Frequent travelers know how important a good travel pillow is for any flight that you intend to sleep in 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 in doing so. 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 traveling 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.
How Do You Choose A Travel Pillow For Yourself?
Identify the type of travel pillow that you want or need
There are far too many types available for you to choose from. It all boils down to what you need and why you need them. When choosing 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 traveler. It’s u-shaped - as most travel pillows are - and could easily slip into your carry-on luggage any time.
- Neck Support: Just average for this type of travel pillow. It’s an air-filled pillow and won’t provide as much support to your neck as, say, an ergonomic pillow would.
- Fabric: Inflatables are usually made of plastic. They either come in a stretchable polyester material, or 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 well care of. Make sure to keep it away from sharp objects to avoid unexpected deflation!
Microbead Travel Pillows
The bulkiest yet softest of the bunch, microbead travel pillows are filled with small polystyrene beads that provide comfort to any flight sleeper. These are also the least portable option of all travel pillows - as you’re unable to deflate or compress them.
- Neck Support: Microbeads are small individual beads spread throughout the pillow. It’s no surprise that they scatter in places you don’t want them in. As a result, there can be significant dippings leading to insufficient neck support.
- 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 travelers. This type of pillow will only take up too much space that can be used for other luggage items.
- 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 quite 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.
- Neck Support: Memory foam travel 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!
- 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, polyester, to even bamboo. Ideally choose one that has 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!
- Durability: Memory foams are usually made of denser material that can be indicative of a better overall durability.
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 like to indulge yourself in a fully-equipped travel sleep kit, here are some other things:
- Ear plugs - a must for enjoyers of silence, ear plugs can save you from hearing another passenger’s crying baby! It definitely keep your sanity in tedious long-haul flights.
- 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!
- Eye Masks - For the light-sensitive travelers, 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 it!
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!