Best Travel Crib
Best Overall Travel Crib
BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light
The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light is easy to use, lightweight, and compact making it a super portable option great for travel. It uses materials free of flame retardants, and it has the most comfortable mattress in our tests with a soft and firm pad that has a soft cover. We like that the BabyBjorn is easy to set up and fold with a useful travel bag that the crib fits in nicely without a struggle.
While the price might make this option a no-go for some families, we think it's an excellent choice if your budget allows. This crib is a quality option that feels sturdy and has a higher-quality design.
Read review: BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light
Cool Side Open Crib
The Lotus Everywhere by Guava is a stylish portable crib with a somewhat unique zippered side opening for snuggling with your napping baby. This eco-health option uses materials without flame retardants and has a soft mattress. It folds down into a compact and lightweight package with a unique backpack style bag with straps that leave your hands free. The Lotus is easy to set up but harder to close and fit in the bag than some of the competition.
While this option isn't as high quality as the BabyBjorn, it comes close and is just as comfortable for your baby with a lower price that can save you significantly. If lower cost and straightforward carry bag are high on you want list, then the Lotus is a crib to consider.
Read review: Lotus Everywhere
Best Portable Crib on a Budget
Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go
The Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go is a budget-friendly portable crib/play yard that includes a bassinet for use with infants. This crib is average for ease of setup and folding, with a travel bag that is large enough to prevent frustration when packing it away.
This product potentially uses flame retardants, and it is heavier and larger than most of the top-ranked competition making it a no-go if your space is limited or you have difficulty lifting heavy things. Despite this, it is a good choice for families with a tight budget who want a multi-use option with above-average performance. If you must have a travel crib or play yard and money is a factor, then this Graco can't be beaten.
Read review: Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go
Why You Should Trust Us
We've been testing baby gear for over 7 years with multiple updates to our travel crib review including purchasing and testing over 12 different products during that time. The portable crib team is led by our founder, Dr. Juliet Spurrier. Dr. Spurrier is a mother of 2 and a board-certified pediatrician. She uses her knowledge as a physician and her background as a mother in the crib selection process focusing on safety and quality. The test team includes Bob Wofford, father or 7 and our Senior Review Analyst. Bob performs side-by-side testing for each metric comparing the products against one another before they move on to our real-world parents. Wendy Schmitz and Abriah Wofford, Senior Review Editors, round out the team and participate in testing and analyzing of the final results to help select winners and final product ranks.
We purchased and tested each travel product in this review with a side-by-side approach that allows us to get hands-on with each item so we can see how it compares to the competition. This testing process provides insight like no other as we are uniquely poised to determine which products have the best designs, and the most useful features compared to the competition. Unlike a review of a single product with nothing to compare it to, we can tell you why our award winners stand out from the pack and which option has the features that can make your travel life easier.
Jump to: How We Tested Travel Cribs
Analysis and Test Results
For this crib review, we tested eight popular portable cribs using a rigorous testing process including in-house lab testing and real-world use to determine which features are the most important and which cribs have the best performance. Testing is designed to expose the details you need to find the right travel option for your family and wallet. Results from testing impact the metric and overall scores with an emphasis on ease of use and portability.
Award-winning cribs for travel are easy to set up and fold into their travel bags. They are lightweight, relatively compact, and easy to carry or fit in smaller spaces so you can quickly stow them on public transportation or in crowded trunk spaces.
For more information on safe sleeping and decreasing the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related death, please follow the American Academy of Pediatrics "back to sleep" guidelines. Creating a safer sleep environment is a must, easier than you think, and will give you peace of mind for a restful night's sleep.
Because a travel crib isn't truly an essential piece of baby gear, you may want to keep your budget in mind when making a choice. However, there are options that perform well and come with a reasonable price tag, or there are options that are high-quality and can be used for more than one child thereby dispersing the price over a longer lifetime. The Graco On-The-Go Pack N Play is a versatile travel crib that works as a playpen and infant bassinet. Multiple functions build a value that goes beyond its low price. The Lotus Everywhere is more expensive, but the quality is evident, and the crib can also be used as a smaller playpen and bassinet increasing its overall use and extending its lifetime.
Ease of Use
Ease of use for portable cribs includes set up, fold, and fit in the travel bag. Given the lack of features in these cribs, there isn't much to compare in side-by-side testing. We did not test the accessories for these products, as these varied widely and were not comparable.
Setup time for these products varies significantly between 3:10 minutes to over 27 for the initial setup. This time decreases considerably after repeated attempts, but the harder cribs remain challenging because there are that many more steps. While you will get better at setup over time, you won't be able to make a convoluted process a simple one, no matter how much experience you get.
The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light earns the high score for ease of use with a 9 of 10 and an average setup of 1:37 minutes after multiple tests. This option requires unfolding, locking the legs (above left), and securing the mattress (above right). This short time means you can have a sleepy baby resting soundly in no time after a long day of travel. The Phil and Teds Traveller, on the other hand, earns the lowest score with a 2. This portable crib takes an average of 8:34 minutes to set up even after significant practice. The Traveller requires complete assembly and dismantling every time you use it. It comes with a lot of parts, and by the time you get it set up, your baby is likely to be wide awake and sleep-deprived grumpy. This time seems excessive to us; it feels even worse when you consider that the second-longest setup time is half that of the Traveller at 4:12 minutes for the KidCo TravelPod. Most of the competition is closer to 2 minutes as the Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go takes an average of 1:47 minutes and the Lotus Everywhere requires 2:13 minutes.
We also test ease of folding and fitting the products into their included travel bags. This experience varies between easy and frustrating. The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light is easy to open and close and is the easiest to fit in its travel bag thanks to its smaller size and well-designed bag that includes some wiggle room. Alternatively, the Lotus Everywhere is easy to set up but difficult to fold and fit into the bag (how hard is it to make the bag a little bigger?). Sometimes we failed to fit the Lotus in the bag and had to open and refold it for it to get the job done. The Phil and Teds Traveller is the hardest to open, close and fit into the bag. The crib parts need to be precisely arranged in the bag to ensure everything fits since it doesn't fold like the competition; if you get it wrong, you'll be taking everything out of the bag to try again.
One of the main uses for these cribs is providing a safe sleeping space for baby when you are traveling. If a crib is too heavy to lift and carry or too large to stow in small spaces, then it isn't going to be a stress reliever but a stress creator. For this reason, we think portability is one of the most important features for cribs you use for travel. The smaller and lighter a crib, generally speaking, the better.
Depending on your fitness level or the kind of travel you plan to do, you may have some wiggle room in this metric. If you are a bodybuilder with an SUV and you are driving to your destination, then a more substantial option might work. If you are petite and traveling alone with your baby on a plane, then the weight and stow-ability will likely override most other considerations.
The Phil and Teds Traveller is the lightest product in this review with an in bag weight of 7.4 lbs. It also happens to be the smallest when folded/dismantled measuring 6.5"H x 27.2"L x 8.8"W. However, it didn't score well in other metrics and the setup time of over 8 minutes may negate the small size and lighter weight.
On the other hand, the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light weighs 12.8 lbs, measures 19.5"H x 23.6"L x 6.6"W when folded and scored well in every metric earning the top overall score. The addition of 5 extra pounds may seem like a lot, but when you consider that the Joovy Room2 weighs 26.8 lbs it will seem feather light in comparison.
The Phil and Teds Traveller earned a 10 of 10 for portability with the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light and the Lotus Everywhere both earning 8s. The Joovy Room2 and the 4moms Breeze came in at the bottom of the pack with scores of 2. The 4moms Breeze is the largest folded option measuring 12.1"H x 30.7"L x 12.2"W in the bag.
You'd think that the competition would be similar in their level of relative comfort given the strict safety regulations governing this kind of baby gear. However, the materials and design of each mattress vary and impacts the overall comfort level of the crib.
The majority of contenders have a soft mattress that ranges from dense and hard to ultra-squishy and so soft that your baby is hitting the hard support bottom quickly.
The Phil and Teds Traveller has a unique self-inflating mattress that we struggle to inflate fully and was somewhat bowed even with the weight of the baby in place. Without full inflation, the pad is uncomfortable and provides no support (think poorly inflated air mattress that results in your baby sleeping more or less on the ground). The KidCo TravelPod only earned a 2 of 10 for comfort with a mattress so soft it has permanent indentations in it from being folded and we worry that after repeated use it will continue to lose its shape and ability to support a baby.
On the other end of the spectrum, the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light (above left) and the Lotus Everywhere (above right) both earned 7s thanks to soft, thick cushions that support but didn't squash to a thin mattress under baby's weight. In a side-by-side comparison, it was easy to see the difference in the quality of materials and the designs that helped one crib mattress earn higher scores than another.
The quality of the portable cribs is as wide as the materials and the attention to detail we observed in their construction. Some of the products are sturdy with tightly woven mesh and durable fabric that is stitched evenly. Other options are somewhat wobbly when we press on the top rails, and the mesh easily stretches, or it has loose threads and off-kilter stitching.
The Joovy Room2 and the 4moms Breeze earned top scores of 9 of 10. Both cribs have sturdy frames and tight mesh with impressive attention to detail.
The lowest score for the group is 4 for the KidCo. This option has soft, flimsy fabric with lots of loose threads and mesh that easily indents. The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light and the Lotus Everywhere earned an 8 and 7 respectively with higher-end materials and solid construction in simple designs that the manufacturers' execute well.
In January 2014, 15 types of baby gear were found not to pose a fire safety risk and are exempt from meeting flammability standards. This exemption means the manufacturers of these types of baby products can make products free of harmful flame retardants. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they all make an effort to do so.
Flame retardant chemicals are harmful to humans, and we feel that exposing little ones to these chemicals should be limited whenever possible. Only three products in this review list or make comments about what materials and chemicals they use (or don't use) in the production of their portable cribs. We think transparency is important and parents should demand more information from all companies before making buying decisions. The Center For Environmental Health (CEH) surveyed leading manufacturers of baby gear on their use of flame retardant chemicals. The CEH list the following survey questions on their website:CEH's survey asked four simple questions:
2) If some products still contain flame retardants, which ones?
3) What is your timeline for removing these flame retardant chemicals from your products?
4) How will you let consumers know that your baby products do not contain flame retardants — through labeling or (for web-based companies) information offered online at the point of purchase, or via product websites?
The manufacturer's responses to the survey were used to rank the companies based on their efforts to remove the harmful chemicals from their products. While not all manufacturers are listed, it is a good starting point for parents looking for additional information on what is in their baby's gear. The list also shows which companies offer transparency in what they use and an openness to divulge information to consumers.
The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light and Lotus Everywhere both earned 10 of 10 for eco-health. BabyBjorn states that their product is "free from harmful substances and approved according to Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Class 1 for baby products" they go on to say "materials do not contain any harmful or allergenic substances." The Guava Family company makes the following statement about the Lotus Everywhere, "The Lotus Everywhere Crib has been thoroughly tested for chemical emissions and is certified to the GREENGUARD GOLD standard, making it the only travel crib in the world to have received this rigorous certification." They go on to say that the Lotus is "… free of PVC, Lead, Phthalates, Formaldehyde, Heavy Metals (Cadmium, Arsenic, Mercury, etc.) and many others."
The majority of portable cribs in this review scored a 1 of 10 and failed to provide information about chemicals and flame retardants on their websites, owner's manuals, or to the CEH. Luckily, except for the Graco Pack 'n Play on the Go, the award-winning products in this review are free from harmful chemicals and impressed during testing of other metrics earning the top two overall scores.
Most families buy a full-size crib for baby to use when sleeping at home. But what do you do with your little one when you travel or need a moment to yourself? This kind of situation is where a travel crib/play yard comes into play. These portable cribs provide a safe sleep environment similar to your baby's regular crib, so you can keep your baby on their routine with fewer hiccups related to traveling. A well-designed portable product is easy to transport and use. They provide a safe sleeping environment that is free of suffocation and strangulation hazards. Even if you do not plan to travel, a product of this kind is great to have for grandparent's or caregivers to use. They also provide a safe play area anywhere the environment presents hazards that are hard to control. You can survive without a portable crib, but if your budget permits, we think they're well worth the extra expense considering the potential safety benefits and regular sleep.
Types of Travel Cribs
There are two basic types of portable cribs or play yards.
The full feature cribs usually include additional options like a removable bassinet or changing table for infants and storage possibilities for diapers and other supplies. These products tend to be somewhat heavier or larger and often their open square footage is greater so they can do double duty as a play yard. The Graco Pack 'n Play On the Go and the 4moms Breeze are good examples of this type of product. While some products have accessories for purchase, these traditionally come with accessories standard.
While bassinets are useful and it is nice they come with the crib, most are only useful until the baby is 15 lbs or starts to roll over. So we caution against making your purchase decision based on this feature alone. The larger size and added weight found in this style of gear make them harder to transport than their minimalist counterparts, which are things you should consider depending on how you intend to use the crib.
Minimalistic portable cribs are lightweight and fold into a smaller package that makes transporting and storing them easier. Rather than offering short-term use accessories, this type of gear has a design for quick setup and easy carrying.
The most significant advantage of a minimalist unit is a lighter weight and compact size that fits nicely into a tote-able bag. Setup times are generally fast, and they are usually smaller when set up, so they are ideal for use in smaller spaces like a hotel or tent. If portability or limited space are factors for you, then the minimalist approach is a great option. While this style lacks a bassinet/changing table, it is safe to rest infants on the main mattress for sleep, and a bassinet is not necessary for safe sleeping.
We recommend you choose a product with materials that are free of chemicals and flame-retardants, and preferably those that are independently OEKO-TEX verified such as the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light or the Lotus Everywhere. You may pay a premium for the high-end materials, but we think limiting your child's exposure to dangerous chemicals is worth the added cost. The Environmental Working Group has a helpful article concerning the danger of fire retardants in the home.
Safety Considerations: Flammability Standards
At BabyGearLab, product safety is always one of our primary concerns. To help you make the best decision when selecting a travel crib, we feel it would be negligent not to mention the use of flame retardants and other harmful substances used in the production of some travel cribs.
The vast majority of items sold for infants and children, such as mattresses and diaper changing pads, are treated with chemical flame-retardants which link to a range of health problems in both children and adults with tests showing higher concentrations of these substances in the bloodstreams of younger children than in adults. To understand why products include flame retardants, a bit of background will be helpful.
In 1975, the state of California enacted Technical Bulletin 117 (TB-117) as a standard. TB-117 requires all household furniture, including furniture for babies, to meet flammability standards. TB-117 was created because of concern for fire safety in the home and was designed to give occupants more time to escape in the event of a fire. The standard requires that the foam in furniture be able to withstand 12 seconds of open flame exposure, such as from a candle. Flame retardants are applied to the foam so it can meet the requirements. Unfortunately, many of the flame-retardants used in furniture have been proven to be the cause of or increase the risk of a host of health problems including cancer, infertility, genetic mutations, congenital disabilities, developmental delays, and obesity.
In an interesting twist, it turns out that these flame retardant chemicals do not work to slow the spread of fire in real-world conditions. Instead, they are of limited use and have even been shown to increase the levels of deadly toxins in smoke. As smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires, flame retardants are serving to exacerbate an already grim reality. While they help materials meet the standard, that is about all they do.
How is it Legal to Use Toxic Chemicals in Home Furnishings?
In 1976, the federal government enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act. The law was supposed to regulate chemicals. However, upon its enactment, some 60,000 chemicals (already in existence) were grandfathered in as "safe." Also, the law is fundamentally flawed in that the burden of proving a chemical is safe does not lie with the manufacturer. Rather, the EPA must show that the chemical is dangerous for it to be banned. This unfortunate "regulation" has allowed tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals to go untested and inundate the marketplace and our homes.
Back to TB-117
Though TB-117 is a California law, its impact affects the entire United States. Manufacturers do not want to carry dual inventory, and thus sell furniture that is TB-117 compliant throughout the United States and Canada.
As of January 2014, the law was amended and is now known as TB-117-2013. The new law changes the open flame test to a smolder test (like a smoldering cigarette) that is passable without treating furniture with toxic chemicals. What TB 117-2013 does NOT do is to prevent the use of flame retardants. Industry, however, does have the option to produce furniture without them. As with BPA-free products, flame retardant-free home furnishings are sure to increase in supply due to consumer demand. However, buyers need to be savvy during this transition time as manufacturers are allowed to sell products that comply with the old TB-117 standard. Though TB-117-2013 is a step in the right direction, we are still a long way from eliminating toxic chemicals.
What all of this means for you
- If products are labeled TB-117 compliant, you can assume they contain chemical flame-retardants.
- If products are labeled TB 117-2013, they may still include chemical flame-retardants.
- Manufacturers are under no legal obligation to disclose whether or not they use chemical flame-retardants or what type.
- Look for products that are independently tested and verified by organizations such as OEKO-TEX.
Choosing the right portable crib or play yard doesn't have to be confusing. Using the questions below, you can quickly narrow the field to the right option for your needs.
First: Can I carry it?
Portability is essential, and you should consider if the size and weight of each contender is something that will meet your goals and is manageable by your family. If you plan to travel by plane frequently and need a lightweight or smaller option, then you'll want to steer clear of the Joovy Room2 and the 4moms Breeze which are both over 20 lbs and larger when folded than the competition. The BabyBjorn Travel Light Crib or the Lotus Everywhere may be more viable options with weights under 13 lbs, and smaller folded sizes. Alternatively, if you plan to use your crib as a safe place for baby to rest while you cook dinner or take a shower, then a more substantial play yard with wheels may be the better choice for your goals.
Second: How hard is it to setup?
The time and effort it takes to set up a portable crib can make owning it a pleasure or a curse. No matter how you intend to use it, we think most parents will agree ease of use is important and a factor to consider. If you plan to travel, quick bed set up when you reach your destination might be a lifesaver to keep baby asleep or on a regular sleep schedule. If the product is primarily used at Grandma's house or with the sitter, then you may have more wiggle room in how long it takes to assemble the product. Either way, we suspect few parents will want to assemble the crib every time they need it (like the Phil and Teds Traveller), and most parents will prefer the unfold and lock in place design found in most of the competition. The BabyBjron Travel Crib light can be set up and ready for sleep in about 1:37 minutes/seconds, compared to the Phil and Teds Traveller that takes over 8 minutes. The Graco Pack 'n Play on the Go takes only 1:47 minutes and the Lotus Everywhere has a time of 2:13 minutes on average.
Finally: What is it going to cost me?
The products in this review range in list price from $70 to $300. The top-scoring products are $300 and $250 respectively for the Lotus Everywhere and the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light. We understand this might be more than some parents want to spend for an occasional use item, which is why the Graco Pack 'n Play on the Go is a good choice with a budget-friendly price and an above-average score.
We start our process by researching possible contenders for the review and we make our selections based on online reviews, popularity or interesting unique products we feel deserve possible recognition. Product testing begins with assembly and moves to side-by-side testing and comparisons before they are used in the real world.
Testing Ease of Use
When evaluating products for ease of use, we looked primarily the length of time it takes to set up and take down each product as well as how difficult it is to fit it in the bag and follow the users' manual.
We also consider the cleaning method an whether or not keeping the crib clean will be a challenge given the materials, design, or method of cleaning.
How easy it is to transport a portable crib for travel is a key metric to this gear category. This includes the overall carry weight of the products as well as their shape and overall measurements. Weight and Size are critical when it comes to selecting a portable crib. We weigh and measure each product in the same way with the same device using the same tester for accuracy and an apple to apple comparison. We also considered the type of carrying handles including the design, placement, comfort and whether or not you will be able to carry the unit for longer distances or fit it in smaller spaces. If it isn't good for travel then it isn't a great travel style crib.
We evaluated mattress design and materials, cover fabric, and how much potential support the mattress might provide under baby's weight. If it depresses easily leaving baby resting on a hard bottom then it earned fewer points. If it is soft but firm and thick enough to prevent sore spots it earned more points. We also tested for parent comfort and how difficult it is to bend into the crib to lay baby to sleep or comfort them in the middle of the night. Cribs with the lowest overall height and wider openings are the most comfortable for parents, especially those who are more petite or extraordinarily tall.
We observed and compared the design and materials of each crib, as well as the construction and possible defects or opportunities for easy damage and the manufacturer's attention to detail and quality control. These cribs can take a beating, getting packed and unpacked hundreds of times, thrown in and out of the car, not to mention the abuse they may take in a baggage terminal at the airport. While any one product alone may be difficult to judge for quality, all eight products side-by-side are easy to assess for quality and construction differences that will influence longevity and durability.
Providing a safe area for your child to sleep and play while on the go is one of the primary reasons to purchase a travel crib. A baby should be as safe when sleeping away from home as they are in their full-size crib at home. For eco-health, we considered primarily whether or not the manufacturer's used flame retardant chemicals or other harmful substances in the design or production of their products. We considered how transparent the company website is and whether or not the products have been reviewed, tested or certified for chemicals or lack of chemicals. Higher scores were given to products with certifications and lower scores were earned by those that failed to address the elephant in the room at all.
While you can travel without a portable crib or play yard, we don't think you'll want to. Travel cribs create a safe sleeping environment and a safe place to put your baby when you need a short break (going to the bathroom or taking a shower). Traveling with a baby can be stressful, and any gear that makes it less so is money well spent in our opinion. Gear that can help keep a baby's sleep routine on track? Well, that is simply priceless.
We think there is a perfect crib for most families. Each family's lifestyle and needs will dictate which product is best for them, and it won't always be the same. Our award winners include top-performing products, in a range of prices, with unique features for a variety of needs. Our details and test results are sure to aid you in finding the best crib for your traveling baby at the right price; even if our award winners don't include what you want.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team