You can’t beat having a break with your baby, and whether you’re heading off on holiday with your family or visiting the grandparents overnight, a travel cot is the perfect solution: it’s a portable, lightweight cot designed to fold away compactly in its own storage bag.
Do you need a travel cot?
Not for the first few months if you already have a Moses basket or a carrycot suitable for overnight sleeping. And, if you don’t go away very often, then you might be better off borrowing a travel cot from friends, as it’s an expensive purchase if you’re only going to use it once a year! And a lot of hotels and holiday cottages now provide a travel cot. But if you’re away from home often, then a travel cot will last well past the newborn months and is less bulky to travel with. It’s also useful for your baby’s daytime naps when you’re visiting friends for the day.
And many mums use sturdier travel cots as playpens, too, or as a safe place to pop their toddler for a minute, especially when baby number two comes along. Travel cots come in a variety of sizes and styles, with different upper age and weight limits. The cots we tested can be used from birth until your baby weighs around 15kg (approximately three years old). But an adventurous toddler may be able to climb out of a travel cot before she reaches three years, at which stage it’s safest for her to sleep in a bed.
How compact do you need it to be?
If you’re buying a travel cot to take on holiday and are travelling by plane, boat or train, choose one that folds compactly to make it easier to transport. If you’re driving, make sure it fits in your car boot and still leaves enough room for the rest of your luggage. Think about where you’ll keep the travel cot when it’s not in use, too.
How light do you need it to be?
All travel cots are designed to be light enough to carry, but some are heavier than others. And there’s generally a pay-off between how light it is and how robust it is. If you’ll be carrying it on your journey, such as through an airport, then weight may take priority. But if you’ve got a cruising toddler, then a sturdy cot is better.
How easy is it to assemble?
Wrestling with an unwieldy travel cot and a tired baby after a long journey is a stress you really don’t need in your life, so choose one that doesn’t require an engineering degree to set up! Some can be assembled and folded away within seconds, even with one hand, and that’s a really helpful feature if you’re going to be assembling it with your baby in your arms or with older children in tow.
What to look out for?
When buying a travel cot you should look out for:
- Bassinet: A bassinet attaches to the top of the travel cot, creating a raised crib for younger babies, so you don’t have to bend down low to lift your baby in and out of the main cot.
- Mattress: Travel cots come with a mattress supplied, but some are plusher than others. Choose a thick, supportive mattress to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep.
- Folding Mechanism: As well as checking how simple it is to assemble the travel cot, make sure you can fold it away into its storage bag again quickly and easily. If you have older children, check that inquisitive little fingers can’t easily access the mechanism for folding the travel cot when it’s in use.
- Fabric: Mesh sides are best as they encourage airflow, prevent overheating and enable you to see your baby when she’s sleeping. Some travel cots have removable, machine-washable covers, which is useful if you’ll be using it often.
- Wheels: Some models have wheels to allow you to move it around easily once assembled. This is useful if you want to move it from room-to-room once your baby is asleep or position it elsewhere in the house for daytime naps or playpen use, especially if it’s a heavier design.
- Bedding: The sheet you use must fit the mattress properly, with no loose fabric. Standard cot bedding won’t necessarily fit, so check what size bedding is required, and factor in any extra expense.
- Musical Features: Some have light and sound features, which can be useful for helping to soothe your baby when she’s sleeping away from home.
- Insect Net: Some travel cots come with fitted insect nets to protect your baby from mosquitos and other harmful bugs.
If you’re looking for a travel cot that’s a doddle to set up and folds away in seconds, this is it – no more grappling with unwieldy parts when you arrive at your destination with a tired baby! We love the clever design, inspired by the way satellites unfurl in space. It comes with its own travel bag and a lovely, plush mattress, plus a really handy crib attachment for newborns.
KIRSTY (5W): So easy to set up and put away – you really can do it in one second! It’s the perfect height for lifting my baby in and out of comfortably. It’s sturdy, but wobbles gently when Rikku moves, so she actually rocked herself to sleep. It takes up quite a bit of space in my car boot but once assembled it’s compact and easy to move around. I feel like it’s great value, too.
KATHRYN (8M): Inspired by rocket science, and it shows – it’s really well-designed. The sides are deep, the mattress is comfortable and the cot is sturdy yet lightweight. It’s also really easy to assemble – it literally pops up. The removable covers are great, especially if your baby has reflux, as Olly does. It doesn’t have as many ‘novelty’ features as other cots, but it’s well-priced and has everything we need.
Read our full review about this Spacecot.
From Birth, Weighs: 6.7kg
Nuna Sena Aire, £180
This stylish, contemporary travel cot takes seconds to put together and is reasonably quick and easy to fold, even with your baby in your arms. We love the bassinet accessory, which makes this brilliant for use from birth. It has a sturdy aluminium frame and a triple-layered mattress. This travel cot also comes with an organic cotton sheet included, and its own bag to store and transport it in.
KIRSTY (5W): This is reasonably straightforward to set up but it doesn’t fold very neatly, and packing it away is fiddly. It’s sturdy but feels heavy and it takes up lots of space in our small car boot. The bassinet makes it easy to lift Rikku in and out, but I found it fiddly to detach. I like that this comes with a machine-washable sheet, which stays in place with velcro.
NICOLA (15m): I really like this travel cot because it’s so sturdy. It also looks very stylish. Of all the cots we tested, Amelia slept best in this. It’s simple to assemble and comes with a lovely, thick mattress plus a machine-washable sheet. The only disadvantage is that it’s quite heavy. I think I would struggle to get this from one place to another by myself.
Read our full review about this Nuna Sena Aire.
From Birth+, Weighs: 10kg
Joie Excursion Change & Bounce, £128
This versatile travel cot comes with lots of extra accessories, so it’s great value for money. There’s a full-size bassinet, which snaps easily on and off as required, as well as a change unit and portable bouncing seat. It folds compactly and comes with its own travel storage bag. There are lots of sound and light features, including a soothing sound vibration, plus five classical lullabies and nature sounds.
KATHRYN (8M): The most difficult cot to assemble – I had to enlist my husband’s help. It’s sturdy and almost as big as a normal cot. The wheels make it easy to move. Olly is too old for the extra accessories, but they’d be fantastic for a newborn. Olly likes the sounds, and the light is great for night changes without fully waking him. A real investment that will grow with your baby.
NICOLA (15m): The mesh sides enabled me to check on Amelia without getting out of bed, and she liked being able to see us when she woke up. The mattress seems very comfortable, and the colours and pattern of this travel cot are really appealing. The extra accessories aren’t suitable past 12 months, and this travel cot is quite heavy – I would struggle to move it from room to room without help.
From Birth+, Weighs: 16kg
Baby Bjorn, £215
This travel cot is a real doddle to assemble – just slip it out of its travel bag and it practically unfolds automatically, so there’s no grappling with poles or fiddling with extra accessories. It’s also easy to fold away, and really light and portable. We love that the fabric can be removed and popped in the washing machine – a real bonus if you have a baby with reflux.
KIRSTY (5W): Quick and simple to set up, and light and easy to move around. I struggled to put it away, but that gets easier with practice. The storage bag is good quality. The mattress isn’t very plush, and the base touches the ground, so it’s a long stretch to reach my baby. I think it’s expensive, particularly as there are no extras included. This one seems better suited to a toddler.
NICOLA (15m): This is the easiest travel cot to carry as it’s amazingly light, but it’s less robust than others – Amelia can push it around by herself. It’s really practical, taking seconds to pop up. It’s less attractive than others in terms of design appeal, but Amelia slept well in it and seemed very comfortable. It also comes with a nice carry bag, which makes it easy to transport.
From Birth+, Weighs: 6kg
Graco Contour Electra
A good value travel cot with lots of extra features. It comes with a toy bar and a handy removable change table. It has a nightlight and musical feature, as well as the option to set the mattress to vibrate to help soothe your baby. It’s heavy, but the wheels make it easy to manoeuvre, and it comes with its own carry bag.
KATHRYN (8M): One of the heaviest travel cots we tested, but it’s a good size for an older baby – almost the same size as our normal cot. It’s easy to assemble and put away and I like the neutral colour. The wheels make it very easy to move around, but you have to bend low to reach your baby. This would have been great for daytime naps when Olly was younger. Great value, too.
NICOLA (15m): This is quick and easy to assemble. It seems compact, and fits really well in a smaller room without taking up lots of space. The mattress is very thin, and Amelia didn’t sleep very well in this one. The cream colour looks lovely, but I imagine it will could get dirty very quickly. The changing unit is a great idea, but it’s only suitable for use up to 12 months.
Read our full review about this Graco Contour Electra.
From Birth+, Weighs: 14kg
Chicco Zip & Go, £130
We love the innovative way this converts between two different modes from travel crib (from birth to six months) to cot, and the fact that you can use it in either fixed to rocking mode. This travel cot is worth considering if you’re really short on luggage space, as it’s particularly compact once folded, and one the lightest travel cots we tested.
KIRSTY (5W): Simple and quick to assemble in crib mode. The rocking function is a nice idea, but it caused us problems – it meant Rikku kept rolling onto her front, and I couldn’t switch it back to fixed mode while she was in the cot. The mattress is a lovely thickness and the depth of the cot is good – getting Rikku in and out is easy. It’s reasonably priced, too.
KATHRYN (8M): Quick and easy to assemble, despite a few fiddly velcro straps. The rocking base is great for helping little ones drift off. The mesh sides are good for preventing overheating. It’s light, and folds in half so it takes up very little room. The zip feature is handy, but overall this is a little on the small side. It also seems expensive, since Olly will outgrow it sooner than the others.
From Birth+, Weighs: 7.3kg
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