I've got some news for you all: A truly stylish travel pillow does not exist. At least not one that actually works. As much as I’d love for an adorable neck pillow shaped like a flaky croissant, cocktail shrimp, or huggy panda to gently cradle my neck as I snooze on the plane after downing a couple mini-bottles of red, I’ve tried enough of the things to know that the U-shape silhouette just doesn’t work. Instead it leaves your head bobbing and flopping over with next-to no neck support.
Clearly I’m not the only one who’s noticed that a design revamp is long overdue. There are suddenly dozens of innovative travel pillows out there that either build on the crescent shape or offer something entirely different.
With a lot of travel on my calendar, I made it my mission to test out the most buzzed about pillows that promised to keep me cozy for a long-haul flight. Ahead, are the seven best of the bunch, which deliver on their promise to support your neck and let you snooze during your journey.
Cabeau Evolution Cool
The first to be put to the test, the Cabeau Evolution Cool, came out of the box looking impressive—which, with a price tag of nearly $75, should be expected. The whole thing is very well constructed and nicely thought through. An upgrade on the standard u-shaped pillow design, this one is somewhat flattened at the back to prevent it pushing your neck forward uncomfortably. Spandex-y fabric and netted vents give it an athleisure vibe, and it all rolls up into a compact little carrying case that snaps onto your wheely bag. A bungee at the neck even allows you to tighten or loosen the memory foam’s hold on your neck, and while for most people this will work well, for someone like me, it was the pillow’s sole disadvantage. I couldn’t quite pull the cord tight enough around my (admittedly very weedy) neck. If your own neck is average to large, however, it should give you all the support you need for a long-haul flight.
The closest of the bunch to having a solid sense of style is the Trtl, which resembles a nicely tied scarf. The whole concept is pretty genius: A firm plastic support, which you position on whichever side you want to lean into, runs from your shoulder to jaw, supporting the neck. It’s attached to an adjustable scarf that then wraps around your neck, securing the whole device in place with a Velcro closure. The Trtl is super lightweight and packs down flat—something most pillows don’t do. Its downside: While it offers a fair amount of support for side snoozing, it didn’t hold up my head as well when I positioned it to lean forward.
GoSleep Travel Mask and Pillow
A very different kind of travel pillow, the GoSleep essentially ropes your head to the back of your seat using a cushioned eye mask attached to adjustable bungee cord. While it seems gimmicky, it does work—and remarkably well. It’s not a cozy, cuddly option, obviously, but it does a great job of both blocking out light and preventing head bobbing as you drift off—even if you’ve had the bad luck of landing in a middle seat.
BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow
Another upgrade on the crescent pillow, the BCOZZY snakes around the neck and features tapered ends that can overlap to support your head in various positions. It’s firm, yet soft—and as the name implies, it does feel very cozy. The BCOZZY holds its shape well and doesn’t easily slide out of position. While it’s not the tiniest of travel pillows for packing away, it has a built in snap that lets you affix it to your carry-on bag so you don’t have to make extra space inside.
Like the name implies, the Infinity pillow was designed to be configured in endless ways. Twist and turn it around your arms and neck to make pretty much any seat a little more comfortable. (An included diagram will guide you to the best configurations, whether you’re in a window, aisle or center seat.) If being compact tops your list of travel pillow attributes, the Infinity will be too bulky for you. But the fabric is soft. The stuffing is cozy. And the design is based on a Möbius strip, which earns it 1000 bonus points in my book.
Easytravel Inflating Travel Pillow
Like your very own bouncy castle in the sky, this inflatable option lets you blow up a tower of private space to shut out the passengers around you. Inflate after take-off, position it on your fold-out tray, then lean forward into a hole that’s not unlike what you’d find on a massage table. Place your phone or Kindle inside and entertain yourself as privately as you can reasonably expect while surrounded by a couple hundred other people. Plus, it’s light, folds up tiny, and at under $13, rings up at less than half the price of the other contenders.
If you have rock-solid self esteem, travel pillows don’t get better than the Ostrich. Like the proverbial bird, it lets you hide away from the world pretending you’re somewhere else entirely (a.k.a. anywhere but a non-reclining seat next to the toilets in coach). The padding feels very protective and cozy. A mouth hole prevents you from being smothered, while holes at the side allow you to reach in and cradle your head if you want a nice lie-down on your fold-out tray. The only obvious downside: You look totally and completely insane.
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