How to buy a travel cot Choosing a travel cot

baby asleep

If you're unlikely to get much use out of a travel cot, consider borrowing one instead

Travel cots are portable cots you can fold up and put in a bag to take away with you. Most have a plastic or metal frame, woven fabric-and-mesh sides, and a hard segmented bottom with a folding, lightly padded mattress.

You can find out where to buy yours from with our review of the best and worst travel cot brands.

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Do you really need a travel cot?

You really only need a baby travel cot if you’ll be making regular overnight trips to cot-free homes. Even then, if your baby is likely to stay somewhere overnight on a regular basis (say, with grandparents), it’s worth considering buying a cheap, standard cot instead to keep at their house. See our guide to choosing a cot for more information.

If you plan to stay at a hotel or holiday home, many will provide a cot or at least will be able to arrange hiring one for you. If you have a network of friends with young children, borrowing a travel cot for occasional use shouldn’t be too hard.

Pros and cons of travel cots

Pros

Many parents get a lot of use out of travel cots. They can give you the freedom of staying almost anywhere you want without having to worry about where the baby will sleep. A travel cot can also provide an extra sleeping place for babies who come to stay at your home. The playpen-sized models have even more potential for regular use.

Cons

Countless baby travel cots are only ever used a handful of times. They can take up a fair amount of storage space even when folded, and even though they’re portable they can be heavy to lug around. So don’t buy one unless you’re sure you’ll get some decent use out of it.

Folding and storage

Travel cots generally fold and unfold using a central locking system - you pull up a ring or handle in the centre of the base, click the sides into place, then push the handle back down to keep the locked sides rigid.

Some models fold flat. These don’t come with a bag and may not fold compactly enough to fit into a car boot, so are less suitable for travel (although they are fine as an extra cot for guest babies).

Some travel cot models can double up as playpens, although they won’t provide as much space as conventional playpens.

Travel cots for young babies

baby in a cot

A Moses basket may be more suitable for a newborn baby

Some travel cots come with a bassinet for newborns, but generally they’re not designed for very young babies as they don’t have drop-down sides or adjustable mattress heights. 

A soft carrycot or Moses basket can be just as portable but more suitable for newborns, and you can also buy light, pop-up travel carrycots from a range of baby catalogues.

Moses baskets

Moses baskets are designed to provide your new baby with a safe, snug sleeping place. Usually made from natural palm leaf, Moses baskets are light and have carry handles so you can move your sleeping baby if necessary. 

It’s best to avoid carrying your baby around in the basket if possible, particularly if the handles don’t meet in the middle. The Moses basket also provides no protection if you slip or trip on the stairs.

You can place the Moses basket on the floor, or you can buy a foldaway stand to place the basket on next to your bed, enabling you to reach your baby easily for night-time feeds. If you use one of these, check it has a safety catch to prevent accidental closing.

A PVC-covered foam mattress will normally be included with the basket, and often you'll get a canopy or hood, lining and quilt, too. Find out more in our guide to choosing a Moses basket.

Carrycots

A carrycot is a sturdier alternative to a Moses basket. If you have a carrycot option on your pushchair, you could use this as your baby’s main sleeping place for the early weeks.

However, you may end up spending a lot of time removing and refitting the carrycot to the base, and you may need to buy a mattress suitable for night-time sleeping. 

You can buy separate carrycots, although they’re not as widely available as Moses baskets. If you do go for this option, choose one that’s fairly light, as you may need to move your baby in it while he or she is sleeping.

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