Travel Crib Buying Guide: Everything Parents Should Know
If your little one is getting ready to spend their first night away from home, you’re probably wondering whether a travel crib is a necessary purchase. In our opinion, it’s a total must-have for traveling families.
Whether you’ll be heading on an overseas adventure or staying at the grandparents’ house for the night, a travel crib is the simplest way to help your baby settle in right away.
In this buying guide, you’ll learn the key features to look for when shopping for a travel crib, plus some important health and safety tips to ensure your little one enjoys their trip to the fullest.
But first, let’s take a look at the benefits of purchasing a travel crib and why we won’t go anywhere without one again.
What Is A Travel Crib?
A travel crib — also known as a portable crib, play yard, or pack and play — is an easily transportable sleeping space for your little one.
Unlike standard cribs that are usually made from wood, travel cribs generally have foldable plastic or metal frames with mesh sides to offer both protection and optimum airflow.
Many travel cribs are multi-purpose, meaning they can be used for playtime or even as a makeshift diaper changing table in addition to being used as a bed.
What Are The Benefits Of Travel Cribs?
Aside from being multi-functional, the biggest benefit of owning a portable crib is that it provides a safe, familiar sleep environment for your little one no matter where they are. This can help them feel secure enough to sleep so everyone on your trip can rest.
And sure, many hotels have the option of renting a crib. But without knowing how clean, safe, or suitable the crib might be for your little one, it’s understandable that you’d want to bring your own.
Plus, if you’re staying at an Airbnb or at a relative’s house, chances are you won’t have access to a crib and will need to bring one with you regardless.
A travel crib helps provide a sense of comfort for your baby whether they’re just visiting a different house or an entirely different country. This can make bedtime a lot smoother and helps to maintain a sense of normalcy in line with your baby’s usual sleep routine.
A travel crib still has benefits if you aren’t staying overnight anywhere. Some parents pick one up to leave at Grandma’s house or other homes away from home.
This way, your baby can continue napping like normal, even if you’re visiting during their normal nap time. Consistency makes sleep training easier!
And since it’s already there, you don’t have to worry about packing it each time. Not having to bring as much stuff with you for a daytime visit is always a win.
However, if you need to haul a crib with you, these days, portable cribs are incredibly lightweight and easy to transport.
A portable crib can also provide a safe place to lay your baby anywhere in the house. Since your little one’s main bed probably can’t be moved easily, a travel crib provides flexibility that some parents prefer. You can set it up in the living room, hallway, or outside.
But not all travel cribs are created equal. Some might be lacking the features you need the most, while others might have inclusions that you just won’t use.
Keep reading to learn the key attributes to look for when buying a travel crib to ensure your little one sleeps soundly — wherever your family adventures may take you!
What To Consider When Choosing A Travel Crib
1) Make Sure It’s The Right Size For Your Baby’s Age And Weight
Like any crib, you’ll want to make sure your new travel crib is the correct size for your little one’s age and weight.
Some are designed with infants in mind, which means your baby can outgrow them relatively quickly. But they do provide a cozy, safe place for your little one while they’re small.
You can also buy larger cribs for toddlers to nap and play in. And some travel cribs that work for infants and toddlers can last for years.
The sizing information should be clearly outlined on the crib you’re looking to purchase, so check it out before you decide.
If the travel crib is too small, it won’t last your baby as long as you might like. And if it’s too big, it could pose a potential safety hazard. So it’s important to get this feature just right!
Verify Travel Size Restrictions
If you’re a frequent flyer, you’ll also want to ensure the travel crib is small enough to meet airline size requirements. Your airline’s website should have this information. But if not, you can call the company and ask about its restrictions.
Many travel cribs fold up small enough to be allowed as a carry-on, so you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged or lost as it goes through the baggage process. However, some are too big for this, so you may need to check a larger crib.
2) Opt For A Multi-Purpose Travel Crib
If you’re investing in a travel crib, it’s a good idea to choose an option that can also be used as a play area (and potentially for other purposes too).
The key is to make sure the crib is spacious enough for your little one to play in when they’re not sleeping.
Some travel cribs have additional attachments to create a diaper changing table, while others will enable a bassinet to be placed on top of the crib as a cozier sleeping area for newborns.
If you purchase a travel crib that you can use until your little one is a toddler, these features can make a big difference. Without them, you’ll need to bend over pretty far to get your baby onto the mattress.
That’s because the mattress height has to be low to prevent your toddler from climbing out. The inserts are much easier to reach when you have a newborn and can help save your back.
Whichever additional features you’re looking for, travel cribs can make adjusting to a new place easier for your baby.
3) Choose A Crib With A Travel Bag
Next, we recommend looking for a crib with a travel bag included. While not all portable cribs will have this additional accessory, it’s definitely worthwhile if yours does.
These travel bags are usually made from a waterproof material to protect your crib during transit, and since they’re specifically built to fit the crib inside, it makes packing up a breeze.
It also keeps your crib secure, so you don’t have to worry about it sliding around and falling out while you’re trying to haul it up a set of stairs. And a bag is much easier to carry around than a loose crib.
That means one less thing to worry about when you’re traveling with a baby!
4) Ensure The Crib Mattress Is Comfortable And Safe
While the majority of travel cribs will come with a mattress included, some may require an additional purchase to complete the set.
Others may leave a lot to be desired with a thin, hard crib mattress that your baby may not enjoy sleeping on.
In either case, it’s crucial to make sure your travel crib mattress is comfortable and safe for your little one to help them fall asleep and stay asleep during your trip. You might even consider swapping out the included mattress for one that’s built for durability and longevity.
If your baby typically sleeps well but isn't in the travel crib, it’s likely a sign that they’re not comfortable. Using a different mattress can help, making it more likely for you all to enjoy some rest when it’s in use.
Our Essential Crib Mattress is available in both standard and mini sizes and is safe, breathable, and comfortable whether you’re at home or on the move.
Our Wovenaire® Core allows your little one to breathe easily while they sleep and helps them regulate their body temperature to reduce nighttime sweating.
Plus, our mattresses are 100% washable to make accident clean-ups easy. For those times when you need a quick change, our Extra Crib Mattress Cover is great to have on hand, so your little one can get back to sleep sooner.
Remember, if you choose to switch out the mattress in your travel crib, it’s important that the new mattress fits snugly inside the travel crib frame. That means no more than two fingers should be able to fit between the mattress and the side of the crib.
It’s best to double-check the measurements of your crib against the size of the mattress before making a purchase to ensure it’s going to be the perfect fit. If it’s not, don’t risk it. Instead, take the time to exchange the mattress for the right size before using it.
5) Think About Your Budget
Finally, you’ll want to consider your budget when choosing a travel crib for your baby. You can pick up a basic one for less than $100 or pay more for one with more features.
While thinking about the money side of things, consider how long and often your baby will use this bed. That will help you decide which option to choose.
For instance, if you think they’ll only use it for the occasional sleepover at grandma’s house, a less expensive portable crib might be best.
However, this might not have the most comfortable mattress, so your child may not sleep as well. But for an occasional night, that might be a trade-off you’re willing to make.
If you plan on using it often for travel or as an additional safe space while you’re at home, you might consider spending a bit more on one with premium features that can be used longer.
As you’re shopping, remember that travel beds designed for both infants and toddlers may cost more upfront. But they will serve you longer and may provide a better value in the long run.
Weigh your options, consider your budget, and make a decision based on how you think you’ll get the most use out of your travel crib.
6) Check That It Has Machine-Washable Fabrics
Lastly, confirm that your travel crib is made using machine-washable fabrics. You’ll thank yourself later when it comes time to clean your baby’s crib.
Being able to toss mattress covers and mesh sides straight into the machine is a lifesaver whether you have a blowout mid-trip or you’re freshening up the crib before storing it once you’re back at home.
If you plan on selling your travel crib in the future, being able to wash it is even more critical. While you might not mind your baby sleeping in one that’s stained or a bit dirty, someone else will.
Additionally, many consignment shops won’t take any portable beds that have stains. If you find one that will accept it, you’ll likely get a lot less for it compared to a clean one.
Trust us — machine-washable fabrics are a great feature to have!
Travel Crib Health And Safety Tips
No matter the size of the crib your baby is sleeping in, it’s essential to follow crib safety practices. This way, your little one sleeps soundly and safely.
To help keep them safe, here are some important tips to remember about travel cribs.
1) Test Out The Crib Before You Travel
When your travel crib isn’t set up correctly, it’s not safe. If the sides aren’t locked properly, it can even turn deadly. As such, this has to be our number one tip for traveling with your baby: Make sure you test out the crib before you travel!
There’s nothing worse than feeling tired and rundown from a lack of sleep on vacation and trying to put something new together.
Additionally, you can’t expect your baby to sleep well in a new space for the first time, so it’s crucial that you’ve given your little one a chance to get used to their new crib before your trip.
Take time to set up and fold the crib several times before putting your baby inside. The process for each one is different, so always read the directions carefully. You don’t want it folding back down while your baby is inside.
Once you have the hang of it, try having your baby play in the crib during the day to start with, and eventually let them sleep in the travel crib a few times, even if it’s just during nap time.
This will help to build a sense of familiarity, making a new environment like a hotel room feel less daunting for your child when it comes time to travel.
This is also a great opportunity for you to practice putting the travel crib together and packing it away. This should be a straightforward process, not one that makes you frustrated, so make sure you’ve picked the right crib for your needs before you hit the road.
2) Set The Crib Up Carefully
Once you arrive at your destination, take your time when setting up the crib. First, look around the room and select the best location.
You don’t want your little one to be able to grab the strings from window blinds or anything else that’s dangerous. Always look around the area carefully so you can help prevent any accidents.
Finally, set your travel crib up on a level surface. It shouldn’t rock once you get it put together and locked.
3) Use Safe Sleep Guidelines
Whether your baby is sleeping in their regular crib, a bassinet, or a travel crib, always follow safety guidelines for sleep.
These include putting your little one to sleep on their back and keeping pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals out of their sleep space.
If it’s chilly in the room, consider swaddling your newborn. Our Organic Swaddle Blankets are soft and breathable, helping keep your baby cozy while they sleep.
However, it won’t take long for your baby to get too big for swaddling. Once they can roll over, it’s no longer safe, and you’ll want to transition them into a sleep sack.
This keeps them warm while allowing arm mobility in case they roll into an uncomfortable position and need to reposition themselves in the middle of the night.
4) Get The Right Sheets
As mentioned earlier, travel cribs come in various shapes and sizes. This means you need to shop for sheets carefully. Always make sure you have the correct dimensions before making a purchase.
If your baby is sleeping on a mini-mattress, our Organic Cotton Sheets are the perfect size. They are 100% breathable and offer superior airflow so your little one can sleep well. They also come in cute patterns to match your personal style.
No matter which mattress you pick, take time to test your new sheets out before your trip. That way, you don’t have an unpleasant surprise on your vacation.
While your baby doesn’t need a top sheet until they’re older, the bottom sheet should fit snugly all the way around. You don’t want to worry about it coming loose and ending up over your baby’s face at night.
5) Clean The Crib Thoroughly After Each Trip
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s very important to thoroughly clean your baby’s travel crib from top to bottom after each use before you pack it away.
Disinfect any soft materials, like mattress covers (plus the mattress itself), and wipe any waterproof areas down to remove bacteria that could build up in storage.
Be sure to follow any provided instructions regarding bleaching fabrics, such as the crib’s mesh frame, to avoid damaging it.
Once it’s clean, allow the bed to dry completely before you fold it back up for storage. Otherwise, you risk mold starting to grow on the damp areas. If that happens, you don’t want your baby sleeping on it.
6) Check It Carefully Each Time You Use It
Whether your travel crib has been in storage for three months or you used it last week, always check it before you put your baby in it.
Take it out of the storage bag and set it up before you pack it in the car. Make sure there aren’t any rips or tears on the sides. Check the mattress for wear and the sides for mold. And verify that everything is working properly and is in good shape.
If your travel crib is damaged, don’t use it. What seems like a tiny rip to you can quickly expand, allowing a big enough hole to form that your little one can get an arm caught or try to crawl through it.
You don’t want to take chances regarding your baby’s sleeping spaces, so err on the side of caution.
7) Know When To Stop Using The Travel Crib
While a travel crib can be a great additional sleep space for your child, it won’t last them forever. So keep tabs on their weight and height, and make sure they’re still in the appropriate range for the bed you bought.
No matter their age, once your child can climb over the sides, it’s time to look for a different option. You don’t want to worry about them getting hurt while getting out of bed.
Sleep Easily, No Matter Where You Are
It’s easy to see why a travel crib is a total must-have if you’re heading on a trip with your little one.
From providing your baby with a safe play area to helping them feel secure while they sleep, bringing a piece of home on your travels can allow your baby to settle into an unfamiliar environment much more easily.
As you’re deciding on the best travel crib for your needs, remember to find a multi-functional crib, opt for machine-washable materials, and ensure the mattress is safe and comfortable.
If you choose to upgrade your travel crib mattress, the Newton Baby Crib Mattress is there to help your little one sleep easily and safely night after night!