Headrests: The 6 Best Travel Pillows

The jetsetting gentleman knows how important a good travel pillow is. They also know how hard it is to find. Too often these pillows have been relegated to the same world as the Eggie or the Slap Chop. They have been featured on QVC between porcelain figurines and shake weights and become the sad star of late-night infomercials. Something so important deserves better, yet few manufacturers have been able to create a decent product that functions without being completely ridiculous or ready to fall apart because it was made by 8 year-olds in Taiwan.

A quality pillow should be crafted from high quality materials so that it can stand up to the rigors of the road or the sky. It should be portable enough that you can stuff it away in a carry-on bag, but large enough that you can still get the support you need to keep your neck from sticking at a jaunty angle. It also shouldn’t be an embarrassment to tote around, nor inconvenience other people who may literally be in the same boat as you. Taking all this into consideration, we’ve found the 6 best travel pillows for any nomad.

Comfort Master

Comfort Master

Pro: Firm and supportive
Con: Tends to get very warm

Standard Fare: The U-shaped pillow is traditional among travelers, though not everyone finds it to be comfortable. If you’re one of the lucky few who prefer having a horseshoe around your neck, this should be at the top of your list. It is made of memory foam that is 4 inches thick that fits easily across your shoulders and provides enough support for most skulls, though might not be enough if you’ve got a serious cranium on your hands. It’s about 11 inches in diameter so will slip around most necks and is small enough for children. The comfort level depends on your sleeping style, but anyone looking for a little more support around the neck and shoulders, or people with chronic pain who just want to be able to sit upright comfortably will find this to be enormously helpful even if they can’t actually doze off while using it. Don’t let its common appearance fool you. This isn’t a cheap or low-quality mess, but rather a sturdy piece of equipment for serious travelers. [Purchase: $25]

Victorinox Deluxe Neck Rest

Victorinox Deluxe Neck Rest

Pro: Adjustable support structure
Con: Very little cushioning

Minimalist: Saying this is a true “pillow” is being very generous with the title, but it is one of the best neck supports out there and for those who can catch some z’s by tilting their head back, it saves on space without skimping on quality. When packed it lays nearly flat but can then be propped in the open position by using the attached cord. You can easily adjust it to work with your particular needs so that it doesn’t cause cricking or cramping. The orthopedic construction helps keep your spine aligned properly and takes the weight of your head off of your vertebrae to reduce stiffness. It doesn’t often work for people who shift in their seat and leaning to the side is impossible. Restless travelers who can’t sleep but are looking for something to reduce fatigue and stiffness will love the Deluxe, particularly for shorter trips. [Purchase: $45]

Infinity Pillow

Infinity Pillow

Pro: Large number of uses
Con: Requires practice to use

Transformer: Designed with the Mobius Strip in mind, this is one of the most versatile travel pillows around. You can coil it up to work tucked into the hollow of your neck or on your tray table, or you can drape it around your neck like a scarf. On cold flights, it can even be coiled around your feet to help keep them warm, though you’ll need to give it a thorough washing after that. It goes over your ears, over your eyes, or in a wad behind your back making it able to adapt to any conditions. It’s marginally bulky which is easy to forgive since it can do several jobs as your environment or needs change. The bamboo fabric is hypoallergenic and resists infestation by the bacteria that lives on every surface of public transportation so it might literally save your life. [Purchase: $59]

Cabeau Evolution

Cabeau Evolution

Pro: Includes smartphone pocket
Con: Bulky

Foamtastic: This takes the concept of the standard pillow and sends it into the stratosphere by upgrading every component. The memory foam sides might look like Ming the Merciless’s collar, but they keep your head supported like a brace taking nearly all the pressure off your neck so that even if you manage to drift off in it, you won’t find your head bent at an awkward angle leaving you with a question mark in your spine. It comes equipped with its own carrying bag that mashes it down and can attach to your luggage taking up no additional space. Sliding toggles adjust the pillow to suit your neck and a side pocket allows you to place your mp3 player or smartphone right by your head for easy access and easier attachment of earbuds in case you need to block out sound. It’s big and heavy, but remarkably comfortable and affordable. [Purchase: $40]

J Pillow

J Pillow

Pro: Keeps your head from falling forward
Con: Needs a wall to rest against

Lean-To: Designed by a stewardess, pardon, a flight attendant, this has some great features that put it high on the pile, but it also bears several flaws that leave it short of true greatness. First off, the shape keeps your chin in place without allowing it to loll forward and cups your head relatively well on the side for a combination of comfort and support. The problem that plagues the J Pillow is it typically only works when pressed against a wall or a bulkhead so those in middle or aisle seats typically can’t use it. The second issue that comes up is the back side has a tendency to slip out if not anchored properly which makes it troublesome for those who shift significantly. If you are a die-hard window passenger or plan on sleeping your way through family road trips, this is outstanding, but won’t save you if you’re in a place where you must sit upright. [Purchase: $30]

TravelRest 0

TravelRest Pillow

Pro: Packs very tightly
Con: Inflatable

Sleep Sling: Ordinarily the word “inflatable” when referring to a travel pillow would have us heading for the hills – we get nervous around air mattresses – but the unique ergonomic design and unusually high comfort that comes hand in glove with the TravelRest won us over. This looks like a guitar sling or a bandolier, because it works by fitting over your shoulder with an attachment that straps it to the back of the seat. Despite the odd construction it then uses tension to allow you to lean up against it to rest. The inflatable body can actually be used in a number of ways, being partially inflated and then folded, or wrapped closer to your neck for support. It is very difficult to puncture and has a nice felt exterior that feels good against your skin without any seams like most inflatable pillows. Best of all, it takes up a minimum of space in your luggage. [Purchase: $30]

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