In need of a portable pillow for your next trip? For this update, our team of travel experts tested 11 of the best travel pillows available. Backed by the best information available from extensive research, careful analysis, and personal hands-on testing, our comprehensive review exposes the best and worst of some of the most popular pillows on the market. We assessed comfort, packability, and ease of cleaning to help you find the best match. A travel pillow is an inexpensive way to seriously improve your next long-haul, and our experts will help you pick out the best option based on your specific needs and budget.Traveling can be stressful, but finding what you need for the journey shouldn't have to be. Our experts have tested the best noise cancelling headphones for noisy airports and plane rides, and if you're in the market for some new luggage, check out our reviews on suitcases, carry-ons, and travel backpacks. We also have reviews of top hand warmers that double as USB chargers.
The 4 Best Travel Pillows of 2023
$39.99 at Amazon
$39.99 at Amazon
$44.97 at Amazon
$23.99 at Amazon
$23.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Headrest straps, built-in storage pocket, easy to pack memory foam pillow||Comfortable outer material, super supportive, machine washable cover||Polyester design is easy to clean, soft next-to-skin, more supportive than a U-pillow||Adjustable stiffness as an inflatable pillow, versatile, tiny packed size||Versatile design, adjustable firmness, easy to pack|
|Cons||Most comfortable when secured to a headrest, difficult to replace cover after washing||Difficult to pack, no straps to secure to a headrest||Supportive in only one position at a time, lacks packability||Slips out of position, works better as a lumbar support||Oversized and cumbersome, forward- and side-sleeping specific|
|Bottom Line||This plush travel pillow offers the best of comfort, packability, and versatility||A nearly perfect pillow for travel, this model is supportive, comfortable against the skin, and easy to clean thanks to its removable cover||A new take on a classic design, this wrap-around travel pillow can be positioned for a comfortable nap no matter your sleep preferences||A compact, inflatable travel pillow that is versatile enough to double as a camping pillow or be used for lumbar support in the office||This unique pillow, specially designed for tray tables, is more versatile than you might expect and offers both comfort and a bit of privacy for quick naps|
|Rating Categories||Cabeau Evolution S3||Travelrest NEST Ult...||Bcozzy Chin Supporting||AirComfy Ease Trave...||Sunany Inflatable|
|Ease of Cleaning (15%)|
|Specs||Cabeau Evolution S3||Travelrest NEST Ult...||Bcozzy Chin Supporting||AirComfy Ease Trave...||Sunany Inflatable|
|Weight||10.6 oz||11.75 oz||7.25 oz||6.75 oz||11.1 oz|
|Interior Materials||Memory foam||Memory foam||100% polyester||Inflatable, foam||Inflatable, foam|
|Cover Materials||100% Polyester||92% Polyester, 8% Spandex||100% Polyester||Velvet||PVC Flocking|
|Included Extras?||None||1 set of earplugs||None||None||Sleep mask, 2 sets of ear plugs|
Best Overall Travel Pillow
Cabeau Evolution S3
Whether you are a front, side, or head-back sleeper, the Cabeau Evolution S3 is an incredibly comfortable, versatile, and trusted travel pillow. The memory foam provides just enough support without being too stiff, while a slimmer back allows for proper spine alignment and doesn't push your chin forward in an uncomfortable way like other Cabeau models. The raised sides and adjustable clasp help keep your head in place, and the adjustable velcro straps easily slip over any headrest to hold the pillow in place. The plush polyester cover features a small built-in pocket and is removable so it can be machine washed after your trip. The Evolution S3 rolls up effortlessly to more than half its size and includes a travel bag with a large, zippered top that makes packing quick and simple.
Though the cover of the Evolution S3 is easy to remove for washing, it is a bit more challenging to get back over the pillow when it's time to use it again. This is largely due to the unique shape of the supple memory foam core, which can make it hard to properly align with the cover without extra care. Although this pillow can spin around to adapt for front-facing sleepers, it provides a bit less chin support than the design suggests. It can be worn comfortably without a headrest but is most supportive when attached to a seat due to the squishiness of the memory foam. Overall these are minor criticisms for a travel pillow that otherwise offers superb support — whether traveling by car, plane, or train, the Evolution S3 easily earns our top spot for a portable pillow.
Best Bang for Your Buck
AirComfy Ease Travel Pillow
The AirComfy Ease Travel Pillow gets a nod from our judges not just for its price point but for its versatility and appeal to outdoor enthusiasts — essentially, this is a travel version of a backpacking pillow. Like many of the best sleeping pads on the market, this diminutive travel pillow utilizes a combination of air and insulating foam to provide a more substantial feel than many other inflatable options. Unlike the shapes of other travel pillows, this one offers versatility, providing both neck and lumbar support. It is also one of the smallest and lightest pillows we tested, easily packing away in an included stuff sack that clips to any luggage on a carabiner.
Though this travel pillow comes with a strap to help secure it to a headrest, the elastic band doesn't tighten very well, and as a result, this small pillow easily slips out of position if you're tossing and turning. Although it doubles as both back and neck support, the specific shape means that it is really designed for head-back naps, and doesn't work well at all for side sleeping — it is difficult to find a supportive and comfortable position when leaning against a window. Still, for the globe-trotting, backpack-living vagabond, or weight-conscious business traveler, the size, comfort, and versatility of the AirComfy Ease make it a valuable addition to any travel kit.
Travelrest NEST Ultimate
The Travelrest NEST Ultimate just may be the ultimate in comfort for a travel pillow. This memory foam option provides solid head support and eases any strain on your neck regardless of whether you are a lay-back, side, or leaning-forward type of sleeper. This high-sided, U-shaped pillow is contoured to both your shoulders and the nape of your neck. And when you weight the back of the pillow with your head, this specific design actually pulls the arms comfortably inward around your neck, offering increased support for bobblehead issues. The removable, machine-washable cover is a blend of polyester and spandex, offering a velvety next-to-skin feel that makes you want to snuggle up with this pillow on long trips.
While the plush NEST Ultimate is a dream to sleep on, it is more of a nightmare to pack. The supportive memory foam that makes this travel pillow so comfortable needs to be squeezed, stuffed, folded, and compressed to fit in the included stuff sack. Based on our experience, it's easier to roll up this pillow than fold and stuff it. Unlike other memory foam options, this one doesn't include straps to secure it to a headrest. Fortunately, it is much less likely to slip out of place than other comparable products, so you can rest easy on your next trip knowing that you chose the most comfortable travel pillow we've tested.
Perfect for Tray Tables
The makers of the Sunany Inflatable designed a travel pillow for those who have tossed and turned through a long plane or train ride. Many of us certainly have tried to snag some restless sleep by faceplanting into the seat in front of us or woken up to a stiff neck after unsuccessfully resting on the tray table. The unique design is made with front-leaning sleepers in mind. Despite its large size, the Sunany fits perfectly on top of a tray table. Its minimal yet soft face material makes this pillow comfortable to hug, and the open area inside provides some privacy and the ability to watch movies or play games on your phone. As an inflatable model, you can adjust the firmness to your liking, and despite its oversized design, this pillow deflates and rolls up to the size of a Nalgene bottle.
Although the Sunany is designed to offer a variety of sleeping positions (and indeed, is surprisingly comfortable for side sleeping), the overall large size of this inflatable pillow makes it a bit unruly to move around, unless you happen to have a whole aisle to yourself. With this in mind, personal comfort with this pillow is heavily dependent on your sleeping position; if you prefer to lean back, this is definitely not the design for you. Though this specially designed travel pillow is better for naps than extended rests, the Sunany is more versatile than it appears and is absolutely a worthy travel companion, particularly for those of us who dream of faceplanting into a deep slumber.
Why You Should Trust Us
Before ever setting out on a trip with these travel pillows, our team performs due diligence in market research. We spend dozens of hours combing the internet, comparing and contrasting some of the most popular products available. To ensure that our tests are completely subjective, we purchase all of these products at retail cost. We then design repeatable, numerically-based tests to analyze these pillows side-by-side in the lab. We rank products relative to one another so that you as the consumer can directly compare the pros and cons of each. We then took these pillows on trips — riding planes, trains, and automobiles — in order to support our objective analysis with real-world experience.
Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer and Senior Review Editor Aaron Rice are both big guys who don't fit very well into coach seats. Over many years of travel, both have sought inexpensive solutions to improve the comfort of their trips. Without a doubt, both agree that a quality travel pillow is worth its weight in gold when it comes to extended trips by car, train, or plane. Their collective travel experience — on both personal and work-related trips — informs their insights and drives their analysis of the best travel pillows on the market.
Analysis and Test Results
One of the biggest problems with travel pillows is that so many of them look exactly alike. It's tough to accurately judge the differences between so many products that, for all intents and purposes, appear the same. Our expert travel team developed a set of comprehensive metrics that are weighted based on the most important characteristics. This overall score is based on test results analyzing: comfort (60%), packing (25%), and ease of cleaning (15%).
It is important to note that the travel pillows included in this review are some of the most popular products on the market today. Our process is based on direct comparison — a low score does not necessarily mean that a product is objectively bad. Rather, a low score shows that a particular product scored poorly relative to others in a particular way. Our method of side-by-side comparison testing reveals the strengths and weaknesses of every product so that the only job you have is to choose the best travel pillow based on your needs and budget.
Our team agrees that investing in a quality travel pillow is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to enhance any travel experience. Like many market trends, a higher price often means that a product is made with higher-quality materials and craftsmanship. However, this trend is far from an absolute rule — sometimes more cost-effective options can offer better performance and exceptional value.
Case-in-point is the AirComfy Ease, a compact and versatile travel pillow that retails at nearly half the cost of many other options in this review. So often, value is subjective and varies based on our personal preferences. For front sleepers, the Sunany Inflatable will be an invaluable asset, particularly for air travel. And for those travelers who are always looking to increase efficiency, the Cabeau Evolution S3 is also the easiest to pack, and is almost guaranteed to save you time when transitioning between flights.
If you're lolling asleep while sitting up in a plane, train, or car seat, that unsupported weight of your head can put a significant strain on your neck. With that in mind, a reasonable question to ask is: What good is a pillow if it doesn't offer a solid level of support? And if you're looking to sleep comfortably — as we all are — what good is a supportive travel pillow if it's not comfortable to snuggle up against?
Since most of our travel "rest" occurs while sitting up in a chair, the "bobblehead effect" is an uncomfortable reality many struggle to overcome. The most comfortable travel pillows are the ones that support our heavy heads regardless of how we're leaning and are comfortable to use in a variety of ways. We also consider the actual materials used in these pillows — how the inside material balances support and comfort and the next-to-skin feel of the outer cover.
The Travelrest NEST sets the standard for this class and is ideal for head-back or side-sleepers. This memory foam pillow is cut at an angle that perfectly pads the nape of your neck, offering a superb, snug fit that supports the head in an upright position, thus maintaining the natural curvature of your spine. Although this classic U-shaped pillow offers the best support on the market, it doesn't offer the ability to attach to a headrest, which can be a make-or-break feature for front-sleepers.
The Cabeau Evolution S3 is our overall favorite pillow and a particular favorite among both front and side-sleepers. With a memory foam design that is very similar to the Travelrest NEST, the S3 comes with straps to securely attach this pillow to a headrest. No matter how far your head tips forward, this pillow will keep your head upright and your spine aligned as you fall into a deep sleep.
Another intriguing design for front sleepers is the Sunany Inflatable, an oversized inflatable pillow that allows you to faceplant into your tray table. The open-concept pillow is covered in PVC flocking — the same silky soft material that covers your classic Coleman sleeping pad — which makes this pillow comfortable to hug and provides some semblance of privacy as you drift off to sleep. Unfortunately, the size and shape of the Sunany only make it reasonable for quick naps rather than extended sleeping. For those of us who prefer side sleeping, the questionably stylish Ostrichpillow Light is designed specifically for leaning against a window and even doubles as an eye mask. For a less conspicuous travel companion, the classic U-shapes of the Cabeau Evolution S3, Cabeau Evolution Classic, and Travelrest NEST are all great options for side-sleepers, especially if you favor a bit more neck support.
When traveling, the weight and size of your bags really matter. Traveling light is the ticket to saving you money, but at the same time, we don't want to be so minimalist that we have to suffer through long trips just in the name of efficiency. The best travel pillows are not only comfortable but can compress into small, lightweight, and easily packable packages. For our purposes, we consider packed weight, size, and how much effort it takes to pack up these pillows.
Not only is the Cabeau Evolution S3 one of the most comfortable travel pillows we tested, it is also one of the most packable. This highly compressible memory foam pillow rolls up with very little effort — remarkably, its size is nearly cut in half by packing. The included travel bag has a large, zippered opening, which means you won't have to wrestle this portable pillow into its stuff sack upon arrival.
Although Cabeau's Evolution S3, Evolution Cooling and Evolution Classic all appear to be relatively similar, it is very important to note that the Classic is the only one out of the three that does not pack down, nor does it include a stuff sack. The memory foam of the Cooling is a bit firmer than the other two models, only making packing marginally more difficult. The MVLOC Travel pillow technically offers the smallest packed size for a U-shaped memory foam pillow — measuring smaller than a standard Nalgene bottle — but it is really difficult to compact this pillow enough to fit in its included stuff sack.
The Bcozzy is an interesting option for those in a particular hurry. While this pillow doesn't pack down very small, the foldable arms make it a cinch to stuff and hang on the outside of a roller bag. But for those who focus on efficiency in packing, it is difficult to beat the packed size of the inflatable pillows in this review.
The AirComfy Ease exemplifies packability, easily deflating and rolling up into a package about the size of a soda can and half the weight. The Sunany Inflatable pillow is just as packable but weighs a touch more and isn't quite as simple to deflate. The lightest weight pillows in this review are the Ostrichpillow Light and trtl Pillow, which tip the scales at just over 4 ounces. Unfortunately, neither of these pillows include a stuff sack — nor are they very compressible — and can only reasonably be carried looped over or around the handle of a roller bag.
Ease of Cleaning
Even though most of our focus has been on the features that make these pillows great during travel, it is also important to consider how easy they are to clean in between trips. It may be obvious that the easiest ones to clean are those with removable, machine-washable covers — but there are many pillows on the market that are spot or handwash only, both of which can be annoying and time-consuming. Though not directly related to cleaning, we also consider the number of available color options. After all, a travel pillow can be a style statement for those who spend a lot of their time in transit.
Hands-down, the easiest travel pillow to clean is the trtl Pillow. This side-sleeping-specific pillow is essentially a supportive plastic frame wrapped in a plush fleece scarf. While it's not the most comfortable pillow we tested, it is the easiest to care for — simply remove the internal frame and toss the polyester wrap in the washer and dryer. For the popular memory foam options, the Travelrest NEST has the easiest cover to remove and replace after washing.
The Sunany Inflatable and Ostrichpillow Light are the only two pillows we tested that are not machine washable — the inflatable Sunany is handwash only, and the Ostrichpillow does not have a removable cover and must be spot cleaned. This is particularly annoying if you frequent public transit, considering that the Ostrichpillow is designed to lean up against seats and windows.
Even though the Huzi Infinity and Bcozzy don't have removable covers, both polyester pillows can be tossed into the washing machine. But note that the infinity-scarf-styled Huzi pillow requires hang drying. Although the AirComfy Ease does have a removable cover, the velvet fabric of the cover also requires hang drying. It is important to consider the fact that depending on the humidity of your climate, air drying may not be an option.
While many of these pillows may appear similar out of the gate, our team of travel experts have teased out the best options on the market based on key characteristics. Not all pillows are created equal, and we have highlighted those that balance the highest level of comfort and support with packability and ease of cleaning. A quality travel pillow is ultimately an investment in your own travel experience, and our comprehensive review makes it easy to choose the best option for your needs and budget. Sleep better on your next trip; you deserve it!
— Austin Palmer and Aaron Rice
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More