How to Buy a Travel Pillow

Traveling with a regular bed pillow usually isn't practical. Not only does packing a bed pillow into your suitcase take up a lot of space, your neighbor on the bus, train or airplane might not appreciate having the pillow hanging over into his or her space. Compact travel pillows offer a means of stabilizing your head, supporting your lower back and hopefully getting much-needed rest as you travel--all without taking up much space.


  1. Image titled Consider shape Step 1
    Consider which shape you're most comfortable with. The most common travel pillow shapes include a U-shape, a wedge shape or a roughly cylindrical shape.
    • You'll also encounter less-common shapes, such as ring-shaped pillows, sleep collars that fit all the way around your neck, or pillows that fasten to your seat with a strap across the front of your body.
    • This might require extensive testing on your part. Simulate the airline experience by using the pillow in the backseat of your car. If you plan on sleeping with your travel pillow, take it to bed with you a few times to make sure it's comfortable.
  2. Image titled Pillow material Step 2
    Consider the pillow material.
    • Common travel pillow materials include memory foam and polyester.
    • There's no point in purchasing or using a travel pillow if it's not comfortable. As you test potential travel pillows, note whether you are consistently more or less comfortable with a particular material. For example, memory foam offers high malleability with relatively low support compared to an inflatable pillow.
  3. Image titled Size and weight Step 3
    Narrow your travel pillow options down by size and weight. The pillow should be large enough to provide comfortable rest--test your pillow before you travel--but not so large or heavy that you can't pack it in your carry-on luggage.
    • If your travel pillow deflates or squishes down to a small size for packing, take both its packed size and the fully deployed size into account.
  4. Image titled Test mehanism Step 4
    Test the pillow mechanism--if it packs down small or inflates and deflates--several times to make sure it's sturdy and easy to use.
    • Pay particular attention to whether any air valves stick out enough to get caught and possibly damaged, and whether the valve is difficult to extract once you press it flush with the rest of the pillow.
    • Check the pillow seams for any signs of loose threads or shoddy construction. Loose seams spell disaster for an inflatable pillow, but can cause problems for other types of travel pillows too.
  5. Image titled Remove pillows cover Step 5
    Practice removing the pillow's cover, if it has one, then working the pillow back into the cover.
    • Ideally, the entire pillow should be washable. But having a washable, removable cover in addition is even better.


  • A carrying case isn't strictly necessary for your travel pillow, but if the pillow packs down or deflates, a case will both protect it from harm and keep it securely bundled to take up less space.
  • Most travel pillows are meant to support your neck or lower back in the usual seated position. But you'll also occasionally find inflatable wedges that sit on the tray table in front of you; you drape your body forward over the ledge to sleep.
  • Don't forget to consider camping pillows for travel use. Most camping pillows are light and pack down small, just like travel pillows. If you're traveling super-light, you can even purchase a pillow-shaped case to stuff with extra clothing as a makeshift pillow.

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Categories: Camping | Travel Packing