With restrictions easing many of us may be hoping to get away on a relaxing family holiday.
And whether you have a newborn or toddler, you’ll want to ensure your child has a comfortable and safe space to sleep and play.
Some hotels may offer a basic cot for your child, but if your prefer knowing exactly where your baby will be sleeping, then investing in the right travel cot for your needs will make the holiday more relaxing and stress-free.
We’ve shortlisted six features to look out for when looking to buy a travel cot, designed to make transporting, cleaning and safety easy peasy.
1. Safety Standard Labels
Whilst not the most alluring feature, a travel cot typically costs around £25 – £200, so you want to ensure your money is going towards a product that is safe for your child to use.
Look out for the BSI kitemark and the standard number BS EN 716-1:2017 to ensure the cot meets the official standard for folding cots. Cots that meet this standard have been assessed for fire safety, frame stability and entrapment hazards.
This standard covers a basic travel cot, if you want one with additional add-ons then the BS EN 716 standard won’t cover these. Look out for additional numbers to check these accessories meet safety standards; for example BS EN 12221 for changing units, BS EN 1130 for cribs and cradles, and BS EN 14036 for baby bouncers.
If you’re using a travel cot with add-ons, like a bassinet or changing station, make sure they’re used under your supervision (as per manufacturers’ instructions) to make sure your child is safe and sound.
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2. Bassinet for young babies
Suitable for newborns up to a few months old, consider a travel cot with a bassinet attachment if you have a new arrival in the family.
This attachment fits over the top of the travel cot frame, and raises the height at which your baby sleeps.
Not only will you have less far to reach to pick up or lay down your baby, reducing back strain, it makes your baby more visible, making it much easier for you to keep an eye on them throughout the day.
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3. Mesh sides
Most travel cots have at least one mesh side, whilst some have all four sides made of a meshed material.
This ensures you have a good view into the cot, and provides great visibility for your child to see out.
If you want to double up the travel cot as a playpen for your kid then it’s definitely worth looking into getting one where all four sides are mesh so they get a better view.
If you’re planning on taking the travel cot to the beach, a mesh side will allow the breeze to pass through the cot, making it a more pleasant play environment. Just make sure the cot’s positioned in a sheltered or shady spot to protect your child from the sun’s UV.
4. Removeable frame cover
Spills and accidents are a common occurrence with your little ones, and the last thing you want to do is transport an unclean cot around with you.
Look for a travel cot with removable frame and mattress covers. This makes it much easier to clean and wash, prolonging the life of your travel cot, and keeping it more hygienic for your child.
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With some of the heavier travel cots weighing in at 10kg+, finding one with wheels can make it easier for you to move.
This is perfect if you want to keep your child in the same room as you.
Make sure the wheels can lock, or that the cot has two wheels and two legs, so that the cot doesn’t roll around when you want it to remain still.
6. Changing station and other add-ons
Lots of travel cots come with, or are compatible with, a host of add-ons. From baby-bouncers to storage pockets and even light shows, many are aimed at entertaining your little one.
If we had to recommend one though, look for a travel cot that comes with a changing mat. These attach over the top of the cot frame, and ensures you’ll always have somewhere convenient to change your baby’s nappy.
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What to consider when buying a travel cot
If you’re not sure where to start, ask yourself the following four questions and it will help you narrow down what you want, and what to look out for in a travel cot.
How will you need to transport the cot?
Are you travelling by car, or having to get a train or plane?
Travel cots typically weigh from 2kg to 10kg, so if you’re travelling by public transport or taking it down to the beach you’ll appreciate a lighter one.
Look out for cots that have wheels on their storage bag. This will make it a breeze to transport when folded up.
If you’re going by car, or you’ll leave it in one location for the whole holiday, a heavier cot will be less of an issue, and will generally be more stable.
Are you happy with the mattress?
The Lullaby Trust recommends that a cot mattress should be firm, flat and waterproof. This applies to a travel cot’s mattress as well.
You should make sure you are happy with the mattress the cot comes with, as swapping the mattress out for a different one may alter the stability of the travel cot.
Travel cot sizes vary more than a standard cot, so it’s harder to find a third-party mattress that fits as well as the one it comes with.
An ill-fitting mattress could lead to entrapment risks and could make it easier to tip over. It’s best to stick with the one that’s supplied.
What functions do you need?
Do you just want somewhere for your child to sleep or do you want a swiss-army knife-style travel cot, capable of being a cot, changing station and playpen all-in-one?
It is worth deciding exactly what functions you need so you don’t pay more for extras you won’t use.
If you just want a cot for sleeping only, then consider a travel cot that’s smaller in size with a really good mattress.
If you’d also like it to act as a playpen then getting a larger size will give your child more room to play.
Can you try before you buy?
It’s important the travel cot is safe and secure for your child, but also that it’s easy for you to use.
If you can, try out the travel cot before buying. If you’re buying online, make sure you can return the cot if you’re not happy with it.
- Mattress – is it firm and flat? Remember a hard mattress is good for supporting your child’s growing body.
- Weight – try carrying the folded travel cot for a bit. Is it likely to give you arm or backache after a while?
- Test the folding mechanism – although practice makes perfect, some mechanisms are fiddlier than others. Try folding and unfolding the cot several times to make sure you can easily do it. When unfolded, check the cot is stable enough for your needs. A travel cot won’t be as rigid as a permanent cot bed, but make sure it isn’t at risk of tipping over.