Guava Lotus Travel Crib for Cubby's 2024 Nursery awards
Credit: Illustration: Amrita Marino; Photo: Guava Family
Cubby Nursery Awards 2024

We Asked 1,000 Parents to Tell Us What Travel Crib or Pack and Play to Buy, and 2 Products Came Up Again and Again

published Apr 24, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

Parenting is hard, but discovering what baby essentials to buy shouldn’t be. If you’re looking for nursery ideas, you may be focused on pinning all the baby boy nursery ideas or baby girl nursery ideas you can find. And while you may have your bassinet, crib, and crib mattress all set up at home, when you travel or visit family out of town, the baby has to sleep somewhere! That’s why you need a travel crib or pack and play. We asked 1,000 parents to tell us which ones to add to our baby registry, and two brands came out on top. 

Why You Should Trust Us

This is a best list that comes with real chops. Cubby is helmed by a small yet vibrant team of design-savvy parents who are unusually invested in finding the best products for life at home with kids, beginning with the nursery. Faith Durand (SVP of content at Apartment Therapy Media, two kids, pro pinner of all the things), Cambria Bold (executive editor of Cubby, two kids, hobby designer, avid product researcher), and Laura Schocker (chief content officer at Apartment Therapy Media, one kid and one on the way, small space/city living expert) have 40 years of digital editorial experience between them. They’ve already read about, researched, and purchased many of the baby products that you, as a soon-to-be parent, are wondering about right now. They’ll tell you exactly what you need to know about what to get. 

If they don’t know the answer, they know plenty of people to ask — fellow editors, parenting experts, designers, and Cubby readers – so you can be sure that these recommendations come from real-life experiences.

Most importantly, we don’t just “office test” these products (read: order a bunch and shake ’em around in our office “lab” with a fake baby doll) because that is helpful to approximately no one. The products we recommend here are ones we or fellow parents have actually purchased ourselves for our nursery and used for at least a few months (and sometimes way longer). The rave reviews are real.

How We Chose These Products

We asked readers (and parents!) of Apartment Therapy Media, which includes Cubby, Apartment Therapy, and The Kitchn, to tell us what travel crib or pack and play they used with their baby, and why or why not they’d recommend it to other parents. We received over 1,000 responses. 

We took the top two recommended travel cribs from this survey, cross-checked those products with the safe sleep recommendations outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and then assessed our own firsthand experiences with the product. If all three of those criteria lined up — strongly recommended by our survey parents, approved by the AAP, and personally used for a significant period of time (with positive results!) by one of our editors — it made it to this list!

Credit: Guava Family

The Best for Airports and Road Trips: The Guava Lotus Travel Crib

It’s one thing to transport a pack and play to a day care across the city; it’s another thing to have to take it on an airplane across the country! In that case, lightness and compactness become the most important features. That’s why the Guava Lotus Travel Crib was voted by our readers as the best all-around travel crib. Our survey parents love that you can carry it like a backpack on a plane (it’s carry-on sized!), how easy it is to set up and take down, and its bassinet conversion kit for newborn travel sleeping. As one survey parent said, “It’s probably my favorite baby product by far.”

What Parents Said About the Guava Lotus Travel Trib in Our Survey

“We have taken this on every trip/vacation, and it’s perfect.”

“Good-looking, packs down so small, not too heavy, great to travel with.”

“Love that it also serves as a bassinet and has no weight limit as a crib. Great for travel and that it is carry-on sized!”

“It’s lightweight and packs small for great portability. Super easy to set up, can get the bassinet converter, clean design. So much better than the other bulky and clunky ones.”

“Amazing. Lightweight and compact for tiny cars and airplanes.”

“Love this travel crib, especially for older parents or people with back issues. I like that you can place baby in from side. Packs up easy, easy to set up, take down, lightweight, backpack or carry bag options for carrying case.”

“We are still using it with our 30mo! It’s easy to put together, simple to travel with, and I love that it doesn’t have a weight limit.”

“We have only used the travel bassinet. It is great for newborns. Fits in a suitcase and very easy to move around the house as a second sleep area for our two-level home.”

“Yes, it’s easy to setup and take down, and it doesn’t have a weight limit since the mattress sits on the floor. I also like the side zipper to allow the baby to crawl out after a nap.”

“It has a slim profile and fits into a small bag. It doesn’t take up a ton of space when set up, and the side zipper access is very convenient for snuggling a baby to sleep.”

What Our Cubby Editors Say About the Guava Lotus Travel Crib

For her first child, Cubby’s executive editor, Cambria Bold, bought the Ultimate Lotus Bassinet Kit & Crib Bundle, which includes the travel crib, backpack, and bassinet conversion kit (as well as bassinet and crib sheets). Here’s what she said about it: “I knew it was going to be an investment, but I’d had friends who raved about the Lotus Travel Crib because of how easy it was to travel with. We lived across the country from family, so we knew we’d be flying a lot or taking road trips and needed a convenient, reliable, safe travel crib. The Lotus Travel Crib and bassinet totally delivered. We used it for years for both our kids before passing it along to family members. The bassinet had a bit of a wide footprint, which was the only downside. Otherwise the compactness was unbeatable — you really could pack in into its carry-on case and wear it as a backpack, which made it possible to check as a piece of luggage or take onboard as a carry-on, or just to neatly fit in the trunk of a car without taking up every inch of space.”

The Only Downsides

Some parents didn’t like that the mattress touches the floor (but the flip side is that this is why there’s no weight limit to the crib.) It’s also pricier than other travel cribs, especially if you get the bassinet conversion kit and any of the other crib accessories. If you do think you’d use the bassinet (and you can use it as a bassinet at home, not just for travel!), we recommend getting the full set up front as opposed to buying the crib and the bassinet individually. That’ll save you over $100.

Credit: Graco

The Budget-Friendly Alternative: Graco Pack ’n Play Portable Playard

If budget is your biggest concern, then Graco’s classic Pack ’n Play Portable Playard is the way to go. It’s a bit heavier than the Lotus Travel Crib and doesn’t fold down as small, but Graco’s Pack ’n Play has been the standard-bearer of playpens for a long time, and for good reason. Our survey parents love the Pack ’n Play’s affordability, durability, and easy setup. You can also get Graco’s Pack ’n Play with a bassinet or a bassinet and changer, which a lot of parents really loved.

What Parents Said About the Graco Pack ’n Play in Our Survey

“Essential and reasonably priced!”

“We used our pack and play a lot! it was great for traveling to relatives; so easy to unpack and setup and easy to take apart. This was one of the best things.”

“It really holds up well. Ours is more than 10 years old and solid.”

“We used it when traveling by car all the time (especially if we had an overnight hotel stay). Wouldn’t say it’s great for air travel, as it’s a bit unwieldy, but otherwise it was great.”

“This was great for travel and sleeping at grandparents’ houses. A little heavy to lug around, but they were super handy and easy to find used. In the end, each grandparent acquired a set used when we were at their house.”

“It is very versatile. The pack and play has two heights which made newborn life easier without the bending. We used this system as an extra changing table / nap space in our living room for the first few months, which was super helpful. We used the pack ‘n play part for traveling until our daughter was about 2.5.”

“Easy to transport and fold up. Does the job for a fraction of the price.”

“For my son, a pack and play was his crib for the first year of life. My mom had one at her house that the kids slept in when at her house. Even though my kids are 6 & 9, we still have one for when friends visit. I can’t recommend them highly enough!”

“I would recommend this playard because it was easy to set up and take down. It was also a very affordable option compared to many others. I prefer the simple design and didn’t need one with a changing table on top.”

“It’s a classic for a reason! It takes a little practice getting it set up but we have used it so much in the first year! Having the bassinet attachment is great for the first few months. Maybe not worth the extra $$$ but it was very convenient!”

The Only Downsides

It’s hard to beat the Graco Pack ’n Play’s affordability, but there are some downsides. The biggest complaint from parents is that Graco’s Pack n Play is heavy and bulky, which made it less than ideal for air travel. As one parent said: “I would recommend it for car travel. It was great to have a consistent place for our kids to sleep. No for air travel. The pack n play was just too big and always ended up in the oversized baggage section of baggage claim, causing us additional time and stress to collect.”