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Travel gear reviews: kit to help you sleep anywhere

Sleepless in Seattle? Restless in Rio? Jet-lagged in Jakarta? The hectic nature of life on the road means modern globetrotters need to nap wherever they lay their head, whether that’s in the plush reclining chairs of a first-class flight or a box room directly above a thumping nightclub.

With this in mind, we've assessed a range of products designed to make slumbering on the go less of a nightmare, from noise-cancelling headphones and snugly scarves to a wonderfully weird pillow-eye mask mash-up.

Go Travel Hybrid Travel Pillow
Go Travel’s Hybrid Pillow: the best of both worlds © David Else / Lonely Planet

Go Travel Hybrid Travel Pillow

There are few debates that divide the travel community so fiercely as the question of which is better: inflatable or foam neck pillows. With Go Travel’s Hybrid Pillow, you don’t have to pick a side. The cushion has a foam top that feels pleasant against the skin, but is largely inflatable, making it compact and easy to transport. In testing we found the pillow comfortable, both when used as a stand-in for a conventional pillow and when worn around the neck, though with the latter the lack of strap did cause it to slip out of position occasionally.

  • Plus points: compact for travel; rolls down to 25% of full size
  • Worth noting: wide valve for quick and quiet deflation
  • Cost: US$24.95, £19.99, €24.95
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 7/10; value 7/10
  • More info: go.travel
Deep Sleep Pillow Spray from This Works
Deep Sleep Pillow Spray from This Works; a magic potion for sleepless nights © David Else / Lonely Planet

This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray

Whether it’s the humidity, jet lag or excitement for what’s to come, it can often be difficult to will yourself to sleep when you’re out on the road. Attempting to address this issue is This Works’ Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, with natural ingredients – including lavender, vetivert and camomile – that produce a pleasant floral aroma the company claims will help you fall asleep faster and wake feeling more refreshed. It may be science or hocus-pocus but in testing we found a few drops on the pillow definitely helped us nod off.

  • Plus points: 5ml tube is lipstick-size and ideal for travel
  • Worth noting: a few drops do the trick, so 5ml is enough for a long trip
  • Cost: £6, €6.50, US$7.50 (5ml)
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: thisworks.com
BioEars silicone earplugs
Turn down the volume with BioEars silicone earplugs © David Else / Lonely Planet

BioEars soft silicone earplugs

Right up there with the passport and sun cream, a good pair of earplugs are regarded as a modern travel staple, essential for blocking out the din of late-night traffic, the bustle of early-morning markets or the infuriating snores of fellow travellers. These silicone earplugs from BioEars differ from simple conical plugs because they can be rolled and pressed into the right shape to fit perfectly in any ear, blocking out noise more effectively and ensuring a peaceful night for even the lightest of sleepers.

  • Plus points: can also be used for swimming
  • Worth noting: anti-bacterial treated
  • Cost: US$5.95, £4.95, €5 (pack of three pairs)
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: cirrushealthcare.com
The Ostrichpillow Light
Is it a pillow? Is it an eye mask? The Ostrichpillow Light is sort of both © Jack Palfrey / Lonely Planet

Ostrichpillow Light

Breaking new ground when it comes to snoozing on the move, the Ostrichpillow Light resembles a wonderfully weird mash-up of a traditional neck pillow and eye mask. The idea is that the pillow is worn over the eyes and ears, providing a padded headband that permits the head to rest comfortably against a hard surface, while blocking out light and muffling sounds. The fact is – if you can cope with the occasional raised eyebrow from fellow passengers – it really works, and will prove particularly beneficial for those who struggle with conventional neck pillows, though a touch more padding wouldn’t go amiss.

  • Plus points: Can also be used as a regular neck pillow, which is useful when sat in a middle seat
  • Worth noting: pillows are reversible and adjustable via pull string at the back
  • Cost: US$45; £32, €36
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: ostrichpillow.com
Lifeventure Cotton Stretch Liner
Keep your sheet together with the Lifeventure Cotton Stretch Liner © David Else / Lonely Planet

Lifeventure Cotton Stretch Liner

If you travel on a tight budget, you’ll know the horrors of dodgy hotel rooms with suspect sheets and befouled blankets. Shield yourself from bugs and other unknown delights with the Stretch Liner from travel gadget specialist Lifeventure. Essentially, it’s a sheet sleeping bag made from a mix of cotton and a synthetic fibre called Modal, which gives a soft and stretchy ‘terry-towel’ feel. With its rectangular shape and large pocket to cover a pillow, it’ll help you get a bite-free night.

  • Plus points: treated with Polygiene to control odours, great for long trips
  • Worth noting: Lifeventure’s Ultimate Silk Liner is similar but packs down much smaller
  • Cost: £24.99, €31.99
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: lifeventure.com
Kitsound District Headphones
Kitsound District Headphones provide your soundtrack for travel © David Else / Lonely Planet

Kitsound District Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Travel is all about losing yourself in the sights and sounds of new places, but sometimes, whether it’s a crying baby on the plane or a scratchy movie on a bus through India, you need to tune everything out. Slip on these headphones, connect to your phone or another device, and you hear more of your own sounds and less of the outside world, all thanks to clever noise-cancelling technology. Play something soothing and you’ll soon be snoozing.

  • Plus points: sound quality is excellent; folding ear-pads handy for travel
  • Worth noting: connect via Bluetooth or cable; charge via USB or wireless Qi pad
  • Cost: US$129.99; £99.99; €129.99
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 8/10; value 9/10
  • More info: kitsound.com
Marichi unisex wool blanket scarf
The Marichi unisex wool blanket scarf will keep you toasty day and night © Jack Palfrey / Lonely Planet

Marichi unisex wool blanket scarf

The smart traveller packs versatile items, and this wool scarf from Marichi is ideal for those who want to ensure they’re kept toasty day and night. The handwoven shawl can be wrapped around the neck like a bulky scarf keeping out the cold, and, when unfolded, doubles as a blanket large enough to cover an adult – perfect for nights on public transport or evenings spent dining outdoors. Funky tribal patterns give the scarf a splash of colour and the quality is great, though it isn't necessarily the softest garment we’ve ever curled up in.

  • Plus points: perfect for cold climes, but potentially too thick for warmer parts of the world
  • Worth noting: dimensions of unfolded scarves are roughly 6ft (1.8 metres) by 4ft (1.2 metres)
  • Cost: £60
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  • More info: www.marichiworld.com

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How we review products

Our opinions are by definition subjective. Our testers (male, female, young, old) trial products in the real world, then give their honest opinion and scores for quality, practicality and value: 5/10 = mediocre; 6/10 = fair; 7/10 = good; 8/10 = very good; 9/10 = excellent; 10/10 = perfect. We don’t include anything that scores less than 5/10.

We aim for gender balance, and over a year cover an equal number of male- and female-specific items. We state where kit is available in male and female versions, or for everyone, unless it’s obvious.

Prices are quoted in at least one major currency. Where possible we include other currencies. We take prices from manufacturers’ websites; information was correct at the time of publication, but you may find different prices online or in specialist stores, particularly after a period of time when products are discounted.

Manufacturers supply Lonely Planet with test products for review. We do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.