Ah, yes. The infamous neck pillow. An item that has divided travelers for years. Love them or hate them, they're here to stay and it seems like they're just getting weirder with every passing moment.
As any avid traveller would know, a good travel pillow and eye mask are essential. But these days, the standard round neck pillow just won't cut it anymore. You have to be a lot more confident nowadays when you walk onboard with some of these weird travel pillow reinventions. These new neck pillows are anything but discrete, but you better believe they're more comfortable.
With flights getting longer and more people opening up to the idea of long-haul or overnight flights, coupled with the commonality of short-haul trips for work, it's more important than ever for travellers to get some shut-eye before they land. The right neck pillow can help fend off jet lag and help those long hours in the air disappear.
In celebration of these little airplane pillows, we're looking at some of the weirdest neck pillows, that are sure to turn a few heads, along with our top 5 best neck pillows.
Some of these certainly will fall under the 'functionality over form' category, while others are just plain odd. At what point do we decide that one of these gadgets is simply too embarrassing, and opt for the stiff neck instead?
20 Totally weird: Ostrich Pillow
The Ostrich pillow may look ridiculous, but it feels like a cloud. I won't lie, I've worn this on an early morning flight and it was a dream. Originally designed to help people take power naps to combat our society's issue with sleep deprivation, this travel pillow quickly won over the hearts of thousands of travellers.
The same way ostriches bury their heads in the sand, you can disappear into the Ostrich Pillow and escape from the stresses of the world. With a hole to breathe, two holes up top for your arms, ad extra soft squishiness on all sides blocking out light and sound, so no matter where you are (even in the middle seat) you can get comfortable.
19 Totally weird: MonPère
There's a bit of controversy around neck pillows for kids because of the potential for a child to choke or feel strangled. But there's no safer place than in a parent's arms. I guess that was the inspiration for the MonPère travel pillow.
Mon père translates to "my dad," and the pillows imitates a parent's cradling arms. But let's be honest, it looks pretty creepy. The stiff arm wraps around the airplane seat and lets the child's head rest in the large plush hand. Definitely not for everyone, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.
18 Totally weird: Privacy Hood
This one makes it on the list because of how ridiculously weird it is, even though it's not exactly a neck pillow. The privacy hood can be used while travelling to separate yourself from your surroundings, without separating you from the entertainment you need to make the hours pass more quickly.
It looks like something straight out of Dr.Suess' The Lorax (I think it was called a "thneed"). You can watch your shows, and if you want to nod off, it works as an eye mask / sweater pillow.
17 Totally weird: Face Cradle - It's just a soft toilet seat!
All I can think of when I see this neck pillow is a toilet seat, and I don't know how the creators let this design fly. It also looks like the thin elastic straps are going to snap or strangle you!
Needless to say, this travel pillow is not going anywhere near my Amazon cart, thank you very much. I don't know if this works for many people, but I'm not usually able to just fall asleep dangling in midair.
The bottom half of the toilet seat aims to give your torso support, and the top half lets your face fall forward, but I just can't see this being comfortable. Sorry!
16 Totally weird: Shrimp Pillow
The shrimp pillow is a good old fashioned neck pillow with a revamped look. It uses those soft squishy beads to give that irresistible beanbag feel, all while looking like an adorable cocktail shrimp!
Predictably, the cocktail shrimp pillow was released in Japan, but it's available online and is a hit with anyone looking to add a little quirkiness to their travels.
15 Totally weird: The Woollip Travel Pillow
The Woollip Pillow was introduced on Kickstarter in 2016 and was quick to surpass its goals and amass 5000 backers. The pillow may be weird looking, but you have to admit it's practical.
This pillow inflates, creating a comfortable cradle for your face and leaves space for your arms to rest. All you need is a tray table and you're good to go. Plus, when you're done, just deflate the pillow and pack it up easily in your carry on.
14 Totally weird: JetComfy Travel Pillow
Let's be real, the aisle seat is impossible to sleep in, but perfect for extra leg room and bathroom breaks. This weird contraption makes it possible for passengers on the aisle to lean over (away from the passenger next to you) and get some much needed shut-eye.
It's a bit awkward, and looks like something you'd find in the doctor's office, but it gets the job done, as long as you ignore the hard pole rubbing up against your arm.
13 Totally weird: UsEasy Bendable Neck Supporter
This neck pillow doesn't look comfortable at all at first glance, but apparently, there's something to this memory foam metal rod neck pillow.
It was in part designed by NASA to help astronauts better align their spine while resting, by stretching the back and opening up the chest.
It may not be the most comfortable or practical but it's likely going to give you a good, beneficial, nap that will help with posture, and god knows we all normally feel stiff after a long plane ride.
12 Totally weird: Nap Anywhere Pillow
The Nap Anywhere pillow is exactly that, it allows you to nap anywhere, even on uncomfortable airplanes. It's definitely not the weirdest neck pillow on the list, but it's a far cry from the usual round puffy travel pillow most airports sell.
It stands out for its minimalist appearance and what people like about the pillow is how easy and portable it is. But it's also not very high on the squishy cloud-like comfortable list, plus there's a strap you have to secure around your body which makes it less than ideal.
11 Totally weird: The Relax ALLY Travel Restband
I'm definitely a big fan of eye masks, but this one may not be for everyone. One of the big problems with getting comfy on airplanes is just how bumpy they can be, causing your head to jostle around while all you want is some peaceful shut eye. This neck pillow is more like a seatbelt for your head! Rather than provide you a support to lean against, this travel "pillow" option holds your head back against the seat so you can sleep upright. Not my style, but to each his own.
10 Totally weird: Upright Sleeper
I'm all about good posture, but I have other priorities on an airplane, to be honest. The Upright Sleeper is popular for those who want to catch some shut-eye all while working on their spine alignment. It's easy to curl up and get a crick in your neck on the plane, so this contraption helps prevent that.
But damn it looks awkward! Some of the pros include being adjustable, but no matter how you shape this thing, you're still sleeping on a padded rod that look more like gym equipment than a pillow.
9 Totally weird: The Nodpod
The Nodpod is a hammock for your face. While the Relax ALLY aimed to strap you down to your seat, like a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, the Nodpod is a more liberating way of strapping yourself to your seat.
The soft cushion lets you sleep with your head forward instead of to the side (which causes spine and shoulder issues) so that's a good thing, but there's a bit of comfortable lacking from the Nodpod if you ask me. You have neck support, just not much pillow.
8 Totally weird: HoodiePillow
Why buy a neck pillow and an eye mask when you can have the benefit of both all mixed together. The Hoodie Pillow is great to keep warm, cover your eyes and block out the sounds around you. Plus the adjustable straps help it fit snuggly around your face without blocking your nose. When it comes to the neck pillow, that's a bit too traditional for my taste, but sometimes a classic works best. The Hoodie Pillow may be kinda funny looking, but it's actually one of the more popular on our list.
7 Totally weird: The EZ Sleep Travel Pillow
Have you ever wanted to put up a wall between you and the passenger next to you on the plane? Well, now you can!
The EZ Sleep pillow is more like a mini air mattress barrier that you can put up between you and your airplane neighbour. That way not only your head but your whole body gets supported as you lean over and sleep. I don't know how much your seat partner will appreciate having an inflatable mattress by their face the whole plane ride, but from your perspective, it's great for privacy and peaceful sleep.
6 Totally weird: the Travelrest Pillow
Who doesn't want to fall asleep with an inflatable arm draped across your chest? In all seriousness, the Travelrest Pillow is one of the best selling and highest rated travel pillows on our list, even rivalling our top five. People love it because it allows you to lean into the pillow with your head, neck and body, instead of just proving neck support. Plus, as an inflatable, you can easily pack it up after your flight.
What you can't see in the image is the strap, that clips around the back of the chair to keep you secure and prevent you from leaning too far forward. It ends up being like a soft seatbelt-like cushion, and people are going crazy for it!
5 Actually amazing: Infinity pillow
Everyone has a different comfy sleeping position, and that's why the Infinite Pillows works so well. You can squish it into a ball and use it like a traditional pillow, or you can wear it around your neck like a pillowy infinity scarf. However you choose to wear it, people love it because it's soft, supportive and breathable.
Like a dress that can be worn dozens of ways, this pillow even suggests different configurations depending on what seat you sit in or whether you want extra back support.
4 Actually amazing: Twist Memory Foam Travel Pillow
Similar to the Infinity Pillow, the Twist pillow is popular because you can adjust it however you like. It can be hard to accept some of these weird travel pillows, with rods and straps and all the unnecessary bells and whistles. The Twist is a standard neck pillow with a slight upgrade that allows you to customize. You get the comfort of memory foam and you don't have to go too far out of your comfort zone.
While we saw some of the most elaborate and downright weird neck pillows on the market, the Twist proves that people like things more or less the same.
3 Actually amazing: Evolution S3 Travel Pillow
Speaking of more or less the same, the Evolution neck pillow doesn't look much different from your standard neck pillow, but it actually packs in most of the features people love from the other more avant-garde travel pillows.
For example, the Evolution also has straps that fasten to the chair to keep you upright, but it doesn't look like it will strangle you. This design also features comfy memory foam and extra soft padding, plus the tie at the front helps you find just the right fit for your head.
2 Actually amazing: Trtl Pillow
If you think about it, all you need is a comfy place to lean and you're good to go. The Trtl pillow (pronounced turtle) was created by a pair of mechanical engineers who were sick of how uncomfortable flights can be and how bulky and unhelpful traditional neck pillows can be.
Together they created a scientifically proven neck pillow that is meant to be more supportive and comfortable than a traditional U shaped pillow, all while being less than half the size and weight. Plus it's machine washable, because I don't even want to think how dirty my travel pillow must be.
The new and improved version (Trtl Pillow Plus) was fully funded on Kickstarter in less than six hours! People are pumped about it, and you'll start to see more and more of these come Christmas 2018, when the new version will be released.
1 Actually amazing: Ostrich Pillow Light
I couldn't finish off the list of best travel pillows without returning to the Ostrich Pillow. People may laugh, but I truly can't imagine a more comfortable pillow while travelling. It's not just about the neck, it's about privacy, less noise, less light, and super soft material to help you sink into sleep even if you are crammed into a small airline seat.
The original Ostrich Pillow was so popular the creators extended the idea into a whole line of neck and travel pillows. While I've opted for the original that makes me look like a squishy deep sea diver, others might prefer the Light version, which is a glorified eyemask with an extra soft cushion to lean against the window.
It's soft, it's simple and it'll help you escape from the moment and start dreaming about wherever it is you're headed.