Best Travel Pillows For Long-Haul Flights
There’s nothing quite as exciting as jetting off on holiday.
You can almost taste the Mai Tai’s at sunset and feel the warmth of crystal clear waters… you just have to get there first!
Although travelling is exciting, trying to kill half the day on a plane isn’t.
So, if you’re like me and want to sleep as much of your flight as possible, you’re going to need to get comfy.
And that starts with a great travel pillow!
Let’s take a look at the best ones…
Our Top Travel Pillow Picks
Read Our Travel Pillow Reviews
The BCOZZY Chin Supporting Pillow takes the classic U-shaped travel pillow design and adds a twist to it. The BCOZZY Pillow can wrap all the way around your neck, providing support for your chin as well. The BCOZZY can be configured in multiple positions to accommodate your preferences and ensures proper head posture during your flight. Filled with lightweight fiber, the BCOZZY is not super compact, but in exchange it is very comfortable and prevents the dreaded chin droop!
The Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Pillow boasts a comfortable and supportive memory foam filling. Its raised sides provide good neck support, and the back lies flat against the seat, keeping your head and neck aligned rather than pushed forward. What makes the Cabeau different is that when not in use it compresses to only a quarter of its full size to fit inside the small accompanying travel bag. This means that, though it’s slightly on the heavier side, it is much easier to carry than many of its counterparts. The Cabeau makes a solid choice for a more portable U-shaped travel pillow. It also comes with memory foam earplugs to help you enjoy a more peaceful rest.
The Everlasting Comfort Neck Pillow is a traditional U-shaped pillow made of memory foam to ensure personalized comfort over the length of your flight. It provides excellent neck support, but at the cost of being a little bulkier and weighing nearly a pound. Because of this, passengers concerned about size and weight may want to stick with more compact options. Many travellers, however, find that the slightly heavier weight is a worthwhile trade-off for the benefits of memory foam, which contours perfectly to the shape of your head and neck, providing unparalleled support. This pillow also features a pocket for your cell phone and comes with an eye mask and ear plugs.
The Trtl Pillow comes with a neck-supporting brace and cozy fleece liner to keep your head up and your neck warm during a long flight. This style of braced pillow makes sure than your head doesn’t tilt into an uncomfortable position as it otherwise would. The Trtl Pillow weighs under half a pound, which makes it rather light, and it takes up less space in your suitcase than a typical U-shaped pillow. The Trtl would benefit from being more adjustable or coming in multiple sizes, as an occasional complaint about it is the fact that larger people still have to tilt their heads quite a bit while using this pillow. Nevertheless, the Trtl pillow is an excellent, lightweight braced pillow for travel.
The versatile Huzi Infinity Pillow can be wrapped, twisted, and fluffed in countless configurations. Made from machine-washable bamboo rayon fabric and filled with microfiber, it can be used to support your neck or back, pulled over your eyes and ears to block out light and noise, or placed against the window as a cushion for your head. The main drawback is that its microfiber filling makes it less compact than other (inflatable) options on this list. Nonetheless, if you prefer the feel of microfiber and have a little extra space to spare, this might be the pillow for you.
The Koncle Inflatable Pillow is a rather unique option on this list, as it is a pillow into which the passenger leans forward. As such, it provides no specific neck or back support, but it does take weight off of both during your flight. You simply place the inflated pillow on your lap and lean into it to sleep, making this a great option for those who generally prefer sleeping on their stomachs. Overall, the Koncle Pillow is an affordable, comfortable, and compact option.
The Purefly Velvet Inflatable Pillow is a self-inflating neck pillow which weighs under 5 ounces and stores in a small and portable stuff sack. When inflated, the Purefly is a standard U-shaped neck pillow which provides comfort and support for the neck, but unlike many other inflatable pillows, the Purefly inflates at the touch of a button and does not need to be manually inflated by the user. This saves some effort and lets you get to sleep just a bit sooner. Its soft velvet cover is incredibly cozy and can be removed and washed.
The Kuki Inflatable Pillow is not a traditional flying pillow, but rather an inflatable foot rest, especially helpful for children. This pillow fits neatly into the normal leg area of a seat, allowing small children to actually lie down during a flight, or to prop their legs up while they’re awake. Of course, the Kuki Pillow offers no neck or back support, but then it’s not supposed to! If you have kids who just can’t sleep on planes, the Kuki Pillow may be an excellent option for them. Also, since it’s inflatable, this pillow is light and compresses to a very small area for storage.
Measuring 12” x 16” x 4”, the Malouf Travel Pillow is a traditionally-shaped rectangular pillow made of memory foam. It’s a great alternative for travelers who prefer this classic style over that of a U-shaped travel pillow. The Malouf Pillow allows great versatility in sleeping position, ideal whether you’re in the aisle, middle, or window seat. It also comes in handy if you won’t have access to a great pillow in your destination—once you arrive, you can swap out any deflated or decades-old pillows you come across in favor of luxurious memory foam comfort. Plus, its cooling gel dissipates body heat to keep you comfortable all night long.
Perhaps the most unique of all the pillows on this list, the Ostrich Pillow is a full head wrap pillow with acts as both a cushion and a blindfold. This pillow is best when used either lying down or leaning forward onto a flat surface such as a desk. The Ostrich Pillow offers both comfort and peace, blocking out light and disturbances. One downside: the pillow is quite bulky and weighs around two pounds, making it less than ideal for anyone looking to travel light. Additionally, some users find that they end up feeling too warm with their heads totally engulfed. Nonetheless, this pillow works wonderfully when there is more room available—consider it for catching a quick power nap during long days at the office. Check out the Ostrich Pillow in action in this viral video! If you’re looking for something a little more low-key and travel-friendly, take a look at the Light and Mini Ostrich Pillow options.
Advice for Finding The Best Travel Pillow
There are so many options for travel pillows on the market that there can be quite a bit of confusion over what to buy.
If you want a standard U-shaped travel pillow that can be compactly stored, the Purefly Velvet Inflatable Pillow is a fantastic choice.
For families flying with children, the Kuki Pillow works as both a footrest, or even a small bed for kids who can’t sleep sitting up in their seats.
If you need total versatility, go for the memory foam Malouf Pillow, which suits a variety of sleeping positions and is just as comfortable on a bed as on an airplane.
Out of all the options on this list, the Trtl Pillow and the Cabeau Pillow might just be the best combinations of comfort, utility, and value. These pillows are both fairly compact and supply good quality neck support.
In the end, the pillow you choose will be up to your individual needs as a traveler—any of the pillows on this list represent great options, and each of them should help you catch some sleep on your next long flight.
Why it’s important to use a travel pillow
Choosing a quality travel pillow is essential if you plan to get any sleep at all! Long-distance flights so often mean that your body is twisted and cramped into a tiny seat for hours on end, making it impossible to get a good night’s sleep.
Simply drooping your head can lead to pain in your neck and upper back and does absolutely nothing good for your posture. However, there are numerous pillow options for frequent flyers which help maintain good posture and prevent pain during travel. These travel pillows come in many different varieties and are well-suited to a variety of needs, as you can see above!
How to survive a long-haul flight!
You might be over-the-moon excited about that vacation in Singapore or weeklong trek through Patagonia. But chances are you’re less excited about the time spent in transit getting to your final destination. Traffic on the way to the airport, long lines at security, hours spent practically in fetal position while your neighbors snore and hog the armrest: flying comes with endless challenges, discomforts, and inconveniences. Long-haul flights (8+ hours) in particular are often stressful for both body and mind. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make even the longest flights fly right by.
First off, some trivia: in 2017, the top five longest non-stop flights in the world (ranked by distance) are:
- 17h 30, 9032 miles: Qatar Airlines, Auckland à Doha
- 17h 15, 8824 miles: Emirates, Auckland à Dubai
- 17h 55, 8770 miles: United, Los Angeles à Singapore
- 17h 10, 8578 miles: Qantas, Dallas à Sydney
- 17h 15, 8446 miles: United/Singapore, San Francisco à Singapore
Super-long-haul flights seem to be here to stay: even more such routes are planned for 2018: Soon you’ll be able to fly direct between Perth and London, New York and Singapore, and Los Angeles and Singapore. In addition, planes these days tend to fly more slowly to conserve fuel, making long journeys even longer. On the one hand, these long-haul flights offer the convenience of connecting far-flung and previously less accessible cities, removing the hassle of airport transfers that add hours to your trip and can potentially be derailed by an unanticipated late arrival. On the other hand, more and more people will be signing up for 12 or even 15+ hours squashed in one seat.
Apart from investing in a travel pillow, what else can you do to make yourself comfortable during your flight?
Here are 11 useful tips:
Upgrade: If upgrading is within your budget, it’s probably worth paying a little extra to get the added legroom of an exit row seat, or to ensure you snag an aisle seat instead of the dreaded middle. Even better of course would be upgrading all the way to business or first class! If you want to know about traveling more strategically, maximizing your miles, and getting upgrades, the absolute best available resource is The Points Guy. Here, you’ll find extensive guides explaining how to use points and miles, weighing the pros and cons of various credit cards, and ranking major airlines based on “price, convenience, headaches, and extras.”
Get a good seat: Sometimes, getting stuck in coach is a necessary fact of life. It is, after all, often the cheapest option! Even in economy class, some seats are better than others. Visit Seatguru to get more information on your aircraft, view a seat map, and find the best seats available.
Get a good airplane too, if you can: Thanks to the internet, you’re only a Google search away from finding out exactly what to expect from your aircraft. Frequent travelers have written at length about the pros and cons of various aircraft, comparing new models, and even evaluating specific routes.
Pack light and arrive early: Personally, I’m always happier on a flight if have a stress-free time beforehand at the airport, arriving 2+ hours early and bringing a relatively light carry-on. Nothing ruins a flight faster for me than racing through security, wrangling a heavy pack, and not leaving enough time for a restroom break.
- Make a packing list to ensure you don’t forget any essentials.
- You can save space by rolling your clothes up instead of folding them. (For this reason, it’s best to pack wrinkle-resistant clothing when possible).
- Look up airline baggage policies and security regulations ahead of time.
- If you’re taking a longer trip, consider packing fewer clothes and washing them on the road, whether at a laundromat, at your hotel, or in the sink.
Bring entertainment: I have, on occasion, shown up for a flight only to realize once I’m on the plane that there are NO MOVIES. This is rare on longer flights, but it’s always worth looking up in advance what the on-board entertainment situation will be. Are there screens in the seatbacks, or only a few coming down from the ceiling? How good is the movie and television selection? Can you rent a tablet? Can you pay for a Wi-Fi pass? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you plan out your entertainment strategy.
Regardless of how good the in-flight entertainment is supposed to be, it’s always good to have backup! So I always pack at least one book (or my Kindle, which has pretty good battery life) to read during the first few hours of the flight, or until my brainpower is completely sapped and it’s time to pull out my travel pillow. Longer flights can also be great motivation for getting work done: what else are you going to do?! I always like to bring along a concrete, manageable task that I can get done in a reasonable timeframe, ideally without having to excavate my laptop. Other ideas: a book of crosswords, an iPad loaded up with movies you actually want to watch, a phone with plenty of music and podcasts downloaded.
Try meditating: If you’re a nervous flyer, learning how to meditate may prove helpful. Apps like Headspace and Calm have become popular in recent years, making meditation more accessible to millions of people. Headspace has even developed a program specifically targeting fear of flying, which some travelers swear by. If you experience anxiety while flying or traveling in general, check out Lauren Juliff’s Never Ending Footsteps blog, which chronicles her experiences traveling with anxiety.
Keep your ears happy: Many people suffer from ear pain during takeoff and landing due to the rapid changes in altitude and air pressure. Simple measures such as swallowing, yawning, chewing gum, or sucking on a piece of candy are often enough to relieve discomfort. If ear pain is a frequent or more severe problem for you, I highly suggest that you give EarPlanes a try! These ear plugs contain filters that help to equalize air pressure.
If you’re traveling with small children, you might want to have some candy on hand to help them handle the ear pain. Traveling with a baby? Bring a pacifier or bottle for your baby to suck on during takeoff and landing.
Stay hydrated: Some flyers avoid proper hydration because they don’t want to make too many bathroom runs. Not a good idea! Airplane bathrooms might be kind of gross, but getting up and walking down the aisle every few hours is actually one of the best things you can do to stay healthy on a long-haul flight. All the better if there’s a line! You have an excuse to stand, shift your weight, and stretch your arms out while you wait.
Once you get past security, grab a big water bottle to take onboard in case the flight attendants don’t come around with drinks very often. And don’t feel shy about calling a flight attendant over if you need an extra glass of water.
Avoid alcohol: On the subject of hydration, it’s a good idea to go easy on alcohol and caffeine. While it might be tempting to throw back a few beers, or to guzzle black coffee continuously to keep yourself alert, you’ll stay better hydrated if you stick mostly to water.
MOVE: If you’re on a flight that’s longer than about 8 hours, it becomes colossally important to find ways to move, especially if you’re already at higher risk for developing blood clots. What to do? One of the best exercises involves simply flexing your ankles and tapping your toes and heels. Watch this video for a demonstration and additional explanation.
You can also stretch out your back by squeezing your shoulder blades back and together, alleviate neck discomfort by performing chin tucks (demonstrated at minute 2 here), and relieve upper body tension with shoulder rolls. Try to perform these basic stretches about every hour or so while you’re awake.
On a serious note, avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT): If you already have a predisposition to developing blood clots, you may want to consult with a doctor about avoiding DVT while flying. Risk factors for DVT include: a history of DVT or pulmonary embolism, heart disease, stroke, and pregnancy. If you’re at all concerned, check in with your doctor. In some cases, compression stockings or a dose of aspirin are recommended.
For most people, these measures aren’t necessary. You should, however, take precautions to reduce your risk. Dr. David Gradwell, a professor of aerospace medicine at Kings College London, advises passengers to stay hydrated and move whenever and however much they can. In particular, he recommends the toe tapping exercise mentioned above, which keeps your legs mobile and can be done even in the most cramped of economy seating.
Flying isn’t the only culprit! Extended periods of immobility, whether you’re working at your laptop or enduring an overnight bus ride, place considerable stress on the body. Many of the tips in this article also apply to any protracted period of immobility you find yourself in. The main takeaways? Stay hydrated, keep moving, and invest in a quality travel pillow: these simple steps will drastically improve your long-haul odyssey and help you feel your best once you finally arrive at your destination.