Do you need more than a basic spot for sleeping and short play sessions? If you just need a place for your baby to sleep and hang out, a basic portable crib or play yard will meet your needs -- there's no need to overspend on features you don't need, such as a diaper changer or bassinet.
Do you plan to move the crib from room to room? If so, you'll want to note how wide the crib is before buying. Most standard interior doors are 30 inches wide. That means a 30-inch-wide pack ‘n play like the Graco Everest will have to be disassembled if you need to move it -- a major inconvenience. Some mini cribs or portable cribs may also have wheels that make moving them easier, but make sure they have a secure locking mechanism, particularly if the crib will be in an uncarpeted room.
Do you plan to travel frequently? A portable crib might be fine for an occasional trip to grandma's, but many models are heavy -- some more than 30 pounds -- and take several minutes (and some muscle) to set up. A true travel crib may only weigh half that, with a more durable, easy-to-carry case and a setup that can be accomplished in just a few minutes. Another option, if you'll be staying at a hotel: Call ahead to reserve a portable crib. Most reputable hotels have at least a few on hand, and some will set them up in your room before you arrive.
Steer clear of third-party mattress and bedding. Several manufacturers make sheets and mattresses for portable cribs. In particular, parents are often tempted to use third-party mattresses that are thicker and more plush in portable cribs and play yards that come with very firm, thin sleeping pads. Experts say these products may not be sized precisely for your crib, and any ill-fitting mattress or bedding can raise the risk of a young child suffocating.