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Blanket and/or pillow for plane?

Anyone have thoughts on whether is is worth packing blankets and/or pillows for the plane?

We will be flying from the west coast of the US to Europe so it's a fairly long flight and we are departing in the evening so I'm hoping we will get some sleep. It's been a long time since I flew quite this far and planes used to have free pillows and blankets, but ours will not this time (I checked their website).

We want to go carry on only on the way there at least; so packing space and weight is precious. We will also be doing some travel within Italy via train so that just makes the packing space and weight thing even more important.

Thanks for any thoughts on whether these "luxuries" are worth their weight.

Posted by
1179 posts

Can you justify carrying that bulk/weight all over the place?
Think alternatives that fulfill other purposes. An inflatable pillow or a soft jacket or sweater will work for a pillow. A scarf may work for a blanket (especially silk scarves). I take a silk sleep sack when I'm traveling to sketchy places and that substitutes better than a blanket.
I have a bad disk in my neck so rely on an inflatable pillow. I usually find that a good pair of wool socks and my jacket provide sufficient extra coverage for sleeping.

Posted by
518 posts

I have a good down vest (poofy vest) that folds into itself and as a result, makes a great pillow to sleep on, or for lumbar support. This is a great alternative to bringing another item with you that has only one dedicated purpose. The fact that it's down (goose down, and not any other type of feathers or synthetics) makes it both light weight and comfortable.

Posted by
3184 posts

I wear a fleece jacket or sweater on the plane (even in the summer) and put a pair of socks in my under the seat bag. Even with the skimpy blankets that some airlines still supply I get cold on long overnight west coast flights. I have an inflatable pillow in my bag but I rarely use it. It's too hard to keep in a comfortable position for my restless style of trying to sleep on transatlantic flights.

Posted by
285 posts

I travel with a large cashmere shawl that serves as a blanket on chilly planes. I also use it when out at night as a evening wrap in temperate weather and as a large warm scarf under my raincoat in wet weather. Very light to pack and serves many purposes.

I also have neck problems and carry a small inflatable neck pillow that serves me very well on flights.

Posted by
487 posts

I have a small, light-weight fleece blanket from Eagle Creek that I use on airplanes. It looks like the current version is called a "cat nap blanket". It is long and rectangular similar to the shape of a sleeping bag (but a blanket, not a bag) and stuffs into a built-in zippered pocket. The pocket is useful while on the plane to hold smaller items that I might want available. The exterior has an eagle creek tag that I can slip a carabineer through and attach it to the outside of my luggage. I get cold easily so I like having my own blanket and I can also use it on trains or as a small pillow if it is stuffed in the pocket. I also have an inflatable pillow that folds up when not in use.

Posted by
9929 posts

I use an inexpensive Bed Bath and Beyond travel pillow. The airline pillow (if provided) is too skimpy and always seems to fall back between the edge of the seat and the side of the plane. I usually try to get a window seat on the way over. I put a bright colored pillow case on the travel pillow and squish it down into a ziplock bag. I do seem to have problems with the ziplock bags staying squished but if you squish and put it in a small pocket in the suitcase they will stay somewhat compressed.

I just got the cheap one and it's pretty light weight. I would weigh it but I gave it to a tourmate at the end of one of my RS tours. She had come down with bronchitis and was miserable and worried about being able to sleep on the plane.

To me the weight of this down alternative one was negligible and worth carting it around. Not sure I would say the same if it was heavy.

I never even unwrap the blanket provided on Delta. They have sort of an icky texture now. I wear a scarf that I can pull up around my neck and travel with a cardigan for warmth anyway.

I thought it was interesting that on the November travel Festival presentations, the packing seminar presenter who is also an RS guide, takes a full sized pillow as her extravagant item. She fits it in to her small carry on. It's at about 1:10:00 on the talk.

https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/travel-talks/packing-light-right-with-sarah-murdoch

Posted by
3657 posts

One of the secrets to traveling light is to take things that can do double or triple duty if not more. A blanket and pillow will, in my opinion, only serve one purpose for a relatively short period of time. There have been many good suggestions here and I'd try one of those before lugging two one use items around.

Posted by
102 posts

Thank you all for your replies!

Posted by
1117 posts

Mona: I have an inflatable pillow in my bag but I rarely use it. It's too hard to keep in a comfortable position

I had the same problem until I learned that the pillow should only be half filled. Now it is very comfortable - I primarily uses it so sit on :-)

Posted by
333 posts

I have a quillow, a narrow quilt that folds into a pillow. When it folds up, it's about a foot and a half square and unfolded, it's about 5 feet long. I use it on the plane to stay warm, and also in the hotel when I'm just lying in the bed. I like the feeling of being wrapped up, though. It always goes with me when I travel.

Posted by
2746 posts

I try to use things I'm bringing anyway as makeshift pillow/blankets. A sweater and t shirt folded together can make a pillow. A scarf, cardigan, towel or fleece jacket can make a blanket. Etc. Be creative - what you have may be enough.

Posted by
351 posts

Like Mira, I try to use things I already need to carry as a pillow - usually a fleece jacket or sweater folded up to make a pillow.

I am considering altering a pillow case into a shape & size suitable for a travel pillow, then stuffing a sweater in it for overnight plane rides. If I put a zipper on it I could also possibly use it as a "packing cube" type thing on the rest of the trip.

I'm not super crafty and capable though so I may never put my idea into practice.

Posted by
2349 posts

You can usually pick up cheap fleece remnants at fabric stores. You probably want the blanket most on the overnight flight over. If it takes up too much room, leave it there.

Posted by
138 posts

Another idea - if you have an Ikea close you can purchase a fleece blanket for $3.99. It's not too fluffy and covers relatively well. We use these in the car for travel. It folds well and the price is right for leaving it when you feel like it's too much for you to continue carrying or you need the room. I'm planning on doing just this this Spring!

Happy Travels!

Posted by
11613 posts

If you only have this problem on the night flight over, just buy a cheap blanket or fabric remnant, as suggested, and toss it when you arrive. If your return flight is a daytime flight, you probably won't need extra warmth.

Posted by
351 posts

Carol - the problem with a travel pillow case is it's not the shape I want. :)

Posted by
5153 posts

I like Motorgirl's idea. I have one of those nylon windbreakers that tucks into its own pocket, making a small pillow. (I like to put it on my hubbie's shoulder to rest on; he's rather bony.) DH uses an inflatable pillow, but I can never get comfortable with those. I do spread out a cardigan as a blanket sometimes; one button placket at my neck, the other down below my waist. It's cozier than it sounds.

Posted by
192 posts

The dollar stores have small lace laundry cases(used to wash delicates in the washing machine). Since they zip close, I have used them to pack underwear when I didn't want to use my RS packing cubes. You could put a sweater etc. in it and use as a pillow.

Posted by
126 posts

10 years ago I splurged on a lovely cashmere shawl from Nordstrom's in a favorite color. It's gone on every international flight I've taken. Doubles as a blanket on the plane, a cozy throw in the hotel room, a scarf or wrap for a night out. Packs small, and very warm.

Posted by
2353 posts

A pashmina or large scarf can do double duty as a blanket as well.

Posted by
945 posts

I use a inflatable pillow from Sea and Summit that folds up and fits in your palm, for a blanket I take the Rick Steves largest microfiber towel in my carry-on for helping with drying clothes on washing nights but on the flight over it makes a great blanket. I agree with making things dual purpose thus keeping weight to a minimum. I have also used the large towel for a picnic blanket!

Posted by
102 posts

I will try to remember to report on our experience with Norwegian. Thanks!

Posted by
527 posts

Interesting idea, Motorgirl. I'm going to try something like that. A pillowcase might work. Hmmmm...gotta do some doodling and measuring. :)

Posted by
7 posts

My wife and I pack a 3 oz Mylar emergency blanket, even for routine travel Takes up little space and weight, large enough to cover both of us and disposable. Find these in camping goods stores. We haven't had to use one in a while, but have been miserable in redeye flights without blankets.

Posted by
1220 posts

I've got some neck issues and love my small Thermarest pillow-

https://www.rei.com/product/719843/therm-a-rest-compressible-pillow

It really does roll up nicely into a small space, and a typical airline has no issue with leaving it outside of your bag and just looping it to a handle with the string. It's also IMO a better pillow than what you'll find in many a hotel room, so it gets used a lot on trips and not just on plane or train segments.

I have a really awesome travel blanket from Muji- down middle, cotton flannel on one side and nylon on the other, and it's got snaps around the edges so you can go hands-free and wear it as an overskirt or cape- but I don't think they've sold it in the USA for a few years at this point. (Their oversea stores might stock something similar still.)

Posted by
7 posts

I try to travel going carry-on only; and for me, the following are mandatory in-flight items:

(i) microfiber fleece blanket stored in a silky shoe bag with a cinch drawstring (I’ll admit I pinched this from a flight many years ago … but at least I know it is clean!), (ii) TRTL neck support, (iii) Bose NC headphones, (iv) Dream Essentials eye mask, and (v) EconoHigh Portable Footrest (since I’m 5’3” this makes coach seating more comfortable).

In flight, I wear a fleece jacket (even in summer). I also have an “airplane kit” containing: a pkg of disinfecting wipes, a couple of pieces of hard candy, gum (enough for each take off & landing), an emery board, a ballpoint pen, and a handheld Japanese folding fan (ever been on a plane with no air? ... ugh!).

All of the above items are packed into a RS Veloce knapsack (not expanded) along with my Kindle, iPad, and 311 TSA liquids bag. Since the knapsack is not expanded, there is ample room for sandwiches, snacks, and water bottle.

After every trip I've taken (~17 … all in coach), I’ve tried to evaluate what worked well and what didn’t. I’ve found the above items indispensable. Before de-planing, I make sure to disinfect the footrest with wipes before packing back into the knapsack.

Lastly, I wouldn’t suggest using a mylar emergency blanket on a plane … while it may be effective at keeping you warm, the crinkling noise made with every movement will likely make your fellow passengers less than happy. And the Ikea fleece blanket, a good and inexpensive ($4) suggestion, simply weighs too much at 1 lb., 4 oz.

Posted by
526 posts

I too bought a trtl for my last trip. It actually helped me get some sleep. From now on I will be taking it along on any trip, be it by car or plane.

Posted by
1277 posts

I had some surgery in April and then used my fleece pajama pants as a car pillow &/or as a buffer between me and the shoulder part of seat belt.....when I arrived at destination, I wore them. I don't know what PJs the op likes, but I can speak to the efficacy of fleece pjs as a pillow.

Posted by
5153 posts

Hi, Debra! I just followed your link, and can't figure out how it works. Is it more or less rigid?

Posted by
5 posts

Wow, this tlr pillow seems like a great idea. How it is with a air coming through this material? Isn't it a little bit to warm to wear it during the flight?

Posted by
526 posts

I was not too hot, but then again, I am usually cold on planes.

Posted by
415 posts

I use to always travel with a pillow & blanket when I use to check luggage and bring the kitchen sink. Now I just ball up my husband's jacket or my long johns or any article of clothing and shove it inside a regular pillow case. Pillow case doubles as a laundry bag.

Posted by
25 posts

Our recent flights were not cool enough to use the blanket provided...although along with the pillow, it sufficed as a resting place for my head/shoulder. What was priceless was the Onwego inflatable pillow in hotels! We didn't need the pillow on the plane, but definitely did in hotels. The single pillow in the hotel on top of the inflatable pillow gave us the right height and support we needed to rest each night instead of rolling around with no head support. We needed it in 4 hotels at the minimum, so it was worth the space in the backpack--these were wonderful! https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B013HJZ5E6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I'm not trying to advertise for them, but just to pass along what was invaluable for us.

Happy Traveling!

Posted by
102 posts

UPDATE on our experience with Norweigian, per request above, posted here: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/transportation/norwegian-airlines-expsrience

And since I'm updating. I carried a cream shawl and used it as a blanket on the plane. I did not use it at any other time on the trip as it was hot. So much for dual purpose. I bought a fleece blanket for my son and he used it on the plane and also bundled up as an extra pillow in hotel rooms. So that turned out to be of more use throughout the trip. We did not take any pillows.

I appreciate all the suggestions!

Posted by
59 posts

I like the travel pillows but don't want to lug them - so my tip is invest $7 at TJ Maxx or similar for the travel pillow. Then I didn't spend much on it and leave it at my first hotel. (I usually fly overnight over and daytime on the way back so try to stay awake then).

That way I don't have to drag it and maybe give someone else a comfortable ride home!