A mama’s guide to the best travel cribs for infants and toddlers: how to choose the best portable travel crib and best buys
Sleep has always been elusive for my children, especially when traveling.
Settling in unfamiliar surroundings can be hard for infants and toddlers and if you throw in the mix the odd feeding hours that come with jet lag, things get even messier.
This is why, when we first started traveling with our children, I went on a quest for the best sleeping solutions for babies on the go and ended up with a list of the best travel cribs on the market.
I didn’t only find product recommendations while searching.
I also came across good tips to fight jet lag in children and sleep routines but all parents seem to have one thing in common: they all recommended bringing your own travel crib with you and now that I have traveled extensively with an infant myself, I agree.
If you have your own travel crib, you can be sure that it is clean and well maintained, you can give your child a place that is familiar and comfortable and you can also use it as an impromptu playpen!
This post is the result of my research.
In this article, you will find my best tips on what to look for when buying a portable crib for travel and my top picks. I hope you find it useful!
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Travel cribs: how to choose
There are a few things to look for when choosing a travel crib for an infant or toddler.
Safety is always my number one concern when it comes to baby and toddler gear and a travel crib is no exception.
Make sure the material the crib is made of matches the highest and latest safety standards, check double-check and check again that there are no loose parts or strings that can pose a safety hazard and pick a model with a sturdy frame that will withstand the inevitable bashes.
Before buying, take into account the age and ability of your child: will the crib topple if they try to come out?
Does the crib have bars that can trap their little arms or feet and is the crib stable on its feet?
And one for the parents: are the feet of the crib sticking out so much you will forever trip around it??
These may seem trivial matters but with toddlers gear, it is all about the super practical, as un-glamourous as it may sound!
Most travel cots are able to accommodate babies and toddlers but not all do so it is safe to double-check the weight limit of each crib before committing.
Make sure you get a crib that can grow with your child and, in doubt, go for one that can withstand an active toddler!
When buying a travel crib for an infant, especially one that doesn’t roll yet, it is easy to think some specs are unnecessary but they are truly life-saving once your bundle of joy starts moving and that can happen surprisingly fast!
Ease of assembly
If like me, you have spent hours assembling a flat-pack changing station, learning to fold a stroller and securing a car seat with Isofix, you know why ease of assembly is important, especially on travel.
The last thing you want is to get to your accommodation with a tired toddler and being unable to set up their bed as it keeps collapsing (especially if there is no wifi to quickly check the user manual online…. just saying!)
Weight and portability
The best portable travel crib is of course of a reasonable weight and size and what this means depends on the age of your child and also the type of travels you are planning.
If you are expecting a lot of air travel, then you want a lightweight crib that is good for flying and that is light and compact.
If you are mostly planning on using the portable cot for road trips of weekend away at nana’s, then you can probably compromise on weight and focus on specs and comfort.
If you want maximum flexibility, there are several travel cribs that strike a good balance between weight and portability but we have never found one that was totally perfect.
The smallest baby cribs that are easy to carry and perfect for flying may not accommodate a toddler and those that do are often a little heavier than you would like.
Ultimately, the best travel crib is the one that ticks the most, yet not necessarily all, boxes.
Many cribs come with accessories included, some for the child and some for the crib itself.
I believe when traveling the fewer the accessories the better (fewer things that can get lost and break, lower weight to carry) but I do believe a cot that comes with a handy travel bag /carrying case is handy.
For both ease of use and budget, make also sure what the crib comes with: has it got its own comfortable mattress? Do you need to buy anything else or is it out of the box ready to use?
Are the accessories machine washable and how easy it is to clean the frame?
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The best travel cribs for infants and toddlers: comparison chart
|Phil&Teds travel crib||0-3 years||7 lbs (3.2kg)||54x33x26”|
|Baby Bjorn travel crib light||0-3 years||12.3 lbs||19.5x 3.6×6.6”|
|Lotus everywhere||0-3 years||13.9 lbs||25.5×47.9×32.1”|
|Elan Bambino||0 and up||11.5||49×29.5×27″|
|Graco pack n Play||0-3 years||20.3 lbs||28.8×41.1×28.6|
Phil & Teds Portable Travel Crib – best travel crib for flying
I am going to start off this list of the best travel cots with what I believe is the best portable travel crib of all, the one by Phil & Teds.
This is the lightest crib we have found and the best crib for air travel: it ultra-light, easy to setups and comes with a handy carry bag that makes it easy to bring with you wherever you go and make it fit easily in your checked luggage.
Inside it has a good amount of space and a comfortable inflatable mattress: as far as accessories are concerned, as well as the bag this crib comes with a fitted sheet so it is one thing less to worry about.
Setting up this travel crib for the first time wasn’t the easiest thing as the user manual is not great. I recommend you try it at home first and follow your instinct: it is much easier than the instructions suggest!
The sides of the crib are made of breathable mesh and one of them zips open: this is an amazing feature as it saves you from having to bend down too much with a heavy child if they settle in your arms!
One more thing I love about this travel crib is that it can be easily used as a playpen too.
The space inside is big enough for your child to play and makes a handy, safe place for them to play in hotels and even in airports!
Overall, I find the Phil & Teds the best travel crib for flying and an excellent portable crib overall, having specs that make it excellent both for flying and to carry on road trips and camping trips.
Baby Bjorn Travel Crib – best travel crib for comfort
The second travel crib we considered is the one by Baby Bjorn: this is a brand we have used extensively with both our kids and one we always found excellent and deserving of our trust.
Baby Bjorn makes a very good travel crib and the only reason why we have it after the Phil& Teds is the portability: it is heavier than the Phil & Teds and since we travel extensively by plane, this was for us a turn off.
However, this is one of the best travel cribs for infants and toddlers and has good specs.
The first important thing about the Baby Bjorn travel crib is how comfortable it is for your baby.
Its mattress hasn’t got that plastic feeling so many budget options come with and it is made of good quality, breathable materials, safe for your child and the environment (The makers boast about their eco-friendly products!).
The Baby Bjorn travel crib is super easy to set up and I would go as far as saying it is the easiest travel crib to fold and unfold.
The legs lock in place as you open the crib and the only thing that may take a little longer is that the mattress clips into place instead of having velcro.
The crib is large enough for sleeping but also to double up as a playpen.
While the weight of the crib makes it not particularly lightweight, its easy assembly ans good quality material makes it one of the best travel cribs we found.
Lotus Travel crib and portable baby Playard
The Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard is another excellent travel crib that can be used, as the name suggests, both as a travel cot and portable playpen.
It is not exceptionally lightweight and this can be a problem for some types of travelers however it compensated this with great ease of assembly and the fact that it comes with a carry bag with a shoulder strap, a nice touch as it means you can carry it hands-free.
It is also very compact when folded which means it doesn’t take up to much space in the car boot!
The sides of this travel crib are made of mesh and one of them opens up with a zip: this is handy for when you don’t want to bend down to put your baby to bed or for toddlers who like to crawl in and out themselves.
Elan Bambino travel crib
Elan Bambino makes also an excellent travel crib that is lightweight and easy to use.
Unlike other cribs, this one sits directly onto the floor and this means there is not upper weight limit as such: handy if you want to use this crib a little longer or have an older child.
The Elan travel crib has mesh on the sides and a zipper that allows one of them to come open, which is handy for crawlers who may also like to use it as a playpen and get in and out of it themselves.
The travel cot comes with a carry bag and while this is handy, it doesn’t fold super small so it is not ideal for air travel.
However, this also comes with extra space for your child so I believe it is a great travel crib for toddlers
Graco pack and play – best budget travel crib
The Graco pack and play is more traditional in look than the sleep looking ones above and it is also heavier, however, don’t discount it just yet!
While this is not the most portable crib of all, it is a solid budget option and we have used it extensively – so much so that my daughter still sometimes wants to get into it (she is 7! I do not recommend you use it with older kids but it shows how fond she is of it).
The cot comes with a carry bag and it is easy to assemble once you get the hang of it. Once up, it works as a toddler bed and playpen and also has a bassinet for infants that can come in handy.
Overall, this is not an all bells and while option but it is good for its price and therefore one I do feel like adding to this list.
Frequently asked questions about travel cribs
Cribs are only one of the travel sleeping options available for babies. Travel tens and bassinets are also excellent, you can find a good selection of portable bassinettes and toddler beds here
Most travel cots are suitable from birth and can be used up until about 3 years of age, depending on the specs of the cot. Those that lie flat on the floor rather than on legs have a longer use
Most travel cribs are built to fit a larger suitcase. Many come with their own carry bag and can be sent as checked luggage when traveling by plane
Most travel cots are checked luggage and cannot be carried on the aircraft as carryon luggage
It is not possible to generalize about the safety of hotel cots (some family hotels have excellent gear) but usually, having your own ensure additional safety as you know how the crib has been kept, maintained and cleaned.
I hope you found this round-up of the best portable cribs for travel handy. Safe travels!