Family holidays are a time for exploring, playing and creating sun-soaked memories. While there’s no doubt that travel changes once a baby comes along, there are a few essentials that make travelling as a tribe easier and save any tears (and frustration) once you arrive.
Having a trusty portacot along for the ride ensures baby can rest and parents can catch their breath before the next round begins. The best portacots are lightweight, easy to assemble, safe for baby to sleep and durable enough to last future family holidays to come.
Attempting travel with a baby? Make sure you’re suitably armed, and they’re suitably snuggly, with our round-up of the best travel cots.
Travel cot? Be honest, it’s something you didn’t even know existed until you became a parent and had to take a trip. You have to travel with a bed for your baby? Well, yes, you do, and luckily there are so many incredible new designs that hitting the road with your littlest is that little bit easier.
We give you the travel cot, the portable crib, the basket bed … here’s all the latest and all the best products on the market that mean you can travel light even though you’re now packing an extra person.
Portacot and a regular cot?
Portable cots are specifically designed to be used for a baby when a regular cot isn’t available. They’re made of four fabric or mesh sides, with a removable mattress, and fold up for transportation.
Can I use a portacot all the time?
No. While a portable cot is handy when you’re travelling or away from home, a standard cot is a much better bet for every day.
- They’re more durable than portable cots and can accommodate larger babies, so you’ll get more use out of them.
- An average two-year-old will be slightly larger than the recommended size for most portable cots, whereas a regular cot (especially one with a bed-conversion kit) can be used till they’re three or four years old.
- They’re higher off the ground than a portable cot, so you don’t have to bend so far to pick up the baby. After lugging a heavy baby in and out of a low-lying portacot your back will thank you when you return to your standard cot!
How to buy the best travel cot.
First off, you might be surprised to find out that travel cots aren’t just for travel. If you’re stuck for space at home, regularly splitting time between two places, want a safe place to keep them corralled while you pop off for a second (see above), or like to have a spare for friends’ babies when they pop round for a coffee (the friend, that is, not the baby), a travel cot is a sensible solution.
But when it does come to travel, having your own portable cot means that you needn’t worry about whether that Airbnb has all the necessaries or that hotel webpage is up to date, and it also gives baby a familiar place to sleep, eliminating one more reason for them to get lairy while you’re on the road.
And it’s what you’ll be using it for that’ll mostly dictate the type of travel crib you want.
Compact foldable cots or bassinets are best for chucking in a suitcase or luggage locker on the plane, while trips by car simply call for something that can fit in the boot. The more lightweight they are, the more you might question the fact that they’re deemed suitably sturdy for a human child, but between rigorous manufacturer testing and great reviews across the board, you can rest assured each of our picks will keep them safe as houses, even if you’re a long way away from yours.
Finally, for maximum mileage when it comes to the initial spend, look for a model that comes with an included mattress, adjustable levels for rapidly growing babes, and more.
What to look for when buying a portacot
We don’t recommend any of the currently available portable cots we’ve tested. This is because all the available models we’ve tested have safety failures that could result in injury or even endanger a child’s life.
However, this doesn’t mean that all portable cots are equally dangerous. Those that carry a risk of suffocating or trapping the head of the child are considered especially dangerous and should be avoided. Others carry a risk of injury but not death, such as limb entrapment and could be considered if you’re planning on buying a portable cot. Look for models that score 60% or over, as these carry only minor safety risks that don’t endanger the life of the child. It’s important to read each safety failure carefully, as some risks can be avoided or minimised when special precautions are taken. For example, some portable cots carry safety risks when used in bassinet mode, but in cot mode they’re safe.
Here are some of the key features to look for when choosing a portacot:
Each side should be mostly made from a breathable mesh material that extends all the way to the floor of the cot.
The portacot will need to fit in the boot of your car along with lots of other luggage. Keep size and storage at home in mind.
Again, you’re likely to be carrying your portacot alongside lots of other luggage. Be realistic when considering how much weight you can physically carry. Despite “porta” being in the name, many portacots are still quite heavy, with some clocking in at over 14kg. Make sure you’re able to lift and carry it comfortably.
Baby Size Matters
Don’t use a portable cot if your child weighs more than 15kg.
Inside surfaces should be free of bumps, ledges and protruding parts so children can’t hit their heads, get their clothing snagged or use them as a foothold to climb out of the cot.
The quicker the cot goes up, the sooner baby goes down. Too many fiddly bits could lead to added frustration at the other end.
How many family holidays and weekend trips are you likely to take each year? A travel cot needs to be able to withstand a few knocks and bumps along the way.
The mattress should be firm enough and fit snugly without gaps on any side and should not be easily moved or lifted out of place by the child.
The rails should have two locking mechanisms to prevent accidental collapse and closure. The cot floor shouldn’t sag. Press down on the base to check this. If you’re using a portable cot that doesn’t have a sturdy, rigid base, make sure you always use it on a flat floor and not an uneven surface that could distort the mattress shape.
Easy to put up and takedown
The easier it is to put up and down, the better. You don’t want to be struggling when you’re sleep-deprived and have a tired, crying baby on your hands.
Check what size it is when it’s packed down. You’ll want to store it away until your next adventure, so choose one that’ll fit the bill (or, more to the point, your cupboard).
Babies safety is paramount. Look for a portacot with breathable fabrics and made to correct safety standards. Check that the portable cot you buy is certified to the Australian/New Zealand Standard, AS/NZS 2195 – either the 1999 or, preferably, the 2010 version.
Extra accessories are always a bonus, especially when you’re away from the comforts of home. Your portacotcot may come with a bassinet insert, a carry bag or a mosquito net.
What are small travel cots?
Small travel cots are very lightweight, easy to fold and compact for transport. Some are similar in style to most other portable cots but are lighter and more compact (they should weigh no more than 6kg). Others are small folding shelters with a mattress. They can be very handy when you’re travelling, going camping or on a picnic, but aren’t recommended for use all of the time. When we’ve tested small travel cots in the past, we didn’t find any we could fully recommend as each failed at least one important test of the standard.