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How to Use a Travel Pillow

A good travel Pillow can make a world of difference on long trips. Ideally, the pillow will provide support for your neck or body so that you can sleep in a relaxed position, even on cramped, uncomfortable plane rides. Choose a pillow that suits your sleeping style and try different positions to find where you are most comfortable.


EditTraveling with a Neck Pillow

  1. Try your neck pillow before buying it. Neck pillows don’t typically come in different sizes, so the only way to know if it will fit comfortably is to try it on. If possible, put your neck pillow on before you buy it, or keep the receipt and try it on before your trip. You should be able to rest your head on it without bending your neck uncomfortably, and the material shouldn’t pinch or chafe on your neck.[1]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 1.jpg
  2. Inflate your pillow if necessary. Inflatable travel pillows can be a convenient way to save space when traveling. If yours is inflatable, blow into the air tube until the pillow is round and firm. Seal the air tube once you’re done by replacing the cap.[2]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 2.jpg
    • Some inflatable pillows self-inflate. Typically, this involves turning a valve which will then cause the pillow to slowly inflate, but check your pillow’s instructions to see how yours inflates.[3]
    • Non-inflatable travel pillows are typically filled with foam or microbeads. While they are less convenient for packing, you may find that they are more comfortable.
  3. Cover your pillow in a T-shirt or scarf to make it softer. Some neck pillows, particularly the less expensive inflatable ones, are made of plastic and may not have a very comfortable surface. Use a thin, soft piece of clothing like a T-shirt or light scarf to cover your pillow and make it more comfortable.
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 3.jpg
    • You can also buy a removable cover for your pillow. Just make sure it fits your pillow before buying it.
  4. Place the pillow around your neck. Most neck pillows are U-shaped and will fit around the back of your neck with the opening over your throat. Some have straps that cross the opening to keep it in place.[4]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 4.jpg
    • If your pillow is not U-shaped, it may be designed to fit between your shoulder and head. This type limits which direction you can rest your head in, so it’s best for sleepers who don’t change position much.
  5. Recline your seat. Most neck pillows are designed to support your head as it falls back or to the side. This position can be more comfortable if your back is slightly reclined. Gently recline your seat, being careful not to move the seat too quickly or too far towards the passengers behind you, until you can lean back comfortably.[5]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 5.jpg
  6. Cover your eyes. Even on nighttime flights, the plane is likely to be full of small electronic lights that can make it difficult to sleep. Eye masks are relatively inexpensive and often sold at drugstores and beauty shops. Some travel pillows, such as the GoSleep, come with an eye-mask. You can also improvise one by putting a T-shirt or hoodie over your head for more comfortable sleeping.[6]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 6.jpg
  7. Rotate the pillow for different sleeping positions. If you have a U-shaped pillow, try turning it around so that it supports your chin as your head falls forward. If you have a pillow that fits on your shoulder, try switching shoulders to find the most comfortable position.[7]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 7.jpg
  8. Place the pillow on the tray table if you want to lean forward to sleep. If you tend to sleep on your stomach, you may find it more natural to lean forward instead of reclining. Try putting your travel pillow on your tray table and resting your head on top of it.[8]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 8.jpg
    • U-shaped pillows are ideal for this, since they provide a space to put your face while resting your forehead directly on the pillow. Otherwise, you will have to turn your face to the side, which may become uncomfortable after long periods.

EditUsing a Body Pillow

  1. Travel light to save more space for your pillow. Body pillows tend to take up more space than neck pillows, even when they deflate. The more room you have in your suitcase and your seat, the more comfortable you will be with a body pillow.[9]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 9.jpg
    • Body pillows range in size, but some may be as long and wide as your torso.
  2. Wear loose clothing for comfort. Body pillows often work best when they are propped against your legs or shoulders. Wear loose, comfortable clothing to avoid too much pressure or compression on your body when using the pillow. If you tend to run hot, dress light so the body pillow won’t cause you to overheat.[10]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 10.jpg
  3. Inflate your pillow if necessary. Some body pillows inflate and deflate for easy storage. You may have to inflate the pillow by blowing into it, or it may self-inflate with the push of a button. Look on your pillow’s packaging or label for instructions on inflating it.
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 11.jpg
    • If you find that the pillow is too firm for comfort once inflated, you can deflate it slightly to create a softer surface.
    • If you are not worried about space, you may prefer a body pillow that is not inflatable, such as one filled with foam or microbeads.
  4. Attach the pillow to your seat or seatbelt if possible. Some body pillows, like the Travelrest, attach to your seatbelt, while others, like the FaceCradle, may connect to the seat behind or in front of you. Keep your most comfortable sleeping position in mind when you choose a style.
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 12.jpg
    • If your pillow attaches to the seatbelt, move it up to where you can comfortably lean your head against it.
    • If the pillow attaches to the back of your seat, position it so that you can lead forward at a comfortable angle and rest your head against the pillow.
  5. Lean forward or sideways onto your pillow. Most body pillows are designed for leaning forward or to the side to let the pillow support your weight. Find a position that is comfortable for you and leaves your neck as straight as possible.[11]
    Use a Travel Pillow Step 13.jpg
    • Your body pillow may have a J-shaped curve on each end. The larger curve will fit over your shoulder, and the smaller curve can be tucked under your opposite arm to help keep it in place.
    • Some body pillows are designed to rest on your lap or tray table and support your upper body while you lean forward.


  • Neck pillows are smaller and more convenient than body pillows. However, body pillows are typically more comfortable and cater more specifically to certain sleep needs, such as needing to sleep leaning forward.
  • If you are traveling with children, consider buying a fun, animal-shaped pillow designed for young passengers, like Trunki Yunki or Critter Piller.[12]

EditSources and Citations

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How to Use a Travel Pillow


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