Whether it’s a weekend with the in-laws, or that first family holiday, a travel cot is an essential purchase.
Not only will it give your baby a familiar, secure place to sleep when you’re away from home, it can also prove useful when at home for naps downstairs, or outside in the summer. This is our handy buying guide, which gives you everything you need to know about travel cots, to help you decide which one is right for you and your baby.
Should you buy one?
This really depends on where and how often you go away. That said, many of our mums find a travel cot proves 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 and help him settle in unfamiliar surroundings.
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 of travel cot on offer?
There are two options – lightweight travel cots, which are often 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 option?
Consider the importance of the cot being light and compact versus sturdy (although some models tick both 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 easy to assemble?
Kind of like tents, 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, it’s sometimes a good idea to pop into a shop ask staff to do a demonstration, yet if you’re buying online, be sure to 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 the size of the cot 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 to ensure he gets a quiet night’s sleep. If a travel cot mattress is too thin he 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.
What are the best travel cots on the market?
There's plenty of travel cots out there, so we've used our industry knowledge and looked back at our Mother&Baby travel award winners to come up with this handy buying guide.
NSA UK Deluxe UV Travel Centre, £84.95, Amazon
This is one lightweight cot that ticks all the boxes. Doubling up as an all-in-one play tent, sunshade and travel cot, it folds down completely. Like that tent you brought for Glastonbury years ago, it simply pops up and has a self-inflating mattress to keep your little one comfortable, whatever the surface. We wish it had ties to keep the flaps open, but apart from that, it’s a stand-out product.
Chicco Lullago Travel Cot, £130, John Lewis
Our 2016 Silver Award winner, this travel cot folds down into a handy travel bag, yet when it’s up, it’s far more robust than other ‘pop up’ alternatives. Our mums loved the see-through mesh on the side which allows you to see if your baby’s sleeping without approaching the cot. The Moses-basket design is generous in size, meaning you’ll hopefully get a few years out of it. It’s also super easy to get up and down. Read more reviews on this product here
Baby Dan Travel Cot, £57.95, Amazon
This is one of the cots on the list that is definitely great value for money. In fact, you’ll be able to use it from birth up to around three years of age. Sturdy enough to double as a playpen for smaller babies, it features handy wheels and a break to make it easier to transport. Our mums loved how standard cot bedding fit, but wished the mattress was a little thicker. You can read more about what our Mother & Baby mum testers thought here.
BabyBjörn Light Travel Cot, £199.99, Amazon
This is one travel cot you won’t mind leaving up in your living room! Like many of BabyBjörn’s products, style is definitely an element in the design. Easy to build and fold away, the mattress is plush and comfy and the design is sturdy and secure. Our mums loved how spacious this travel cot was, and how easy it was to lift their babies in and out. However, the obvious downside is the rather hefty price tag, especially for a cot you probably won’t be using every day. Read more real mum reviews of this product here.
Nuna Sena Travel Cot, £150, Amazon
This travel cot comes with a height adjustable mattress and a bassinet attachment for smaller babies, so is another one that will hopefully give you years of use as your baby grows. Our mums love how you can fold and unfold the cot with one hand (a skill every new multitasking mum will soon learn!) Unlike others on this list, it’s 9.7kg weight makes it pretty heavy, which isn’t ideal if you’re on the move, but if you’re looking for a sturdy cot to leave somewhere you visit regularly, this is a great option.
Graco Contour Electra Travel Cot, £96.95, Amazon
It’s slightly more difficult to assemble than some of the others on this list, but it comes with a number of impressive extras to make up for it. Included in the price tag comes a newborn bassinette, a changing mat and a toy bar. It’s probably most similar in build to a regular cot, so you know you’re not compromising your little one’s comfort. Our mums also loved the wheels which made the cot easy to move around. That said, as great as the extras are, getting them all back into the bag proved tricky!
Nuna Sena Travel Cot Mini, £64.95, Amazon
As the name suggests, this is the mini version of the Nuna Sena Travel Cot. Winning a Gold award in our 2017 awards, our mums loved how easy the cot was to construct and how compact it was when folded down. Easy to clean, with a comfortable mattress, this mini version is suitable for children up to around 18 months, so it’s ideal for younger babies. Despite the weight, our mums said the cot felt reassuringly sturdy and found the small size perfect for those miniature hotel rooms! Read more real mum reviews for this travel cot here.
Joie Baby Midway Change and Rock Travel Cot, £149.99, Kiddicare
One of the big appeals of this travel cot is the height adjustable mattress, which makes it easier to lift your baby in and out of the cot. It comes with loads of handy extras, like a changing unit and a rocking seat, both of which can be used on or off the cot. What’s more, it’s one of the only cots on this list which was a sound and lights module, designed to soothe and entertain your baby when he’s in unfamiliar surroundings. Read more reviews of this travel cot here.
Jane Duo Level Travel Cot, £94.41, Amazon
As the name suggests, the two different base setting positions on this travel cot allow you to adjust the cot from newborn, to approximately three years old. That said, our mums found this cot quite tricky to pack away and found the mattress a little on the thin side.
Phil & Teds Traveller Travel Cot, £160, Amazon
A light and compact option, we love how the sides of this travel cot can be completely zipped away for playtime. The gently sloping mesh sides let you keep an eye on your baby and like a couple of the other travel cots on this list, it’s suitable from birth to three years. The cot also comes with an inflatable mattress, so you can be sure your little one will be comfy. It can impressively be folded down into a very compact bag, which is small enough to fit into the overhead locker on a plane, so this is a good buy for frequent fliers. Read more real mum reviews of this product here.
Hauck Dream n Play Travel Cot, £38.90, Amazon
One of the most affordable travel cots on this list, the cot is pretty basic but easy to assemble. It’s light and good for those short on space, however our mums felt it was a little on the flimsy side. Another mum said the mattress material was very nosy, rustling loudly every time her baby moved, keeping him awake. It’s probably not the comfiest on the market, but could be an option for a shorter trip.
Red Kite Sleeptight Travel Cot, £35.90, Amazon
An Amazon bestseller, this easy to assemble travel cot is definitely much more affordable than others on the market. Unfortunately, this travel cot doesn’t come with some of the features that other more expensive models offer. The mattress cannot be moved to different heights as your baby grows and the mattress can be a little on the stiff side, so a lot of customers had to buy a second mattress. Another one that is probably good for a short trip, but if you’re using it on a regular basis, it might be worth investing in a more comfortable travel cot.