The Travel Pillow That Converted a Travel Pillow Skeptic

Full disclosure: I’m not a travel pillow person. Another confession: I tend to be a little (OK, maybe a lot) vain when it comes to my travel accessories. The idea of blowing up a pillow preflight or having a one bob against my hip while I’m browsing in duty free isn’t exactly my idea of glamorous jet-setting. Personally, I’ve always been content wrapping a pashmina around my neck, or rolling it up like a bolster. To be a travel pillow convert, I’d need something discreet and relatively attractive—and, much to my surprise, I found one that meets my very high standards. 

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On a totally practical level—looks and other judgments aside—travel pillows are pretty much one-size-fits-all. By and large, they’re bulky, horseshoe-shaped rings meant to be wedged between your head and shoulders. The geniuses behind the Trtl pillow—which looks nothing like a pillow—have made a brilliant addition to the travel gear space. Trtl is a travel-pillow alternative that’s not unwieldy to carry around and is completely adjustable when you’re ready to use it. The best part: it resembles a scarf when you wear it! The fleecy stretch of fabric wraps around your neck and secures with a Velcro strip. Inside, there’s a flexible skeleton of bands to cradle your face, jaw, and neck, and lateral set of “wings” that lay flat against your shoulder for support. 

Admittedly, I was still a tad skeptical before I gave it a go. It did take me a couple of tries to figure out the best way to get it on, despite clear how-to photos on the packaging. You do need to decide in advance which way you’ll be more comfortable leaning your head. I tried it on the right and left a few times in front of a mirror until I got the hang of it without looking. 

I was amazed at how cozy yet unconstricting it was, plus super soft and warm, which is a big plus for me since airline cabins and train cars tend to be chilly. During my practice sesh, I realized that I could wrap it tighter if I wanted more support. Also, when the fleece bunched up in the middle after I had it in position, I pulled the edges over the top and bottom of the frame for a better fit. I even drew it up past my nose for extra coziness, all nestled in, like I might with a blanket in bed. 

And how did it look? When I put it on with jeans and a sweater and saw how cute and normal and nothing-like-a-travel-pillow it looked, that was the turning point. Into my weekender it went! I loved that it folded up into a neat little black square. It also comes in gray, coral, red, and aqua, and two prints (zebra and camo), plus it’s sold in sets of two if you want to stock up for you and your travel partner. Unlike most travel pillows, the Trtl is machine washable, though it’s best to skip the dryer. 

But then came the true test: does the Trtl work? I didn’t have an upcoming flight, so I tried it on the train, which, for me, is an even harder place to sleep than the airplane. I find trains more jarring, with starts and stops and quick jerks on bumpy tracks, whereas turbulence (unless it’s bad) feels like a gentle rocking that lulls me to dreamland. My two-hour ride would be on a regional train with bench seating. And, because I was running late, I got a middle seat. If I managed to sleep in this sitch, I could sleep anywhere. 

And I did. 

Guess I’m a travel pillow person now.

TLDR: TRTL Travel Pillow Review 

  • Travel “pillow” that wraps around your neck like a scarf
  • Made from a soft, lightweight fleece material 
  • Internal flexible structure ergonomically designed to support your face, jaw, and neck 
  • Easily adjusts to customize sizing 
  • Ultra compact; folds up into a square for easy packing
  • Comes in several colors and prints; also sold in sets of two 
  • Machine washable (but skip the dryer) 
  • Available on Trtl’s website and Amazon, with free two-day shipping

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