Heading away on holiday with your baby and need a travel cot? Whether you’re away for the weekend or a bit longer you’ll want the best travel cot to take with you.
Babies and toddlers tend to sleep best in familiar surroundings, and a well-designed travel cot can work almost as well as their own bed on holiday or when you’re staying with family or friends.
The best travel cots will be easy to put up and down, and provide a comfortable space to sleep in, so you don’t have to lose any sleep worrying about your baby.
Most travel cots have a plastic or metal frame, woven fabric and mesh sides, and a hard segmented bottom with a lightly padded folding mattress.
The base and the mattress are an integral part of the travel cot, helping to give it structure and keep it stable.
Generally, the cheaper models will be fairly basic. You won’t get much more than a cot frame, a basic mattress and a carry bag to store it in.
More expensive models can come with more luxurious fabrics and coverings and extra features, such as a removable bassinet level for younger babies, a bouncer chair, sounds and lights or lullabies, and even a thicker, more comfortable mattress.
How much you decide to spend may be down to how often you intend to use the travel cot.
You really only need a baby travel cot if you’ll be making regular overnight trips to places that may be cot-free.
If your baby is likely to stay somewhere overnight on a regular basis, such as their grandparents’ home, it could be worth buying a standard cot to keep at their house.
But, if the grandparents don’t have much space, or aren’t too keen on having a cot taking up space in a spare room, a travel cot is a good alternative.
If you plan to stay at a hotel or holiday home, many will provide a cot or will be able to arrange hiring one for you.
But, it could be worth investing in a travel cot if you prefer to know exactly where your baby will be sleeping.
Putting a travel cot up and taking it back down again shouldn’t be a chore. A decent travel cot should be easy to put up and ready to use without you needing a degree in engineering.
Travel cots generally fold and unfold using a central locking system – you pull up a ring or handle in the middle of the travel cot base, click the sides into place, then push the handle back down to keep the locked sides rigid.
Many models have a similar folding mechanism, where the mattress wraps around the legs to create an oblong which should fit nicely back into its travel bag.
Some models fold flat, and sometimes don’t come with a travel bag. These may not fold down small enough to fit into a car boot, which can make them less suitable for travel, although they are fine as an extra cot for guests.
Some models can double up as playpens, although they won’t provide as much space as a conventional playpen.
Some travel cots have a bassinet level. This is a useful addition if you have a young baby.
A bassinet level fits over the top of the cot and means you don’t have to reach down so far to pick up your baby. It also means you can see your baby a bit more easily.
This level isn’t suitable for older babies, though, or those who can already sit up.
Some baby travel cots are more spacious than others.
Look at the measurements – you may want to choose a larger size if you plan to use the cot as a playpen.
Cot weights can vary a lot. You’ll probably appreciate a lighter one if you plan to travel by public transport or plane, rather than by car.
However, lighter ones are also likely to be smaller. The weight should be stated in the cot’s instructions or specifications, but this isn't always the case.
If you’re buying a new travel cot from a high street shop, ask to see it being assembled, and try carrying the packed cot around for a few minutes to see if it's too heavy.