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4 Different Types of Travel Pillows

A woman on a car sleeping with travel pillow.

When it comes to Travel Pillows, there are four main types: memory foam, gel pillows, inflatable, and fiber-filled. Memory foam and polyfoam pillows provide a perfect balance between softness and neck support. Inflatable pillows are adjusted by adding air to the pillow, for softness or firmness. Fiber-filled pillows are typically softer, offering more cushioning.

Travel pillows are the perfect solution for getting a good night’s rest on a long trip while protecting you from discomfort and aches. They are usually smaller than the normal bedroom pillow, which allows the travel pillow to fit perfectly between your head and a headrest.

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There are various types of travel pillows available on the market today. They vary by size, brand, and type, which makes it hard to know which is perfect for your needs. Below, we will cover the different types of travel pillows, the importance of a pillow, and so much more.

Types of Travel Pillows

The primary purpose of a travel pillow is to provide support for your head and your neck. Whether you’re on a long flight or a road trip, chances are you will be in a more upright position. Without a travel pillow, you can experience a lot of pain and discomfort.

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Today, we will discuss the different types of travel pillows, their benefits, and some of their drawbacks.

1. Memory Foam

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Memory foam pillows are designed to mold to fit a person’s head by responding to the pressure created by each person. Lifting your head from a memory foam travel pillow will cause it to return to its original shape. After all, everyone has a different head shape, and not all pillows can fit these criteria.

Below are some Pros and Cons of memory foam travel pillows.

Retains Shape

Since memory foam can contour the shape of your head, it is better suited for keeping your spine aligned. This is important because it can prevent you from waking up with bad cramps, or constantly readjusting your body position during sleep. Average pillows tend to cause your head to tilt at an incline. 

Can Prevent Snoring

Normal pillows cause your head to tilt in an upward position, which can lead to your air passages being closed off. This usually results in snoring and discomfort. Memory foam travel pillows align with your neck and spine, which keeps your body in a more natural orientation. Snoring is then reduced due to this. 

This is a big deal for travelers because no one likes to be the annoying passenger or friend that snores on the trip. 

Retains Body Heat

Memory foam travel pillows are very sensitive to temperature changes. This means if you were to become sweaty for whatever reason, the pillow would also get warm. Materials used to make memory foam are also very dense, which can trap heat, causing you to sweat. 

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Luckily, many manufacturers now include air chambers in the design, which allows air to more easily move out. This prevents heat from being trapped inside your pillow. 

Slow to Recover to Original Shape

While memory foam does recover to its original state, it can take quite a long time for it to do so. This can be inconvenient for people who like to change positions when they sleep because they have to wait for the pillow to recover. 

Considering the upright position most planes or cars have, it is nearly impossible to stay in a comfortable position throughout a trip. You will most likely need to move around a lot, and the slow recovery times can become a huge inconvenience. 

2. Inflatable Travel Pillows

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Inflate Pillows aren’t as popular as more traditional pillows, but they are more convenient. They are very minimalistic and can be carried inside your pocket. It has an air chamber that can be inflated to any firmness level you desire. 

We will discuss some of the pros and cons of inflatable pillows.

Easy to Carry

Perhaps the best feature of inflatable pillows would be their size. They are lightweight and can easily be carried in either a suitcase, camping back, or anything you’d like. Unlike normal pillows, they don’t take up all your luggage space. Inflatable pillows are also extremely lightweight.


Inflatable pillows are extremely versatile pillows. You can adjust them to the fitness you choose, which is unique to its design. If you think it’s too firm, simply take some air out of your pillow. It can be used by campers, hikers, on a plane, or even on a long road trip. The point is, that the ease of use allows it to be used by anyone and anywhere.

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Not as Comfortable as Traditional Pillows

Most traditional pillows don’t use air, because they don’t provide as much comfort as memory foam or cotton. An inflatable pillow can provide some comfort, but it won’t adjust to your body, which could lead to aches and pains over time. Overall, it isn’t as comfortable as more traditional pillows. 


Typically, inflatable travel pillows are made out of cheaper materials that can be punctured. In this case, you would have to either find a patch to fix the puncture or have a backup pillow ready. This could be very inconvenient, especially on long trips.

There are companies out there that use more advanced fabrics that are less susceptible to punctures and provide a better level of comfort. However, this does not prevent a puncture from occurring.

3. Fiber-Filled Pillows

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These are one of the most common types of pillows around. The reason they are so popular is that they are cheap, easy to maintain, and they are very soft and fluffy. Fiber-filled pillows offer decent back and neck support and can be very easy to find.

Below are some advantages and disadvantages to buying a fiber-filled pillow.

Extremely Soft

Many people prefer a pillow that is soft and fluffy, rather than a more rugged pillow that molds your head. They offer a lot of support consistently across the pillow. This support is crucial for people who may move a lot in their sleep or people that sleep in awkward positions. 

They don’t Retain Much Heat

Fiber-filled pillows are much easier to sleep with since they don’t retain much heat. It keeps you cool throughout the night and is much easier to clean. Sometimes it can get really hot when you’re camping or traveling, so having a pillow that doesn’t retain much heat can be a life saver.

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Susceptible to Clumping

A major downside to fiber-filled pillows is their tendency to clump over time. This means all the fibers in the pillow all bond together, which can make the pillow lose its shape and not provide as much support as it originally did. This is a major tradeoff, but luckily they are cheap and can be found just about anywhere.

Short Life Span

Fiber-filled pillows tend to have a very short life span. This is due to the clumping issues and cheaper materials used to make them. You also have to readjust your pillow very often because it will not return to its original shape. 

4. Gel Pillows

Cloudz Microbead Cool Gel & Bamboo Travel Neck Pillow - Pink

Gel pillows are filled with layers of gel that are meant to be comfortable and regulate your temperature while you sleep. It is a newer technology, but many people have come to love it so far. They are very comfortable. Cool, and have been proven to help you sleep better. Sadly, there are some negatives to using a gel pillow.

Keeps you Cool

Using a gel pillow keeps you very cool as you sleep, which leads to a much more comfortable experience. Gels inside the pillow increase the airflow in the pillow, which causes heat to be drawn out of the pillow. They are very breathable and are also customizable. 

They are Adjustable

Compared to more ordinary pillows, gel pillows give you the additional benefit of being adjustable. You can unzip the pillow to add or remove gels to adjust the comfort level to fulfill your needs. This feature makes it one of the best pillows to use for traveling.

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Gel Pillows can help you sleep better

A lot of research has been done by experts that shows you are likely to fall asleep up to four times faster using a gel pillow. Since it provides more comfortable support, it allows you to sleep deeper. This is particularly good for travelers. 


Gel pillows can get quite expensive rather quickly. They use various materials, which all add to the overall cost. Whether this higher cost is worth it, depends on whether or not you’re willing to fork out the money for one. In our opinion, they are worth it. 

Not the Most Durable

A downside to gel pillows is their expected lifespan. They can last up to three years, which isn’t bad, but much less than more traditional pillows. This is caused by the gels inside the pillow wearing off the added foam inside the pillow. 

Why use a Travel Pillow?

A man sleeping on a plane with travel pillow.

Travel pillows are fantastic for long flights, train or bus rides, road trips, camping, or even hiking. They are also good for any position that keeps you upright for an extended period. They can offer a lot of support for your neck and back, which can reduce the risk of pain.

Prevents Fatigue

Traveling can be very exhausting, especially if you’re traveling very long distances or often. Taking a quick power nap en route to your destination can help prevent fatigue, which allows you to be at your best when you reach your destination.

Seats in buses, trains, and planes can become very uncomfortable over time, and a great travel pillow that can support your neck helps you avoid all the aches and pains that come with it. Travel pillows also help you sleep much better.

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Reduces Snoring

Nothing ruins a trip more than someone next to you snoring, and you’d also hate to be that person. Luckily, there is a way to ensure you aren’t this person when traveling. Travel pillows were designed to help reduce the risk of your snoring.

A travel pillow can help keep your head upright, which prevents your airways from being obstructed. This prevents snoring and also sleep apnea. As soon as you begin using a travel pillow, you will instantly notice the huge difference. You no longer have to be scared to sleep on a long flight or bus ride. 

Portability and Ease of Use

A travel pillow on a travel back.

Travel pillows used to be the same size as your ordinary house pillow, but those days are long gone. They are extremely small and portable, with some even being inflatable. You don’t have to compromise comfort when it comes to travel pillows either. Travel pillows come in various sizes and materials, so you always have a choice. 

Another pro to travel pillows is the fact that they can easily be washed in a washing machine. This can keep them clean and prevent germs from building up on them. They usually come with a cover, so you can just wash the cover instead of the whole pillow. 

Travel Pillows are Durable and Inexpensive

All pillows must be replaced at some point, but travel pillows have been proven to be very durable. How durable your specific travel pillow is depends on the brand, size, and materials used. It is important to do your research before buying a travel pillow to ensure it fits your travel needs and can also support you and your sleeping habits. 

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Travel pillows can start at $10, though some can be much more expensive. The point is that they are generally inexpensive and can be found just about anywhere.

Why is Your Sleeping Position Important?

A man sleeping on an airport with a travel pillow.

There are many reasons your sleeping position is important for your health. Sleeping in the wrong position can lead to aggravated neck and back pain. It can also close up your airways which leads to snoring or sleep apnea. Your favorite sleeping position may be comfortable for you but can also cause long-term damage to your body.

We will discuss some popular sleeping positions and find out the best sleeping position for your health.

Sleeping on your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach can help reduce snoring by reducing obstructions in your airways. However, it can also lead to more aggravated medical conditions. 

This position causes your neck and spine to be in a non-neutral position. This can lead to neck and back pain, and can also cause numbness and nerve pain due to the pressure on your nerves. It isn’t a healthy position to sleep in, and we’d recommend choosing a different one.

Sleeping on your Back

Low back pain is the most prominent disadvantage to sleeping on your back. This position can also aggravate your snoring or sleep apnea. The benefit of sleeping on your back is that your head, neck, and spine are in a neutral position, which can reduce pain in these areas.

Sleeping on your Side

This position is usually the best overall for most people. It keeps your spine aligned, which reduces the risk of back pain. Sleeping on your side can reduce your snoring, sleep apnea, and heartburn and allows you to sleep more comfortably.

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Sleeping on your side is recommended for older people, pregnant women, people experiencing back pain, and people who suffer from snoring.