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Travel Pillows – What To Look For

May 6, 2024   By Jennifer Cook

Frequent travellers know how important a good travel pillow is for any flight that you intend to sleep on. So if you’re still debating whether a travel pillow is essential or not, prepare to get convinced. Although you technically came here, so this is all self-inflicted

Kidding aside, a travel pillow is essential because it makes inflight sleeping bearable. It should help you get some sleep and support your neck. It’s your inflight lifesaver – saving your neck from breaking, your head falling on a stranger’s shoulder (unless this is what you wanted), and yourself from being a sleep-deprived zombie. You know how travelling to and from Australia can take so long, right?

But there are so many pillows out there now! There’s Ryan, who walks around with a squishy pillow, and Geraldine, who sleeps on a firm travel pillow. Today, we’ll help you find the best travel pillow for you, whether you’re in for a long flight or many car rides in the future!

How Do You Choose A Travel Pillow For Yourself? 

Identify the Type of Travel Pillow That You Want or Need

There are far top picks available for you to choose from. It all boils down to what you need and why you need them. When selecting travel pillows, we created a N-F-S-D criteria to make your decision-making easier. Only four things to remember: neck support, fabric, size and weight, and durability. 

Inflatable Travel Pillows

The cheapest and most convenient to use, inflatable travel pillows are perfect for the budget traveller. It’s u-shaped – as most travel pillows are – and could easily slip into your carry-on luggage anytime. 

Key Factors

  • Neck Support: This type of travel pillow provides just average neck support. It’s an air-filled pillow, so it won’t provide as much support as, say, an ergonomic pillow would. 
  • Fabric: Inflatables are usually made of plastic. They either come in a stretchable polyester material or are protected with a removable polyester or cotton cover. 
  • Size and weight: These are super lightweight because of their inflatable nature. You won’t even have to worry about going over your carry-on luggage requirements – it’s just air!
  • Durability: This depends on the material and brand, but it’s easily subject to wear and tear when not taken good care of. Make sure to keep it away from sharp objects to avoid unexpected deflation! Inflatable neck pillows are also prone to pulling due to a snap closure mechanism, so make sure to put in on or off correctly. The same goes with those that have chin support.

Microbead Travel Pillows 

The bulkiest yet softest of the bunch, microbead travel pillows are filled with tiny polystyrene beads that provide comfort to any flight sleeper. Microbead neck pillows are also the least portable option of all travel pillows – as you cannot deflate or compress them.  

Key Factors

  • Neck Support: Microbeads are small individual beads spread throughout the pillow. Unsurprisingly, they scatter in places you don’t want them in. As a result, significant dippings can lead to insufficient neck support. If you have neck pain packed in your baggage, give this one a pass and choose a better support pillow.
  • Fabric: Usually comes in a non-removable cover. Some brands have adapted to colder climates and put fleece as the outer cover or even just the underside of it. Be careful of the fabric getting stretched out when the beads start to push outwards. It can lose its shape!
  • Size and weight: Although microbead pillows are generally lightweight, they don’t do well with lightweight/minimalist or budget travellers. This type of pillow will only take up too much space that can be used for other luggage items. If you go on road trips with a smaller carry bag, this isn’t the best pillow for you.
  • Durability: Microbead’s durability is average. It depends on how long it’s been used, as the fabric can stretch out, and the beads can pop out (not advisable for kids). 

Memory Foam Travel Pillows

Memory foam pillows are one of the most comfortable and supportive travel pillows out there. They are firmer than microbeads and inflatables, as memory foam has its density all worked out. Memory foam travel pillows are usually compressible and can fit into smaller travel bags for convenience. 

Key Factors

  • Neck Support: Memory foam travel neck pillows are best for neck support. That’s what they’re made for – memory foam moulds to your head and neck’s shape to provide it with the comfort and support it needs. This is a must-have for long-haul flights! Put this on your headrest, and you’ll be comfortable as if you’re at home.
  • Fabric: Most U-shaped memory foam pillows don’t have removable covers. More often than not, the ergonomic-shaped ones are the compressible ones. Fabrics used span from cotton and polyester to even bamboo. Ideally, choose one with a machine-washable cover to match the durability of memory foam. You might want to wash your pillow to keep it fresher for longer!
  • Size and weight: Non-compressible ones tend to be bulkier as they can’t be placed anywhere on your luggage. But compressible travel pillows obviously do! With a memory foam neck pillow, you get excellent neck and lumbar support without becoming a burden.
  • Durability: Memory foams are usually made of denser material that can indicate better overall durability. Score one, and you’ll have a valuable addition to your collection of travel accessories.

YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT: The Ecosa Memory Foam pillow. Made of activated charcoal memory foam with a removable zip cover, you’ll get a plush, anti-bacterial, and compressible travel pillow!

Bonus for a Peaceful Flight: DIY Travel Sleep Kit

If you’ve got extra luggage space or would like to indulge yourself in a fully-equipped travel sleep kit, here are some other things:

  1. Ear plugs – a must for enjoyers of silence; earplugs can save you from hearing another passenger’s crying baby! It definitely keeps you sane on tedious long-haul flights. 
  2. Travel blankets – bring in your fuzzy or light travel blankets if your airline does not provide it. It can change the travel sleeping game completely!
  3. Eye Masks – For light-sensitive travellers, eye masks are a must! This induces a dark environment that can help your ever-adapting body clock feel that it’s nighttime. 

Travel Pillows Are Worth the Investment

When choosing travel pillows, never forget the N-F-S-D criteria: neck support, fabric, size and weight, and durability. You can throw budget in there, too! But travel pillows come in a wide range of prices depending on the material and company that made them! 

One thing’s for sure – above and beyond ear plugs, blankets and eye masks – travel pillows are a solid investment. Once you invest in a travel pillow, you never go back.

Looking for a great pillow? Check out Ecosa now.

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