I Tried the TikTok-Famous Trtl Travel Pillow

Thanks to this viral neck pillow, I might never have to pop a melatonin on a red-eye flight again.

woman sleeping on a plane wearing trtl travel pillow
Photo courtesy of Trtl
Photo courtesy of Trtl

It really boggles the mind that with all our advances in modern travel technologyAirTags, gate-side food delivery, airport pod hotels—it’s taken us this long to improve the bulky, C-shaped, abomination we call a neck pillow. Thankfully, however, times have changed, and on behalf of my cervical spine, I’m happy to report we’ve finally made some moves in the airplane napping department.

I discovered the Trtl Neck Pillow where I discover most (debatably) good things: on TikTok. I was drawn to its scarf-like form, and though I was ready to purchase it immediately, I found that the product was sold out—and continued to be for quite some time. No surprise, though: The hashtag #trtltravel currently has over 23 million views on the app, with users testing the gadget’s ergonomic features on plane rides around the planet, each deeming it a life-changer.

I abhor traditional travel pillows. As someone who aims to travel light, I feel constantly inconvenienced by the amount of space they take up in my carry-on. And even if they’re designed to snap onto luggage, they still manage to get in the way, whacking into all kinds of things at the airport (kind of gross, as they’ll soon be cushioning your face). And for all that sacrifice, they never really work in the end. They’re either too bulky, reducing your ability to recline, or not bulky enough, causing your head to dip forward and, ultimately, snap you out of your sweet slumber.

When I eventually got my hands on the prized Trtl a year after first seeing it appear on my screen, I tried it on right out of the box. The “pillow” is essentially a padded brace that you place at the curve of your neck, then tip your chin so that the weight of head rests on your shoulder. This structural element is attached to a long, fleece strap, which you loop around your neck, then fasten with velcro to secure. I was instantly struck by how well it held my head in place.

While standard travel pillows are, for the most part, one-size-fits-all, what sets the Trtl apart is its adjustability. The internal framing stretches to fit any shape of face, jaw, or shoulder, and you can wrap the scarf as tightly as you’d like. You can even try placing the brace directly under your chin if you’re not a side sleeper, or between your neck and chair for support while reading or watching a movie.

Trtl travel pillow

It goes without saying that no invention, no matter its TikTok-induced hype, can guarantee a restful night’s sleep on a long-haul, economy flight. But when I broke out the Trtl for my next trip up to the friendly skies, I was very pleased with my experience. For the sake of science, I wore it while perched in a window seat for my departure leg, then shifted to an aisle seat for my return. In both scenarios, it felt like I was resting my head on someone’s shoulder, but with extra neck support (and minus the awkwardness of falling asleep on a stranger). And when the landing prep lights turned on a little earlier than I’d preferred, I was able to pull the wrap up and over my face like a mask, in true turtle fashion.

I also appreciated how compact it was, easy to slip inside my bag or wrap neatly around my suitcase handle, and it helps that it’s machine-washable. It comes with a steep price point, retailing at $50, but compared to its often overpriced, airport shop-dwelling competitors, the extra cost feels justified. I’m also impressed by its apparent durability, willing to bet that it’ll last for years to come.

The final verdict? There’s a new hero in a half-shell in town. Here’s hoping I’ll never have to pop a melatonin again.

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Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram