Photo: Sarah Kuta

This Travel Pillow Prevents Neck and Shoulder Pain For In-Flight Sleep

by Sarah Kuta Sep 19, 2023

I’ve always had trouble sleeping on flights. And, as a travel writer who takes lots of long, international flights, this is a big problem for me. No matter how much I try, I always arrive at my destination feeling totally sleep-deprived and jetlagged, which makes for a rough first day.

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Part of the issue is that I prefer to sit in the aisle seat, which gives me the freedom to get up and visit the lavatory whenever I want, without needing to wake anyone up or ask them to move. I’m also fairly tall, so being next to the aisle lets me stretch out my legs to the side periodically.

But sitting in the aisle (or, worse, the middle seat) means I can’t lean my head up against the window. And, as I’ve learned too many times, sleeping with my head straight back against the headrest is also uncomfortable for my neck and shoulders.

I’ve tried many traditional travel pillows – the kind that go around your neck like a brace – but they just don’t seem to do much for me. I still can’t get comfortable. So when I stumbled upon TravelRest’s All-in-One Ultimate Travel Pillow, $29.95 on Amazon, I was immediately intrigued.

Instead of being shaped like a thick donut, this pillow is more like a long, skinny apostrophe. It’s inflatable and covered in a plush velour fabric. The top, which is wider than the bottom, also has memory foam inserts.

You don’t wear this one around your neck but, rather, you sling it across your shoulder like a messenger bag or a guitar. This allows you to comfortably lean your head to one side or the other, depending on which shoulder you use.

We hope you love the TravelRest All-in-One Ultimate Travel Pillow! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

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TravelRest All-in-One Ultimate Travel Pillow setup and instructions

Photo: Sarah Kuta
Photo: Sarah Kuta

I decided to do a little test run at home before traveling. When I first opened the box, I was admittedly a little confused. So, I did what TravelRest recommends, which is to watch the instructional video on how to use the pillow. The video was short, sweet, and very easy to understand – and, more importantly, it cleared up all of my questions.

After taking the pillow out of the box, I unfurled it, and then blew into the valve. The instructional video said it should only take two to three breaths to inflate it and, I must say, I was initially skeptical about this. But when I inflated the pillow, it did indeed only take a few breaths, and, voila, it was all done. The inflation process took less than five seconds.

Then, I clipped the strap to the bottom of the pillow and slung it around my shoulder like a cross-body purse. I tightened the strap to make it more snug and slipped both of my arms between my body and the pillow (as demonstrated in the instructional video), which helped the whole setup hold tension. This configuration is what TravelRest calls wearing the pillow “freestyle,” but they also provide instructions for looping the strap around the headrest of an airline seat or a car seat.

I deflated the pillow by gently pressing the interior tab of the valve to let the air out.

Using the TravelRest All-in-One Travel Pillow on a plane

Photo: Sarah Kuta
Photo: Sarah Kuta

With this successful at-home test behind me, the next step was to put the pillow to the test in the real world. While packing my carry-on backpack for an upcoming trip, I folded the deflated pillow into thirds and secured it using the attached elastic band, which snapped into place. This created a neat, tidy, and mostly flat little package that I stashed near the top of my backpack.

I decided that a long-haul flight would be the best way to test the pillow’s effectiveness, so I brought it with me to Europe for an AmaWaterways cruise on the Danube River. I wanted to be fresh and energized when I finally touched down for the first day of the cruise in Budapest.

A few hours into my 10-hour flight across the Atlantic, I pulled the pillow out of my backpack and inflated it. One thing I was worried about was whether the inflation process would be disruptive to my seatmates, who were strangers. But it takes so little time – and it doesn’t make any noise – that no one even noticed.

It took me a little while to get comfortable – I tried wearing it on both my left and right shoulders freestyle, as well as looping the strap around the back of the headrest – but, eventually, I dozed off to sleep. With the pillow supporting my head and neck on one side, I ended up snoozing for somewhere between three and four hours, which was a huge win for me.

Overall, the pillow was easy to set up and use, and it really did seem to help me get some sleep while sitting in the aisle seat. I liked that I was able to fold it up and tuck it inside my backpack, versus needing to hold it, wear it, or attach it to the outside of my bag like most traditional neck pillows. The material was incredibly soft and comfortable, and the memory foam inserts near the top also helped make my head and neck feel more supported.

Any downsides?

travelrest all-in-one travel pillow with box

Photo: Sarah Kuta

Even when folded up, this pillow still takes up some amount of room in a carry-on – so if you’re super tight on space, that’s something to consider. It also may not work for every situation – if you’re flying during the middle of the day, for example. But, at the very least, it should make you more comfortable while you read or watch movies.

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