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For families traveling with babies or toddlers, hotel cribs are often considered a necessity. Unfortunately, in the age of Airbnb and VRBO, complimentary cribs upon request are not always an option for family travelers, particularly if you are staying in an apartment or private rental rather than a hotel. In fact, even in hotels, cribs or pack n plays are not guaranteed. While guests traveling with babies or toddlers can request a hotel crib, getting one is entirely dependent on the availability. A small boutique hotel, for example, may only have one or two cribs for guests. So, if there are multiple families needing a crib, you may be out of luck.
Ensuring a safe sleeping environment for your baby when traveling
A safe sleeping environment for babies and toddlers is a must, whether you’re at home or traveling. So how do you ensure a safe sleeping environment for your baby in a hotel? Planning ahead is key. When traveling with babies, parents have two main sleeping options for their babies: rely on a hotel crib and hope one will be available or bring your own portable travel crib or travel cot.
Option one: Rely on hotel cribs
Hotel cribs are obviously the more convenient option, if you can make sure one is available. If you prefer to pack just the baby travel essentials, and avoid bringing a bunch of bulky travel gear, then the hotel crib might be your best bet. However there are a few things to keep in mind when using a hotel crib.
Hotel crib safety
If you opt for hotel cribs when traveling, be sure to do a thorough check of the crib when you arrive or when the crib is brought to your hotel room. Inspect all hotel cribs prior to use to make sure hardware like safety latches work properly, there are no missing screws or bolts, nothing is bent or loose that could injure your baby or toddler, and that the mattress and linens fit properly.
Tips for requesting a hotel crib
To give your family the best chance of getting a hotel crib when requested, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Use the special request field
When reserving a hotel online through either the hotel’s website or a reservation site like Booking.com or Tripadvisor, be sure to make a note in the “special requests” field that you would like a baby crib in your hotel room.
Book a hotel that caters to families
Hotels that cater to family travelers are much more likely to have an adequate number of cribs on site. In fact, we have never had any issues getting hotel cribs at the larger hotels that specifically market to families. Where you will likely run into issues with cribs are in smaller, boutique hotels that cater to couples, Bed and Breakfasts, or Airbnbs.
Call ahead to reiterate
Even if you have requested a crib upon making your hotel reservation, it’s a good idea to call the hotel a day or so before your visit to reiterate your request. This is also a good time to ask what type of crib you can expect. While many hotels provide a standard crib, others provide a pack n play or play yard. If you plan to bring a crib sheet from home to help your baby sleep better in the hotel, you will need to know what type of hotel cribs are provided.
Request upon check in
When you check into your hotel, mention to the desk attendant that you have requested a crib. Perhaps the hotel staff has already put a crib in the room, but if not this gives them an opportunity to get one brought to your hotel room as soon as possible. If you and your baby or toddler are struggling with jet lag and need a nap, you don’t want to be waiting for a crib before you can lay your baby down.
Wipe down hotel cribs, and if possible, bring your own linens
Babies will bite or slobber on just about anything. So, there is a very good chance the railing of all hotel cribs has been chewed on or slobbered on at least a few times. After inspecting it for safety and before using any hotel crib, wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe. You may want to bring your own crib sheet from home, for an extra layer of cleanliness and to help create a familiar sleep environment for your little one.
Option two: Bring a portable travel crib
If you don’t want to worry about the cleanliness or safety of hotel cribs, or don’t want to risk a crib not being available, your other option would be to bring along a portable travel crib or portable travel cot for your baby or toddler.
The best portable travel cribs and travel baby beds
If you plan to bring a portable travel crib, you’ll want to look for travel baby beds that are lightweight, compact, and large enough to meet your needs. Here are the five best portable travel cribs to consider.
BabyBjorn Travel Crib
BabyBjorn is one of the premier names in baby gear, so leave it to them to create an ultra light travel crib for babies and toddlers up to the age of three. The travel crib weighs only 13 pounds and is easy to set up without any confusing loose parts or complicated instructions.
Guava Lotus Travel Crib
Also weighing in at 13 pounds the Lotus travel crib by Guava stores in a handy backpack that makes it much easier to carry and bring with you while traveling. It is compact enough that it will qualify as a carry on for most airlines.
Phil and Teds Portable Traveller Crib
Phil and Teds is an Australian brand, so if you are based in the United States you likely have not heard of them. Still, their travel crib is among the best on the market. It is super compact, packs down to the size of a rolled up yoga mat, assembles in less than 2 minutes, and weighs about 6.5 pounds.
Brica Fold N’ Go Travel Bassinet
If you’re looking for something even smaller and more compact, the Brica Fold N Go Travel Bassinet may be your best bet. In our opinion, this is one of the best baby bassinets for travel. It’s collapsible locking tubular frame is perfect for travel as it folds flat and weighs only three pounds. This is a great option for babies, but without a protective barrier, once babies can crawl or stand this bassinet may no longer be a wise option.
BABY JOY Foldable Travel Crib
Slightly less expensive than many travel cribs, BABY JOY Foldable Travel Crib is also slightly lighter. At only 11 pounds, this foldable travel crib weighs only 11 pounds. With a convenient carrying case, it’s perfect for air travel with a baby or road trips with a baby.
What to do when there are no hotel cribs available?
If you have requested a hotel crib but one is not available, and you didn’t bring a travel cot or portable crib, your next option would be to request a roll-away bed. You may be able to remove the roll-away mattress and place it on the floor up against a wall to make it safer and lower to the ground for babies and toddlers.
Another option is to always bring portable bed rails with you. Bed rails are inexpensive, weigh less, and some are even inflatable, making them easier to bring on a vacation or trip compared to a portable travel crib.
Where should your baby sleep in a hotel room?
The best place for a baby to sleep in a hotel room really depends on the amount of space and the layout of the room. We have stayed in hotel rooms so small, there was little room to move about even without a hotel crib or portable travel cot in the room. But, if space is of the essence, you may have to get creative.
A closet, bathroom, or entryway are all great places to set up cribs in hotel rooms. Putting the crib in one of these areas can also keep light and noise levels to a minimum, helping your baby sleep better at night. If putting the crib in the entry way be sure to roll up a towel and put it at the bottom of the door to muffle any noise and prevent light from coming into the room from the hallway.
Final thoughts – hotel cribs or travel cribs?
As parents who traveled frequently when our daughter was a baby, we have traveled both ways, relying on hotel cribs and also bringing along a portable travel crib. It always depends on our destination, the hotels in which we are staying, and how light we are trying to travel. Luckily, even if you prefer to bring your own portable travel crib for your baby, the travel baby beds on the market today are lighter and more compact than ever!
Oftentimes, you may end up with a baby or toddler in the bed with you anyway because they are in an unfamiliar environment and want to be close to you. This has personally happened to us more times than not.
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Have a question or comment about hotel cribs or portable travel cribs? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
This post on hotel cribs was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and current information.