A travel pillow focused on side support
November 10, 2015 4:28 PM   Subscribe

What is the best travel pillow that provides side-to-side neck support with minimal back-of-neck support?

I'm in need of a better travel pillow for long flights this holiday season. I currently have a standard U-shaped pillow, and it's fine except for one major issue: since the foam padding is the same thickness throughout the U, my neck ends up pushed away from the seat back to the extent that I need to put something else behind my lower back to support it. Without the pillow, I find most airplane seats to be tolerably comfortable. But my neck tends to move around a lot when I sleep upright, which results in a weird light-headed dizziness after a few hours of dozing.

Solution: find a neck pillow which only provides side support. Which turns out to be easier said than done. Surely I'm not the only person with this preference? Do you have a favorite travel pillow which does NOT support the back of your neck?
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I know exactly what you mean. I use a Muji pillow which clips into a circle and then spin it so the strap is in back of my neck. it's not perfect (for me, it would ideally bit a bit puffier), but it's a lot better than the U-shaped kind.
posted by chocotaco at 4:57 PM on November 10, 2015

I use the Nap Anywhere and it's all about the side support. Takes a bit of getting used to, and doesn't work for anyone, but it's an entirely new take on pillow design. There is also this one, Jet Comfy, that I have been meaning to try.
posted by oxisos at 5:02 PM on November 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

This may not be what you're after, but you might consider looking at a simple cervical collar instead, like this one (which is what I use). It's designed to take pressure off your neck, limits movement, and since it doesn't have much padding behind the neck, it should satisfy that requirement.
posted by Aleyn at 5:44 PM on November 10, 2015

I have a cheapo blow up one that I just under-inflate. When I lean back, the air flows to the sides.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:05 PM on November 10, 2015

I have a version of this 2-in-1 convertible travel pillow filled with microbeads. It is ridiculously comfortable because you can push the microbeads around in the pillow however you like to contour to your head, neck or the airplane window. So in your case you could easily push all the beads to the sides and leave the neck empty.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:13 PM on November 10, 2015

You can get inflatable pillows which only inflate the sides and back is designed to remain flat. I have one. I got it from one of the dodgy luggage shops they have in duty free transit areas of international airports (specifically, Heathrow in London).
posted by tavegyl at 8:32 PM on November 10, 2015

I love this bone-shaped neck pillow. I think you could remove some of the stuffing - there's a zipper, even - and redistribute what's left so that it only provides side support.
posted by dialetheia at 10:23 PM on November 10, 2015

The J-pillow's worked pretty well for me. It's got SOMETHING in back for balance, but it's definitely a side support. I've also used it as a back cushion and a supplement to cheapo hotel pillows, so it's reasonably versatile. I've only had it for one long trip and subsequent wash, but it's held up well so far.
posted by jameaterblues at 11:24 PM on November 10, 2015

I always thought you were supposed to wear travel pillows around your neck with the open end below your chin. It seems the more appropriate way is to place the opening behind your neck. This allows your neck from being pushed forward, your sides are supported, and your chin is supported to keep your head from rolling forward. Of course this only works with the pillows that have a more or less permanent shape.

Basically, we've all (almost all, I learned this from my wife) been wearing them backwards.

That being said, some of the more refined options listed above look neat.
posted by qwip at 12:24 AM on November 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

As tavgyl said, you can get inflatable pillows that do exactly this, like this one or this one. Search for "flat back inflatable travel pillow".
The idea with these pillows is that they don't go around your neck like the standard u-shaped pillows- you lean them up against the chair at an angle with the flat part behind your head. Your head pushing back into the chair pushes the two sides up against your face and neck, keeping your head more or less upright.
This is my favourite type of travel pillow: being inflatable it is much more rigid than plush or microbead ones, and your head really doesn't move. My neck gets very uncomfortable with even a slight bend to the side, so I like that it keeps your head upright. Also, it is easy to pack away.
posted by neatsocks at 7:18 AM on November 11, 2015

Thanks everyone! For reference, I ended up falling down a black hole on Amazon and buying this side-bolster pillow. We'll see how it well it works.
posted by serelliya at 10:55 AM on November 17, 2015

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