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Portable play yards make traveling a breeze

It's possible to travel with any play yard. In fact, many parents consider playpens to be nothing more than portable cribs. Most play yards come with carrying bags and are designed to be easy to set up and tear down, but travel play yards are usually smaller than standard models, with fewer features. Some are also small enough that they can fit in a suitcase. While some of these products are labeled as travel cribs, most can be just as easily used as play yards and secondary napping stations in the home.

ConsumerSearch has a separate report on baby cribs, which includes discussion of travel cribs -- important since there's some crossover between travel cribs and portable play yards.

Graco makes a travel play yard, the Travel Lite Crib (*Est. $80), which is available in seven patterns. The Travel Lite Crib offers features similar to that of most standard playpens, including a removable bassinet with quilted bumpers and a canopy with soft hanging toys. It's 20 percent smaller than a standard play yard, at 22.8 inches wide, 32 inches long and 29.3 inches tall. It folds compactly with Graco's push-button fold system and includes a carrying bag. Wheels let you reposition it easily. The bassinet is recommended for babies weighing less than 15 pounds, while the Pack 'n Play itself can be used with babies less than 35 inches tall who cannot climb out on their own. This play yard weighs only 19.7 pounds, so it's lightweight enough that it won't be extremely cumbersome to carry through an airport or even out to the car.

One consumer testing organization pits the Travel Lite Crib against five other play yards, giving it an excellent score for ease of use and portability and a good score for safety. Canadian Family magazine also tests the Travel Lite Crib by having one family try it out. According to the tester, the small size of this playpen makes it convenient for traveling and small enough for use in her condo, although for her 11-month-old son who weighs 21 pounds, it was a bit small both for sleeping and playing. She also notes that it sits a bit low to the ground, so if you're using it for an older infant and can't use the bassinet, it can be a strain to lean over and pick your baby up out of this play yard.

While the features on all seven patterns of the Graco Travel Lite Crib are identical, some retailer websites allow consumers to rate and review specific models without lumping the reviews together. The Betsey pattern is the most heavily reviewed pattern on Walmart.com, where it has a perfect five-star average rating based on over 215 owner-written reviews. The Betsey pattern is a brown and pink design that most reviewers find attractive for baby girls. Most love the small size, saying it works well for apartments or smaller homes where a standard play yard would be too large. Although it's lightweight, owners say it's sturdy. There are a few comments from owners wishing the soft toys were part of a mobile or somehow moved, but otherwise they find them attractive and cute.

A few parents posting to the Babies R Us website mention the pad not being cushiony enough. Many parents report using this playpen as a substitute for a stand-alone bassinet in their bedroom at night, for which they say the Travel Lite works great. After your child outgrows the bassinet portion, they can use it as a travel crib for overnight trips.

The Cosco Funsport Play Yard (*Est. $45) is described as a travel play yard in one of the reviews we consulted, but it receives only fair scores for portability by one consumer testing organization. It does, however, earn excellent marks for safety and ease of use. This simple play yard measures 29 inches tall, 26 inches wide and 29 inches long, and folds up compactly to fit in the included carrying bag. It also includes an accessories bag, useful for storing diapers, small toys or other items nearby. It folds with the push of a button and has an extra security latch to prevent the side rails from collapsing. Wheels on one end make it easy to transport this play yard from room to room, without having to tear it down first.

The Funsport Play Yard is available in 12 different patterns. Beyond the professional ratings, there is little feedback available for the Funsport; just 15 owners have posted reviews on Walmart.com, where it has an average rating of four stars out of five. Opinions are divided on the ease of use of this model; most reviewers say this playpen is very difficult to set up and take down, while a few say it's easy. Overall, most owners say this unit is easily transported and is just the right size for a spare play yard or for taking to a babysitter's house.

We also found recommendations for two other travel cribs: The phil&teds Traveller Travel Crib (*Est. $180) and Baby Bjorn Travel Crib (*Est. $250). Not only are these models more expensive than the products described above, but they seem to be strictly intended as portable cribs, not as play yards. Owners frequently note in reviews that these travel cribs wouldn't work well for use as a play yard; while the phil&teds model is the size of a full-size crib, reviewers say the legs aren't stable, and parents say the Baby Bjorn is too small to function as a playpen. We cover portable cribs in more depth in our report on baby cribs.

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Graco Travel Lite Crib with Bassinet, Betsey
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from Amazon.com
New: $89.99   
Average Customer Review:  
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BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light , Blue
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from Amazon.com
New: $279.95   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Cosco Funsport Play Yard
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from Amazon.com
New: $66.99   
Average Customer Review:  

Play Yards Runners Up:

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BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light , Blue
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $279.95   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Graco Pack 'N Play Playard with Bassinet and Changer, Brentwood
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from Amazon.com
New: $109.99   
Average Customer Review:  
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Graco Pack 'N Play Playard with Newborn Napper, Melbourne
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from Amazon.com
Average Customer Review:  
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Nature's Purest Complete Comfort Playard, Hug Me
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from Amazon.com
New: $179.99   
Average Customer Review:  

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