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Best travel pillows for long-haul flights in 2024, from memory foam to inflatable options

Whether you’re camping, flying or on a long car journey, ensure you’re well rested with one of these

Tamara Hinson
Wednesday 10 January 2024 11:14 GMT
<p>Soft materials, inflation valves and memory foam cores will help you get some proper shut-eye  </p>

Soft materials, inflation valves and memory foam cores will help you get some proper shut-eye

Our Top Picks

In the past decade, the humble travel pillow has undergone a major transformation. Yes, the sausage-style travel pillow still reigns supreme, although it’s now a much more crowded market, with travel pillows coming in a multitude of shapes, sizes and materials.

Whether you need to catch your forty winks on a painfully long train ride or a cramped long haul flight, there’s a choice of butterfly-shaped pillows, C-shaped and supersized options to wade through when searching for the perfect place to rest your head. To help you find the best travel pillows for your upcoming trip, we’ve waded through them all to find the best.

Our advice? Take a moment to think about your sleeping style. If you’re a light sleeper, crank up the comfort with softer materials, recessed inflation valves and memory foam cores. If you’re looking for a pillow which can be used in a range of cramped places (not just planes), consider one with a forgiving shape such as a butterfly-shaped pillow.

Finally, don’t underestimate what we refer to as the “stashability” factor. In other words, pillows which come in their own carry cases, can be easily packed away into the smallest of spaces and can be quickly inflated and deflated (ideally with two dedicated valves).

How we tested

This wasn’t the most strenuous of tasks, admittedly. It involved a lot of sleeping – on aeroplanes, but also in a range of other cramped environments, such as trains, hostels and tents. We slept squashed against plane windows, on tiny boats thrashing their way across Asian oceans and on painfully long car journeys. The result? Although the best travel pillows below all have features which make them more or less suitable for different types of sleepers, they’ve all got one thing in common – comfort, quality and value for money.

The best travel pillows for 2024 are:

  • Best travel pillow overall – Vango Shangri-La memory foam pillow: £31.75, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget travel pillow – Lifeventure inflatable pillow: £14.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for children – Marks and Spencer dinosaur travel pillow and eye mask set: £15, Marksandspencer.com
  • Best for lumbar support – Go Travel memory dreamer travel pillow: £19.99, Go.travel

Vango Shangri-La memory foam pillow

best travel pillows
  • Best: Travel pillow overall
  • Materials : Memory foam and an air pocket
  • Dimensions: 36cm x 11.0cm
  • Weight: 450g
  • Why we love it
    • Superior comfort
    • Soft fabric

We loved everything about this pillow, which has a precision-engineered ergonomic shape and is covered by some of the softest fabric we’ve come across. The memory foam provided the optimal amount of cushioning, and a colleague who borrowed it for a few moments described his experience as “similar to sleeping on a cloud”. What that actually feels like is anybody’s guess, but we reckon that’s a pretty good endorsement.

The secret to the superior comfort lies in its design, which comprises an outer layer of memory foam and a central air pocket. The result? The mouldability of memory foam and the support which comes courtesy of the air pocket – AKA the ultimate double act, we reckon.

  1. £35 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Lifeventure inflatable pillow

best travel pillows neck flights support memory foam
  • Best: Budget travel pillow
  • Materials and filling: Polyester and TPU fabric, inflatable
  • Dimensions : 36cm x 51cm x 10cm
  • Weight: 77g
  • Why we love it
    • Ergonomic shape provides support
    • Flexible

This is the travel pillow which has the most similarities to a traditional pillow from this review. An ergonomic shape provided just the right amount of support (including all-important lumbar support) and the deep grooves aided airflow during a particularly hot, sticky night on a cramped red-eye flight. It’s got enough flexibility to use on planes and trains, and the combination of polyester and TPU fabric makes for an extremely durable pillow. The carry case, made from ripstop fabric, is equally rugged.

  1. £14 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Exped air pillow

best travel pillows neck flights support memory foam
  • Best: For durability
  • Materials: Fabric made from 20D polyester and TPU polyether film laminate, inflatable
  • Dimensions: 46cm × 30cm × 12 cm
  • Weight: 60g
  • Why we love it
    • Easy to adjust rigidness
    • Quick to inflate

Another pillow with an unusual shape – in this case, a semi-rectangular profile – the Exped air pillow isn’t the softest of travel accessories, but it’s ridiculously quick to inflate and wonderfully easy to adjust when it comes to rigidity. It took five short breaths to inflate it fully, and the presence of separate, dedicated inflation and deflation valves cranks up the efficiency. An internal flap in the intake valve means a minimal chance of leaks, too.

  1. £27 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Go Travel memory dreamer travel pillow

best travel pillows neck flights support memory foam
  • Best: For lumbar support
  • Materials: Memory foam
  • Dimensions: 26cm x 25.5cm x 12.5cm
  • Weight: 355g
  • Why we love it
    • Memory foam core provides great lumbar support
    • Thick lining
  • Take note
    • No hook to hang it off backpacks

A memory foam core provides great lumbar support along with cushioning for the head and shoulders, and the lining has a surprising thickness – one which suggests that the memory dreamer is more than capable of standing up to some serious wear and tear. There’s no hook to hang it off backpacks, but we loved the buckle-style clip, which meant we could quickly and easily tweak the fit (something which press studs don’t allow).

  1. £19 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Tripp Accessories travel pillow

best travel pillows neck flights support memory foam
  • Best: For extra padding
  • Materials: Polyester with micro bead filling
  • Dimensions: 30cm x 28cm x 10cm
  • Weight: 200g
  • Why we love it
    • One of the thickest travel pillows
    • Supportive

This is a seriously beefy travel pillow – it’s thicker than most of the ones we tested, and although its microbead filling doesn’t have quite the same “bounce back” qualities as memory foam, it’s still ridiculously comfortable, and a great option for travellers needing a little extra support. The fabric is snooze-inducingly soft, and we appreciated the addition of a hook on the rear which you can use to attach the pillow to your backpack.

  1. £20 from Next.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Snugpak butterfly neck pillow

best travel pillows neck flights support memory foam
  • Best: For smaller spaces
  • Materials: Soft touch fabric, inflatable
  • Dimensions: Not specified
  • Weight: 100g
  • Why we love it
    • Can bend and flex when used in cramped quarters
    • Tough fabric

We admit it, we’re huge followers of the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and we were initially sceptical about the butterfly profile of this pillow. However, we’re now converted. For us, the beauty of this pillow’s unusual shape is the way in which it can bend and flex when used in cramped quarters – when seated by the plane’s window, for example, we could wrangle the pillow so that it cushioned both our shoulders and our head. Made with seventy-denier soft-touch nylon, the material is both luxurious and tough too.

  1. £27 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Outwell dream boat ergo pillow

best travel pillows neck flights support memory foam
  • Best: Multipurpose travel pillow
  • Materials: Polyester cover and memory foam filling
  • Dimensions: 50cm x 29cm x 10 cm
  • Weight: 300g
  • Why we love it
    • Large makes it versatile
    • Top-quality memory foam construction
    • Provides great support

This pillow is one of the largest we’ve tested, but we can confirm it’s still perfectly suitable for plane journeys, thanks to its amazing squishiness. The upside to its supersized design is that it can be used for camping holidays too, and its versatility is ramped up due to a number of factors.

Firstly, the low-flat valves, which are easy to inflate but won’t snag when the pillow is squashed into small spaces or stashed into backpacks. Add a top-quality memory foam construction, super soft fabric and a shape designed to support not just the head but the back and shoulders too, and you’ve got a one-way ticket to the land of nod.

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The verdict: Travel pillows

We never slept well on planes until we came across the Vango Shangri-La memory foam pillow, which provides the kind of cushioning we associate with the full-sized versions we use at home. Lifeventure’s inflatable pillow is a brilliant budget-friendly option which doesn’t compromise on comfort, and Exped’s air pillow is a fantastic option for those who like additional padding, and (even more so, given its slightly larger size) we were amazed at how easily it stashes into the smallest of spaces.

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