What is a travel cot?
A travel cot is a collapsible cot that can be folded down, stored in a bag and taken on holiday or packed in the car. Most travel cots have a plastic or metal frame and mesh sides, and come with a lightly padded mattress. Some have wheels or castors. A travel cot can also double as a playpen.
A travel cot is designed as a temporary sleeping area when you are staying or visiting away from home when your little one would normally sleep. These can be small and lightweight such as a pop-up model, or as large and sturdy, when assembled, as a normal cot with extra features such as changing mat and hanging bassinette insert.
A travel cot can be an essential bit of kit if you plan on travelling with your baby or toddler or you make regular trips to cot-free homes.
The best place to start is to assess whether you really do need a travel cot. It may be that some of the equipment that you have already may be fit for purpose without the extra expense.
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.
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. This will depend on whether your transport space allows this, and you will need to check that the mattress and model are appropriate and approved for overnight sleeping.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES?
There are two options – lightweight, tent-style, pop-up cots, and heavier, more conventional models.
These are supported by bendable poles which allow the cot to be folded into a small bag giving you the flexibility to pop it into a suitcase, changing bag or overnight bag. They usually include a thin, padded mattress, and sometimes a raised area around the head, mosquito net, and on more expensive models, are a complete capsule with side access to last into toddler years. These are a fantastic option for any travel or where your storage space is limited, or you just do not fancy carrying a plastic model around. They vary in size and age suitability.
They 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
They are usually heavier as much as 12 to 14kg. These are rectangular cots made from plastic and metal, with a foldable frame that usually locks underneath the centre of the sleeping area, with lightweight fabrics and mesh forming the sides and bottom of the cot. The sides usually fold at least once to give a compact fold into the carrybag. These can vary in weight but are the heaviest and sturdiest option. Accessories to these include changing mats and newborn baby inserts to lift the mattress higher. 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.
Think about how long you will need to use your travel cot for. Maybe there is a spare bed where you normally visit so you only need to provide a cot whilst your little one is really small. In that case maybe a pop-up travel cot, or an inexpensive traditional travel cot will do the job. If you going to need it into toddling years, then there are many models that are suitable.
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.
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.
When buying a travel cot, you’ll need to think about what will meet your particular needs and make travelling with your baby hassle-free. Here are some features to look out for:
- Ease of use. Ask the retailer to give you a demonstration of how easy the cot is to assemble and collapse again before buying. Check the weight of the travel cot as well, as this will affect how easy it is for you to put it up and down, and get it back into its bag.
- Carry-bag and wheels. A lightweight travel cot that comes with a carry-bag and wheels can make transporting, and positioning, a lot easier.
- Bassinet. This fits across the top of the travel cot, providing a crib for your newborn to sleep in. This will suit your baby until she is about three months old, or around 6kg (13lb) in weight. A bassinet is higher up in the cot, making it easier to keep an eye on your baby. It’s also easier on your back, as you don’t have to bend so far when lifting your baby in and out of her cot.
- Changing unit. Some cots come with a flip-over changing unit for easy diaper changing.
- Machine-washable covers. Fabric covers that are removable and machine-washable can make keeping the travel cot clean much easier. If you intend to use the cot a lot, then this could be a high priority for you.
- Mesh window. If at least one side is made from mesh, it will enable you to see in, and your baby to see out. A roll-down blind to cover the mesh when you want to make the cot darker is useful, too. It’s ideal if you are going to share a room with your baby while you are away.
- Dual-purpose. Some travel cots are designed to double up as playpens. They have to be extra sturdy to fulfill this second role as a safe place for your baby to play. A travel cot playpen sometimes comes with a toy tidy, or detachable toy flaps, included in the price.
You can get the most out of your travel cot if you have room to use it at home as well as when you are away. Some parents use them for their baby’s daytime naps, so they get used to sleeping in it before they go away.
Remember to follow the guidelines for preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), including:
- Placing your baby to sleep on his back, with his feet at the foot of the cot.
- If your baby is under one year old, never use a pillow, duvet, or cushion in the cot.
- Don’t let your baby get too hot. Adjust the layers of bedclothes according to room temperature, and don’t put the cot next to a radiator, heater or fire, or in direct sunlight.