Best Travel Pillow 2020

Scott Benes
I use a travel pillow twice per week on flights

Best Travel Pillows 2022: A Frequent Traveler's Take

Travel Pillow Comparison

Scott Benes
Frequent traveler. Occasional writer.

I fly twice a week for work and use a travel pillow on every flight. I created this blog to help you find a travel pillow that makes your flights more enjoyable. I receive Amazon affiliate revenue from the links below, regardless of which pillow you choose. If you find the travel pillow review information helpful, please show your support by using one of my links to purchase your pillow.

Winner: Alpaca Travel Pillow

Best Travel PillowCheck Price
  1. Direct from manufacturer!
    (sold out on Amazon)

or view on Amazon

What I liked:

  1. Packs down into compact size

  2. Comes with a travel bag

  3. High quality materials

  4. Fits average-sized neck

  5. Holds up chin against head-nodding

What I didn’t like:

  1. Design isn’t winning any awards, but it does what it’s supposed to

  1. Direct from manufacturer!
    (sold out on Amazon)

At a glance: I tried these travel pillows

Frequent travelers like me spend a lot of time thinking about how to be comfortable on long-haul flights (or any flight, really). Even at the best of times, travel can be tiring, and getting proper sleep on the plane can be difficult.

Travel pillows can help, but most of the travel pillows out there are glorified neck decorations that take up too much space in your luggage. You’ve undoubtedly seen flimsy examples of travel pillows in airport shops – the ones that have as much support as a bean bag. Or you’ve seen people carrying around a full-blown king-sized pillow from home and wondered how soon they’d lose it. Or you’ve watched as someone struggled to blow into an inflatable pillow that would stay inflated for all of 10 minutes. It’s less likely that you’ve actually seen your fellow travelers getting some quality sleep with travel pillows under their heads.

Best Travel Pillows

I bought and tried each of these pillows.

After 10 years of travelling for work twice a week, I finally decided it was time to see if any pillow out there actually works. I went all out and bought 9 of the pillows that are commonly mentioned online, and I compared each one. I spent more than $300 trying out all the pillows, so I figured I’d share my findings with anyone who might benefit! After buying these pillows and trying them on actual flights, it’s become clear to me that many of the travel pillow reviewers online have never actually tried to use the pillows in their natural environment (on planes).

Hopefully, you won’t have to waste time looking at pillow photos and measurements, reading design specifications, and poring over reviews, only to waste money on a pillow that isn’t comfortable or portable enough to make a difference to your sleep and relaxation while flying. These pillows fall into a higher priced tier, but I had thrown away enough $10 pillows that the cost was a drop in the bucket.

What process did I go through to evaluate the pillows?

  1. Find all the pillows that are highly talked about online
  2. Purchase each one of them off of Amazon
  3. Test the pillows at home
  4. Test the pillows on an actual red-eye flight
  5. Try to sleep with the pillow against a window
  6. Try to sleep with the pillow completely upright
  7. Make sure there is no head-bobbing

What ended up being the factors that mattered for a travel pillow?

  1. Ability to fit in my carry-on luggage

  2. Support for my head in the sides and front

  3. Breath-ability of fabric

  4. Comfort

Are the $10 and $20 pillows worth it?

In the past, I used a lot of the lower cost pillows in the $10 and $20 range. These typically have lower quality materials: the memory foam was too soft or too stiff, or the fabric would trap heat and sweat, or the pillow would leak air if it was inflatable. Many of them also had designs that would not hold up my head when trying to sleep upright.

Based on my experience trying those pillows, I had actually given up using travel pillows for a while because I believed all of them were the same as these low-cost pillows. Fortunately, trying these higher end pillows has changed my view.

If you’ve been disappointed by low-cost pillows in the past, I recommend giving some of the ones below a try. If this is your first time trying a pillow, I recommend skipping the $10 and $20 pillows. You’ll end up saving money in the long run.

1. The best pillow I tried: Alpaca Memory Foam Travel Pillow

Alpaca Travel Pillow

Comfortable Travel Pillow AlpacaCheck Price on Amazon
  1. Direct from manufacturer!
    (sold out on Amazon)

or view on Amazon

What I liked:

  1. Packs down into compact size

  2. Comes with a travel bag

  3. High quality materials

  4. Fits average-sized neck

  5. Holds up chin against head-nodding

What I didn’t like:

  1. Design isn’t winning any awards, but it does what it’s supposed to

  1. Direct from manufacturer!
    (sold out on Amazon)

Author’s pick: Ranks #1 out of all pillows

The Alpaca Memory Foam Travel Pillow has recently become my new favorite travel companion; I don’t think I’ll ever be getting on a plane without it again. This was by far the most comfortable pillow I tried and actually made it easy for me to sleep without worrying about getting my pillow into the correct position. This is a newer pillow that didn’t have any reviews on Amazon when I tried it, but it’s getting quite the buzz among frequent traveler circles. I decided to take the plunge when a friend recommended it. After putting it around my neck, I immediately felt my shoulders relaxing and my head being gently supported. I’ve also been able to use it to rest and sleep regardless of whether I’ve been sitting in an aisle seat, middle seat, or (my personal preference) window seat.

The Alpaca Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow seems to be very well designed for providing support around your neck and behind your head, without ever making you feel that it’s constricting your neck or restraining your movement. The memory foam in this pillow is a happy medium between firm and soft. My head was supported at all times and I never felt like it was going to loll forward or to the side, yet this pillow is so soft that I hardly even noticed the support it was providing. The key to using it on a plane seat to sleep upright is to spin what looks like it should be the back to the side. The high part of the pillow then supports my cheeks, and the “side” of the pillow is for my chin. When I sleep upright, I find myself “nodding” as I fall sleep. This pillow takes care of that because it provides ample support underneath my chin.

While the pillow shares a similar U-shape form factor with other pillows I tried, I thought that the Alpaca Pillow was better than the others in several important ways. Most importantly, the quality of the material, from the memory foam to the fabric, is a visible and tangible step up compared to other pillows with a similar shape. The Alpaca Memory Foam Travel Pillow is also a better fit for necks of all sizes. It fully supported my neck, but it wasn’t so tall that it pressed up against my ears. The ability for it to rotate and provide support in any direction really gives it an advantage over the Travelrest pillow that I review later. The Travelrest pillow is just too high to rotate, and on the sides it is so high that it squishes my ears. My neck is average-sized, so someone with a much taller neck might have a different experience.

The Alpaca Pillow also strikes the right balance with its material. Like the Travelrest pillow, it is covered in plush, luxurious velvet on the outside, but the layer that actually touches your skin is a very cool and breathable fabric. This was wonderful because I never found myself becoming too warm or sweaty, even after having the pillow around my neck for several hours. It was a pleasant surprise to wake up without a sore neck or shoulders, and then to make the bonus discovery that the pillow wasn’t stuck to my neck with perspiration!

The Alpaca Pillow only comes in one color, an attractive shade of gray that matches its simple  and unassuming design. And although the pillow is large enough to fully support your head and neck while traveling, it doesn’t feel or look bulky and it’s relatively light. Best of all, the Alpaca Pillow comes with a discreet-looking carrying pouch. The pillow’s memory foam is soft and pliable enough for you to easily squeeze it down to a fraction of the original size. The pouch is compact enough to fit inside a backpack, large handbag, or carry-on suitcase, which is great, because I intend to take it along with me on all future journeys!

2. The Runner-Up: Travelrest Nest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow

What I liked:

  1. Packs down a little bit

  2. Comes with a travel bag

  3. Machine-washable cover

  4. Does the job

What I didn’t like:

  1. A bit too firm

  2. Too tall and pushes up against ears

  3. Material traps sweat

I also had a fairly positive experience with the Travelrest Nest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow and managed to get some rest while using it. This is a good option in terms of neck support, especially for people with longer necks, as it is quite firm and has tall sides. However, for those with short or even average necks, it is likely to be a bit too tall, and may push or rub against your ears. Despite the tall sides, it is rather thin at the back, and easily bends in the middle. Some people may consider this to be a positive design feature, as it certainly doesn’t push your head forward, but I would have preferred the pillow to be a little more substantial back there. I’m worried about the long-term durability.

Although it does have a velcro strap in the front, I didn’t feel that it could be tightened enough around my neck to prevent my head from nodding forward. The pillow has a rubber grip at the back, which prevents it from constantly sliding around, but this won’t hold it securely in place.

This is a large pillow and I found it to be somewhat bulky because of its stiffness. However, I was pleased that I could pack the Travelrest pillow down into a fairly small drawstring pouch (apparently one-fourth of the pillow’s original size), making it easy to transport with your carry-on luggage.

The Travelrest pillow has a machine-washable velour cover. Although this feels very plush and comfortable, it is not breathable or moisture-wicking, despite being advertised as “thermo-sensitive.” While using it in a slightly warm airplane cabin, I found that my neck was getting rather hot and sweaty, which was not ideal for trying to relax and sleep.

This pillow comes in blue or grey and looks fairly similar to the generic U-shaped pillows in airport shops. However, it is a big improvement over those generic pillows, especially in terms of its overall shape and contours, and the quality of its memory foam construction. Overall, I found the Travelrest pillow to be slightly too firm. For those who prefer a firm pillow — especially if you’re tall and have a long neck —  this may be exactly what you’re looking for.

3. BCOZZY Chin Supporting Patented Travel Pillow

What I liked:

  1. Firm enough to provide support

  2. Soft enough for comfort

  3. Fleece lining on top

  4. Can double up for more thickness

  5. Holds up chin against head-nodding

What I didn’t like:

  1. Doesn’t work for side-sleepers

  2. Takes up too much space in the carry-on

When it comes to design, the BCOZZY Chin Supporting Patented Travel Pillow is certainly different from your run-of-the-mill travel pillow. Unlike rigid pillows, the BCOZZY has overlapping arms that wrap around your neck, providing extra support for your chin when they are doubled up. I think this pillow will definitely appeal to people who like to sleep upright on planes, rather than leaning your head to one side. Personally, I always prefer to have a window seat so that I can lean against the window, but I know this isn’t everyone’s favorite sleeping position.

The BCOZZY pillow definitely does the job of preventing head nodding with its excellent chin support, and it has a flat back that won’t push your head forward. However, there just wasn’t enough height or support on the sides to make them comfortable to lean against. Although this pillow can be twisted into a more elevated shape and can even be doubled over, it doesn’t provide nearly as much support as the top picks above.

On the other hand, the lower sides may be a really attractive feature for people with shorter or thinner necks, as they won’t have to contend with a pillow with overly tall or stiff sides. I think the flexible design makes it particularly suitable for children. The overlapping arms stayed securely curled around my neck when I tried it during a flight, but I’m not sure how well this pillow would keep its shape if it was in constant use.

Although the BCOZZY pillow is quite light, at under 8 ounces, I was a bit frustrated because there isn’t a particularly easy way to pack it. Unlike some of the other pillows I tried, it doesn’t come with a carrying case. It’s really more like a bean bag in terms of its elasticity and filling (which is amusingly described as “Hollow Conjugated Siliconized Polyester Fiber”), so it doesn’t become any more compact. There is a small strap with a snap on the back of the pillow that would allow you to attach it to the outside of your carry-on, but I don’t think this is very practical for frequent travelers, especially if you are traveling for business and don’t want to have your travel pillow on display.

I did enjoy the breathability of this pillow, as the top half is a pleasantly cool fleece material, while the bottom is stretchy cloth. Because it is so adjustable, slim, and lightweight, I didn’t have any issue with feeling hot and sweaty on the plane. The entire pillow is machine washable and comes in a wide variety of both bright and subdued colors, although the bottom half of the pillow is always blue.

4. Trtl Pillow – Scientifically Proven Super Soft Neck Support Travel Pillow

What I liked:

  1. Different concept

  2. Keeps head upright

  3. Fleece material

What I didn’t like:

  1. Too tall for average neck

  2. Doesn’t pack down due to stiff structure

  3. Looks like you have a neck injury

  4. Stiff on one side and no support on the other

The Trtl Pillow doesn’t look like any travel pillow I’ve ever seen. It’s somewhere between a scarf, a turtleneck collar, and a neck brace! In fact, it pretty much is a neck brace, which may be appealing to some people, but it wasn’t what I was looking for in a travel pillow. It’s certainly a creative design, but it took me a little while to get the hang of putting it on and using it. Essentially, the Trtl Pillow is a piece of stiff plastic inside of a length of fleece cloth, which you can put on either side of your neck or under your chin. This “pillow” certainly does the job of preventing head nodding, but at the expense of being able to lean your head in order to find a suitable position. I found that it was too tall for my average-sized neck, and it doesn’t have any give to it, so it wasn’t particularly comfortable.

The Trtl Pillow could be effective for people with longer necks who can sleep with their heads completely upright, but that isn’t me. In fact, I found my head being pushed to lean in the opposite direction, and since the plastic is only on one side, I wasn’t able to keep my head in position. This pillow also isn’t especially useful for leaning against the window to sleep, which I like to do, and the only support comes from the single piece of hard plastic. Now that I’ve tried several drastically different pillows, I’ve found that I prefer those that support my neck with memory foam on all sides, rather than having to hold my head in a certain position.

On a different note, although the Trtl Pillow is “designed to look like a scarf,” I couldn’t help thinking that my fellow airline passengers had assumed I was suffering from a neck injury. Because the Trtl Pillow is so stiff and keeps your head so upright, it doesn’t look like you are particularly relaxed while using it. The Trtl Pillow Junior, for kids aged eight and older, is essentially the same design in a smaller size. I really can’t imagine many kids enjoying the inflexible, upright design.

On the plus side, though, it was actually pleasant to have the fleece material around my neck like a scarf, and it didn’t make my neck too warm during the flight. The scarf is washable and this is one of the most lightweight travel pillows that I’ve encountered, weighing only four ounces. It can be packed away into your suitcase or backpack without taking up too much room, although this can be slightly awkward because the Trtl Pillow is stiff yet also has a slight curve, which means that it won’t lay flat.

5. Twist Memory Foam Pillow

What I liked:

  1. Different concept

  2. Cotton cover

  3. Machine washable

  4. Can provide knee or back support

What I didn’t like:

  1. Doesn’t pack down due to metal frame

  2. Can’t carry around clipped to backpack because button doesn’t hold

  3. Loses shape at slightest pressure

I was initially intrigued by the Twist Memory Foam Pillow because it promised to twist into almost any shape I wanted. When stretched out, the Twist pillow resembles a pool noodle, except that inside the soft memory foam is a stiff metal skeleton that can bend at several points. This is an interesting concept, and I welcomed the prospect of a flexible, transformable travel pillow. The photos on Amazon suggest that it can easily be twisted into a variety of configurations. However, in my experience, although I was able to bend the pillow into plenty of different shapes, it lost its form as soon as a small amount of pressure was put on the joints. So in reality, the only way to use the Twist pillow is around your neck in the traditional U-shape. I also struggled to wrap this pillow into a shape that would prevent my head from nodding forward or to the side. Part of the reason for this is the softness of the memory foam. It just doesn’t provide enough support and sometimes I could even feel the metal frame inside the pillow!

Because of this metal skeleton, the Twist pillow can’t be compressed into a significantly smaller size. This was the only pillow that I couldn’t stuff inside a backpack. I ended up carrying it around by strapping it to the bottom of my bag, where it would often fall off. I would have lost it in transit had I not been vigilant.

Due to the metal frame, it’s heavier than most of the travel pillows I tried, weighing around 15 ounces. On the other hand, I thought that the pillow’s cotton covering was fairly comfortable and seemed breathable; it is machine washable and comes in grey or blue.

In addition to providing neck support, the Twist pillow is also advertised as being able to provide lumbar, knee, and spine support, and I think it could be used more effectively for those other purposes. For example, the flattened-out Twist pillow could provide excellent knee or back support if used while lying down.

6. Huzi Infinity Pillow

What I liked:

  1. Different concept

  2. Great scarf

What I didn’t like:

  1. Doesn’t function as a pillow in any way

  2. Traps heat

And now we come to the Huzi Infinity Pillow, or more accurately, my gigantic new scarf. In terms of providing any kind of neck, chin, or back support, it’s about as useful as a thick scarf. Overall, this was the most disappointing travel pillow that I purchased and it had the most misleading description on Amazon. It really wasn’t substantial enough to support my head, regardless of the configuration, so I wasn’t able to relax my neck and shoulders while using it. There wasn’t even enough firmness in the material to use it while leaning against the window. I suppose you could bunch it up to approximate the shape of a normal pillow, and it might actually be comfortable if you were lying in a real bed or even using it while camping. It just doesn’t have the right design, material, or thickness for use on an airplane.

Furthermore, the Huzi Infinity Pillow is described as being cool and breathable, but both the stuffing (“luxurious layers of cutting edge microfiber”) and the outer material (“high quality super soft bamboo fabric”) reminded me of a down jacket. It basically felt like wearing a Canada Goose scarf. Surprisingly, considering that it’s really just a thick scarf, the Huzi Infinity Pillow was the heaviest travel pillow I tried, weighing around 18 ounces. On the plus side, it can be rolled up into a fairly compact size and is machine washable.

If you’re not looking for much support and just want a bit of cushioning around your neck or something to block out light and noise on the plane, it’s worth mentioning that this pillow is actually quite attractive and comes in some very pleasant, muted colors, including Pink, Navy, Burgundy, Shamrock, Grey, and Tan. But if you want a travel pillow that is more than just an unusual fashion accessory, the Huzi Infinity Pillow probably isn’t the one for you.

What process did I go through to evaluate the pillows?

  1. Find all the pillows that are highly talked about online
  2. Purchase each one of them off of Amazon
  3. Test the pillows at home
  4. Test the pillows on an actual red-eye flight
  5. Try to sleep with the pillow against a window
  6. Try to sleep with the pillow completely upright
  7. Make sure there is no head-bobbing

What ended up being the factors that mattered for a travel pillow?

  1. Ability to fit in my carry-on luggage

  2. Support for my head in the sides and front

  3. Breath-ability of fabric

  4. Comfort

About Scott Benes

Travel Pillow Reviews

I’m a frequent traveler who flies twice a week for work. I always fly economy because of my company policy, and I rarely get upgraded since I live in Atlanta, one of the busiest airports. As a result, I’ve had to learn to sleep in cramped and uncomfortable conditions.

I decided it was time to figure out all the right accessories to be comfortable sleeping on a plane. The travel pillow is a must, but the ones you find at airports are so useless. I ordered a bunch from Amazon to compare, and I figured I’d share what I’ve learned with everyone.

I live in the Atlanta metro area with my wife and two kids. We also have a Swiss mountain dog named Lacy. The highlight of my week is when I come back home to my family.

My views are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.