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What is the Best Graco Pack ‘n Play for Your Needs?
Should you even choose a Graco – what about the other brands out there?
We polled 1,681 parents from all over the USA to get an honest, ‘warts and all’ opinion of their Pack ‘n Play and the results were amazing! They really cut through the BS of fake, incentivized reviews and give you the 411 direct from moms and dads ‘in the trenches’.
In our survey, 80% of respondents owned a Graco-branded playard – so Graco is by far the most popular brand.
Of these Graco owners, 72% would ‘Definitely recommend or Buy Again’ and Graco models scored 83% in terms of overall satisfaction.
As such, we’ve dedicated this webpage to the Graco brand only. But we do also have details about other non-Graco playards (including the top-end Lotus Guava which scored 98% for overall satisfaction).
Graco: The Original Pack ‘n Play Brand
The Graco brand is the original playard. In fact, it has been so successful that their trademark term “Pack ‘n Play” has become synonymous with all playards and travel cribs. Often, people refer to any brand of playard as a Pack ‘n Play and use these terms interchangeably but, technically, only Graco can use the name “Pack ‘n Play”, which makes them the original pack ‘n plays.
Graco is one of the most recognizable and reliable baby brands in the world and they actually invented playards you could take anywhere back in 1987. In the more than three decades since, Graco have expanded and optimized their range.
At time of writing, there are no less than 23 different kinds of Pack ‘n Play available in the Graco range, plus a whole host of discontinued models you can still buy on marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.
Parents Love Graco
In our survey, Graco was by far the most common pack ‘n play and, while it wasn’t rated the highest brand, it still did score a commendable 83% on overall satisfaction.
If you’ve decided you want a Graco but are confused about which model will be right for your needs, read on below and we’ll talk you through the pros and cons of some of the most popular models.
Best Overall – Graco On the Go
The perfect combination of great price, functionality, and quality is the Graco Pack ‘n Play On The Go playard.
14% of our Parents’ survey respondents owned an On The Go, and this was the second most common pack ‘n play in our sample.
It scored an impressive 82% on ‘Overall Satisfaction’ and 60% said they’d definitely buy again; while only 3 respondents said they regretted their decision to choose this model.
At around $80 (on Walmart.com), it is good value, has great customer feedback, and is one of the top rated playards on the market. Parents scored the Graco On the Go at 84% in terms of value for money – the best Graco in our survey.
What Parents Liked About the Graco On The Go:
Ease of Use (set-up and disassembly)
The ‘On the Go‘ is designed for quick and easy set-up and take down and this was considered the best feature of this pack ‘n play. Here are some parent comments (one mom even noted she uses it as a changing station):
Ethan J: “Signature Graco push-button fold that makes closing your baby playard quick and hassle-free”
Samantha F: “Easy to fold, compact for storage”
Shawna C: “I also use it to change him and makes it very easy”
Value for Money
The Graco On the Go is fairly inexpensive, considering the great design and flexibility.
In our survey, it scored 84% for ‘Value for Money” – the best performer in this category from the Graco range.
Erin C (see video below) says that specifically she chose the On the Go for its combination of safety and affordability. She listed her key requirements as:
- Economically friendly
- Safe for her kids to sleep and play in
- Easy to carry
- Easy to put together
For her, the only downsides of the On the Go she could think of were that it’s a little too big to carry long distances and too big to take onboard a plane as carry on.
What Parents Didn’t Like About the Graco On the Go:
The two biggest issues reported by parents were:
Comfort scored only 71% on our survey and many parents reported the mattress thin and hard.
Samantha F said “…can feel all the metal bars through mattress”. Perhaps the solution to this problem is to buy an extra mattress to go inside. [Our article gives details on what to look for when purchasing an extra mattress for your playard].
Portability scored a reasonable 78% but there are lighter playards out there. In truth, most people are not transporting playards on trains, planes, and buses, and 99% of the carrying you do will be from the house to the car trunk and back so we don’t think this one is a major issue.
Summary and Specification
At around $85 on the Graco website (get 15% off when you sign up to their mailing list) or $80 at Walmart, the Graco On the Go Pack ‘n Play is amazingly good value.
It has excellent customer feedback and is one of the top rated playards on the market.
This pack ‘n play has a removable full-size infant bassinet that allows your newborn to sleep comfortably, while still being a safe place where older babies can stay confined. The crib has automatic folding feet and wheels which conveniently allow you to move it around the house.
With a quick press of the Graco push-button, the pack ‘n play folds down really quickly, with little hassle. It is just as easy to set up as it is to fold down. Simply push the bottom down flat and pull out the sides until the crib clicks.
A toy bar sitting above the crib features soft toys that will keep your baby amused, and the neutral yet warm colors are the perfect combination for a calming area for your little one.
The pack ‘n play comes with a carry bag that allows for fuss-free storage and makes it easy for when you’re on the go (Make sure you note Erin’s tip at 45 seconds in the video below.)
Graco has poured their years of experience into ensuring this pack ‘n play is of the best quality, keeping your baby safe and happy.
Check out our video below from mom Erin who gave Stuff4Tots her honest review and a few tips besides..
There’s no doubt in our mind that this is the best value Graco Pack ‘n Play currently on the market and we unreservedly give it a BUY! recommendation.
Most Versatile Pack ‘n Play – Graco Newborn2Toddler
The top end of the range is the Graco Pack ‘n Play Newborn2Toddler Playard. It is pricey at approximately $300 (check latest price) but it comes with a toddler cot and raised bassinet, so it is almost like three-beds-for-one. (You could even use it as a changing station if your baby is small enough.)
It scored highly in our parent reviews with 90% Value for Money rating, 90% for Ease of Use, but only 75% for Comfort.
Graco claim 7 different modes of use:
- Raised Bassinet – for sleeping next to your bed. Keeps baby at eye level so you can just turn and glance and don’t have to get out of bed
- Crib-Level Bassinet – slightly lower bassinet setting for when baby is sitting up
- Travel Bassinet – you can detach the bassinet and just take that with you for quick overnight stays
- Care Station – comes with a diaper changer so you can lie baby at waist level and change her
- Portable Seat – can be positioned as an upright seat for babies up to 3 months old who can’t sit yet
- Toddler Playard – convenient playard for toddler to play or sleep safely
- Toddler Cot – raised sides to keep the bigger kid safe while sleeping away from home
This really is a truly versatile piece of kit and can be used with a baby or toddler and it stays useful as the family grows.
With a Stuff4Tots 80% Satisfaction Rating, it is definitely a ‘Buy!’ recommendation if you have the budget.
- Easy clean with wipe down fabrics
- Works for kids of different ages and grows with baby
- The most versatile playard on the market
- High end pricing
- Can be a bit awkward to assemble the playard section (needs a bit of jigging to get them to click in place)
- For a playard of this price range, the mattress is a bit thin and uncomfortable
If you regularly travel with a baby and a toddler, then this pack ‘n play could be the portable crib / playard for you.
Lightest / Most Portable Pack ‘n Play – Graco Travel Lite
The Graco Travel Lite Crib with Stages is made for portability. This lightweight crib has so many useful features. It is less than 20 lbs and 20% smaller than traditional playards, hence it is super-portable.
In our survey, this playard gained a whopping 86% satisfaction score and 64% would recommend it to a friend or relative. Of those that wouldn’t buy again, their biggest complaint was the comfortableness of the mattress. This could be overcome by buying an extra mattress – but this does unfortunately make it less portable, so kind of defeats the purpose.
Aside from its portability, this particular playard scored highly on Ease of Use (84%) and Safety (89%).
64% of Graco Travel Lite owners would consider buying one again or recommending to a friend. This model definitely gets the Stuff4Tots ‘Buy!’ badge.
What Parents Liked about the Graco Travel Lite Pack ‘n Play:
Lots of moms commented on its portability of course, but we liked Michelle M’s quaint “Toteability” term which makes us think of Southern Belles for some reason. 😊
Many respondents also liked the ‘stages’ aspect for flexibility and versatility. “Innovative and Creative”, said Peter O.
Amanda P sums it up very well: “It fits nicely next to your bed for those first few months before switching to a full size crib in their own room. Nice color combo and it isn’t too large or too small.”
Durability – respondents were happy with the sturdiness of the design.
What Parents Didn’t Like About the Graco Travel Lite:
The biggest issue people had with the Graco Travel Lite was comfort.
Here’s some of the negative feedback that we heard:
- Courtney S: “Mattress is kinda hard”
- Amy E: “The pad is a little hard for my liking”
I guess it’s a compromise between being lightweight and portable and being large enough to spread out and play in and having a thick enough mattress for a cozy night’s sleep.
Consider how you are going to use your pack ‘n play. If it’s an every night sleeper, you may be better off with a bigger, more comfortable model but, if you’re on the road a lot and baby will need to bed down for the odd night, then it may be the model for you.
This was one of the most popular mini-cribs in our survey and was owned by over 10% of respondents, so there are bound to be a few that don’t like it. All in all, it was highly recommended by the majority of owners.
Summary and Specification
The Travel Lite with Stages is one of the most portable pack ‘n plays on the market.
It’s not just lightweight; it has some great functionality too. It can be used initially as a bassinet and then, as baby grows, it converts into a mini-crib / playard for infants up to 35 lbs.
This one-of-a-kind adjustable height bassinet grows with your baby, seeing them through many different stages.
The travel crib easily transforms into a portable playard, while keeping your baby safe throughout. The sides of the pack ‘n play are ventilated to allow for easy airflow, and for you to keep an eye on your baby as they play or sleep.
It’s perfect for the family on the go, while still providing utmost comfort for your baby, and adjusting to their needs as they grow.
The stages they talk about are the three different age ranges that this playard is suitable for, namely:
- Stage 1 Bassinet: For infants unable to push up on hands and knees and under 15 lbs
- Stage 2 Bassinet: For infants unable to push up on hands and knees and under 20 lbs
- Stage 3 Playard: For children unable to climb out and under 35″ tall
This pack ‘n play is a great combo of bassinet, travel crib, and playard. By its nature, it’s on the smaller side (hence why it’s so light) so perhaps is more suited to the younger age children than some of the other pack ‘n plays.
It has a quilted mattress pad for comfort and the bassinet can be set on two different heights.
This is comfortable enough to use at home, but it comes into its own most during travel.
Best Budget Pack ‘n Play – Graco Base Model
Graco’s no-frills entry level version can usually be picked up for less than $50 if you shop around, but is still a decent option for the occasional trip. It is the best-selling playard of all and has thousands of satisfied customers.
In our survey, it accounted for just shy of 1/3 of all respondents, so this model is super-popular.
And, not without good reason, 57% would recommend or buy again.
As you might expect, Stuff4Tots’ parent panel voted it high in Value for Money but it also scored well in Ease of Use. It’s perhaps not the most comfortable though, so maybe consider a different model if your little one is to spend a long time in their pack ‘n play.
What Parents Like About the Graco Base Model:
As you might expect, the biggest plus point of this model is its low selling price. However, parents also gave it a good review for how simple, safe, and easy to use it is.
What Parents Didn’t Like About the Graco Base Model:
You can’t expect too much at this price point and we have to factor in the fact that this is a budget version after all. The biggest negatives were how heavy and cumbersome it was and how uncomfortable the mattress is.
Summary and Specification
Despite the low price, it is solid and durable but isn’t the lightest nor the smallest; although the wheels do fold in to make it smaller for transportation and storage.
The wheels are good to transport it to and from your car – you can wheel it along instead of carrying it like you have to with other models.
It has a push-button fold action, making it easy to pack up and put away. Like most playards, it has mesh sides to allow air to flow through.
For convenience, it has a bag to store it in and there are mesh pockets to attach to the side when in use – handy for a couple of diapers and wipes, etc.
The dimensions are:
Weight: 22.9 lbs Height: 29″ Width: 28.5″ Length: 40″
If you’re only going to use your pack ‘n play for the occasional night away and you’re not planning to use it as a playpen, then this is probably the one for you as it’s pretty decent for the price.
Here’s what other parents have said:
- “I love having a secure place for my little one to nap and sleep. The compact size and light weight make it great to take anywhere.”
- “At home I use it for friend’s little ones to nap when they are over visiting. We also take it when we go out in the evening to friend’s and family’s houses so we may enjoy ourselves past his bedtime.”
- “It is so simple to put up and take down that it takes only seconds. We keep one at our in-laws house for a quick and easy crib. The material is easy to wipe down and keep clean.”
- “Due to the great price it was cheaper to order the pack and play online and have it shipped to my destination in Florida rather than flying with it my own from home” – now there’s a thought!
At 81% parent satisfaction score and the cheapest on the market, Stuff4Tots has no hesitation in giving the Graco base model a ‘Buy!’ recommendation.
Check out how cheap it is on Walmart for the latest prices.
Best Graco Carestation Pack ‘n Play System
Graco Carestation Pack ’n Plays are complete sleep, play, and changing systems that not only include the pack ‘n play itself but also come complete with diaper changers and cozy infant seats to help keep baby clean and comfortable.
There are a number of these in the Graco range but the best choice in our view is the Pack ‘n Play Nearby Seat Playard.
We didn’t have many parents respond to our survey who owned one of these, so the data on this one needs be interpreted carefully. However, every one of the Nearby Seat owners who did respond gave it a 100% rating and said that they would recommend to friends and family.
Its standard price is north of $300, but you can often find decent discounts if you shop around (at time of writing they were 25% off at Walmart) and, despite the higher cost, it is still great value as you get so much with it. Worth checking the cost on Amazon too.
Take a look at the product picture below. There are so many accessories included you forget there’s a travel crib under there! 😊
There’s a ‘nearby’ infant seat which flips over into a bassinet. There’s also a changing station which sits on top of the pack ‘n play itself – we love this as it really makes great use of space. The changing station is good until the baby reaches 30 lbs. (That’s a big ol’ baby!).
For add-ons, it comes with a mobile that detaches and fits into the infant seat / bassinet. There are also dual vibration modes which soothe baby when they’re sitting or laying down.
The playard itself is roomy and comfortable and has an adjustable height facility to reduce the need for your baby to bend in the earlier months, making it a truly safe place for your little one to sleep or play.
This is a pricey but very popular pack ‘n play, especially for those who want to save on space. With the add-ons, it’s not the best for portability though, so you want to make sure you won’t be lugging it around too much. Here’s what other parents have said:
- “I love how the Pack ‘n Play® Playard Nearby Napper® Station is 3 products in 1 – it’s going to be SO helpful with our second baby! I wish we had it with our first!”
- “I have had this product for 3 weeks now and love it. First of all the pattern is adorable. The portable bassinet/napper is great! I can move it anywhere around the house with me, and my daughter has a place to lay down and sleep without having to be too far away from me.”
- “The playard frame and raised bassinet were simple to construct but the extras were more difficult.”
- “It’s going to be a lifesaver because we have a 2-story house, so I can keep this downstairs and have the Travel Lite Crib upstairs! It also means I won’t have to go upstairs to change the little guy either!”
There’s so much to the Pack ‘n Play Nearby Seat playard; it’s easier to explain with fellow mom Larisha Campbell‘s short demo video below.
With a 100% positive recommendation in our survey, this is definitely a carestation / playard combo that we are happy to recommend.
Summary: The Best Pack ‘n Play for You and Your Baby
Choosing a travel crib is complicated – there are so many pack ‘n plays on the market it gets quite confusing to figure out which would be the best one for your family’s needs. Overall though, they’re a relatively simple concept so just have a think about how often you’re going to use it and what you’re going to use it for.
For occasional trips to a friend’s or relative’s, just opt for one of the two cheaper options – the Graco On the Go Playard or the entry level Pack ‘n Play Portable Playard.
If you are travelling a lot or need to carry the mini-crib more than just a short distance, consider opting for the lightweight Graco Travel Lite Crib With Stages.
If versatility and space-saving are more important to you than a bottom-end price, consider either the Graco Carestation Pack ’n Play or the Graco Pack ‘n Play® Newborn2Toddler playard.
For extra comfort, you may want to buy an extra Mattress for your Pack ‘n Play. Of course, that means extra things to carry but they’re fairly flat.
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