New parents must make countless decisions before they bring their baby home. From your baby’s sleeping arrangement to the brand of nappies you’ll use, there are so many choices that come with being a parent. But there are some baby items that almost every parent needs, including a travel cot.
A travel cot is a must-have for most parents. If you want to take your baby out of the house overnight or during naptime, you need one. Travel cots are also useful at home, and you can save money by purchasing a multi-use travel cot instead of several pieces of baby furniture.
If you’re not convinced about the utility of a travel cot, keep reading. This guide will walk you through a travel cot, its many uses, the benefits, drawbacks, and alternatives of purchasing it.
What Is a Travel Cot?
A travel cot (also known as a playpen or pack and play) is a collapsible cot you can bring with you when you travel. It usually has a plastic frame, mesh sides, and a thin, firm mattress. Some versions have wheels attached for easier transport and attachment options for changing tables or bassinets.
You can use a travel cot as a bassinet, cot, or playpen. These cots are less expensive than traditional cots, are multipurpose, and can be used wherever you go.
Without any attachments, a travel cot can fold into a long, thin bag that can easily fit in the boot of your car.
What Age Can You Use a Travel Cot Until?
Travel cots can usually be used until your baby is ready to transition to a regular bed. Depending on the type of cot you purchase, you should be able to use it until your child turns three. However, if you’re just looking for a safe place to put your baby in, you may prefer a carrycot.
Many travel cots have the option to elevate your baby’s mattress a few feet off the ground so that it’s easier to lay your baby down to sleep. You can use your travel cot in this position for about the first six months of your baby’s life. However, once your baby can sit up on her own, you should lower the mattress for her safety.
As your baby grows up and gets more mobile, your travel cot will have another use – a safe place to play. No matter whether you’re travelling or you’re at home and need to put the baby somewhere, a travel cot will stop your child from getting into trouble and will double as a playpen. Most travel cots are sturdy enough to hold an active toddler in place.
When your child is old enough to sleep in a regular bed while travelling, you can stop using your travel cot. You’ll probably find this happening around age two or three.
What Are the Advantages of Having a Travel Cot?
There are several advantages to owning a travel cot, including versatility, portability, and cost-efficiency. If you’re looking to limit the amount of baby furniture you have to spend money on, a travel cot is a great option.
Let’s walk through the main advantages of having a travel cot so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you and your baby.
Great for Travel
As the name implies, a travel cot is most useful for travelling. Your baby’s standard cot will likely be bulky, made of wood, and challenging to take apart when you need to travel. However, a travel cot folds up into a bag and can fit in the boot of your car. The mattress folds up around the cot frame, so the whole kit can fit in a single bag.
Many travel cots are designed with efficiency in mind and are made to collapse and unfold very simply. With a little practice, you’ll have no trouble setting up your baby’s travel cot in any hotel room, inn, or home.
It can be difficult to get your baby to sleep when you’re on holiday. The stress of travel and the new environment may keep him awake at night. If you have a travel cot that he has slept in before, you can give your baby a familiar, comfortable place to sleep when you’re away from home.
Travel cots can be used as a bed for newborns (with the mattress raised), a cot for infants and toddlers (with the mattress lowered), and as a playpen. You don’t even have to be travelling to use these functions. As long as you have the space in your home, you can set up the travel cot in your room or the nursery.
If you purchase a travel cot with a changing station and bassinet attachments, your travel cot becomes even more versatile.
Good for Your Budget
Even if you don’t plan on travelling with your baby, a travel cot can save you a lot of money. For example, if you have a travel cot with the bassinet and changing pad attachments, you’ll have a single piece of furniture that functions as a Moses basket, changing table, cot, and playpen.
No matter whether you’re trying to save money or space, a travel cot is a great option.
What Are the Disadvantages of Having a Travel Cot?
Despite all their advantages, travel cots aren’t perfect.
Travel cots aren’t as comfortable as regular cots, and there’s always a chance that your baby may not like them. Additionally, some travel cots are also difficult to collapse and set up, which may leave you frustrated.
Travel cot mattresses have to be thin enough that they can fold into an easy-to-carry bag. Unfortunately, this means they’re much thinner and firmer than your baby’s regular mattress.
Many babies don’t need thick, plush mattresses to sleep comfortably. Many parents find that their babies sleep fine in the travel cot. However, this isn’t necessarily the situation for every baby, and there’s always a chance that your baby may find a thin mattress uncomfortable.
If you plan on using the travel cot for everyday use and not just travel, you should consider purchasing a thicker, more comfortable mattress.
Some travel cots can be difficult to collapse and set up. While some brands pride themselves on being very ergonomic and easy to use, others can be downright frustrating to put together.
To reduce the risk of encountering this issue, make sure to look at the reviews of the travel cot and get an idea of what other parents think of it before purchasing. This is especially important if you plan to travel a lot with your baby.
You and your partner may want to practice folding and unfolding the travel cot before the baby arrives, too.
How Often Do You Go Away Where You Would Need a Travel Cot?
Travel cots aren’t just for faraway holidays. There are many situations where it’s useful to have a travel cot on hand.
A travel cot can be useful even if you’re not planning on going for a holiday out of the city. It can come in handy when travelling to a friend’s house, as you’ll have a safe and convenient place in which to put your baby down for a nap.
Travel cots are also useful when visiting a home that isn’t baby-proofed. Friends or family that don’t have infants might not keep their homes perfectly safe for babies. You can put your baby in the travel cot with a few toys, so she has a safe place to play.
Are There Alternatives To Using A Travel Cot?
There are some alternatives to using a travel cot, but they aren’t perfect solutions. If you’re travelling with a newborn, you can bring a Moses basket with you for your baby to sleep in. However, a Moses basket only works for babies under four months or those who haven’t outgrown it.
Hotels usually offer a cot for infants if you don’t have one with you. While your baby won’t be familiar with this cot, it’ll get the job done.
When visiting family or friends, you can ask ahead of time if they have a cot for your baby to sleep in. If they don’t, a travel cot is the only reasonable choice.
Are Travel Cots Expensive?
Travel cots are available for a wide range of prices, so you can easily choose one that meets your budget. You can find options that are under £100, as well as luxury options that are higher priced.
While even spending £100 may seem like a lot, you’ll find that it’s well worth it when considering how often you’ll use the cot. Some of my favorite budget (under £100) options from Amazon.co.uk include:
- The Graco Contour Electra Travel Cot, which comes with a bassinet attachment, a changing pad, and a toy bar.
- The Hauck Travel Cot Set Sleep N Play Center, which includes a changing pad attachment. Hauck models are renowned for being easy to collapse and set up.
For a more luxurious travel cot, consider the Joie Commuter Travel Cot Change & Bounce from Mamas and Papas. This cot includes a changing pad, and a bassinet, and a toy bar that doubles as a bouncer.
How To Save Money on a Travel Cot?
Travel cots don’t have to be expensive. You can buy your travel cot used or search for one that’s on sale. The NHS recommends that you purchase a new mattress for your baby’s safety if your travel cot is secondhand.
You could also consider not buying additional nursery furniture if a travel cot can do the job. This includes items like co-sleeping cribs and changing tables. You can then use the money you save and put it toward a travel cot that has the attachments you need.
Are Travel Cots Worth Having?
Travel cots are worth having thanks to their versatility and cost-effectiveness. Regardless of whether you’re travelling with your baby overnight or are going to a friend’s house, a travel cot will come in handy. It can also function as a playpen, and will last for up to three years.
More than just the cot itself, it’s the attachments that make travel cots worth it. A travel cot can take the place of your changing table, Moses basket, co-sleeping crib, and even a baby bouncer. You can even use a travel cot instead of a regular cot every night, though you may want to purchase a softer mattress for your baby’s comfort.
The right travel cot can save you money and space around the house on top of being invaluable for travelling with your baby.