Travel cot? Be honest, it’s something you didn’t even know existed until you became a parent and had to take a trip. You have to travel with a bed for your baby? Well, yes, you do, and luckily there are so many incredible new designs that hitting the road with your littlest is that little bit easier.
We give you the travel cot, the portable crib, the basket bed … here’s all the latest and all the best products on the market that mean you can travel light even though you’re now packing an extra person.
How to buy the best travel cot
First off, you might be surprised to find out that travel cots aren’t just for travel. If you’re stuck for space at home, regularly splitting time between two places, want a safe place to keep them corralled while you pop off for a second (see above), or like to have a spare for friends’ babies when they pop round for a coffee (the friend, that is, not the baby), a travel cot is a sensible solution.
But when it does come to travel, having your own portable cot means that you needn’t worry about whether that Airbnb has all the necessaries or that hotel webpage is up to date, and it also gives baby a familiar place to sleep, eliminating one more reason for them to get lairy while you’re on the road.
And it’s what you’ll be using it for that’ll mostly dictate the type of travel crib you want.
Compact foldable cots or bassinets are best for chucking in a suitcase or luggage locker on the plane, while trips by car simply call for something that can fit in the boot. The more lightweight they are, the more you might question the fact that they’re deemed suitably sturdy for a human child, but between rigorous manufacturer testing and great reviews across the board, you can rest assured each of our picks will keep them safe as houses, even if you’re a long way away from yours.
Finally, for maximum mileage when it comes to the initial spend, look for a model that comes with an included mattress, adjustable levels for rapidly growing babes, and more.
Praise be to Björn Jakobson, granddaddy of all things baby-related — his brainchild BabyBjorn still leads the pack when it comes to travel cots, with this one getting our top spot for its practical, paediatrician-approved design. The foldable travel cot packs down into a neat carry case with padded shoulder straps and a waist belt for easy transportation, and reviewers loved how compact it was, not to mention easy to set up, which is a real bonus when there’s unpacking to be done.
The mattress has been designed in conjunction with paediatric specialists to provide the best support possible, but the only problem is that it’s at floor level, so if you have shorter arms, bear in mind it might take some effort, or the help of a taller family member.
The thing about parenthood is that you always have your hands full, and when it comes to travelling with kids, that goes double. So welcome the SENA Aire, a thoughtfully designed travel cot from premium baby gear brand Nuna that can be set-up not only quickly, but with one hand. Its zigzag legs pop-up instantly, and come with padded edges so you cannot trap you finger in a hinge while you’re seeing it up.
However, the SENA Aire’s main USP is what its name suggests; an advanced air design delivers maximum airflow that will give its inhabitant deeper sleeps. That’s the theory. Elsewhere, the SENA Aire gives the travelling parents everything they need, including a mattress, sheets, an insect net and even cotton sheets. Best of all, it’s all machine washable, and goes neatly into a travel bag.
Here’s one for youngsters taking their first flights. Suitable for the under six months crowd, this simple crib won’t be with you for long, but it’s sure to impress any parent thinking of taking a flight to show-off their new addition. A simple and nice-looking crib that could easily be used at home, the Cocoon is compact and lightweight enough for travel, even complying with international aviation standards (IATA) so it can be taken on a plane as hand luggage, and stowed in overhead locker compartments (minus junior, we hope).
It also includes a mesh canopy that protects baby from the outside world – including insects, pets and curious passers-by – while being itself constructed atom transparent, breathable mesh panels. The Cocoon is also easy to set-up, with four locking joints on its fold-out base for maximum stability.
Like the BabyBjorn travel cot, this Phil & Teds option is suitable for use from birth to three years, making it a good option if you’re after a longer-term solution. The big difference between the two is that this little number is more suited to long-haul travel, with a weight of just 3.2 kilograms and an ultra-compact design that’s formulated to fit in a suitcase, luggage locker, or even the storage space of your buggy.
Reviewers found it was a bit awkward to set up, but that it was light, sturdy and comfy enough to make up for it, so we reckon it sounds just fine if you’re setting up camp for a while.
If the combination of quick setup and sturdiness is the holy grail of travel cots, then call us Indiana Jones, because we seem to have found it in the SpaceCot Travel Cot. The makers say it opens and closes in just three seconds — a big boast, but reviewers vouch for its veracity.
They found it super easy to set up, and loved the included detachable crib levels and mattress that let it work as a cot up to six months, and a playpen up to 30 months. If you frequently find yourself with your hands too full for faffing around, all signs point to this easy-up cot being a good buy.
OK, it’s a tent. Get over it. Kids love camping! Seriously though, the tent-style Arc 2 has a lot going for it, especially if you travel a lot because (and this is a stroke of genius) the Arc 2 packs-up into a small lightweight backpack. A pop-up tent weighing a mere 2.5kg, it uses colour-coded, lightweight aluminium poles and comes with a Velcro-attached foam mattress and washable cotton cover.
Although it can be used indoors perfectly well, as its design suggests, the Arc 2 can also be used outdoors, and be secured with tent pegs. It works as a bed, a playpen, and just as a place to keep a child out of the sun. If you’re an outdoorsy kind of a family, the Arc 2 is a no-brainer.
Designed for use in the house or out in the garden, at the beach or for trips somewhere rather sunnier, the Koo-Di Sun and Sleep Travel Bassinet looks to be a versatile option for keeping the smallest member of your group happy, cool, and out of the sun.
The mesh sides are intended for ventilation and peace of mind, allowing you to check on them as they (hopefully) snooze, while the integrated zip-up mosquito net keeps nibbles at bay, and the blackout blind claims to block 93 percent of all harmful rays. That’s all pretty high tech for a travel cot, making it our best bet for travel abroad and hot summer days at home.
This expandable travel crib gives the option for different depths as they grow, giving it more lasting power than some of our smaller picks, and making it, according to happy reviewers, a great transitional cot. Users loved that it was sturdy and easy to put together, but found it a bit heavy to carry — although, while the travel bag is a bit more cumbersome than its BabyBjorn equivalent, some might appreciate that it looks more like your average minimal tote bag rather than a baby-specific behemoth.
Overall, it’s agreed that the quality is top-notch and the setup simple, but if you have to travel a long way, you might be better placed going for something like Phil & Ted’s travel cot.
Trying to get them off to sleep isn’t the only thing that can prove tricky on the road - there’s also the small matter of changing to attend to. Luckily, some clever clogs at Joie has made a travel cot that doubles up as a changing table. Actually, make that triples up, because it also packs in a soothing rocker with soft toys. And it has wheels!
With a draught-resistant base and mesh lining for a comfortable sleep, a rocker/bassinet for soothing and naps, and a changing table for you-know-what, reviewers agree this is a great portable option for when you want to streamline your stuff. Just be aware that it’s very large and very heavy, so it’s not the best for small cars and certainly won’t fit in a suitcase, but gosh darn is it versatile.