What Is It: Relax Ally
After testing dozens of disappointing travel pillows during my time at SmarterTravel, I had high hopes for the outside-the-box Relax Ally. With its headband that snaps into another band that is wrapped around your seat, it's a sort of sleeping containment device for the airplane (or anyplace you're trying to sleep upright in a chair), a personal lasso that keeps your head from ending up on your seatmate's shoulder.
Price and Where to Buy: €29 (about $38; see XE.com for current exchange rates) plus €13 international shipping
Pros: Setup was quick. With its padded and adjustable headband, the device was reasonably comfortable to wear. Once I was asleep, the Relax Ally did a good job of preventing the cycle of head loll, jolt awake, and repeat, since it gently anchored my head to the seat.
Cons: In general, I'm not a good plane sleeper. Even when I'm tired, I have a hard time falling asleep sitting upright, and unfortunately, the Relax Ally couldn't transform my coach seat into a soporific sanctuary. However, once I did manage to fall asleep, the band was useful in helping me prolong my flight nap.
Two other issues are more design-based: Since the seat band needs to wrap all the way around your seat to work, if placed too low, it could cause viewing issues for anyone trying to watch the screen in the row behind you. (Editor's Note: Relax Ally states that you can attach the band to a head-rest pillow, but since head rests aren't standard across all planes, this option is subject to availability.) Another concern I had was that the band might not be as comfortable for tall people who would have to hunch down to allow for the anchoring connection (a snap) between the headband and the seat band.
How It Rates:
- Usefulness: Range of 6/10 to 9/10, depending on whether your main in-flight sleep hurdle is falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Portability: 10/10. It's small, it folds up nicely, and it's light.
- Value: 6/10. At about $50 for the product and shipping, the price is high. But if it addresses your particular in-flight sleep challenges, it's a potential game changer.
- Durability: 10/10. The product seems to be well made and held up to being stuffed in a carry-on and dragged around the country.
- Cool Factor: 6/10. Unless you rock the Tom Petty headband look in real life, securing the band around your head and then buttoning it to the matching band around your seat may feel a little goofy.
Final Verdict: If you're good at falling asleep on flights and want a product that will help you stay asleep by limiting head movement, this might be just the thing you're looking for. However, if your problem is falling asleep in the first place, this product is unlikely to turn you into a champion in-flight sleeper.
(Photo: Relax ALLY® Restband™)
Editor's Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and "cool factor." Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.