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Yes, I packed my own pillow. And I’ll do it again

If you’re easily offended by over packing, you might want to just scroll on by :)

We (6 of us) spent 3 weeks driving through Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France last month. One of the last items I packed was a pillow. A cheap but fluffy and comfy pillow, in a bright red pillow case so I wouldn’t leave it anywhere. And boy, was it a lifesaver. My husband calls me “The Princess and the Pea” because I need everything JUST RIGHT to get good sleep. Y’all know that’s tough when traveling! The beds are too hard, or too soft, the pillows too hard or too soft or a weird shape, or there’s dumb led lights on every darn thing…

So I decided to bring my pillow in a vacuum seal bag. One of these bags specifically:
Limited-time deal:
The pillow fit perfectly in my 26” checked bag.

I also brought this tiny little pump:

First, I have to tell you that all of my family (including my sister, who joined us for her first trip to Europe), gave me some serious eye rolls when I told them I was packing my pillow.

But by day 3 of sleeping on either hard down pillows or super floofy pillows that collapse into nothing, my sister was wishing she had brought even a small travel pillow.

I was sleeping like a Princess, thank you very much! Between my comfy pillow, my melatonin sleep lotion and my blackout stickers covering those dumb led light, I was sleeping like a baby.

And my son was happy to put that pillow to use for naps during our drives between destinations.

I was happy that I brought an extra vacuum bag. I packed all our dirty clothes in it and collapsed a whole suitcase worth of clothes down to about 2”. Totally worth it.

Those bags and the pump now have a permanent spot in my travel gear bin. I’m guessing there will be more pillows joining us on future trips.

Posted by
5963 posts

While I haven't resorted to bringing my own pillow, I have to say some inns, especially in Europe have really dumb pillows. Glad you were able to bring the ,and it worked for you.

Posted by
6364 posts

I remember watching a video of Sarah Murdoch about packing light, and the last thing she pulled out of her backpack was... her pillow!

Whatever works for you.

Posted by
180 posts

I will be bringing my pillow with me on our British Isles trip next month. The pillow I use at home is very light weight and squishable, a 10 oz down pillow, so it doesn't take much space. I find pillows in all hotels to be too hard. I've been learning all about packing light from the wonderful travelers on this forum and will be putting a lot of what I learned in to practice on this trip but the pillow will go with me.

Posted by
787 posts

Seriously, why not travel with a down pillow? Thank you for bucking the Travel Light brigade! I even pull my pillow out when upgrading to business class, I still want MY pillow. Wait, "melatonin sleep lotion"? That's another great idea, will be looking into that, to go with the pillow.....

Posted by
7401 posts

Sarah Murdoch always mentions her very lightweight down pillow which would be important for all of the nights she’s traveling. I used to bring a similar travel size down pillow with me when I traveled for work. It easily squished into my carry on suitcase and now is ready for me when I stay at my daughter’s home.

Edit: I sleep on my stomach, so I love when a European hotel has those flat pillows! Sometimes, I have to resort to making a flat pillow with a folded bath towel.

For those pesky LED lights and the curtain that lets in some light, I just sleep with my cheap airline-provided sleep mask.

Posted by
332 posts

Travel4fun, Absolutely agree - European hotel pillows can be the worst. If you’re the Princess and the Pea, I think I‘m Goldilocks. Or maybe I’m Baby Bear? I sort of do what you do, on a half scale. (It does involve sink washing though so my apologies in advance) ; )

My favorite bed pillow at home is a cheap, squishy job from Target that is perfect. I bought a second one, carefully cut it in half, took a tiny bit of the stuffing out and sewed the open ends back together to make two perfect mini-pillows.

When I travel I just take one of the half pillows and on top of a lousy hotel pillow it does the job. I made very colorful pillowcases for my mini, so I will not leave it behind at a hotel. I’m able to put it in a small plastic compression bag and squeeze it down to a flat pancake that slips into the front pocket of my Travelpro Maxlite.

Because I’m a bit of a germ freak, I also travel with an extra case to change out if I use the pillow on the plane. The plane pillowcase gets sink washed at our first hotel and I machine wash and dry the pillow and the cases when I get home.

Posted by
3204 posts

I’ve never brought a pillow with me, but I have frequently bought a pillow in a market stall in Italy for a vacation rental apartment.
It seems that hosts never check to see what the pillows are really like over years of renting out their places.

Posted by
2355 posts

JenS, I love that idea. I might have to try that next time. Half of a king sized pillow would be perfect. And we bring colorful pillowcases to use as dirty clothes bags, so we always have extra pillow cases available. We stay at apartments and throw the pillowcases in the laundry with the clothes.

Posted by
739 posts

I spent 6 weeks in 5 countries this spring wishing I had my home memory foam pillow with me. I'm a side sleeper and usually stack my memory foam pillow on top of a regular pillow. I was surprised how many hotels supply only one thin useless pillow. I found myself rolling up towels and fleece jackets to add some lift. Kudos to the Hotel Harmony in Ghent for supplying us with a number of pillows that worked out well. Many times I received surprised looks when I asked for an extra pillow. It seemed odd to me that some locations had such difficulty rounding up an extra pillow. I'm just not ready yet to start checking luggage or removing anything that I need in my carry on to store a pillow.

Posted by
6842 posts

I was surprised how many hotels supply only one thin useless pillow.

That is one thing I really like about Premier Inns. Even in a single room, they always have extra pillows stored in a bag in a nearby cubby.

Posted by
2996 posts

Remember pillow cases are washed but not the pillows. I took a pillow case off a pillow in Paris in 2019 and it looked like a WW I bandage. Sheets are washed but not blankets, or not often.

After waiting an hour plus at Dulles and Edinburgh for checked luggage I'm carry on only forever.

I've been successful asking for extra pillows if they're not in the room, so I'm not wasting space packing mine.

Posted by
1681 posts

Not sure why the digs at those of us who travel light are necessary.

I use a travel pillow. It is kind of a coil shape. I use it for other things besides sleeping on the plane. It can be an extra bed pillow or a booster to the existing bed pillows, and it has even been a seat cushion (e.g. on a bumpy road in Namibia). It's very versatile. But, if it didn't work for me, I'd have no qualms about carrying a regular pillow as my travel pillow. It's important to me to be comfortable while travelling.

Posted by
1861 posts

I am definitely the princess and the pea when it comes to sleep & PILLOWS. Years ago I bought a small, inexpensive travel pillow at Walmart with a very bright, colorful pillowcase. It fits really well on the inside, top part of my Rick Euro bag which I always carry on, When I do a service wash (about once a week) I include the case so it stays clean. It works well on the plane, as a pillow booster or in a pinch for my hotel pillow if nothing else seems to work. If I have room I pack an extra pillow case. They are a nice extra layer on top of the hotel pillow for cleanliness assurance. P.S. I was not aware of sleep lotion and I have put it on my Amazon travel list. Thanks.

Posted by
449 posts

This makes me very grateful I’m a ‘I can sleep anywhere’ gal. Once I’m over a night of jet lag issues I’m good to go, weird pillows or not. Happy I don’t have to factor a pillow into packing choices 😊. The only issue I have are the duvets that are on so many beds in Europe get a little too warm sometimes.

Posted by
262 posts

I’ve been traveling with my pillow ever since I had an awful experience with a hard as rock pillow in Venice a few years ago. My pillow is down so it flattens and puffs back up very nicely. It’s the last thing I put in my suitcase, I tuck it in around the edges and it also helps hold everything in place. I always bring a non-white pillowcase so I don’t forget it when checking out.

Posted by
808 posts

I take my Klymit blow up camping mattress. A bit over a pound in weight. And my own Suncloud towel. You never know about things when you travel.

Posted by
8821 posts

I always take my old down filled pillow. Use it on overnight flights. It’s easily stuffed into my carryon.
Its how I roll.

Posted by
9784 posts

Travel4fun, I love that you travel with your pillow, but I really love the title of your thread.

Posted by
1864 posts

If flying a coach red eye, i take a big pillow for the flight and leave it on the plane. So much easier to sleep sitting up with a big pillow to help fill the space between seat and window. Well worth 10 bucks at TJ Maxx. Outside of that generally have had great luck with European hotel pillows.

Personally, I have trouble sleeping in spaces that are too bright, and can't get used to using an eye. But carrying my own blackout curtains seems excessive

Posted by
921 posts

Blackout stickers??? !!! I have been enlightened (or not as the case may be). Just ordered two packages to share with my son and dil.

What is it with the pillows in European hotels and airbnbs? Sometimes the two pillows on a double bed aren't even the same. I've had to resort to sofa throw pillows under the bed pillow. Ugh.

Posted by
280 posts

My wife has similar issues with pillow. Often she gets a headache, especially if they are too thick or unforgiving on her neck.

The solution for her is a blowup camping pillow. Virtually no weight,no room, and easy to inflate without a pump. Never leaves home without it. Problem solved.Fortunately my neck is not so sensitive but sometimes I wish I had brought one for me.

Posted by
787 posts

@Hank, WHAT a great idea to take a $10 pillow on the flight and just leave it behind... for trips where we know we're staying at a nice hotel, that's a great idea.

This is the sleep lotion. Another wonderful luxury.

Hey travel4fun, thanks for that sleep lotion link, already bought it for next trip!