Travel Hacks

The Absolute Best Travel Pillow for Airplanes

by Daniel Schwartz
TRTL All photos courtesy of TRTL.

There's a new travel pillow in town. And it'll keep your neck warm and happy. Fathom editor Daniel Schwartz takes it for a spin.

Neck pillows: Some people don’t get them; others can’t travel without ‘em. I fell into the former category, opting to forgo what I thought was a small amount of added comfort for more space in my carry-on and the reassurance that I’d never be judged for sporting a memory foam sausage around my neck. (Disclaimer: I fall asleep instantly on planes.) But after testing out Trtl Travel Pillow, I'm considering switching sides.

When I first came across the "essential napparatus," as it’s referred to on its website, I was skeptical. The fleece pillow is nothing like its U-shaped brethren. You wrap it snuggly around your neck, as if you were wearing a scarf in a blizzard, and the internal support system cradles your head when you nod off. (Another way to conceptualize it is as a hammock for your head.) Sounds great, but I'd be lying if my first reaction wasn't: This thing is going to turn my head into a burrito. But IRL, it didn't look all that bad.

I tested the pillow on a long-haul flight, a six-hour bus ride, and a three-hour train trip. It was quite easy to pack and stow — it folded up and tucked neatly in my seat pocket and could even be strapped to my bag. Better yet, it actually supported my neck rather than just buffer my head when I wrapped it tightly enough, which made naps way less strenuous on my spinal column. That’s not something all travel pillows can do.

Other good things: When I wore it up to my nose, it kept my face warm, my mouth from drying out, and other people from seeing that I sleep rather unflatteringly with my jaw ajar. And as an added, amusing bonus, the pillow proved to be a convenient place to hitch my glasses on when I dozed off on the bus. (This thing has really taught me not to worry about appearances.)

Travel hack: Hitch your glasses on the pillow when there's no better place to put them. Photo by Daniel Schwartz.

The downsides are minimal. The internal ribs that support the head are only present on one side of the pillow, so I had to manually rotate the wrap when I wanted to lean my neck to the other side. Being that my head was held relatively upright, there wasn’t a huge need for this. As a drooler (no shame!), spittle did pool on the inside of my wrap, but less than usual, as I wasn’t sleeping with my mouth sagging to one side. Trtl is machine washable, so, at the end of the day, it's not really a problem.


Get this pillow if you want to avoid the neck ache that comes with sleeping upright in transit.


Available online at for $30.


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