When it comes to traveling with your baby or toddler, you’d be amazed at how much stuff one little person needs to bring on vacation.
You need to consider diapers, wipes, food, toys, clothing, bottles, strollers, car seats, and of course, something for your baby to sleep in.
If you’ll be staying in a hotel, many of them offer the option of renting a crib of some type in your room; other times you may be staying with relatives. If you are faced with the need to bring a bed for your baby on your trip, there are a few options such as travel cribs or pack ‘n plays.
In this article, I want to break down the differences between travel cribs vs. pack ‘n plays and help you decide which one is right for you; and it might be both!
So…what is the difference between travel cribs vs pack ‘n plays?
The main difference between travel cribs and pack ‘n plays is that travel cribs are much lighter making them easier to tote around on vacation, where pack ‘n plays, although portable, do tend to be heavier and more cumbersome to deal with — but they also come with more space, more features, and more attachments.
Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at this comparison.
Travel Cribs Explained
Travel cribs are lightweight, portable sleeping products that can be easily set up and taken down as needed.
They’re essentially enclosed sleeping or play areas with mesh sides and nothing else.
Travel cribs fold-up for easy storage and feature mesh sides to ensure breathability and visibility for your baby.
Travel cribs usually have a thicker mattress than pack ‘n plays, so they can be more comfortable for sleeping.
The main uses of travel cribs are:
- To provide a good choice for travel since they fold up and are lightweight
- To provide an easy option for on-the-go sleep and play
- Travel cribs usually have zip-up sides so that you can play with your baby on the floor.
Travel cribs provide a safe place for your baby to sleep and play, especially if you will be going somewhere that is not baby-proofed.
They’re an excellent option for times when you are away from home, like on vacation, but they are not meant to be used 24/7.
Although they are perfectly safe for your baby, they are very low to the ground. Lifting your baby in and out of bed from such a distance can be hard.
As your baby grows, keep an eye on when she starts to try and climb out of the crib, this is a sign that you need to switch to a different option.
Pros and cons of travel cribs
- Simplicity: Travel cribs are usually easy to deal with and set up since they are so lightweight.
- Work great for on-the-go: Travel cribs are easy and quick to set up and takedown. You can set them up quickly on a visit to grandma’s house, or even if you need to bring baby with you to the office. They’re also light and usually weigh under 15 pounds.
- Thicker mattress: Travel cribs tend to have thicker mattresses which can make them more comfortable for your baby to sleep on.
- Travel cribs are great for toddlers: You can continue to use a good travel crib for a couple years, basically until your toddler is ready to sleep in a regular bed when traveling or on vacation — somewhere around 3-4 years old. Check the weight limit if your travel crib has one — some don’t!
- More expensive: Travel cribs can cost more than pack ‘n plays. Good travel cribs can cost anywhere from $150 to $250 or more.
- Fewer accessories: Travel cribs usually do not come with as many accessory options as pack ‘n plays (like changing platforms, mobiles, etc.); mainly due to their lighter weight.
When my daughter was young, I swore by the Lotus Travel Crib — it’s lightweight and really easy for any adult to set up. Check it out on Amazon by clicking the link!
Pack ‘n Plays Explained
Pack ‘n Plays are used as safe sleep and play areas for babies and toddlers.
They can, like travel cribs, be folded up for storage and portability, but it’s often more difficult and cumbersome to do so.
Quite a few pack ‘n plays (also known as play yards) come with a variety of different accessories that can make them all-in-one areas for your baby.
For example, there are attachments for changing your baby, creating a bassinet, providing shade, and play pieces such as mobiles and other toys.
Pack ‘n Plays are usually slightly elevated from the ground, although they are still low unless you use a bassinet attachment. The sides are made from a breathable mesh, making them a safe place for baby to sleep.
Pack ‘n Plays are also great places for your baby to play, giving him a safe and secure spot to explore.
Pack ‘n Plays are roughly a few inches shorter than standard cribs, about 28″ wide by 40″ long. Plus, with the bassinet option, some pack ‘n plays can be a permanent sleeping solution for your baby in the beginning.
Pack ‘n Plays can be folded up and packed away, usually into a bag or storage case, making them an option for travel. They also usually feature wheels so you can move them from room to room at home.
However, they can be heavy to deal with, especially if you have many attachments to handle. Pack ‘n Plays weigh about 15-30lbs or more depending on how many attachments they have, making them heavier than most travel cribs.
For this reason, they’re best used as “mobile command centers.”
You can set it up in the living room for naps, play, and changing — and you can move it around when you need to. But it probably won’t be your first option for a sleeping baby while traveling.
The main uses of a pack ‘n play are:
- To provide a safe place for your baby to sleep and play
- To provide a portable sleeping/play area for your baby
- To provide a sleep/play area for your baby that can be used long-term
- To provide a combination crib, bassinet, and changing table
Pros and cons of pack ‘n plays
- All-in-one: If you want to keep the number of baby items in your home to a minimum, then pack ‘n plays can be a great solution. They give you the ability to have a sleeping area, changing table, and play area all from one product.
- Small footprint: The smaller size of pack ‘n plays (compared to a regular crib) and the fact that they can double as a changing station, make them a good option for smaller spaces.
- Less expensive: Pack ‘n Plays are usually less expensive than travel cribs. You can find a good pack ‘n play for about $150, maybe less, including some attachments.
- Heavier: Pack ‘n Plays are heavier than travel cribs, so they can sometimes be more difficult to handle, especially if you are dealing with the set-up on your own.
- Thinner mattress: Pack ‘n Plays usually have a thin mattress or pad that uses special sized sheets.
- Multiple pieces can get cumbersome: All of the different attachments make pack ‘n plays amazing options for in the home, but can significantly decrease their portability in terms of vacation. You probably would opt to leave the attachments at home when traveling in order to keep things simple.
- Pack ‘n plays aren’t as good for toddlers: You can absolute have a toddler sleep in a pack ‘n play, but all the extra pieces like changing tables become more and more unnecessary as your child gets older.
The Graco Pack ‘n Play is pretty much the gold standard and works great as a mobile command center for baby. Check it out on Amazon by hitting the link.
That about sums it up when it comes to travel cribs vs. pack ‘n plays!
The biggest differences between the two are the weight and accessories; travel cribs are lighter making them easier to move around and set up, while pack ‘n plays can be heavier and a little more difficult to carry.
However, pack ‘n plays come with a lot more accessory options, although these can also make them harder to move around.
Travel cribs are, not surprisingly, better for travel overall. But pack ‘ plays are the better all-in-one options for your home (and you can travel with them in a pinch.)
Due to their smaller size, they are both good options for smaller spaces. However, depending on whether or not you have a bassinet attachment, getting your baby in and out of them can become difficult due to how low they are to the ground. The zip-up sides of a travel crib can make this slightly less of a hassle.
I hope this helps, parents, and good luck with your search!
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