For mums on the go, travel cots are an essential buy. A travel cot will give your baby a familiar, secure place to sleep when you’re away from home. Our buying guide gives you everything you need to know about travel cots, to help you decide whether they are right for you and your baby.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
Whether you need a travel cot depends on where and how often you go away, plus whether it might prove useful at home for naps downstairs, as a playpen to keep a crawling or toddling child safe or for guests’ babies.
If you mainly stay in hotels and holiday cottages, many will provide a cot, although they might make a small rental charge for it. However, it may still be beneficial to take your own as you’ll know it’s clean and in good condition. Plus, after a few uses, it will feel reassuringly familiar to your baby.
If you’ve already bought a Moses basket or carrycot, you should be able to use this away from home initially, so you can put off buying a travel cot until your baby is a few months old.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES?
There are two options – lightweight, tent-style, pop-up cots, and heavier, more conventional models. Lightweight versions can weigh as little as 2kg and tend to fold up more compactly for storage and take up less space in the car. But they can feel less robust, so you might not feel confident that they’ll be right for larger, more active toddlers.
Classic travel cots are usually heavier – as much as 12 to 14kg, which isn’t so easily portable. On the other hand, they’re often quick to assemble and put away and are robust enough to do a good job of doubling as playpens.
WHICH IS THE BEST FOR YOU?
Consider the importance of the cot being light and compact versus sturdy, although some tick all these boxes.
If you’ll be travelling by car, a heavier or bulkier cot will be less problematic than if you’re using public transport.
If you’re looking to use it on camping trips, then you’ll definitely want a lighter, more portable model.
ARE THEY ALL EASY TO ASSEMBLE?
Some travel cots can be assembled in seconds, unfolding and then clicking into place. Others are trickier to put together. When shopping for your cot, ask staff to do a demonstration, if possible, and consult reviews to see what existing users say. Don’t forget to give your new travel cot a test run at home before your first trip, otherwise you could struggle to get it set up when you arrive and need to get your over-tired baby to bed.
DOES SIZE MATTER?
Smaller travel cots are unlikely to see you through until your child can sleep in a proper bed (at the age of two or three), so you’ll end up having to buy a second one to tide you over. Also, consider whether the travel cot is suitable for your baby’s usual bedding. If not, you’ll also need to budget for buying new sheets.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?
Obviously you’ll want your baby to be as comfortable as possible. If a travel cot mattress is too thin she might not be comfortable and find it hard to sleep. Self-inflating mattresses are a good option, as they tend to be thick when in use, but also fold down compactly. Also, check how difficult the cot sides and mattress will be to clean between uses. Most mattresses have a wipe-clean, waterproof cover, which isn’t removable, while some feature a softer machine-washable cotton cover.
Travel cots occasionally come with extras, such as an integral mobile, music player, changing tray or even a night light. None of these are essential, particularly as you can usually find portable travel equivalents.