Five flight-tested travel pillows
The Thermarest Compressible Pillow compresses down to the size of a one-litre bottle then expands to an almost full-sized pillow.
When it comes to long-haul flights in economy, every traveller has their own strategy for getting comfortable.
Some people rely on Sudoku and a paperback thriller. Others require a sleeping aid and an iPod. But whatever the distraction, true comfort most often comes with finding the perfect travel pillow. Since it’s not worth the neck cramps to try them all, we asked some of the most insightful travellers we know to reveal their favourites.
Wendy Perrin, the director of consumer news and digital community at Conde Nast Traveler magazine, favours the inflatable Komfort Kollar, which extends around your neck and fastens with a Velcro strap. "Your head is supported and your neck protected, no matter what weird position it gets twisted into, especially if it's bent forward while you're reading or dozing-off," she said.
Julia Cosgrove, the editor in chief of Afar magazine, takes a Microbead Neck Cushion by Japanese brand Muji on every overnight flight. "It buckles into different shapes,” she said. “It works as a neck pillow, a support for your lower back or a cushion on the tray table."
Luke Wroblewski has travelled from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area to more than 60 cities worldwide to give talks on digital product design. He says the Thermarest Compressible Pillow is "hands down the best travel pillow" he has ever used. "This little guy compresses down to the size of a one-litre bottle then expands to an almost full-sized pillow. The material inside can be moulded to all kinds of shapes, which means you can use it to rest your head in many different positions. There are also two sides: one is a soft, fleece-like material and the other is more like pillow-case cotton. "
Doug Dyment runs OneBag.com, the internet's most definitive and inspiring resource for tips on packing light. Like many other travellers, he favours pillows that are inflatable (unlike those filled with buckwheat hulls or foam pellets) because they easily slim down for packing. On trips of any length, his "go to" travel pillow is the compact Hedbed by Campmor because of its compact size and proven durability over many years of use. "That said, travel pillows can be a very personal thing. For instance, many people need, or at least want, more head support when they sleep on planes and such, so they prefer pillows that "wrap around" the neck more.... There's no ‘one size fits all’ in this category!"
On the other end of the spectrum, Mark P Orwoll, the international editor of Travel + Leisure magazine, eschews bring-you-own pillows. "For flying I don't carry my own pillow. I travel very light, and would hardly have room, even for an inflatable one. I rely on whatever the airline has to offer, supplemented by a couple G and T's."
Sean O'Neill is the tech travel columnist for BBC Travel. His standby pillow is a Sandman Travel Pillow from Eagle Creek because it endured near-daily inflation and deflation for train commutes for 10 months.