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Airline Mismanagement

Sleeping on a plane - or anywhere else other than in a nice comfy bed - is seldom easy or pleasant.

Here's an innovative new approach to helping you get to sleep and not getting a sore neck.

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TravelRest Travel Pillow

A new approach to travel comfort

The TravelRest travel pillow provides a totally different approach to the problem of 'How do I support my head/neck when sleeping?'.

It is easy to use and really does work.



Which is worse when traveling - struggling to get to sleep, or waking with a very sore neck?  Neither is good!

Traditional neck collar cushions are only a partial solution, and in particular don't work so well if your head wants to lie a bit forwards.

The First Class Sleeper is a good - and possibly the best - approach, but some people find it too bulky to pack and too much of a hassle/too conspicuous to use.

Here's another approach which appreciably improves your comfort.

Best of all, the TravelRest can be used not just with an airplane seat, but anywhere else you might be seated and want to catch some zzz's.  In a car, in a bus, while seated (even in a low back chair) at the airport, or just about anywhere else.

TravelRest Travel Pillow - What you Get

The TravelRest travel pillow comes simply packaged in a cardboard box.  Inside is the travel pillow itself, in a deflated rolled up form.

Instructions are printed on the outside of the box, including a warning not to use the TravelRest as a floating device, and not to wrap its cord around your neck or body because it is a possible choking hazard.  How regrettable that society makes manufacturers add such unnecessary and obvious comments.

The TravelRest has a one year warranty, although it is hard to know what might go wrong with it.

The Travelrest is not yet widely distributed, but is available through Amazon for $27.95.

The TravelRest

The TravelRest, as you can see from the illustrations, above and alongside, is a long and fairly thin shaped thing, with a pillow part at the top.  You inflate it by simply blowing air into a valve at the bottom, and then rest your head against the top part of the unit.

It is a little over two feet long, and the top part inflates to about 5" thick in an area of about 6" x 8".  It weighs 5.5 ounces and packs up into a cylinder of about 9" long and 2" diameter.  It is both lightweight and small, making it easy to carry with you.

There is also a cord with an adjustable tightener/lengthener on it.  The cord can be used to 'mount' the TravelRest on a seatback (as shown here), or to sling it around yourself to hold the TravelRest to you if sleeping on something that doesn't have a high back.

The cord is about 66" long - plenty long enough to wrap around even the wide seats in business/first class.

At the bottom of the TravelRest there is a tab with a double sided snap on it.  This has several uses.  It can be used to connect to the cord (making it into a sling) if you're sleeping without affixing the TravelRest to the seatback behind you; or used to wrap around and snap to your seat belt, giving you another point of attachment to help the unit give you more support.

It can also be used to hold the unit closed when rolled up for carrying.  And it can even be used to attach the unit to eg the handle of a carry-on bag for transporting purposes.

These extra features and design enhancements show that a lot of thought has gone into making the TravelRest work as well as possible.

The TravelRest comes in three colors - red, dark blue, and grey.  We'd recommend the dark blue or the grey as being more soothing and restful than the red color.

Using the TravelRest

Using the pillow is very simple, but there are a couple of minor things to keep in mind.

First, you may find the unit most comfortable when fully inflated (it only takes a few quick puffs to blow it up), but you might also decide you like it slightly less than fully inflated.  This is entirely your choice, but do keep in mind that changing the amount of air in the unit can make a difference to your comfort, so feel free to experiment a bit.

Inflating the unit is via a simple valve at the bottom.  To close the valve, you just push it in on itself, and to open it, you just extend it out again.  This is easier than the simpler valves on some travel pillows where you stick a plug/block piece into the valve - I find the plug piece sometimes slips out of its own accord, but have no such problems with TravelRest's valve.

If you inflate the unit before the plane has reached cruising altitude, you'll notice that it expands as the plane climbs.  And, similarly, when the plane descends again, the unit loses pressure (due to the increased cabin pressure).  For that reason, if you're inflating the unit as soon as you get on board, maybe it is best to not completely/fully inflate it to start with.

Once you've inflated the unit, you then need to decide if you'll strap it to the back of your seat or not.  I've tried it both ways, and probably slightly prefer it strapped to the back of the seat, but there's very little difference in experience.

If you do use its cord to strap it to the seat back, you should check that the cord won't get in the way of the person behind you's personal video screen (if there is one fitted), or in the way of the tray table, or anything else.

Otherwise, if you don't strap it to the back of your seat, you'll probably want to run the cord down to the snap at the bottom and then sling the TravelRest over a shoulder and hold it in place that way.

I found the TravelRest to truly make it easier to go to sleep, and to be comfortable while sleeping.  Not only does it provide support for one's head, but it also makes one feel 'cozier'.  This might sound infantile, but I think the 'cozy-ing up' feeling of snuggling up to the TravelRest, and the fact that it gives your arms something to hold on to as well, helps to relax you and make you feel more comfortable in your environment and therefore better able to go to sleep (and perhaps also to stay asleep).

Two readers have also tried TravelRests (prior to my writing this article) and volunteered that they found it comfortable and effective as well.  Reader Gary writes

It worked like a charm. I slept (not alcohol induced) for the very first time on my last flight.

One possible disadvantage of the TravelRest is that it provides support on one side only.  If you toss and turn a lot, this can be something of an issue (buy two TravelRests and have them on both sides, perhaps!).

But there are two thoughts to offer about this perceived limitation.  Firstly, the comfort of the TravelRest reduces your tossing and turning.  Secondly, it is possible to slide the TravelRest from one side to the other side of your seat if you have it affixed to the seat back, or just to flop it from one side to the other if it is loose.

One slightly negative comment - I didn't like the feel of the unit.  It is has a slightly fuzzy/furry sort of finish on what I guess to be brushed vinyl or similar.  It would be nice if there was an optional cotton sleeve/pillowcase that the unit could be placed inside - it wouldn't appreciably add to the weight or bulk, and if offered as an option, wouldn't affect the unit's low price (without such a sleeve).

Reader Lou adds an important extra suggestion

You probably should not have the pillow inflated, much less secured to you, your seat belt or your seat during takeoff and landing, as it could get in your way if you have to make an emergency exit.

I think it’s prudent to use the “Electronic devices on/off” announcements as your signal to safely deploy or pack up the Travel Pillow.  Safety first!

The TravelRest compared/contrasted with the First Class Sleeper

For a long time, our favorite comfort aid on flights has been the First Class Sleeper (click link for our review).  We still like the First Class Sleeper, particularly for long international flights, where you don't mind going to a bit of extra bother to set up the Sleeper exactly right, in return for many hours of better sleep, but find the greater simplicity and smaller size/lighter weight of the TravelRest very tempting for shorter flights.

The TravelRest has another major advantage, too.  It will work in other situations as well as on high backed airline seats.  For example, you (or your passengers) can use it in the car, or it can be used while at an airport between flights (but don't sleep through your boarding call!).

On the other hand, the First Class Sleeper does something the TravelRest doesn't - it supports your lower back, which may otherwise be unsupported if you're sitting back in your seat.  That can make a big difference on a longer flight.

Both are good units, with very different approaches to how to make for a comfortable experience on a plane.  Would it be a tad excessive to recommend you have both?


This is an interesting and effective new approach to a travel pillow.  It is definitely better than the traditional neck ring type pillow.  While not as completely comfortable as a First Class Sleeper, it is easier to use and carry than the First Class Sleeper and so might be preferred by people on shorter flights who don't need the absolute ultimate in comfort aids.

The TravelRest can also be used with other seats, not just airline seats, making it a great thing to keep in the car for long journeys with sleepy passengers.

Costing $27.95, and available through Amazon, it is reasonably priced and recommended.  Good for yourself, and a great gift for the people you give gifts to.


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Originally published 27 Feb 2009, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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