Travel

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.

Photo courtesy of Trtl
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
Trtl
Trtl

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.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

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

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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