by: Eunice Nichols
For parents with small children who love to travel, a baby travel crib is an essential piece of equipment. I have two little boys (ages 6 months and 2 years old) and have experimented with half a dozen different types of portable cribs. After much trial and error, these are our family’s favorites.
Kidco Peapod Travel Tent
*Although Trekaroo loves this product as a travel accessory, there's been recent news of a few infants dying from suffocating in the peapod. We feel very sorry for those families. Read more about the Canadian Health Advisory
Priced at $50, the Kidco Peapod Travel Tent is by far the cheapest baby travel crib. It is also the lightest option, weighing under 5 pounds. Set-up is quick, popping open instantaneously, and putting it away takes just a few seconds once you learn how to fold it back up.
This kid-sized tent easily provides a shaded and well-ventilated place for your baby/toddler to nap in at the beach, park, or campground. The Peapod also has the added benefits of doubling as a playpen and transforming itself into a fun hideout tent for your toddler’s bedroom or backyard once your child grows out of it for naps. My 2-year-old doesn’t use the Peapod for naps anymore, but loves to put his stuffed animals to sleep in the tent. He also turns it into a cozy nook for reading books and uses it like a play fort.
The Peapod comes with an inflatable mattress and sleeping bag which provides a little extra comfort for your child when sleeping. Kidco includes a cheap manual hand pump that doesn’t work very well with the tent. This is usually not a big deal since it is possible, with some effort, to inflate the mattress by mouth, or you can just put the tent on a camping pad or pile of blankets for extra cushioning. If you’re headed to the beach, you don’t need the mattress or pump at all, making the tent even more compact and light-weight.
The two main drawbacks of the Peapod are its awkward shape when packed up (it’s a round disk, 14 inches in diameter) and the fact that once your child is able to crawl, he can unzip the tent and get out, so it’s best used for infants.
Bottom Line: This is a great option if you're 1) looking to save money, 2) ok with using this as a travel sleep solution for your pre-crawling child, or 3) primarily looking for a portable crib for short naps when outdoors. The Kidco Peapod Travel Tent can be purchased for $50 at Amazon.
Graco Pack ‘n Play
Starting at $60, the Graco Pack ‘n Play is also an affordable option for baby travel cribs. Set-up and take-down are quick, requiring just a few minutes of effort. The crib is spacious – great for sleeping or as a playpen. It also comes with a bassinet attachment so you can have your newborn (up to 15 pounds) positioned up high, or use it as a changing table.
The Pack ‘n Play does not have an inflatable mattress (just a thin pad), but most kids seem to be able to fall asleep on it just fine. There is no full-coverage canopy to cover the top, so the Pack ‘n Play won’t help shade your sleeping child from the blistering sun - less ideal if you're looking for something you can use outdoors.
Weighing over 20 pounds, the biggest detractor of the Pack ‘n Play is its bulk and weight. That’s not a big deal if you're primarily transporting this in the trunk of your car (or using it at home as a guest crib for visiting children). I would not recommend hauling the Pack ‘n Play with you on an airplane. With a child, stroller, car seat, and extra bags added to the mix, you won’t want to lug another big, heavy item to the airport.
Bottom Line: This is a good option if you’re planning to primarily use this around your house or for road trips (and your car has ample trunk space!). The basic Graco Pack 'n Play can be purchased for $60 on Amazon.
Phil & Teds Traveller (Travel Cot)
Like the Graco Pack ‘n Pay, the Phil & Teds Traveller is a spacious baby travel crib, which means it’s good for napping, sleeping, and as a play-yard for your baby or toddler. Set-up and take-down require a little more time (5 to 10 minutes), but is quite intuitive if you’re used to setting up a regular tent.
The Traveller is incredibly versatile and can be used indoors or outdoors. Product features include washable, waterproof, windproof fabric, tent pegs, and an optional UPF 80 UV shade cover that can be purchased separately. It also comes with a miniature version of a self-inflating backpacking pad (no need for a pump like the Kidco Peapod, and much more comfortable than the Pack 'n Play pad).
Best of all, the Traveller is only 8 pounds and packs down to a convenient size and shape when unassembled and put in its carrying case. It is by far the easiest portable crib to take with you when you’re traveling by plane or need to travel light. As you might expect, the Traveller is the most expensive of the portable crib options. It currently costs $160, but is about to increase to $200 due to rising production costs in Asia – if you’re interested in this option, buy it sooner rather than later!
Bottom Line: If you don’t mind the price, the Traveller is hands-down my top choice for air travel and long-term use. It’s versatile, well-made, light-weight, and compact. It may be expensive, but it can handle a lot of use and your child will be able to sleep in it well into his/her toddler years. The Phil & Ted’s Traveller is available for $160 on Amazon.
If you travel a lot and need your kids to nap or sleep in a variety of settings (in a hotel, at a friend’s house, car camping, at a beach), you might want to consider owning multiple types of baby travel cribs. I actually own all three of these portable cribs and use them equally, but for different situations. Before you go out and spend a lot of money, though, I would recommend trying to get them second-hand. Most kids grow out of baby travel cribs by the time they’re three years old, so you can always find used ones for sale. Get started by checking out Craigslist.org or your local mom’s club.
Finally, if you really need to travel light and want to avoid airline luggage charges, remember that many hotels have portable cribs available. This is usually a Pack 'n Play or collapsible wooden crib which you can reserve in advance at no extra cost. If you’re traveling with an infant, you might be able to get away with just having him sleep in his car seat or a fully-reclined stroller. There are several baby gear rental companies that provide cribs, strollers and more for a daily or weekly rate. Popular companies include babysaway.com or check out the list of gear rental companies at www.thenewparentsguide.com/baby-equipment-rentals.htm.
Visit Trekaroo's Travel Store for our favorite travel gear, toys, and books for baby to teen!
in this story: