How to Choose the Right Portable Crib for Your Lifestyle
The reality is that parents like you and I want to keep our babies on their nap schedules while continuing with our daily activities. We want to live our lives, be social, and travel with our little ones.
But sometimes life gets in the way and we have to improvise or choose to miss a nap - not ideal.
That's where portable cribs come in. Travel cribs and playards have so many different uses. From a daytime nap at a friend's house to a sleepover at grandma's or even a week away in the Caribbean!
Portable cribs are super helpful, and if you choose the right one, it can serve you (and save you) for years to come.
Why you need a portable crib
Travel cribs come in handy in many different situations and they can be a life-saver for many parents. Here are a few reasons why every parent should consider getting a portable crib.
You can get your baby used to it before you travel
Have you ever tried to put your baby to sleep somewhere they are not comfortable in or used to? It can be challenging to say the least. With a travel crib, you can get your baby used to sleeping in it way before your trip. Start getting baby used to the new crib at home with short naps and work up to full nights. This way you will know for certain that your baby will continue sleeping perfectly even on vacation.
You know it's safe for your baby to sleep in
Most hotels will supply parents with some sort of sleep solution for babies. The problem is you never know what they will have available.
Will it be safe? Age and size appropriate? Will you be faced with a 15-year-old pack n' play that squeaks and wobbles?
Don't leave it up to chance. If you have your own travel crib, you will always travel with peace of mind knowing that your baby has a safe place to sleep.
You will always have a crib handy
Long gone are the days of heavy, clunky, hard-to-assemble travel cribs. Nowadays, portable cribs are super handy. There are so many options for portable cribs that are lightweight, compact, and easy to assemble.
You know it's clean
Relying on someone else's crib will always mean you're not sure how it was cared for. Sure you can always give it a once over with a disinfecting wipe, but is that enough?
Babies and toddlers can be messy. How many other kids have spat up or peed in that hotel crib? I don't think I want to know the answer. I personally like to know that my kids are sleeping in a clean space and the best way to ensure it is to bring their own bed along for the ride.
It can be used in so many situations
Travel cribs are not just for travel. I've used my travel crib at home when we have other kids over, at friend's houses, at grandma's house, and even outside at the park.
There are so many uses for a portable crib that you are guaranteed to get your money's worth.
How do you choose a portable travel crib?
The best way to choose the right portable crib for you is to know what you plan to use it for. If your child is older, you may not need a crib that's safe for newborns. If you don't plan on traveling any time soon and will only use it as a second crib at home, you probably don't need the lightest, most compact one. I actually own 3 portable cribs and have tested, assembled, and tried out more than a dozen models. Here is the updated list of my favorite portable cribs.
Now that you know how a portable crib can be used let's take a look at how to choose the right one for you.
Travel cribs come in two main types:
- Structured frame with elevated mattress (similar to the Graco Pack n' Play)
- Pop-up frame with a floor mattress (similar to the Guava Lotus)
The structured frame type travel crib are usually heavier and larger but they offer more of a "crib" feel. The mesh walls are taut and the posts feel sturdy. This is the perfect portable crib to be used mostly at home or as a semi-permanent crib at grandma's house.
The pop-up frame portable cribs are lightweight, small and can fit in most carry on luggage. If you're looking for a crib solution to travel with, this is the right one.
There are two separate measurements you will want to know about your future travel crib:
- The assembled size
- The "folded" for travel size
Travel crib sizes are not standardized in any way but most popular models measure about the same when fully assembled. A standard pack n' play measures 40" L x 28.5" W x 29" H when assembled and most other brands and models come in at around the same size (with a few exceptions).
Note: If you're planning to use your travel crib with SlumberPod, be sure to confirm that your travel crib will fit! SlumberPod fits travel cribs up to 44 inches long, 30 inches wide and 36 inches tall. You can find a list of many compatible models here.
Differences in size are really predominant when we are talking about the folded-up dimensions. These can vary A LOT from one model to the next!
Pop-up travel cribs can fold down as small as 7" x 7" x 25" inches whereas some bulkier models can be as large as 12" x 12" x 30" or larger. It's very important to double check the dimensions of your travel crib before you choose one.
This one can be tricky. How are you supposed to know if a cribs is comfortable without trying? The truth is you can't. I like to read other parent's reviews and focus on their description of the mattress on not on whether their baby liked it or not.
Every baby is different so you can never guarantee your baby will love the first model you try but I suggest to give it a chance. Don't give up if your baby doesn't sleep well the first time. Try it a few times and see if they get used to the new sleeping area.
Safety, Age, and Weight Limits
Safety is always the first priority when it comes to our little ones. When choosing a travel crib always check for the safety certifications that product has. Make sure to choose products that have North American standard certifications such as the Consumer Product Safety Comission (CPSC) or Childrens Product Certificate (CPC).
Additionally, every piece of baby equipment will come with age and weight limits that must be followed for the safety of your child. These numbers are not just made up. The manufacturers tested and had their products approved for these limits.
Make sure to verify the manufacturer indication for your portable crib to ensure it fits your child's needs.
Ease of use
Nobody wants to be setting up and taking down a portable crib that takes 10, 15 or 30 minutes! Although 30 minutes is a bit of an exaggeration, there are cribs that can take a while to assemble and you probably want to avoid that. I suggest watching a few Youtube videos of real parents assembling their portable cribs so you get an idea of the difficulty and time it takes.
It can feel overwhelming knowing which travel crib to purchase; after all, most of them are not cheap! I hope these tips and suggestions have provided both direction and food for thought as you decide which travel crib may be right for you.
Paulo graduated from Concordia University and worked as a test engineer for over a decade. Today, he uses his engineering skills to test the best baby products and share his findings with other parents through his blog. Paulo also loves dad jokes and the occasional craft beer.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.