Are you trying to decide between a travel crib vs pack n play?
Then let us help you decide which is best for you and your baby with our travel crib vs pack n play comparison guide!
It’s so exciting as a parent to take your child traveling, even if it’s just a trip to the grandparents.
But when you discover just how much a baby needs to travel, it is definitely tempting to stay at home!
Particularly if your child reacts to an unfamiliar bed with a night of tantrums.
To make travel easier, you might consider a portable crib.
Travel cribs and Pack n Plays are two popular options that seem similar on the surface, but are actually quite different. So, how do you choose between the two?
In this guide, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of both travel cribs and Pack n Plays, to help you find the right sleep solution for you and your baby.
And if you love this travel crib or pack and play guide, make sure to check out our guides on the the bassinet vs pack n play, mini crib vs pack and play, and can a baby sleep in a pack n play. Or even these crib alternatives.
This post contains affiliate links. See our full disclosure here
Travel Crib Vs Pack N Play
Firstly, let’s take a look at what is a travel crib and a pack and play.
What Is The Travel Crib?
Travel cribs are fairly self-explanatory — although if you have a full-size crib, you might wonder how they can ever be suitable for travel.
Travel cribs are designed to fit this need. They use lightweight materials to make a solid crib that can be collapsed and carried around.
A parent can take a travel crib with them wherever they go, and not worry about the destination having a suitable sleeping area.
Some parents do use the travel crib as their permanent sleeping solution, as it tends to be smaller than a standard crib while coming with a suitably thick mattress.
Travel Crib Pros And Cons
There are many reasons why you might consider investing in a travel crib, particularly if you like to explore.
- A lightweight frame makes the travel crib the most portable option for parents. They’re manufactured specifically for carrying, although some designs are heavier than others.
- As well as being lightweight, travel cribs are collapsible. Again, this makes traveling easier. But it’s also helpful around the house, as travel cribs can be neatly stored when not in use. Many travel cribs can be collapsed to the size of a backpack.
- Travel cribs come with a thicker mattress for overnight sleeping, which can make them more comfortable than other options.
- Most travel cribs are suitable for use from birth to three years of age, so you can get a couple of years of use out of them.
- Travel cribs tend to be more expensive than Pack ‘n Plays.
- Travel cribs typically keep the baby at ground level. This is safe for babies, although not ideal for consistent sleeping, but not great for many parents. If you struggle with back pains, the low profile travel crib might exacerbate the problem. Similarly, those who have had a c-section can find the travel crib painful to use.
- Most travel cribs can only be used as travel cribs, and have no additional function.
What Is A Pack N Play?
The Pack ‘n Play, sometimes known as a playard, looks very similar to the travel crib.
It’s smaller than a standard crib, and can also be collapsed down and moved. But the best thing about the Pack n Play is its versatility.
This is a place for babies to sleep on the go, nap at home, and a handy play area! Some Pack n Plays can also be used as a changing area.
Because of this versatility, the Pack n Play is heavier and bulkier than a travel crib.
But you might find the multiple uses makes up for a slight extra weight when traveling.
Pack N Play Pros And Cons
New parents can be a little confused about the purpose of the Pack n Play, because it isn’t exactly one thing or the other.
To help you understand the Pack n Play, take a look at our list of pros and cons.
- The best thing about the Pack ‘n Play has to be the versatility. It isn’t just a sleeping area but a play pen, a storage space, and often a changing room. It might not take the place of your standard crib, but it can replace several items in the house.
- Despite a slightly bulkier build, the Pack ‘n Play is generally quite portable. It can be collapsed down when not in use, which is helpful for storing around the house. And while you may not want the weight on public transport, it should fit into your car.
- The mesh sides and mattress means you can use the Pack ‘n Play as a sleeping area, even when not traveling. Many Pack ‘n Plays come with a bassinet style sleeping area, and a base crib for continued usage as your child ages.
- Pack ‘n Plays are available in a range of prices, and you can often find them for less expense than a travel crib.
- Pack ‘n Plays are heavy, and this can seriously reduce portability. If you want to travel regularly with a Pack ‘n Play, you might find it uncomfortable.
- The mattress included with the Pack ‘n Play is typically thin, which can make it uncomfortable for regular sleeping. We recommend upgrading the mattress with one of these best mattresses for pack and plays.
- Assembly can be complex, particularly for the Pack ‘n Plays with multiple functions.
Similarities and Differences between Pack N Play and Travel Cribs
Let’s look at the similarities and differences between a travel crib and pack and play.
Both the travel crib and the Pack n Play are designed for portability, although the travel crib definitely comes out on top.
The travel crib is lighter, with a simple frame that makes assembling and disassembling quicker.
Often, travel cribs can be folded up and worn like a backpack, meaning you have one less stress when traveling with a child!
Pack ‘n Plays are portable, but they definitely aren’t simple to travel with.
And when you use the Pack ‘n Play as a travel crib you lose some versatility, because there will be attachments you want to leave at home.
When it comes to sleep, choosing between the two is a little more complex.
The travel crib is designed for sleeping, and features a firm but thick mattress.
Travel cribs are comfortable for overnight sleeping, even if they aren’t ideal for permanent use.
The sleeping area is the large base of the travel crib, which is suitable for newborns through to 3-year-olds (or thereabouts).
Despite the age range, we found it a little awkward to put a tiny newborn into the large sleeping space.
Some Pack n Plays function like travel cribs, with the large base used as the sleeping area.
However, some come with a bassinet attachment. We love this, as it added a great nap area during those early months.
But when your child ages out of the bassinet, the Pack n Play is less comfortable for sleeping.
The mattress is thin and we don’t find it particularly useful for overnight sleeping, however you can change the mattress to a thicker one suitable for a pack and play.
One advantage that both the Pack n Play and travel crib have is that you can use them at home so your child has some experience in the bed.
Then, when you travel, they won’t be disturbed by a completely new experience.
It’s important to note that travel cribs and Pack ‘n Plays should say if they’ve been approved for safe sleep.
Hectic life with a newborn can force parents to find inventive uses for common household items.
The Pack ‘n Play is designed for versatility. It can be a nap area and playpen, as well as a changing space and extra storage.
We found the Pack ‘n Play was useful to keep around the house, to be utilized as necessary.
The travel crib isn’t anywhere near as versatile, although it can make an extra toy storage area at times.
Younger children might find the travel crib can be used as a play area, but the lighter build reduces the use for older kids.
When choosing between a travel crib and a Pack ‘n Play, price is unlikely to be the decider.
There is a lot of overlap in pricing, although travel cribs tend to be more expensive overall.
This is likely to be because of the materials used: to achieve that balance between portability and stability, travel cribs need a smart build and clever construction.
Pack ‘n Plays are cheaper on average, but it does depend on the brand. Some Pack ‘n Plays can cost as much as a standard crib.
The more you want your Pack ‘n Play to do, the higher you can expect the cost to be.
Final Thoughts on Travel Crib vs pack and play
Whether you choose a Pack ‘n Play or a travel crib will depend on your needs.
If you travel a lot, and want a comfortable and safe sleeping environment for your little one, choose the travel crib.
If you want a versatile play and sleeping area for the home, that can sometimes be used on the go, go for a Pack ‘n Play.
The ideal solution is one of each — a Pack ‘n Play for home, and a travel crib for away. But this isn’t always possible.
So, consider when you’re likely to use the crib, and make your decision!