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This silly-looking pillow is the reason I no longer dread long flights

My neck is thanking me.
Courtesy Cailey Rizzo

Friends think I’m blessed. “How lucky,” they say, “for you to be able to fall asleep anywhere.” They forget that I was an insomniac for years — the slightest sound used to wake me, and then I’d stay awake for hours. I spent days on end, bleary-eyed, from just a few hours of sleep. My hours of unconsciousness were precious — which meant that travel (particularly redeye flights) was dreaded. If I couldn’t sleep well in my own bed, I certainly wasn’t going to snooze in transit. I’d inevitably arrive at my destination, craving not adventure, but sleep — until I found this one life-changing travel pillow. 

The TRTL travel pillow has officially become my must-pack travel accessory, particularly when journeying long distances. Before boarding a flight or train ride, I make sure it’s in my bag. Because it’s not a typical travel pillow, it doesn’t pose the usual travel pillow woes: no creaky neck, no mid-flight deflation, no taking up room in your suitcase. (Suitcase storage space is sacred — particularly if, like me, you’re a souvenir zealot.)

TRTL Travel Pillow


Although its price tag may raise some eyebrows, if you’re taking redeye flights and need to wake up refreshed in your destination — you know the price you’d pay for a good night’s sleep. 

What is the TRTL Travel Pillow?

The pillow is lightweight, easy to pack, and (best of all) makes it possible to get good rest when you’re far away from your creature comforts. This is probably because it doesn’t look at all like a travel pillow. (If you’ve ever walked past someone on a flight and it seemed their scarf was somehow keeping their head held up, you walked past someone with a TRTL.) It’s a deceptively simple design: one piece of plastic that acts as a cradle for your head, wrapped in what looks like a super soft fleece scarf with foam padding. 

In order to don the TRTL, you place the bit with the padded cradle on your preferred side, then wrap the rest of the scarf-like fabric around your neck and secure the velcro to hold everything in place. (The fleece is, by the way, extremely cozy.) 

Courtesy Cailey Rizzo

Why I like this product

The pillow is designed to provide “cushioned but firm support, holding your head in a neutral position,” according to its makers. It creates this neutral position for my neck that has made such a difference in allowing me to sleep on the road. 

It's adjustable and machine washable

As someone who works on the computer and is a side sleeper, I have made peace with the fact that I’ll live life with some constant, low-simmer shoulder tension. Sleeping with typical travel pillows used to make this worse. If I was able to fall asleep (which was rare), I’d wake about an hour later with a creak in my neck. But because the TRTL is adjustable, it perfectly cradles my head and I feel supported, like my pillow does in my bed. And my shoulders are deeply grateful.

Also, although you can throw your TRTL back in your suitcase at the end of a flight, I prefer to tuck it in my purse or tote — where it takes up seriously little room. It’s lightweight enough that I can genuinely, honestly forget that I’m carrying it. 

And because accidents do happen (especially when on the road), the pillow is machine washable. All you need to do is slide out the cradle from the scarf, then throw the scarf into your washing machine. It’s easy to take apart and reassemble, as there are only two parts.

What to consider

But, as with any holy grail product, there are a few things you should take note of before you rush to add this to your cart. 

I would highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the TRTL before you travel. The plastic framework is adjustable, meaning it will fit all neck sizes — but you’ll want to find your perfect settings at home. It takes a bit of elbow room to finagle the plastic and your in-flight neighbor likely won’t appreciate a jab across the armrest. 

There are other adjustments you can make while on the road. I’ve heard that if you’ve got a longer neck, you’ll want to position the cradle tight before you wrap the scarf around to close it. If you prefer your head to be straight when sleeping, you’ll want the cradle closer to your chest than your shoulder. This might take some time for you to figure out, though.

Also, the TRTL doesn’t solve the other woes of sleeping in transit. If you’re anything like me, you’ll still need to pack earplugs or noise-cancelling earbuds. But if you’re a side sleeper who travels light and needs eight hours every night, the TRTL may just revolutionize the way you travel. Blessings abound!

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