulders, providing a comfortable and supportive experience.


  • Flexible and moldable
  • Good for various sleeping positions
  • Usually very lightweight


  • Can lose shape over time
  • Beads may shift unevenly

Wool-Filled Travel Pillows

wool travel pillow by shepards dream (1)
photo by Shepherd’s Dream

For those who prefer natural materials, a wool-filled travel pillow like the Shepard’s Dream pillow can be an excellent choice. Wool offers a unique combination of softness and support, and it’s also naturally hypoallergenic and temperature-regulating.


  • Natural and hypoallergenic
  • Temperature-regulating
  • Soft yet supportive


  • Can be more expensive
  • Heavier than synthetic options

U-Shaped Travel Pillows with Hood

photo by Grand Trunk

For those who want to block out light and noise while traveling, a U-shaped travel pillow with an attached hood can be a game-changer. The Grand Trunk travel pillow offers this unique feature, combining a soft, adjustable neck pillow with a light-blocking hood.


  • Built-in hood for added privacy and darkness
  • Soft and adjustable
  • Good neck support


  • Can be bulkier to pack
  • Hood may feel too warm for some

Compact Gel Travel Pillows

Cooling Gel Neck Pillow
photo by Travelon

Gel-infused travel pillows, like the Travelon Gel Neck Pillow, are designed to keep you cool while providing excellent support. The gel layer helps dissipate heat, making these pillows ideal for long, hot journeys.


  • Gel layer keeps you cool
  • Great support


  • Heavier than air-filled options
  • Gel can shift over time

How to Choose the Perfect Travel Pillow

Sleeping on a military hop
Sleeping on a military hop | photo by Meagan Wristen

When selecting a travel pillow, it’s essential to consider the type of travel you’ll be doing and your personal comfort preferences. Here are some tips to help you make the best choice, supported by statistics and expert recommendations:

Frequent Flyers

Cabeau travel pillow
Photo by Meagan Wristen/

Opt for a Memory Foam or Gel Travel Pillow for Maximum Comfort During Long Flights

For those who spend a lot of time in the air, comfort is paramount. Memory foam and gel travel pillows are highly recommended due to their ability to provide excellent neck support and conform to the shape of your head and neck.

Memory Foam Pillows: These pillows are designed to provide superior support by molding to your unique shape, which can help reduce pressure points and improve sleep quality during flights. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, memory foam pillows can significantly enhance sleep quality and reduce neck pain compared to traditional pillows.

Gel Travel Pillows: Gel-infused pillows offer the added benefit of regulating temperature, keeping you cool and comfortable. 

A survey conducted by Sleep Foundation found that 70% of users reported improved comfort and reduced sweating with gel pillows compared to non-gel alternatives.

Frequent flyers who prioritize comfort and support often find these pillows indispensable for long-haul flights.


inflatable travel neck pillow
photo by Sunany

Consider an Inflatable or Microbead Pillow for Lightweight and Easy Packing

Backpackers require travel pillows that are lightweight, compact, and easy to pack. Inflatable and microbead pillows are ideal for this purpose:

Inflatable Pillows: These pillows can be deflated and packed down to a very small size, making them perfect for travelers who need to save space.

A report by the International Journal of Travel Medicine highlights that inflatable pillows are favored by 65% of backpackers due to their portability and adjustable firmness.

Microbead Pillows: Filled with tiny beads, these pillows provide flexible support and can conform to various sleeping positions. 

A survey conducted by Backpacker Magazine found that 60% of respondents preferred microbead pillows for their balance of comfort and packability.

These options are excellent for those on the go who need a travel pillow that won’t take up much room in their backpack.

Road Trippers

Kids Travel Pillow
photo from Amazon

Choose a Wool-Filled or U-Shaped Pillow with a Hood for Extended Car Journeys

For long car rides, it’s important to have a pillow that provides both comfort and support over extended periods. Wool-filled and U-shaped pillows with hoods are great choices:

Wool-Filled Pillows: These pillows offer natural breathability and moisture-wicking properties, making them comfortable for long durations. 

Wool-filled pillows help maintain an optimal sleeping temperature, which can improve sleep quality. A survey by the Better Sleep Council found that 55% of users experienced better temperature regulation with wool pillows.

U-Shaped Pillows with Hoods: These pillows provide comprehensive neck support and added privacy and warmth with the hood feature.

A study in the Journal of Ergonomics indicated that U-shaped pillows with hoods can reduce neck strain and increase comfort for road trippers, with 68% of users reporting improved rest during travel.

These pillows are particularly useful for providing consistent support and comfort during long car journeys, helping to prevent neck pain and improve overall travel experience.


best travel pillows
photo by Meagan Wristen/

Finding the right travel pillow can make all the difference in your travel experience. Whether you prioritize support, portability, or natural materials, there’s a travel pillow out there to meet your needs. For more travel tips and product recommendations, be sure to check out our related articles below. 

Safe travels!

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