There are few things worse to start the day than having had a terrible broken sleep. Waking up with serious neck aches and pains is one of them. You can avoid being a victim of this by using a comfortable travel pillow, which this article will help you decide your perfect sleeping companion.
If you prefer, you can jump straight to our recommend Top 5 Best Travel Pillows comparison table.
If you’ve never used a travel pillow before, then you’ve most probably experienced crappy sleeps during your travels before. So why change now? Here are just three good reasons.
- You’ll avoid neck aches and pains that often happen when you’re slowing dozing off with your neck leaning at an awkward and uncomfortable angle. Short term, it’s annoying and sometimes unbearable. Long term, you can do some serious damage to your spine.
- Instead of feeling groggy and tired from a broken sleep, you’ll wake feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day with confidence. You don’t need me to tell you that being in a good mood will immensely brighten your day.
- You won’t need to sleep at times when you should be out and about enjoying your holiday. Saving time is essential for getting the most out of your travels.
The Different Types of Travel Pillows
A decade ago, the choice of travel pillows was quite limited. You either got the U-shaped pillow or the classic inflatable rectangular pillow.
Nowadays, there are so many different styles to choose from, and some don’t even resemble anything like pillows. Of course, not all of them do a good job at providing a good sleep. Here are some of the most popular types of travel pillows.
Many travel pillows are inflatable which makes them even more ideal for travelling. When deflated, you can simply roll it up and stuff it inside your bag, taking very little space. However, they’re generally not as comfortable nor do they provide as much neck support as pillows that are fully padded with material inside.
Also, if the valve poorly made or the seams are poorly stitched, then air can slowly seep out of it while your head is putting pressure on it, therefore, you end up waking up to a flat piece of fabric instead of a cushy pillow. So if you do want to get an inflatable travel pillow for portability, make sure that the valve and seams are well-made.
The U-shaped pillow is the earliest and probably the most varied type of travel pillow. It may come in a rounded U-shape or a kind of straight edged U-shape, and it may be inflatable or it may be fully padded with some type of foam or beaded materials.
When poorly made, your head will end up sliding down at an awkward angle. When designed properly, a U-shaped pillow will have enough stability when worn to give you good neck support.
If you prefer sleeping on something that’s closer to a normal pillow, then a rectangular shaped travel pillow fits the description. The freebie pillows that you get on the plane are usually this style, but they have such little padding that you might as well be sleeping on a folded towel.
The majority of the rectangular travel pillows sold are inflatable which is more convenient given its shape and size. The downside of this style of pillow is that they’re only great for vertically laying down on, but not so good when you’re trying to sleep in an upright position while sitting on the plane, coach or train.
Full Upper Body
There are a few (but not many) travel pillows that offer full upper body support. The purpose is to allow the wearer to be able to hold and to lean on the pillow for better support. The best example of this type of pillow would be the model produced by Travelrest.
Added Neck Support
If you have neck problems (or you don’t want to develop any) then it’s best to go for a travel pillow that has specifically been designed to support your neck. Some of them look weird and unconventional, but they definitely do a great job.
The most famous example of this type of travel pillow would be the ‘J Pillow’ (shown on the right) which looks like the letter ‘J’ hence the name (I liken it to an elephants head).
What Material is the Most Comfortable?
When you’re sleeping, you don’t want the outer cover of the pillow to irritate your skin. Fortunately, much of the well-made travel pillows have already taken this into consideration and therefore, they’re usually made from a soft polyester material with certain models having a velour or microfiber texture.
If you really want to feel luxurious, then you can also get one made from cashmere, though you’re going to have to pay a bit more.
The inside is what’s more important. The most comfortable type of travel pillow you can have is one that’s fully padded inside, ideally with memory foam but those tend to be a lot more expensive. The next best and a cheaper alternative would be poly foam.
Certain types of travel pillows are hollow or have little to no padding such as inflatables. They’re not as comfortable as the padded types but if designed and produced correctly, you can still get a nice sleep with them.
What Travel Pillow is Right for Me?
So now that you know all of the main types of travel pillows, you are pretty much spoilt for choice. To help you make a quick and easy decision, you just have to ask yourself the following:
- What type of travelling will you be doing? – If your main method of transportation is planes, trains and buses, then you’ll definitely need one that supports your neck in an upright position, especially if you have neck problems. If you’re going camping, then a rectangular pillow would be ideal for you to lay down on.
- Do you have much luggage space? – If the answer is no, then you’ll probably want to get an inflatable travel pillow since they can be deflated and folded, whereas a fully padded pillow will not only take up more space, but it may be inconveniently shaped which makes it harder to fit things around.
Knowing clear answers to the two questions above will give you a clear idea of which travel pillow you should buy. For some of the bestselling and most popular models, you can check out our Top 5 Best Travel Pillows to get you started.