The 10 Best Travel Pillows
Traveling Calmly And Comfortably
For some among us, travel is the greatest pleasure, with both the journey and the destination enjoyed equally every time we range far afield from our home. For others, travel is a grating, trying experience to be endured only when it cannot be avoided. Whether you love travel or can hardly stand it, there's no reason not to make the experience as pleasurable and comfortable as possible.
The best thing you can do to make a travel experience low-stress (or better yet, actually enjoyable) is to properly plan ahead. This means packing all the items you're likely to need while leaving nothing to chance, knowing your itinerary and schedule, and perhaps above all else, affording yourself plenty of time for each leg of the trip. That extra hour you allow yourself for airport security will more than pay off for that flight you don't miss; the traffic jam will be endured with aplomb thanks to the early morning start.
Frequent travelers, such as the business traveler or the person who regularly visits far-flung family members, all tend to establish their own routines for making each trip as painless and predictable as possible. Part of a good travel routine is making sure your creature comforts will be taken care of while you're en route. This means bringing along snacks or treating yourself to meals on the move to keep your energy up and your hunger pangs at bay. It means making sure you have a good book or a show queued up on that iPad so you won't get bored and restless. And it means making sure you have a soft, supportive pillow with which you can rest when fatigue sets in during your long journey.
Choosing The Best Travel Pillow
As almost every form of travel takes place sitting up -- from a flight to a train ride to a bus trip to the passenger seat in a car -- when you choose a travel pillow, you need to choose one that will be comfortable when you are seated. The pillow you love when lying flat might be totally ineffective during travel, just as your favorite travel pillow may offer little or no comfort if used in bed; thus the distinct and sometimes odd shape of so many travel pillows.
The primary purpose of a travel pillow is to support your head; allowing it to gently rest leaning to one side of your body without slumping too far over or falling forward. This support is important both because it prevents your waking up as your head drops, and because it helps maintain proper airflow as you rest. And almost all decent travel pillows will offer this type of support once you are asleep, but not all will help travelers fall asleep.
The first consideration to be made is knowing whether or not you stay in one position once you're asleep or if you tend to shift about. Some travel pillows are oriented to rest on one side of your body at a time, and while initially quite comfortable, they will offer no comfort or support if you try to shift your head in the other direction. Other travel pillows wrap around the neck and rest on both shoulders at once; many people might initially find this type of pillow less comfortable, but it will help to keep them asleep if they shift their position back and forth.
Next consider the texture and firmness of your ideal travel pillow. If you like a stable, sturdy surface on which you can rest your head, then an inflatable travel pillow is likely your best option. Inflatable travel pillows also offer the most control over firmness. However others may find this same firmness decidedly unpleasant and opt for micro bead fillings, viscoelastic memory foam interiors, or for a pillow stuffed with polyester or even feathers.
The interior of your travel pillow has to be initially inviting and comfortable, and its shape must be conducive to keeping your head supported. If you find a pillow that provides instant comfort and that will keep your head supported regardless of how much or little you shift in your sleep, then you have found your travel pillow.
Making The Most Of That Travel Pillow
With proper care, most travel pillows will last for years even with regular use. And with a few modifications, any travel pillow can made at least a bit more comfortable and inviting. This can be as simple as slipping a traditional pillow case over the pillow to create a more customary feel, or it can involve the addition of an eye mask, ear plugs, or even a hood.
Just be sure that you take any additional hardware you might use into consideration before choosing a travel pillow. Many options wrap around the neck and don't interfere with your ears, for example, making them a great choice for travelers who like to listen to music or podcasts while on the go; others come into contact with the entire side of the face, making the use of headphones or earbuds less than viable.
And don't overlook the cleaning instructions of your travel pillow, or of its removable case -- a bonus feature and one to be sought when possible. If your pillow has no case and requires machine washing, but you're going on a three week trip and won't have access to the right facilities, you may need to consider an option with a removable case instead, for example.