Stuff We Swear By: The TRTL Travel Neck Pillow Is a Life Saver for Frequent Fliers

This uniquely designed neck pillow is the only thing that has helped me sleep while in flight

February 27, 2023 11:28 am
The Trtl Travel neck pillow on a green and red background
Getty Images / InsideHook

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As someone who lives almost 3,000 miles from my family and many of my loved ones, I’ve found myself on more red-eye flights than I can count this past year. In many ways, red-eyes are the ultimate travel hack. They’re certainly the most efficient way to travel, ensuring you maximize your precious waking hours and are back on land and ready to go by the time the sun rises. Yet, over the past few flights I’ve found the efficiency of the red eye flight completely overshadowed by the utter fatigue I feel the day after. While it’s great to be home before I have to get online for work, it’s hard to muster the energy to do anything after a night of neck cramps and no REM sleep.

What I’m getting at here is that sleeping on airplanes is a herculean feat — and that’s coming from someone who has a reputation of being able to fall asleep anywhere.

It’s not the falling asleep on planes that is difficult, but the staying asleep. I doze off just fine, but after a few hours of my head dangling without any support I feel the pain creep up and am jolted awake. Normal neck pillows don’t fix the problem and there’s no way I’m putting my bare face on a tray table.

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So, after I’d racked up enough hours of poor sleep and plane-induced neck discomfort, I knew it was time to find a solution. I’d heard about the wonders of the TRTL Travel Neck Pillow from multiple people, but was skeptical that it could have the positive impact on my travel sleep routine like everyone promised. Maybe it’s because traditional neck pillows have never really done anything for me, but after some testing I found that the TRTL is not a traditional neck pillow.

How I use it:

While most neck pillows do deliver on cradling your neck in cozy, bed-like comfort, they lack the support that’s needed to make sleeping upright comfortable at most, and tolerable at the least. TRTL’s Travel Neck Pillow stood out to me because it has such a strong support system.

The TRTL Pillow consists of two pieces: a plastic internal support that’s reminiscent of a neck brace and a soft, breathable fleece cover that might remind you of a scarf. Once the plastic is covered, you place the internal support on the side of your neck or below your chin, for whatever support you desire. Then you wrap the excess fabric around your neck and velcro to lock everything in. 

Why I swear by it:

This thing is quickly becoming my most essential travel accessory, and for good reason. It’s lightweight and easily fits in a carry-on bag. The internal support is very strong and flexible, so you never have to worry about it getting crushed amongst the contents of your over packed bag. It works for all body types and accommodates all different sleep preferences, plus it’s extremely easy to use. An added bonus is that the cover is machine washable. When you’re not traveling just take the cover off of the support and throw it in the washing machine so it’s always fresh before your next flight. 

The first time I used the TRTL pillow I was a bit confused on how it should be positioned. But, one of the great things about this product is that everyone can find the positioning that works best for them. I found it most comfortable to put the TRTL pillow to the right side of my neck, nestled between my shoulder and cheek. When I doze off, my head naturally tilts to the right, so adding this support really lessens the neck strain that I’d usually feel when my head was just hanging. The fleece and foam cover completely mask the fact that there’s a plastic internal support at all. 

My first red eye with TRTL was noticeably better than any I’d taken prior. I fell into the kind of deep sleep that I experience when I lay down on a mattress. Six hours had flown by. I got a good night’s rest, and I was able to walk off the plane with some energy, which is exactly what I always wanted.

After buying the TRTL Pillow, I have not traveled without it, barring one regretful flight when I realized it was missing from my carry-on bag. The TRTL Travel Pillow looks a bit wonky but while most people toss and turn trying to find a setup that’s comfortable, I’m already too deep in sleep to notice or care what anyone thinks. 
While I’m sure most would argue that a first class seat will provide you with the best sleep a plane has to offer, I say save the money and spring for this $50 travel pillow instead. You’ll wake up so refreshed you might just forget that you’re in the middle seat in economy.


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