The 6 Best Baby Travel Cribs

Published on 03/16/2023 · 10 min readTravel cribs are great for both staying somewhere new with your little one and as a backup option to let them sleep in your room safely! Here are the top Expert-recommended travel cribs!
Alex K., Baby Expert
By Baby Expert Alex K.

Photo courtesy of BabyBjörn

New parents often spend a lot of time designing a baby’s nursery—from the room colors to finding a matching crib that fits their desired “look”—but they might not think about where else their baby can sleep.

For starters, many parents prefer to keep their newborn in a bassinet near or next to their bed for the first few months. Doing so makes frequent feedings easier, helps a baby get used to sleeping outside the womb, and allows parents to keep a close eye on their little one.

Then there’s the question of where a baby will sleep outside the house or when traveling, too, such as naps at a grandparent’s home or friend’s place or while on vacation. Travel cribs—sometimes called travel cots, porta cribs, playards, playpens, or pack-and-plays—are on-the-go sleep spaces for babies or toddlers. They are lightweight, compact, and foldable cribs generally designed for children to sleep (and/or play in) from birth to age two or three, depending on the child’s height, weight, and the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Note: Once a child starts trying to climb out of any crib, it’s time to transition to a toddler bed.

Travel cribs are rectangular, like a standard crib, but smaller, considerably lighter, and low to the ground. They fold out and in with a few simple steps for easy storage. The best portable cribs have a sturdy base, a firm yet comfortable mattress, and high mesh walls for proper ventilation and an unobstructed view of the baby. They also meet safe sleep guidelines, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) safety standards. Most travel cribs come with carrying bags, and some can even be worn as backpacks and fit into carry-on airplane compartments.

Travel Cribs vs. Playards

A travel crib (right) is basically a mini crib. Photo by Rodnae Productions

While some travel cribs are marketed as a sleep-and-play space, not all do both, so pay attention to the product’s name (is it a “playard”?) and dimensions. A standard pack-n-play is generally around 40in long and 28in wide, which may be a few inches longer and wider than a mini travel crib. Comparatively, a standard, immobile crib found in a baby’s room is about 52in x 28in.

While travel cribs are lightweight, pack down relatively small, and have a thick and comfy mattress conducive to a good night’s sleep, portable playards are often heavier, bulkier, and have a thinner pad for babies or toddlers to sit or stand on. Playards tend to have sturdier frames because they’re designed for kids pulling themselves up and hanging on their side walls. They’re often great for indoor and outdoor use, and some come with sun canopies to shield kids from the sun. They also may be less expensive than many travel cribs.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a two-in-one travel crib/playard for napping, as well as containing your child in environments that might not be babyproofed (or when you need to take a quick shower!), many will work great. However, if you plan to use it primarily as a sleep space and are willing to spend a little extra so that everyone sleeps well while away from home, a dedicated travel crib is probably a better option.

Travel Bassinets

Some of the best travel cribs have bassinet modes that create a smaller, raised sleeping area. A foldable bassinet made for travel can be ideal for infants from newborn to four months old or whenever they start becoming mobile, such as rolling side to side, onto their tummies, or pushing up onto their hands and knees.

Stand-alone bassinets are small, oval-shaped sleeping spaces held at a waist-level height by most adults. They’re typically lightweight yet sturdy, supported by a tall base, and may have mesh or cloth sides for comfort and breathability. Some bassinets rock while others give various options for soothing a newborn who may not sleep much at night.

While a standard bassinet is usually small enough to store under a bed, a travel bassinet may fold nearly flat to save space while packing. Compared to a travel crib that may weigh 15-20lbs, travel bassinets are closer to 7-8lbs. Most bassinets can be used until a baby is about 20lbs or can roll over independently, whichever comes first.

6 Best Travel Cribs & Travel Bassinets

Now that you have a better idea of what you’re looking for—a travel crib, playard, bassinet, or some combination of the three—let’s get into which ones are the “best.” The following list of most recommended/best portable cribs is based on extensive online reviews from reputable sources, such as BabyGearLab, What To Expect, Healthline, Verywell Family, and more, as well as personal experience.

All featured travel cribs, playards, and bassinets are extremely portable and lightweight. They were also chosen based on size, sturdy construction, baby-friendly materials, breathability, mattress support, and ease of use, carrying, and cleaning.

Best Overall: BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light

Regarding quality, it can be tough to match BabyBjörn products, and the Swedish company’s lightweight travel crib—simply named the Travel Crib Light—is no different.

Weighing just 13bs, it’s one of the lightest travel cribs on the market and one of the easiest to set up. It folds and unfolds in seconds and fits into a carrying case that is small enough to take as carry-on luggage. While it’s compact enough for air travel, it’s also big enough for playtime (32" x 44" x 24"), which makes it great for toddlers. Its mattress is soft yet firm, with a soft cover fabric that many reviews have deemed superior to other crib mattresses.

All of the fabrics on this crib are OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Class 1 certified, meaning they’re non-toxic and safe for babies. It’s also super easy to clean, with a water-resistant mattress and outer crib fabric that can be tossed in the machine. The Fitted Sheet Bundle includes a fitted mattress sheet that can also be machine washed and tumble dried.

The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light is among the more expensive travel beds, but considering it’s made for children from zero to three years old and has no weight limit, you’re certain to get your money’s worth.

For more on an owner’s perfective of the Travel Crib Light, check out this article.

Most Portable: Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib

The Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib weighs just 13lbs and measures similarly when fully assembled (45.5" x 31.5" x 25.5”) and is slightly less expensive than the BabyBjörn. Yet it folds up to fit into a backpack with padded straps measuring 24” x 12” x 8”, which is great for keeping arms free while traveling.

The Lotus also has a unique zippered side door so parents can crawl inside to comfort their children, rather than bending over and reaching down over the crib walls. Its sleeping pad lays flat on the ground, which some consider a drawback, but the pad is thick, comfortable, waterproof, and easy to wipe clean. Like the BabyBjörn, it has a mesh frame cover that zips on and off and can be machine washed.

For complete peace of mind, the Guava Lotus Travel Crib meets GreenGuard Gold criteria, meaning it’s free of PVC, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and flame retardants. It’s surprising, but even today, not all travel cribs and playards are made with non-toxic materials. The Lotus is a solid pick for an eco-healthy travel crib for newborn babies and toddlers to three years old of any weight.

Best for Newborns: Bugaboo Stardust Travel Crib

If all of the above travel cribs look good, but you’re really hoping for a built-in bassinet option and have the budget for it, the Bugaboo Stardust is an incredibly versatile and easy-to-use travel crib to have. It folds and unfolds in seconds without removing the mattress or bending over, weighs just over 17lbs, and offers two heights: newborn (up to 19.8lbs) or playard (up to 33lbs). A zipper near the top of the crib holds the mattress at a raised height for newborns. The same mattress can be lowered to the bottom of the crib when used as a playard/crib.

At 33.5” x 38.8” x 25”, the Stardust is a bit smaller than most travel cribs or playards, which can make it better for small spaces. It’s made with machine-washable and chemical-free fabrics and is suitable for kids zero to two years old.

Most Upscale: Nuna SENA Aire Travel Crib

If you’re willing to go all out for your baby and aren’t scared off by the price tag, the Nuna SENA Aire has it all: a bassinet attachment, 360-degree ventilation, an organic crib sheet, and travel bag, as well as a spot for a changing table (sold separately). In addition, it can be opened and closed with one hand, either by pushing out or pulling up on the center strap.

With a slightly raised base and vented mesh mattress, this crib is designed for airflow at every angle and is GreenGuard Gold certified to ensure it’s toxin-free.

As Nuna’s full-sized playard, the SENA Aire is a bit heavier than most at 22lbs (not including the bassinet). It’s designed for children zero to three years old and is ideal for toddlers, but the compact version, the SENA Aire Mini, is better for travel and small spaces.

If you’re thinking, “$300-400 for a travel crib?!”, don’t fret. There are lots of portable cribs out there for various budgets. Just reach out to a Baby & Toddler Expert to find yours!

Best Budget: Graco Pack 'n Play Portable Playard

The ultimate time-tested, budget-friendly play yard is undoubtedly the Graco Pack 'n Play, from which the “pack and play” term was coined 35 years ago. Its price is also nearly unbeatable for a two-in-one travel crib/playard. It weighs 18.5lbs, has a roomy play and sleep area for children zero to three years old, and can stand up to hard use with a sturdy frame.

With a longer setup/breakdown time and thinner mattress than other travel cribs, this Pack ‘n Play is best-suitable for playtime, but it’s also approved for sleeping. It folds into a carrying bag that’s a bit large but packable, especially for car travel.

The Graco Travel FoldLite is the more compact version (20% smaller than the Pack ‘n Play) that includes a bassinet with two adjustable heights plus a canopy with toys. With more features, it weighs a bit more (19.7lbs), and it’s also more expensive.

Best Travel Bassinet: Primo Cocoon Folding Travel Bassinet

If you need a portable bassinet to take on the road, the Primo Cocoon is a lightweight (9.9lbs), compact sleep space for newborns weighing up to 20lbs. It’s made for indoor and outdoor use and sets up in seconds with snap-on legs, then folds flat for packing. The bassinet includes a washable padded mattress, breathable mesh sides, and a detachable mesh canopy for keeping bugs out without obstructing the baby’s visibility.

Picking a Travel Crib

While travel cribs can have a lot of enticing features, like a removable bassinet, diaper changing station, or canopy, those features often come with a higher price tag. Before making a purchase, it's important to consider how often you plan to use the travel crib and how long. If you travel a lot with a newborn, a crib’s bassinet insert and changing table will likely be quite useful. Alternatively, if you only need a travel crib a few times a year, you could save a lot of money by opting for something more basic like a playard.

Be sure to note what’s included in a travel crib and what’s not. Often, crib sheets are sold separately, so you’ll want to make sure you buy from the manufacturer or get the right size elsewhere. Beyond a crib sheet or mattress cover, ensure your travel crib or bassinet comes with a mattress and storage bag as these are must-haves!

We know choosing baby gear like a travel crib isn't always easy, which is why we’re here to help! A Baby & Toddler Expert can help you narrow down the list of options and better understand which travel crib would be ideal for you and your baby. So feel free to reach out to one of us today!

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