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You had a baby! Congratulations! Now it’s time to let Grandma see your little one in person. Since it will be an extended stay (Grandma wouldn’t have it any other way), you’re going to need a special place for your newborn to sleep.
So, before you head out on the road, you need to spend some time shopping for a Pack ‘n Play or travel crib.
Or maybe…Grandma, you’re reading this because you decided to get a portable crib to keep at your house so the kids wouldn’t have to tote one back and forth. (Maybe they’ll visit more often then…?)
In any case, someone in this scenario is looking to get a mini crib so the baby can sleep well and soundly while away from home, whether that’s at Grandma’s house or somewhere else.
In this review, we’ll look at several such portable travel cribs, so you can decide which one is best for your situation.
If you’re in a hurry and just want to check the pricing and availability of these mini travel cribs at Walmart or Amazon, you can click the links in the list below. These are currently some of the most popular travel cribs in the market.
If you’ve got more time read on and find out a little bit about the best travel cribs available right now.
Why would you need a portable playard travel crib?
Playards provide babies with a comfortable space to play or sleep, and give parents some peace of mind knowing that their little one is in a safe place where they can keep a watchful eye.
Having a portable playard in your home can be so useful, you can easily move it around your house as you go, and it can easily be packed away and traveled with. This gives you a safe space wherever you might be, at a friend’s house or away camping.
Choosing the right portable mini-crib will ensure you can make the most out of it, whether it be at home, when traveling, when sleeping or playing. For times when it’s used as a crib, you may also want to purchase a Pack ‘n Play sheet for it.
There are a lot of options on the market though so it can get a bit overwhelming. To help we’ve carried out extension research into how to choose a pack ’n’ play and we’ve put together a list of our favorites.
What is a pack-n-play anyway? Is it the same as a playard? A mini-crib?
Maybe it’s just us but we got a little confused with all the various names that come up when discussing this particular product. In the interests of a proper and thorough research we wanted to make sure we’re all talking from the same page. Here are some quick definitions:
Playard – a Playard is basically a portable, foldable crib that can also be used as a temporary playpen.
Pack ‘n Play – is actually Graco’s trademark brand name for its playard range. So technically it’s inaccurate to refer to a “Chicco pack ‘n play” for example.
Mini-crib – some people refer to Playards as mini-cribs, which I guess they kind of are, but, technically, a mini-crib is, as the name suggests, a smaller version of a normal crib.
Travel crib – essentially the same thing as a Playard. A term used more with sleeping in mind then playing.
Portable mini-crib – we’re going to refer to this in the same way as a Playard. A mini-crib can be fixed in place (in a smaller bedroom) or it can be portable to travel with. In this case we’re going to use the term mini-crib interchangeably with playard as, if it’s a portable mini crib, chances are it’s the same thing anyway.
Hope that makes sense. People use the terms Playard, Mini-crib and Pack ‘n Play interchangeably but it’s important to get our understanding right otherwise we’ll end up looking at the wrong products for our needs.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way here is our review of the best Playards on the market in 2020 – starting with the Lotus Travel Crib from Guava.
What Makes the Guava Lotus Travel Crib Different from the Rest?
The Lotus Travel Crib obviously has several features that are similar to other portable cribs, but if you take the following six items as a whole, you can probably safely say that there isn’t another travel crib like it in the market today.
The six points that Lotus likes to emphasize are these.
- Side zipper door
- Sturdy frame
- Comfy mattress
- Backpack style
- Light weight
- Airport friendliness
Let’s take a quick look at each of these features.
Side Zipper Door
There is a side, zippered “door” that takes up virtually all of one of the long sides of the crib. The zipper starts near the bottom of one corner, goes up, across, and down to the other corner. This creates a flap that is the “door” that opens.
You can place your child into the crib through this door (or take him out this way) instead of bending over to set him down through the top opening. For some people, sitting or kneeling on the floor to get access to the crib will be easier on their bodies – especially their backs – than bending with the weight of the baby in their arms.
If your child is old enough to crawl, you can use this side opening as an entrance to a playard that he can easily get into and out of.
The zipper is lockable in that you can link the zipper pull to a clasp that is attached to the base of the crib. There is no actual key lock that you need to fuss with. To unlock it, you simply open the clasp and remove the zipper pull.
You can unzip the hidden zippers and remove the fabric and mesh that forms the sides of the crib so you can wash it as needed. Machine washing is acceptable. There’s no need to hand wash the fabric. The mesh is Lotus’s trademarked “ClearView” fabric.
The frame around the top edge of the crib is made of aluminum, so it is fairly light in weight. It weighs less than 13 pounds. This rim is covered with fabric to protect the hands and head of a child who can stand inside the crib.
If you include the legs as part of the frame, note that they are each connected to the top portion underneath the fabric, but the greater portion of each leg is exposed. This shouldn’t be a safety problem since the legs are outside the crib.
The aluminum is not only lightweight but tough as well. You would really have to try hard to put a dent in it, so it should last for years – most likely until your child outgrows it. If you pack it away properly, it will stand up well after many trips too.
The mattress is made of “high quality” padding. Lotus doesn’t state exactly what this padding material is, but it’s housed inside a cover that is waterproof and the mattress itself is insulated.
These days diapers rarely leak, but sippy cups sometimes do. It’s good to know that, should the mattress come into contact with liquids, you won’t have to worry about ruining it. Cleanup should be relatively easy too. If you want to be extra careful, you can always get a Pack ‘n Play mattress protector.
If you need to set the crib on a floor that is either cooler or warmer than usual, you’ll know that the insulation will protect your child against those unwanted temperatures. The baby should only experience the ambient air temperature, along with his own body heat if you cover him with a blanket.
The mattress rests on a strong base plate and attaches to the legs with a “Quick-Buckle” mechanism.
There are two ways you can carry the Lotus portable travel crib – as a small piece of luggage in your hand or on your back using the shoulder straps.
When the crib is inside its carrying case, it weighs 13 pounds. While this isn’t a load you’d want to carry for a long distance, it isn’t so heavy that you would have trouble lugging it to and from the car or through the halls of an airport.
Using it as a backpack keeps your hands free to carry other items, like your child! The shoulder straps, just like on any other backpack, are padded for your comfort.
As we’ve already mentioned, even with the carrying case, this crib weighs just 13 pounds (6 kilograms). Lotus claims that this is “over 50% lighter than traditional, raised-mattress style portable cribs”. We don’t have enough data to verify this assertion, but it seems likely to be true.
In any case, you won’t be carrying it for great distances anyway. It’s not like you’re going to take it on a hiking trail in the woods.
In backpack format, the crib measures 24 inches long by 12 inches wide by 8 inches deep.
Lotus likes to call the way the crib acts when being put away a “3D fold”. This is because it collapses in all three dimensions – length, width, and height. The upper frame bends in the middle of each long edge to give you a very compact package when you’re done folding it.
This collapsibility makes the crib airport friendly. It’s small enough that you can consider it a carry-on, if you want. Of course, this also means that it won’t take up much room at home (or at Grandma’s) when you need to pack it away.
Speaking of size, you probably also want to know that the mattress itself measures 41 inches long by 23 inches wide. It is 1.4 inches thick. Also, the assembled crib measures 46 inches long by 31 inches wide. Those measurements appear to be made from the bases of the legs which angle outward for stability ending in non-slip, rubberized feet. The crib measures 25 ½ inches high.
Additional Safety Considerations for the Lotus Crib
Besides being made of quality components in general, there were no formaldehyde, PCV, or heavy metals used in its construction. The paint (mainly on the legs) is low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) meaning it doesn’t “off-gas” as much as some other paints do.
This crib also satisfies the requirements for these certifications. The GreenGuard item relates to the lack of formaldehyde.
- US Federal Standard for Play Yards (16 CFR 1221 / ASTM F406)
- Consumer Product Safety Info Act (H.R. 2020 / CPSIA 2008)
- GreenGuard™ Gold Certification
Regarding its return policy, Lotus says, “Since we only sell online, we’ve created a very low pressure, 30-day return period for you to order and check out your purchase.”
The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light Is Easy to Set Up
The BabyBjorn crib is similar in design, size, and weight to the Lotus crib, but it does not have the zippered opening on the side. Your only option is to place the child into it from the top.
One of its biggest positives is the ease of setting it up. Assuming you are storing it in its carry bag, you simply open the bag, pull out the crib, and “set it up in one simple movement” (according to BabyBjorn).
You don’t have to connect anything (as with the Lotus’s legs). It all just opens up and is immediately ready for baby to be put inside.
Packing it away is a bit more tedious and brings into question some of the setup claims above.
According to the video below, you perform the following steps.
- Fold and remove the mattress
- Flip the crib upside down
- Fold in each leg individually
- Fold the crib in half
- Store it in the tote with its mattress
You can watch this process in the following video from BabyBjorn.
Like the Lotus, this travel crib also weighs 13 pounds in its carry bag. There is no backpack option here though.
The sides are mesh so you can easily look in to check on your baby. He can also look out just as easily to see familiar faces when he wakes up.
The soft mattress has a machine washable cover that’s easy to remove. It’s not immediately obvious, but we assume there is a zipper for this purpose. The bottom is 100% polyester while the top is half polyester and half polyurethane.
The fabric of the crib is 100% polyester. It’s also machine washable, but you’re not supposed to put it in the dryer. The mattress itself – again, machine washable – is polyurethane foam.
According to BabyBjorn, “The travel crib fabric is free from harmful substances and approved according to OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Class 1 for baby products.”
Dimensions of the BabyBjorn Crib
Compared to the Lotus, this crib is slightly smaller overall yet takes up more space when folded.
The BabyBjorn when assembled measures 44 inches long by 32 inches wide by 24 inches high. This makes it a little shorter lengthwise and in height but longer (by an inch) in width.
The mattress is the same length as the Lotus and just a tad wider. The main difference is that it’s a fraction (0.2) of an inch thinner. Your child isn’t likely to notice a difference this small.
When folded, this crib becomes 23 ½ inches long by 19 inches wide by 5 ½ inches thick. This makes it over 150 cubic inches bigger than the lotus. If you can imagine a cube a little more than 5 inches on a side, that’s how much more space you need to store this travel crib compared to the Lotus. True, it’s not a lot but could make a difference now and then.
The BabyBjorn Is Safe to Use
Like all good cribs, the BabyBjorn portable crib is very safe for your child to use. He can use it from newborn age to about age 3 (or until he’s able to climb out by himself). It doesn’t matter how much your child weighs as there is no upper weight limit for using this crib.
The BabyBjorn travel crib complies with these standards.
- EN 716 safety standard for folding cribs
- National fire safety requirements
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100, Class 1 for baby products
Check out the latest prices of the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light here.
Graco Travel Lite Crib with Stages
The main point Graco likes to make about the Travel Lite crib is that it works for your child in three stages of his young life.
- Stage 1 – Newborn Bassinet
- Stage 2 – Infant Bassinet
- Stage 3 – New Toddler Playard
Stage 1 includes infants through babies up to 15 pounds. Stage 2 takes over from that weight and continues up to 20 pounds. Finally, Stage 3 handles children until they reach 35 inches or are able to climb out of the crib on their own, meaning you can use the Graco to transition your baby from sleeping in a bassinet to a crib.
These designations are nice, but they aren’t really any different from how you would treat a crib from any other manufacturer.
You can, of course, fold up the crib for storage or travel. You get a carrying case as with the other models above.
A couple of features unique (among these cribs) to the Graco are that this one has wheels on the bottom and a canopy on top. If either or both of those items fit well in your situation, then the Graco travel crib would be the one to get.
It weighs less than 20 pounds. That’s not extremely heavy, but it does weigh more than either the Lotus or the BabyBjorn.
This crib has the smallest mattress area of the three. It measures just over 23 inches wide by 33 ½ inches long. (For some reason, Graco inverts those measurements, even though most people would give the “length” to the longest side.)
However, it is higher than the others at 23 ¼ inches. No dimensions are given for the folded up version. We’ve got one on order so we’ll let you know when we get it out of the box.
Graco Travel Cribs are so popular (they coined the term pack n play after all) so we’ve gone into more detail on the Graco Pack ‘n Play Mini-Crib range.
Or you can see the latest range and latest prices here.
Choosing Your Portable Travel Crib
Any of these cribs would be a wise purchase on your part. It depends on which features are most important to you.
If you like the backpack style, go with the Lotus. If you want a crib that sets up really quickly, try the BabyBjorn. If you need a canopy, check out the Graco.
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