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How We Made the Ultimate Travel Pillow in Four Months (Kind of)
Girl with Pluto POD travel pillow pulling eye mask down

You’ve heard the phrase “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” Well, whoever said that never sat in an airplane for 15 miserable hours before landing at [INSERT FARAWAY, BEAUTIFUL EUROPEAN DESTINATION OF YOUR CHOICE.]

We all know that the travel part of traveling often sucks—plane rides, bus rides, train rides—unless we shell out the biggest bucks just to let our seats recline more than three degrees. It’s not fun to reach your destination exhausted, which is why all of us are willing to try anything…

Passengers on an airplane

… we can do better folks.

After we surveyed the travel pillow market, one truth rang clear—it can be done better, and we’ll do it ourselves…

The Beginning

… Okay, not quite ourselves. The POD started with a lot of listening to flight attendants and everyday travelers. It was like one big therapy session—they groused about how tiring traveling is and the travel pillow options today are a mess of tradeoffs that fall short. Pillow A might (a big might) be comfortable, but it’s not portable. Pillow B is portable, but it’s not comfortable. And on and on. These conversations were as informative as they were therapeutic—we had a communal, shared bond over the common pain of traveling.

From these conversations was one huge (and obvious) pain point:

  • TRAVEL PILLOWS DO 👏 NOT 👏 WORK 👏. The U-shape pillow in particular got grilled. Yet we keep giving it a chance, like some twisted case of Stockholm syndrome.

So what did we need to have to make it work?

  • 360 neck and chin support—a must since most sleep upright while traveling.
  • Lack of personal space—travel pillows can be comfortable, but don’t do anything to provide a sense of personal space where you can block out all the light and noise.
  • Temperature—plane rides are often cold and travel pillows don’t adequately address that.
  • Portability—travel pillows are often bulky and take up more space than they need to.

So we went to work in 2021—yes, at the peak of the pandemic. We knew travel would come back and when it did, we wanted to offer the most comfortable solution to your travel woes.

Let’s make this thing! (One question: How do we make this thing!?)

As much as we know how to make darn good pillows, we didn’t have a good idea of where to start with creating a travel pillow. Comfort’s the goal, but how do we get there? So, we reached out to IDEO with the same question. They’re the legendary design firm that developed the first Apple mouse among the hundreds of products they’ve brought to life.

When they heard what we wanted to do, they were pumped. We got the sense that, like us, they took the pain of traveling personally.

From there, it was a four-month sprint. From preliminary discussions, ideation, concept and refining, it was a non-stop series of decision-making guided by the central principle of “Offer the ultimate travel pillow that we would buy.”

From the initial 50 or so concepts IDEO presented, we locked eyes with two of them. The 360 neck and chin support, and the pillowy hood you get today were present in these concepts. We knew right away this was the direction we had to go. And from those two concepts were dozens more. We iIterated and iterated until we decided no more—this is the POD.

“Great, we’re done! Put this beautiful thing on our website and sell it!”

Not quite. What we got from IDEO was a schematic of sorts. The actual materials to make the thing was something we had to source ourselves. Imagine you’re given a set of LEGO instructions to build a house except you have to get the LEGOs yourselves.

Early concepts from the design firm we worked with, IDEO. In the beginning, nothing was off the table—we tried everything.
Prototyping different versions of the Pluto POD

So off we went to the garment district in Los Angeles to source the right fabrics to ensure that the POD would keep its structure, comfort and ability to roll up tightly for portability.

For the dense foam core that makes the 360 neck and chin support possible, we searched far and wide for a supplier who could produce a specific piece like we needed for the POD to work. We started in Texas and eventually, we found a partner in South Korea. And here we are today, the Pluto POD.

The point is we literally searched far and wide to create the ultimate travel pillow. Early reactions indicate we’re onto something…

Tweet of Pluto POD

We couldn’t pay someone to tweet a better endorsement!

We hope you give it a shot. Like all our products, the POD comes with a 110-night risk-free trial. That’s how confident we are in the POD transforming your traveling experience for good. Happy travels and check it out! The Pluto POD

Free shipping and returns. Risk-free 125 night trial. Limit one per product category.
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