As a longtime travel writer, I had my streamlined travel routine perfected. And then I had a baby, and had to reimagine what it took to travel. A surprisingly big part of that adjustment was finding gear like travel cribs (along with strollers and baby carriers), things that would allow all of us to sleep safely, if not always soundly.
As I started researching and then testing the travel cribs, I realized the best of the best are part comfort, part portability, and all magic. Because there’s a lot to consider when you’re on the hunt for the right portable crib—you want it to be small enough that it’s easy to pack into a car or onto an airplane, but big enough that your baby will be able to sleep comfortably and safely in it on vacation until they’re ready to transition into a big-kid bed.
There’s also the ease-of-set-up factor: A lesson I only needed to learn once is that no one needs to be wrestling with a portable baby bed in the middle of the night in a desperate effort to transition a sleeping little one from the car seat to travel crib.
The Best Travel Cribs to Bring on Vacation
Find the right travel crib and suddenly sleeping away from home feels at least 60 percent more manageable. With that in mind, I put together this list of my favorite travel cribs on the market and given you the details you need to make an informed decision. Consider it my contribution to helping everyone in your family sleep a little easier on vacation.
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1. Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib
Anyone considering the Baby Bjorn Travel Light Crib should also consider the Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib. These two travel cribs are similar in many ways, but each offers compelling unique features. The Lotus Travel Crib packs into a lightweight and very portable shape, a narrowish boxy case that comes with both an over-the-shoulder carrying strap and comfortable backpack straps that make it easy to travel with.
Set-up is quick (not quite as quick as the Baby Bjorn, but still simple, straightforward, and fast), as is takedown. The mattress is fairly thin (it adheres to the current federal standards for safety) but has nice padding that keeps babies and toddlers comfortable all night long. It has a nice wide opening and, best of all, a zippered side door that’s hugely useful if you find it hard (or painful) to carefully lower a sleeping baby into the travel crib.
Reviewers also note that it’s handy to be able to do in-place middle-of-the-night diaper changes or feedings. And, the zippered side means that it’s hours of fun during awake time. My kids regularly used it as a playhouse during the day, which was great on trips when toys were minimal.
2. Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light
The Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light has a lot of fans. It sits securely on the ground, so there’s not a lot of squeaking and rocking as babies get more mobile. I love how it’s remarkably easy to set up and take down—you just sort of fold it open and it pops up, and when you’re ready to store it in its carrying case, you do the reverse movement. The mattress is generously padded and comfortable but not to the point where you need to stress about it being dangerously squishy. And, the mesh sides maintain good circulation, which means it’s not a big deal if your baby (like mine) is one of those who loves to sleep with their face right up against the side of the crib.
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Another bonus: Since it sits on the ground, there’s no upper weight limit. Baby Bjorn simply suggests that your kid is too old for it when they can climb over the sides. All materials are OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Class 1 for baby products, which means they’re not going to irritate skin. This Baby Bjorn travel cot weighs 13 pounds (6 kg) and stores into what looks like a smaller suitcase, so it’s relatively easy to carry. The mattress cover and crib fabric can be removed and laundered, which you know is going to be necessary at some point.
3. Chicco LullaGo
When my kids were babies, I had a rule: If it made my life 20 percent easier for at least a month, it was worth a bit of added expense. And while buying a separate travel bassinet knowing that you’ll need to upgrade to a standard-size travel crib counts as an added expense, for many people, a bassinet you can use at home and take on the road is priceless. Especially in those first few months when you’re getting used to parenthood and want to keep your baby close but safe when you sleep.
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Chicco’s LullaGo bassinet series includes the Lullago Nest (featuring a canopy with toys) and the travel-friendly Chicco LullaGo Anywhere. The travel-sized bassinet can be used for babies up to 20 pounds (or when they can push up onto hands and knees, at which point the lower sides become a safety issue).
While it’s not a single solution to the portable crib conundrum, it does serve its limited-time purpose extremely well. It’s bed height, so it can nestle up close while providing baby with a safe space to sleep, giving you the benefits of co-sleeping without the danger. Because it’s elevated, it’s generally a bit warmer and it’s also much easier to get baby in and out, a major plus during those months babies have frequent naps during the day and frequent waking at night. Packed down, it’s long but fairly flat, and has a carrying case with a strap.
4. Graco Travel Pack n Play Playard
In the world of portable cribs, there’s perhaps no better-known option than Graco’s Pack ‘n Play series. These “playards” work for daytime play, naptime, overnights, and travel. There are different models with an assortment of bells and whistles including built-in mobiles and changing areas, but for travel use, simpler tends to be better (and lighter). Both my babies were regular nappers in Graco’s playard, and there was one set up in my bedroom for a full two years—this little workhorse remained sturdy and in good shape for the whole time.
Among the best travel Pack ‘n Play options is the Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard. The On the Go features an included full-sized bassinet add-on that’s great for younger babies, which makes this a two-in-one travel crib option. It’s easy to set up and take down, and traveling families in particular appreciate the light weight.
5. Nuna Sena Aire Travel Crib
The highly reviewed and much praised Nuna Sena Aire Travel Crib is a travel crib with a slightly higher price tag, but it delivers serious value and can be a single solution to the travel crib challenge. The Nuna Sena Aire is beloved for its easy one-hand open, exceptional travel crib mattress, and stability.
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The sleeping surface can be placed at bassinet or crib height, which allows it to grow with your baby. The Sena Aire has a padded, ventilated, organic mattress. And, unlike most travel cribs, this one comes with sheets (most of the time, you have to buy sheets separately). Its unusual eight-legged system is hyper-stable and skid-free, but also really easy to set up. When I borrowed one to test it out I really liked it as a parent, and my baby slept well, which I took to be a five-star review on the infant front.
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