An airplane travel pillow should be comfortable, but it should also be easy to store in a carry-on bag. In comparison tests and reviews of travel pillows, many writers value portability as highly as they value comfort. Although travel pillows can be used on any seat in a plane, reviewers say most work best in a window seat, where the side of the plane will provide extra support.
Inflatable travel pillows are the easiest to transport; when deflated they can fold down to the size of a wallet. What's more, the firmness of these pillows can be controlled by the amount of air you blow into them, and most need only a few breaths to inflate. Most inflatable neck pillows come with a fabric cover that can be removed for cleaning.
Of all travel pillows, the inflatable TravelRest pillow (*Est. $27) receives the most reviews, almost all of which are positive. The TravelRest pillow is thin and long and meant to be worn across the body like a sash; you can then lean your head on your shoulder. The top part is rounded for the head, the bottom tapered. The faux-velvet cover comes in three colors: red, blue and grey. Deflated, the TravelRest weighs just over 10 ounces and measures 2 inches by 9 inches, and it can be rolled up to fit in a carry-on bag. The pillow is designed to be held in place with a tether that can be looped over the headrest and a flap that can be connected to the seatbelt. Some reviewers complain that on some planes, the cord might cover the TV screen of the seat behind.
Several writers at About.com praise the TravelRest, among them James Martin, About.com's guide to European travel, who takes it on a flight and finds that it provides "a stable rest for your head when you try to sleep on an airplane." The Chicago Tribune's Laurie Goering is equally positive, saying the pillow "gives a delicious sense of snuggling up with one of those full-body bed pillows." In her review of four neck pillows, syndicated Canadian travel journalist Reb Stevenson says the TravelRest pillow "provides support for your head at a natural angle," and she also likes that it rolls up into "a small scroll" when it is deflated. However, Stevenson complains that switching the pillow from one side to the other is cumbersome, a complaint echoed in several reviews. On Amazon.com, the TravelRest pillow receives a nearly perfect score from more than 40 reviewers. Most complaints concern pillows that leak.
The Inflatable Komfort Kollar (*Est. $28) is another travel pillow that is popular with reviewers, winning a multi-pillow comparison at The Wall Street Journal and one by Reb Stevenson. The inflatable Komfort Kollar resembles a neck brace or cervical collar, and unlike most travel pillows, it is available in three sizes: small (for neck size 14), medium (for neck sizes 14 1/2 to 16 1/2) and large (for neck size 17 or larger). It weighs 7 ounces when deflated. In a test of five pillows at The Wall Street Journal, reporter Rafer Guzman says the Komfort Kollar "keeps the head snug and upright thanks to a Velcro strap that secures it around the neck." Reb Stevenson is equally impressed by the Komfort Kollar because it "eliminates the dreaded forward head-bob."
Not everyone is enamored of the Komfort Kollar, however. At Magellans.com, this pillow receives an average score of 3.2 out of five stars from about 40 reviewers. About a quarter of owners posting comments say the Komfort Kollar is difficult to inflate, while a handful of users complain of leaks. Of the six neck pillows that Rachel Pickett discusses at AssociatedContent.com, the Komfort Kollar is among her least favorites. She complains that it feels "like wearing an inner-tube around my neck."
For a bit less money, some reviewers like the Eagle Creek Comfort Travel Pillow (*Est. $20), another inflatable neck pillow. In her review of six travel pillows at AssociatedContent.com, Rachel Pickett rates the Eagle Creek Comfort Travel Pillow as her favorite inflatable pillow and her second favorite overall. "This pillow is super light and inflates/deflates in about two seconds, making it easy to store in your carry-on. This pillow was very comfortable, but like most inflatables, you could still feel the stiffness of the plastic underneath," Pickett says.
At Amazon.com, more than 30 reviewers give this pillow an average score of three out of five stars. Reviewers say it is comfortable and, when deflated, folds down to a very small size that can easily be stored in a purse. It inflates with just a breath or two. Most negative comments concern pillows that leak.
Pre-filled pillows aren't as portable, but are a good choice for car travel. They're also fine for airplanes, but since they don't deflate, filled pillows aren't as packable.
The Inflatable Komfort Kollar neck pillow discussed above is also available as a filled pillow with memory foam -- handy if you don't want to inflate/deflate your pillow; several reviewers suggest this neck pillow for car travel, where you might not be as limited in the amount of luggage you can carry. Unlike the inflatable version, the memory foam Komfort Kollar (*Est. $60) comes in only one size. It weighs 13 ounces, measuring 10 inches by 8 inches by 5 inches, with a 9-inch diameter, and the cover is 80 percent cotton velour.
Pilot Paul, the owner of Pilot-Pauls-Travel-Acessories.com, is a fan of memory foam in general for its ability to provide a custom fit by molding to the contours of your neck. He praises the memory foam Komfort Kollar for its "perfect fit." Travelers posting reviews at retailer Magellans.com like this travel pillow, too, and say it provides comfortable, even neck support. The Komfort Kollar earns an average rating of four stars out of five from about 10 reviews. A few users do say that it doesn't fit well, however.
The Obus Forme Memory Foam Travel Pillow (*Est. $25) is another option for travelers who are looking for a memory foam neck pillow, and it costs less than the filled version of the Komfort Kollar. It measures 14 inches by 11 inches by 4.5 inches, and it weighs 2 pounds. On Amazon.com, about 30 reviewers give this U-shaped neck pillow an average rating of four stars out of five. A handful of users complain that the Obus is too big for them, while a few others say it's on the stiff side but provides good support nevertheless.
Pillows filled with buckwheat or millet hulls are less stiff than foam pillows and will allow your head to nestle into the pillow. Most of these pillows allow you to remove the hulls to adjust the density. They are usually covered with soft fabric that can be removed for washing.
The U-shaped Bucky Fuzzy Wuzzy Travel Pillow (*Est. $25) is filled with millet hulls, which allow the pillow to mold to your body. The hulls can be removed to adjust the density of the pillow. In a comparison of nine therapeutic pillows (only two of which are travel pillows) at Prevention magazine, testers find that "this pillow allowed [them] to slumber on a plane or in the car without getting a neck cramp." It has a removable, washable faux fur cover and measures 12 inches by 9 inches by 3 inches.
Unlike other travel pillows suitable for airplane travel, the JetRest (*Est. $35) is neither inflatable nor U-shaped. It's L-shaped, and according to editors at British consumer magazine Which?, it's the best of the 10 they tested on a bus trip across the United Kingdom. It measures 10.5 inches by 6 inches and comes with a carrying bag. The back of the head rests on a flat, rectangular flap that expands into a round pillow that cushions the side of the face. Most testers at Which? magazine say the asymmetrical design prevents neck strain, and they like the pillow's fleece finish. At Amazon.com, this pillow receives four stars out of five stars from about half a dozen reviewers who say that it helps them sleep and provides comfortable neck support.
Lastly, the SkyRest Travel Pillow (*Est. $25) is a large pillow that is designed to be placed on the tray table in front of the seat. It inflates to 15.5 inches by 12 inches by 16 inches. It receives mixed reviews, mostly positive from about 35 reviewers at SkyMall.com and mostly negative from about 10 reviewers at Amazon.com. Reviewers at SkyMall.com say that this pillow helps them sleep on long flights; they like that you can hug it to your body or lean on it. Most owners say they have to experiment to find the right position, with general agreement that this pillow works best in a window seat. The most common complaint is that this pillow cannot be used if the person in front of you leans his or her seat back. A reviewer at Amazon.com notes that every time you shift your weight on the pillow, the person sitting in front of you will feel the movement.
Parents traveling with children might want to consider the RestUpRight Pillow for Children (*Est. $23), which earns good reviews at Amazon.com. About 15 reviewers give this pillow four and a half out of five stars, the majority of whom say it does a good job of supporting their child's head and neck. The RestUpRight pillow, for children 3 to 6 years old, is a long pillow that is designed to be propped on a child's leg and extends upward to support the head and upper body. The pillow is strapped to the seatbelt. It is made of polyurethane foam, with a removable, washable fleece cover. The height of the pillow can be adjusted with removable foam inserts. A few adults find it works well for them, too.