- This $40 Cabeau travel pillow has made my economy red-eye flights feel like business class.
- It attaches to your headrest, so it won’t move around even during turbulence and I can finally sleep on the plane – even in the middle seat.
- It also has an ergonomic design that’s more comfortable than other airplane pillows I’ve used, and rolls up into its own case so I can travel with it easier.
Since business class seats are financially out of reach for many frequent fliers, anyone who’s flown economy is familiar with the woes of sleeping on a plane.
I’ve seen fellow passengers bring inflatable pillows, squishy bean-bag styles, and more, but they all slide around and continuously shift with every turbulent bump. That’s why I love the $40 Cabeau Evolution S3 pillow.
This pillow isn’t exactly stylish, but when I’m spending 10+ on a flight, I don’t care. Now that many airlines are charging extra money to choose a seat before checking in, I feel a sense of dread when I realize I’ve got a middle seat on my upcoming flight. But with this pillow, I know that I can sleep comfortably in any seat with no fear of slumping down onto my neighbor two minutes after I doze off.
This travel pillow can be secured to your headrest so it won’t move around as you sleep
The Evolution S3 pillow looks somewhat similar to many other U-shaped airplane pillows. However, it has a handful of extra features that make a big difference.
There’s no much set-up involved in using the Evolution S3 pillow – it’s a pillow, after all – but it does include two straps that you can secure around your seat’s headrest (even if you’re stuck in the dreaded middle seat). It attaches around the headrest for adults or around the base of the headrest for kids and shorter travelers. Because the straps are elastic and secured with Velcro, it can wrap around just about any size headrest – it’s definitely “one-size-fits-all” and I didn’t have any problems using it on my flights. The overall experience is much more comfortable than using an inflatable pillow.
One design consideration though is that if your seat doesn’t have a headrest at all, the traps on this pillow might not stretch wide enough. If that’s the case, you can still use the pillow like you would any other, and I’d bet the ergonomic design would still work better than your other travel pillows.
As for the visuals, the pillow comes in a variety of colors. The “Cardinal” and “Galaxy” color options are probably the most attention-grabbing while the gray and black will likely blend in a bit better with your seat’s headrest. I prefer the brighter ones as I tend to leave things on planes fairly often and those stand out a bit more.
It’s also comfortable and can be rolled up in its own travel case
Instead of being a lumpy, uncomfortable pillow that gives you a few hours of sporadic sleep, the memory foam makes it actually comfortable. You can rest nearly as well in your airplane seat as you can at home on your couch.
During my testing, neck pain or a falling pillow never woke me up. Instead of nodding off and falling over on my neighbor – or, worse, not falling asleep at all on a red-eye – I fell asleep fast and stayed asleep. If you’ve got an eye mask and earplugs or headphones, you can basically settle in for the night. It’s almost like having a cushy business-class seat – except that it only costs $40.
When you’re all ready to deplane, the pillow can be rolled up “like a cinnamon roll” (according to the instructions) and slipped into the accompanying storage bag. You can then clip the bag around your suitcase, saving storage space in your carry-on bag. It was easy to fit in the case on my first try.
Read more: The best travel pillows you can buy
The area around your neck is raised higher to keep your head from rolling as you sleep
One of my favorite features, aside from the ability to stay upright via the headrest attachment, is the focus on keeping your head and neck straight.
The inside of the U-shape (the area of the pillow closest to your neck) is raised higher than the rest of the pillow to help avoid head bobbing, which can wake up even the heaviest sleeper. This pillow is also flat in the back, which might not sound important, but it is.
Normal airplane pillows can push your neck out and make it difficult to find a comfortable fit. But because this one is flat in the back, it sits right against the headrest, keeping your spine aligned and upright instead of being pitched forward.
If you like to wear a mask or listen to music when you sleep, you’ll love the roomy side pocket on the pillow. I stored my eye mask in it, and when I was ready to sleep, I swapped it for my phone to avoid dropping it while I slept. This is also a good strategy if you still use headphones with a cord like me, so you don’t have to worry about the cord dangling or getting tangled in your blanket.
The material might make your neck feel warm, but the removable cover is machine-washable
A potential downside of the Evolution S3 pillow is that it might make your neck a little warm, which I experienced.
I’m almost always freezing on planes, but I had my male travel companion test it out too just to confirm. While he agreed that the pillow was far more comfortable than expected, he also reported waking up with some neck sweat. Fortunately, the cover is removable and can be machine-washed, so even if you do happen to overheat, you can wash it when you get home (or in your hotel room sink.)
While I wouldn’t consider it a major issue, it’s worth noting that the pillow will get smushed when it’s rolled up and in the case, so it’d take a few minutes to fully expand again. For that reason, Cabeau recommends using the case only during travel and not storing the pillow rolled up.
I’ve never slept better on a plane, and even my seat neighbors have commented on the ingenious design
This pillow is an affordable way to help make your next flight feel far more comfortable than you ever thought possible, even if you’re in a middle seat in economy.
Most airplane pillows are generic inflatable or bean-bag style options sold at airport stores and slide around when you need it most. In terms of innovative styles that prop your head up, the Trtl Travel Pillow wraps around your neck so you can customize the fit. It’s about $10 cheaper and easier to travel with as it doesn’t include a foam base like this one, but it doesn’t connect to headrests and doesn’t have storage pockets, which are features I found to be key with the Evolution S3 pillow.
I’ve never slept better on a plane than with the Evolution S3 pillow, and I’ve even had a seat neighbors comment on the ingenious design. Yes, it looks a little weird, but who cares if you wake up on the other side of the world feeling well-rested and ready to go?