Travel cots are smaller versions of a newborn beds that can be folded down and packed away for travelling.
While they're mainly used for overnight stays and longer holidays, they can also be used instead of a traditional crib for both newborns and toddlers. They are portable, easy to carry and should be fairly lightweight too. Perfect for the first few months of your baby's life.
Read on as we take you through the top-performing products, as recommended by real parents.
How real-life comparative testing makes Mumsnet Reviews unique
We commissioned Ruth Lumley to write about and test a variety of toddler and baby travel cots.
Ruth is a journalist who has used a number of baby beds with her three young children – from the newborn stage right through to toddlerhood and while holidaying abroad and visiting relatives in the UK.
During the research process, she looked at the types of products available, scoured the Mumsnet forums for recommendations and spoke to baby sleep experts from The Lullaby Trust, an organisation that provides advice on safer sleep for babies.
After approximately 24 hours of research, she produced a shortlist of 14 cots to put to the test. The list included the most highly recommended cots by Mumsnet users and other review sites, plus a wide range of designs and price tags, from nifty pop-ups to more studier models akin to traditional cribs.
Ruth tried out each bed with her youngest child, who was 18 months old at the time of testing. She tested each for at least three nights, both at home and at the grandparents' house, which meant that all the models were subject to the same environmental factors and held a child of the same age and weight.
Five products were then awarded a Mumsnet Best badge – these are the products that we feel offer the absolute best value for most parents. We also gave honourable mentions to four others.
After four months of research and testing, the results are in. Here are the best travel cots for newborns and toddlers.
1. Best overall travel cot: Joie Kubbie Sleep
The Joie Kubbie Sleep is a real steal and a brilliant choice for new parents who want something that covers all bases.
Versatile in style and cocoon-like in the way it nurtures and grows with newborns, the Kubbie Sleep also comes with a bassinet that can easily be attached and detached.
A unique feature of the Kubbie sleep is that when your baby is in the bassinet, you can tuck the cot close to your bed and adjust the height of the crib so that it acts like a co-sleeper. It's a lovely feature if you're travelling with a tiny baby, it provides extra peace of mind and easy access for changing and breastfeeding.
Great for parents who
- Have a newborn
- Like the idea of a co-sleeper and want to keep their baby close during the night
- Want a cot that can last up to three years old
- Lift and lower side panel means baby can be picked up and placed down without hassle
- Compact frame that packs down into a travel bag
- Mesh-lined ventilation on all four sides
- Too small to be used as a playpen
- Materiel isn't machine-washable
- Suitable from: Birth to three years (15kg)
- Weight: 8.79kg
2. Best lightweight travel cot: LittleLife Arc 2
The LittleLife Arc 2 is extremely lightweight (practically featherweight, really, at just 2.5kg), is designed just like a tent and can be folded down compactly to fit into a backpack, which comes with it.
Its works just as well outdoors as it does indoors and is great for those grab-and-go moments.
Great for parents who
- Use public transport when travelling
- Want something that could double up as a playpen
- Insect-proof mesh for hot weather and the outdoors
- Has a front panel with a safety toggle that can be zipped open or closed, making it a great option to use as an outdoor playpen
- Colour-coded poles make assembly simple
- Thin mattress
- Sunshade must be bought separately
- Suitable from: Birth to three years (15kg), but we'd recommend it for toddlers
- Weight: 2.5kg
3. Best budget travel cot: Red Kite Sleeptight
Robust, a doddle to assemble and simple in design, the Red Kite Sleeptight certainly gives its more expensive counterparts a run for their money. Retailing at only £30, we'd go as far as to say that it's an absolute steal.
With breathable mesh sides panels and padded top rails, the Sleeptight makes for a safe and comfy environment for either baby or toddler.
It's also spacious enough to be used as a playpen too. Win.
Great for parents who
- Need a bed for short trips or as a secondary for the grandparents' house
- Are on a tight budget
- Lightweight and folds down compactly into a travel bag
- Quick to assemble and fold away
- Has padded top rails and mesh panels
- The mattress is thinner than some other baby travel cot mattresses on the market, such as the Joie Kubbie Sleep
- Fabric isn’t removable so can't be washed in the machine
- Doesn't have wheels
- Suitable from: Birth to three years (or able to climb out)
- Weight: 8.5kg
4. Best high-end travel cot: BabyBjörn Easy Go
If you have a little extra to spend, then the luxury and comfort of BabyBjörn's Easy Go will make sleepovers fuss-free no matter where you go.
Similar in design to the BabyBjörn Light, the Easy Go is a real winner. It's sturdy, simple to set-up and a really easy to transport.
The main drawback is the price tag, but if you have the means, then this cot won't let you down.
Great for parents who
- Need a small portable crib that can be taken on short or long trips
- Want to invest in a travel bed that can stand heavy use
- Durable construction
- Very comfy mattress
- Mattress and fabric is removable and machine-washable
- Mattress is fairly close to the floor – one side can be unzipped for easy access though
- It’s one of the more expensive cots around
- Suitable from: Birth to three years
- Weight: 6kg (including carry bag)
5. Best easy-folding travel cot: SpaceCot
A must-have for those on the go, the SpaceCot Alfa is as cool as it sounds. One Mumsnet user even went as far as to say, “It's the easiest travel cot I've ever used”.
With a design based on the folding mechanism of satellite solar panels used in space, it folds and unfolds in mere seconds – and its Zero-G mattress is up to 10mm thicker than other mattresses we tested, providing a snug and safe environment for your baby.
Great for parents who
- Have a newborn baby
- Travel frequently and need a cot that's quick and easy to pack away
- Can be folded using your foot – no bending down
- Thick mattress – one of the best we've tried
- Mattress fitted into the base so doesn't need to be taken out for folding (unless using the newborn bassinet)
- Folds down into a slightly awkward shape – although it's very thin, it still takes up a fair amount of space when stored
- No wheels for easy transportation and can feel heavy to carry up and down stairs
- Suitable from: Birth to three years (or until able to climb out)
- Weight: 6.7kg (including carry bag)
6. Recommended buy: Joie Commuter Change
Winner of the Mumsnet Best Travel Cot 2018 award, the Joie Commuter Change didn’t quite make our top five this year, but it’s still a great product and definitely worth considering.
We love all the added extras that come with the Commuter Change. Not only is there a full-size bassinet, which will save your back when reaching down to your child, but the cot also comes with a changing table which handily clips onto the top.
- Two wheels make this cot easy to move around
- Easy to fold and unfold
- Bassinet and changing unit don’t fit into carry bag
- Side of the cot can’t be pulled down like the new Joie Kubbie Sleep
- Suitable from: Birth to 15kg
- Weight: 12.3kg
7. Recommended buy: BabyDan Travel Cot
The BabyDan Travel Cot an extra-long cot at a budget price. No, it’s not as cheap as the excellent Red Kite, but at almost 20cm longer it’s a great option if you need a larger-than-average product.
Unsurprisingly it’s big and heavy, and not particularly easy to move around, although the two wheels do help a little. The mattress feels a little thinner than others we tested, but all in all it's a lovely large travel cot at a relatively small price.
- One piece fold
- Big enough to double up as a playpen
- Thin mattress
- Suitable from: Birth to 13.6 kg
- Weight: 11.2 kg
8. Recommended buy: Phil & Teds Traveller
This ultra light portable crib may not pack down as small as the LittleLife Arc 2, but it’s spacious and easy to transport nevertheless.
It’s smaller than some of the others we tested, which is why Phil & Teds Traveller didn’t make our top five, but it’s definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a lightweight design.
- Zip down side
- Self-inflating mattress
- Unintuitive assembly
- Suitable from: Birth to two years
- Weight: 2.8 kg
9. Recommended buy: Nuna Sena Aire
Don’t be fooled by the Nuna Sena Aire's stylish lines – this one is built like a tank. After being pushed, shoved and bounced into with the ‘help’ of our tester’s exuberant toddler, we were impressed at just how sturdy this neat-looking crib actually is.
It’s also big enough to be used as a playpen and, although there are cheaper travel cots on the market, if you find this one at a decent price you really can't go wrong.
- Comes with a bassinet
- Mattress attaches to the base with Velcro so there's no risk of it moving around
- Large footprint
- Suitable from: Birth to 15 kg
- Weight: 11.3 kg
What age is a travel cot for?
This type of cot is usually used from the newborn stage up until toddlerhood – or until the little wriggler can climb out by themselves.
Do I actually need a one?
The short answer is: no, not necessarily, but that depends entirely on your lifestyle.
Portable beds can be expensive and can take up unnecessary space in an otherwise baby-filled home, so if you think you'll only get use out of one for two weeks of the year, then you could probably do without.
If you already have a co-sleeper, Moses basket or carrycot that you use with a travel system, you might be able to use that when you're away from home with a smaller baby.
If, however, you tend to travel often or think your little one will have regular sleepovers with the grandparents etc, then a travel cot is a great solution.
It'll not only be easier to cart around, but it'll offer a familiar and comforting environment for your child no matter where they rest their head.
Are travel cots safe?
Safety is crucial when buying a travel bed for your little one so, while all products should have some sort of testing certification, be sure to check the safety features out yourself.
- If you plan to buy in-store, ask to see it being assembled
- Check how sturdy it is – could it withstand being knocked into?
- Look for safety locks on wheels if there are any – can they also be tucked away when not in use?
- Choking hazards are also something to look out for so make sure that small parts, like zips, are well covered
- Check for sharp corners and padded rails
- Assess whether your child would be able to climb out easily – check that the side panels are high enough
Safe sleeping and travel cot mattresses
The Lullaby Trust says that all cots need to comply with British Standards Institution (BSI) safety standards regardless of how old they are. If there is no safety standard number visible then you shouldn't buy it.
When it comes to safe sleeping, they also insist that the bed's original mattress needs to be firm, entirely flat and waterproof with no soft or cushioned areas, particularly around the baby's head. Babies should be placed on their backs with their feet at the foot of the cot.
Soft mattresses are known to increase the risk of SIDS as they make it harder for babies to lose body heat, which can cause them to become too hot.
Sleep positioners and pillows must not be used and there should also be no loose or bulky bedding inside the crib as this can cause a baby to overheat.
The Lullaby Trust also advise that portable cribs aren’t placed against radiators and remain out of reach of blind cords.
How much does a travel cot cost?
Prices range from £20 to over £100, and your budget will probably depend entirely on how much you think you'll use it.
As with anything, the most expensive option won't necessarily be best suited to you and your child. Some cheaper models may do just the trick and will last well into the toddler years too.
Can I buy one secondhand?
Yes, you can, but make sure you always follow the manufacturer's instructions before using.
Make sure it isn’t damaged or broken, that the frame is intact and that there aren’t any sharp edges that could cause injury. If possible, ask to assemble and fold it down before you buy to check it works as it should.
Secondhand travel cots can go from anywhere between £10 and £80.
Other things to consider when buying a travel cot
Check the size and weight. Can it be folded down compactly? Is it likely to fit into the boot of your car?
If you tend to travel by public transport, you'll want a bed that's lightweight and easy to carry. For planes, some small cots may even be able to fit into an overhead locker.
2. Assembly and storage
By nature, travel beds are usually easy to put up and fold down. Pop-ups are, of course, the easiest, but check to see if your chosen product is quick to assemble, fold and pack away.
When it comes to storage, the amount of space you have at home will influence your decision.
Some models have mattresses that fold with the frame before they go into a bag, and most will fit into the back of a cupboard or under a bed when stored away.
3. How to clean
Babies create mess – and a lot of it too. Look for a removable mattress that comes with a fitted sheet, which you will be able to stick in the washing machine.
Some cots have removable side panels, but if they don’t then you can always wipe them clean with warm water.
4. Extra features
Many larger models double up as a playpen which is great for keeping your child safe at all times no matter where they are. Some even come with changing tables, mobiles and bassinets for newborns.
You’ll find that the added extras will usually need to be carried separately once the frame is folded down. Brands that offer attachments like these include Joie (the Joie Commuter Change won Mumsnet Best Travel Cot 2018), BabyBjorn and Graco.
Some, like the Arc 2, also come with added extras like built-in mosquito nets for camping.
How we tested and why you should trust us
For continuity, we try to get one tester to test all the products in a single category. This reduces any potential variables during the testing process and ensures that our results are based on like-for-like comparisons.
Each product was scored on six key areas: safety and stability, assembly, comfort and day-to-day use, aesthetics, cleanliness and value for money, and tested in rooms with both carpet and laminate flooring.
Ruth scored each product based on each criteria below, with the highest scoring coming out on top as the overall winner. Honourable mentions were then given to nine other top-performing beds.
Safety and stability
We looked at a number of factors including:
- Durability and materials – how well was each product made and finished?
- Safety features – did the product have padded rails, lockable wheels, mesh ventilation, firm bedding, a locking system etc? And could a baby's fingers become trapped? Ruth studied everything from the frame to the mattress
- Choking hazards – were there any parts that could come loose?
- Sturdiness – she walked into it, knocked it against furniture and dropped it when assembled and packed away. Could each cot withstand the weight of both an adult and child if accidentally fallen into?
- Safety standards – she also looked for the appropriate safety labels
- Height of side panels – could a child climb out easily?
Assembly and folding
- How straightforward was it to assemble and fold?
- Were written or visual instructions clear and precise? Could the instructions also be accessed online and were there video tutorials to guide you through?
- Each cot was assembled and taken down 20 times – this was also timed to see how long it would take
- We also wanted to see which products might cause difficulty for people with mobility issues and which were the easiest to assemble and take down
- Ruth also considered how easy it would be to access spare parts and whether each cot came with a warranty
Comfort and day-to-day use
- Ruth looked at how much space the cot took up in a room – did it slot in easily, and was it more suited to indoors or outdoors?
- Could it be moved around easily, particularly through doorways, from one room to another, and up and down the stairs? Did it have to be folded in order to do so?
- How easy was it to place the child inside? Could the side panels be lowered?
- When inside, was the little one comfy? Did they like it and was there enough room to sleep and to play?
- Was it heavy to carry and did it fit comfortably in the boot of an average-sized family car? Could it be taken on public transport easily?
- Ruth analysed looks, including colours, fabrics and overall design
- Did the bed fit in with the décor? Was the design attractive and user-friendly?
- Were there different colours to choose from?
- The likes of mud, sand, peanut butter, milk and orange juice were smeared and spilled onto the interior and exterior to see how easy stains were to remove
- Ruth also checked for removable bedding that could easily be thrown into the washing machine
Value for money
- We tested products with a variety of price tags and compared the more expensive models to those that were cheaper
- If pricey, was it worth the price tag? And were there any extras included to make the investment more justified?