What every best Mini Cribs has:
- Breathable sides.
- A sturdy frame.
- A firm, well-fitting mattress or mattress pad.
For road warriors or frequent flyers, pack 'n plays are just too heavy and bulky to make them suitable for frequent travel. Travel cribs fill a niche for these parents by shedding extra features (and pounds) to keep things as compact and lightweight as possible. These cribs are also easier to set up and take down, an essential feature for any crib that's frequently on the move.
Reviewers say the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light (Est. $230) is the ultimate in ease for traveling families: It's lightweight, durable and a snap to set up, even compared to other travel cribs. The crib is available in black, silver, dark blue and pink.
Easy setup is crucial in a travel crib, and reviewers say it doesn't get any simpler than the Travel Crib Light. Experts with BabyGearLab.com needed just 90 seconds to set up the crib, which has legs that automatically lock into place. Taking down the crib required just 15 more seconds. The crib folds into a suitcase-like carrier that can be carried on most planes, saving you a checked bag fee. Together with the carrying case, the Travel Crib Light weighs just 13 pounds. Assembled, it's 44 inches long, 24 inches wide and 32 inches tall.
Travel cribs aren't loaded with features, but Baby Bjorn has a few extra touches that reviewers appreciate. Both the crib cover and mattress cover are removable and machine-washable, and all fabrics are certified to be free of potentially harmful substances such as flame retardants. Parents say the 1.25-inch mattress is a bit thicker and seems comfier than is typical for a portable crib. However, some warn that because the mattress sits all the way on the ground, it can be tough for shorter caregivers to bend down comfortably when putting babies in the crib or taking them out. The Travel Crib Light Fitted Sheet (Est. $32) is available separately.
Baby Bjorn recommends the Travel Crib Light for children up to 3 years old or until they can climb out, whichever comes first. There are no weight and height recommendations, but the sides are slanted inward, which may help contain escape-artist toddlers. Baby Bjorn warns against using any third-party mattresses in the crib to reduce suffocation risks. Baby Gear Lab's testers call stability "top notch," noting that the crib was stable "even with a rowdy 2-year-old pushing the limits." But some parents warn that it's easy for them to trip on the crib's protruding legs, especially in the dark.
Reviewers say the Lotus Travel Crib and Portable Baby Playard (Est. $210) gives its close competitor, the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light, a run for its money with a similar design and a slightly lower price point. The crib is gray with black mesh, and there are no other color choices.
Easy travel is a strong suit here: The Lotus weighs 13 pounds like the Baby Bjorn, and its rectangular carry-on-size carrying case has backpack straps -- a feature parents love, especially when they need extra hands at the airport. Baby Gear Lab's experts say it also sets up nearly as easily as the Bjorn with legs that automatically snap into position. However, securing the mattress with Velcro tabs is a little fussy and time-consuming, they say. Setup time was clocked at 2 minutes and 45 seconds, and takedown was 3 minutes, compared with 90 seconds and 1 minute and 45 seconds for the Bjorn. The Lotus is over 47 inches long -- a couple inches longer than the Bjorn, but otherwise nearly identical in size.
One feature that differentiates the Lotus is the zip-down side panel, useful for parents who don't want to bend all the way down to put their baby in the crib. The mattress is bit thinner than the Bjorn's, reviewers say, and not as soft. Materials are nontoxic and free of flame-retardants, and the crib cover is machine washable. There are several accessories, including two kinds of sheets, a Bassinet Conversion Kit (Est. $110) and a Mosquito Net (Est. $27).
The Lotus is recommended for children up to age 3. There is no weight limit unless parents opt for the bassinet, use of which is capped at 18 pounds. The use of third-party mattresses or pads is strongly discouraged. Baby Gear Lab's testers say the crib is sturdy and tip-resistant, and they like the breathability offered by the entirely mesh sides. While reviewers say both cribs feel stable, most give the overall nod for durability to Baby Bjorn's higher quality materials.
Parents who do a lot of travel but can't afford to spend $200 or more on a travel crib may appreciate the Fisher-Price Ultra Lite Day and Night Play Yard (Est. $115). Though reviewers say it's still lightweight and easy to set up, the Ultra Lite is roughly half the price of the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light and the Lotus Travel Crib. It's available in gray with five different gender-neutral fabric patterns, including chevron and stripes.
Like its more expensive competitors, the Ultra Lite has a carrying case for easier travel. It has a shoulder strap that parents like, but the case is slightly bulkier and isn't carry-on friendly for air travel. At 15 pounds, it's also a couple pounds heavier than the Bjorn and Lotus, but still half the weight of many pack 'n plays. Hollie Schultz of BabyGizmo.com says "there's no tricky business" about setup -- the crib pops open easily and legs automatically snap into position. Assembled, it's about 40 inches long, 27.5 inches tall.
The Ultra Lite comes with an incline sleeper that clips onto the top of the crib frame and has its own machine washable padding. Reviewers love this feature, saying it's ideal for smaller babies who tend to sleep more soundly at a slight angle. It also includes a portable changing pad that can be stored in a side pocket. The mattress is thin like those found in a traditional pack 'n play, and some parents worry that it's too firm to be comfortable.
Fisher-Price recommends using the Ultra Lite with children who are less than 35 inches and cannot climb out of the crib. Parents should stop using the incline sleeper feature once their babies start to roll over or can pull up on the sides -- typically around 5 months, according to Fisher-Price. Though many reviewers report buying a different mattress pad for the Ultra Lithe, Fisher-Price warns against using anything other than the provided mattress pad in the crib to minimize suffocation risks. Baby Gizmo's Schultz says the crib feels quite stable, and reviewers agree that there's minimal risk that it will tip over.