Your neck, back, and neighbor’s shoulder will thank you.
Full disclosure: I am gifted with the ability to fall asleep anywhere. At any time, with any light or noise conditions, and in any imaginable variety of train, plane, or car seat, I can fold my body into some semblance of comfort and be totally out for the count within minutes.
I don’t say this to brag; there are downsides. For one, my friends have lovingly captured multiple photos of me comatose in the passenger’s seat, drooling onto the seat belt that’s somehow strapped across my face. And while that hurts my pride, it’s the least of my worries when it comes to pain. Because falling asleep is no problem, waking up at the end of the trip with a stiff neck, numb lower back, and searing headache almost always is.
Enter the wonderful world of travel pillows. There are endless products out there to provide the plushy reinforcements you need to sleep better while traveling and feel better once you’ve reached your destination. I’ve rounded up a few favorites, from discreet neck pillows that could pass for scarves—or are hidden away in the hood of a jacket!—to inflatable sleep support devices that require superhuman levels of self-esteem, but are so, so worth it.
Best for the Window Seat: Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow
Best for the Bobblehead Sleeper: GoSleep Eye Mask and Memory Foam Pillow Travel Kit
If you’re literally nodding as you attempt to nod off, the GoSleep Eye Mask and Memory Foam Pillow Travel Kit will ensure your head stays cradled securely in place. The eye mask attaches to the back of your headrest with an adjustable elastic cord, but keep in mind it may only be usable when there’s not a screen on your seat back.
Best for Truly Shameless Shut-Eye: Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow
What the Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in comfort. When inflated, it’s shaped like a long apostrophe that tucks right above your shoulder and across your body or down your side. Upon arrival, it easily deflates into a small roll designed to snap right onto your carry-on’s handle.
Best for the Can't-Get-Comfortable Traveler: Infinity Pillow by Huzi Design
Best for Travelers Who Get Too Cold: Brookstone Convertible Travel Blanket
Best for Travelers Who Get Too Hot: Cabeau Evolution Cool Pillow
If you overheat just thinking about a thick, fluffy pillow wrapped around your neck, the Cabeau Evolution Cool Pillow is for you. The sporty design pairs memory foam with cooling air circulation vents and sweat-wicking fabric for when the tiny air conditioning vent above you is in “does this even work?” mode.
Best for Secret Support: Trtl Pillow
If you’ve found that U-shaped neck pillows don’t provide the support you need, the scarf-like, fleece Trtl Pillow—pronounced, “turtle”—packs a strengthened inner rib that contours to any neck, jaw, or shoulder shape. It’s half the size of a traditional neck pillow, and in the unfortunate case of deep-sleep drool, it’s machine-washable.
Best for Saving Space: AirComfy Travel Pillow
Best for Packing Purists: Tumi Pax On-The-Go Packable Jacket
Best for Shoulder Snoozers: J-Pillow
Even though it slightly resembles a whale tail, you’ll be far more restful than Captain Ahab with the J Pillow. It’s currently the number one best-selling travel pillow on Amazon and it’s specifically designed to cradle your head, chin included, from the side.
Best for Sensitive Sleepers: Ostrich Pillow Light
If bright lights and rowdy neighbors are just as annoying as fumbling around with an eye mask and earplugs, you’ll love the Ostrich Pillow Light (and you can see our editors try it out here). This adjustable ringed pillow is filled with silicon-covered micro-beads for sound reduction, setting you up for a sleep so deep you won’t even need these brilliant ways to cure jet lag.
Best for Serious Do-Not-Disturb Signals: AERIS Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow Kit
Best for the Kids: Eddie Bauer Travel Pillow
Best for Avoiding Tray Table Bacteria: Woollip Travel Pillow
PSA: Do not put your face anywhere near your tray table. A 2011 study confirmed they’re almost 10 times more germ-covered than the airplane bathrooms. If downward-facing drool is your preferred sleeping position, check out theWoollip Travel Pillow, which is being developed with help from yoga teachers and physiotherapists. It’s a frontal pillow that’s the weight of a smartphone, but able to support your head and upper body when you lean forward. It’s on track to be available for purchase this fall.