Have Pillow, Will Travel


“I never stay in a hotel room that isn’t nicer than my own bedroom,” Bay Area designer Stephen Shubel once told me. In other words, the designer would never stand for rough and scratchy linens, a skimpy polyester blanket or a lumpy old pillow on his rented bed, and neither should you.

We all know if you don’t snooze, you lose, and that is why your own pillow is probably the smartest item you will stuff into your carry on tote, suitcase or back of the car when traveling for any length of time. Even an overnight spent embracing an offensive pillow can mess with your rest and make you crabby and sluggish.

My teenage daughter recently took her own pillow and case along for a two week visit to Israel (great on the tedious flight) and I tote my own even when visiting my mom’s house in L.A. because the mounds of pillows decorating the beds in the guestrooms are filled with either old, irritating down or a layer of mystery foam that is indescribably inhospitable.

My mom means well but she doesn’t buy my argument that investing in great pillows is wise, even for her occasional guests. “If I buy them will you come here more often?” she wonders. “Probably not, but just think if the extra room in my travel bag to bring cool gifts!”

Here are five good reasons to cushion that travel blow with your own personal pillow:

1. Allergies

Two words: Dust mites! Most hotel pillows in hotels are not free of these allergens that graze on your dead skin and hair and contribute to asthma and other allergy reactions. Those with luxury down pillows aren’t usually sealed with dust mite proof protectors. If you are using a hypoallergenic pillow at home, then it makes very good sense to be good to yourself and bring it along, just as you bring your SPF moisturizers and dental floss. Good health extends to that healthy pillow.

2. Comfort and Support

While more luxury destinations like the Four Seasons are taking their pillows to loftier heights with great pillows delivered upon request, the vast majority are flat, lumpy or densely packed with a foam and feather combo that can make you wake up with a sore neck. If you sleep with more than one, sometimes topping one of those pillows with your own can make a big difference. Otherwise, toss em away and have sweeter dreams. But don’t forget to remove it in the morning before the maid comes and to pack it when you leave.

3. Harsh Laundry Chemicals

Unless you have checked into a hospitality spot that believes in green and clean, hold your nose cause foul product exposure may be on our itinerary. Bleaches, disinfectants and other cleaning products used in hotels and other lodgings can reek of harsh chemicals or sickly sweet phthalates – toxic synthetic compounds widely used to give fragrance to consumer products. Sometimes you can smell the hotel sheets a mile away and there is a good argument for packing your own sheets and comforter when traveling if you are sensitive to those chemicals.


4. Cushioning Breakables

It’s a trick movers taught me over the years as big fellas would use my pillows as padding for packing more fragile items in those big cardboard boxes. Your own pillow buddy can work double duty as cushioning when packing some breakables in your suitcase or carry on tote – such as holiday gifts (cologne, beads, a serving dish, doll or toy) or your own handbag with a jeweled clasp, a cosmetic bag with bottles of tonics and treatments, a gadget or special books.

5. Sleeping on the ride

We always toss our pillows in the back of the car on road trips to enhance those cat naps or longer siestas. They really make riding in the car more cushy and also feel good at times just propping one on your lap. They are idea for long flights, too, since those spongy institutional small pillow squares issued by the airlines are as inviting as a night in the hospital. Just watch how the light attendants light up when they see you pull out your own Mr. fluffy. They will week and nod, validating that you are a seasoned traveler with a head for both business and pleasure.

Images: UggBoy, Korea Times

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.