When it comes to the wild and wacky world of portacribs, Pack N’ Plays, and play yards, who can comprehend how much money is spent on new models and how many are given at baby showers each year? Yet when it comes time to travel, how many parents begrudge the these heavy, bulky, unwieldy contraptions–and even opt to just leave them behind? Consider the Graco “Portable” Pack N Play that weighs a whopping 30 lbs, and even Combi’s sparse “Lightweight” Jazz Play Yard still weighs 24.5 lbs (and no one’s boasting about a compact fold for any of these products).
“Travel beds” as I call them are certainly a smarter way to go, and can be as useful at home as in the hotel or tent–and even on the beach in some cases. There are plenty of options out there now (see my top picks in review at: http://www.travelswithbaby.com/gear/travel_beds.htm), but one I’m particularly excited about right now is Phil & Ted’s Traveller Full-Size Travel Crib (the even better replacement to their T2 Travel Cot). So what’s so great about the Traveller?
I’ll start by saying it weighs a mere 8 lbs.–less than some infants weigh at birth. Yet it offers all the advantages of a traditional play yard, plus many additional advantages.
– Use it from birth up through 3 years (really–read on)
– No weight maximum for your child
– Zipping screen cover (included) protects against insects and helps create a tent within your – tent on cold nights camping
– Rugged fabrics let you take it onto the beach, down by the river, into the woods, out in the desert, etcetera
– Screen mesh gives visibility and ventilation but blocks a fair amount of wind
– Therm-a-Rest-style backpacker’s mattress gives extra insulation as well as cushioning
– Optional UPF 80 sun shield zips to the top for extra sun protection outdoors (sold separately)
– Rubber feet won’t scratch hardwood floors or tile when used indoors
-Side panel unzips when desired (yes!)
That final point, IMHO, puts the Traveller over the top. Other models, like the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light give you the toddler containment advantage, and the Peapod and Peapod Plus give you the advantage of a “play tent” indoors or out. But once your child loses patience with being completely contained (or maxes out on height), the BabyBjorn crib is out. And once your child can stand (esp. taller than the tent) and protest loudly enough, the Peapods cease to work well for containment–though they may live on as play tents and still work for sleeping once your child agrees to stay put.
The Traveller, on the other hand, gives the advantage of baby & toddler confinement (keeping her out of the campfire while you cook and from exploring Grandma’s house unsupervised after waking from her nap), with the advantage of opening up on one side to double as a shaded play tent on the beach. Plus it can continue to serve as a travel bed for your older toddler and even preschooler (up to 50″ tall) by offering in-and-out privileges through the open side. Chances are, you’ll even make use of the backpacker’s mattress for your child well beyond her days in the Traveller.
For more details about Phil & Ted’s Traveller, other travel beds, and more recommended gadgets and gear for travel with small children in an ideal (or less than ideal) world, check out my reviews of great products and gear for travel. And in case you know any expectant parents that are considering registering for a play yard… I hope you’ll pass this along.
Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby