What's the first word to come to mind when talking about travel pillows? Inflatable, perhaps? Inflatable travel pillows are very popular, and for good reason, but there are comfortable and highly rated travel pillows that come in different styles and fills. Some have memory-foam cores, while others have foam beads that collapse and expand depending on how restricted the space is where the pillow is stored. These travel pillows don't offer the same level of customization as inflatable travel pillows for firmness, but many owners say they're comfortable and don't provide the feeling that you're resting your head on an inflated balloon.
Our Best Reviewed pick, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow (Est. $20 to $40, depending on size) , for example, uses a foam core fill that expands and contracts based on whether it's been compressed into a tight space or is free to expand to its fullest capacity. The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow comes in a choice of three sizes weighing between 7 and 12 ounces (small to large), as well as several colors and fabric options. With removable, machine-washable pillow covers, these travel pillows are easy to clean after a long flight or camping trip.
According to editors at MyBackpackerGuides.com, the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow is a great choice for campers and backpackers who hate the feeling of sleeping on air. Other reviewers, such as those posting feedback to REI.com, say that the Therm-a-Rest is one of the most comfortable compressible pillows on the market today. One reviewer who backpacks often notes, "This pillow did not disappoint. I can sleep on my side, on my back, or on my stomach, all are comfortable with this pillow." It compresses small enough that it can fit in the average pants pocket, so backpackers can simply pull it out or stuff it away as needed. The biggest downside noted is that some users say it takes too long for the pillow to reach its full "fluff" capacity -- some saying several days, while others say it takes a couple of hours. "Product compresses nicely and may fit in a stuff sack with your sleeping bag. Expands decently, though may need some extra fluffing and plenty of time to decompress," says a reviewer at Amazon.com.
Kids' travel pillows should be age appropriate
We found far more recommendations for inflatable travel pillows than standard, rectangular or neck travel pillows, with the exception of the Therm-a-Rest. Another exception is among travel pillows for kids. The Ben Bat Travel Friends on the Go Total Neck Support Pillow (Est. $15 to $30, depending on size) is one of the best travel pillows for kids that we found. This pillow comes in a permanent form -- in the shape of a variety of animal choices. Not only do the designs appeal to kids' different preferences, but these pillows come in four sizes, based on age, designed to work with the car-seat requirements at each age level. Because this pillow isn't collapsible, it will take up more room in your luggage than an inflatable pillow. Most parents are satisfied enough with this product that its cumbersome nature isn't too bothersome.
The 0-to-12-month size, for instance, includes magnets on the side supports to attach the pillow to the sides of a car seat and a strap to secure it to the back of the seat. In the largest size, designed for kids 8 years and older, the Travel Friends by Ben Bat pillows have a pocket for holding gadgets like iPods, individual gaming systems and other items. Parents posting feedback to Amazon.com do have some complaints, mostly centered on the fact that these pillows don't prevent children's heads from falling forward in a vehicle. One parent at Amazon.com says she doesn't mind the "forward lean," but the magnets aren't strong enough to keep the two front flaps together, which in turn makes her daughter lean forward even more. Other parents were satisfied with the pillow's features, but their kids wouldn't stand to wear it. "This product seems to work as intended but my 4 year old refused to wear it. I was so determined to have her use it while she was sleeping that I would reach back and put her head into it after she fell asleep. She seems comfortable while wearing it but immediately took it off when she woke up and realized where she was," says an Amazon.com reviewer. If you can leap over that hurdle, the Ben Bat travel pillow is a solid choice.