We spend a third of our lives sleeping. It’s no less important than food or water. In fact, you can go longer without food than without sleep.
When it comes to traveling with your kids, it’s all about crafting a plan that’s going to work around any potential issues that might arise and a big part of that is planning for a good night’s sleep. If the process involves using a portable travel bed for your tot, it all comes down to knowing what works for the specifics of your situation.
In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look into choosing a portable bed for your toddler, good and bad sides of the options you have and some questions to ask yourself before choosing. So, let’s get straight to it…
Styles you can choose from are: airbeds, foldable foam beds and travel kids’ cots.
Let us look at each of them, their PROs and CONs.
Inflatable beds for kids
A toddler airbed is the most popular option of the three we’re going to discuss today. It’s a practical choice that works for most trips and most kids. But, let’s take a step back and analyze at the pros/ cons as we promised:
Easy and practical to use – kids’ airbeds inflate and deflate in about a minute, most of the time using an electric or battery-operated pump. Once deflated, they pack away into the carry bag that usually comes included. They pack so small that they don’t have to be carried as a separate piece of luggage, you just fit them into one of your bags.
You choose the firmness – this is a pretty important one. It’s hard enough putting the tots to sleep in your house, let alone on a “strange” new bed on a trip. That’s why the fact that you can regulate the firmness of the surface is crucial.
You can adjust it until they are comfortable. It’s always a good idea to try it out around your home for a few days so that your little one can get used to the new bed and you know what to expect once those bags are packed.
Safety – the side rails that are usually a part of a toddler airbed are there to prevent rolling off and keeping your kid safely in the bed. In some models, the rails go all the way around and form a frame. On a different note, the manufacturing process of these beds is governed by strict standards so that no dangerous chemicals are used for the PVC or the adhesives.
PVC doesn’t hold smells – an inflatable bed is probably the choice for you if your child still has night mishaps. If this is the case, you’d want to go with one with no flocking on the top (just PVC). These usually come with a fitted cover that you can easily take off and throw in the washer.
It’s not something you can do with a foam bed or a cot.
Punctures and leaks – even the high-quality, durable airbeds can get punctured or (in a small %) be defective on arrival. That’s why it’s a good idea to, firstly, read the reviews of other users or the air mattress before choosing one that’s best for you and, secondly, get it a week or so in advance so that you can inflate/deflate it and see if it holds air as it should.
Plasticky smell – with most of these, there will be faint plasticky smell when unpacked. The solution is simply to vent the smell out by inflating the bed and leaving it out for a few hours. Nine times out of ten, the smell will go away pretty fast.
Crinkling noises – this can be a real issue if your child is not a calm sleeper. Especially with the airbeds without a flocked top, you are likely to hear noises the PVC makes as your child turns. If your tot or you are light sleepers, the noise can even wake you up.
We’ll put what we said about airbeds into perspective when we list points to think about before making a decision towards the end of the guide, but at this point, let’s move on to the other two styles.
A folding travel bed (foam)
The comfiest choice, this style might be the choice if money is not an issue because comfort comes with a price tag.
These models are made of foam and fitted into soft fabric that you can take off and wash. The stylish design separates them from the airbeds and cots, so if looks are a decision point for you, you’ll want to think about this one.
- Comfort – as we mentioned, these are the comfiest option and will more likely be more than a bed if you choose to use it around the house. It’s very likely your kid will it will turn into an oasis for favorite toys and a cozy sanctuary for nap-times.
- Safe – there’s practically no risk of your child injuring themselves. It’s all foam. It’s not recommended though to use them on top of a regular bed (which parents often do) since the sides aren’t sturdy enough to prevent rolling over. They’re designed to lay safely on the floor.
- No inflating/deflating – setting up this bed comes down to opening the carry bag it comes with
- Expensive – the steep price tag might deter many parents from choosing the style. It costs 2-3 times more than an airbed.
- Doesn’t pack as small – it’s not the best option if your plans include air travel, you’ll need to carry it separately.
- The smell stays in – we mentioned nightly mishaps as a factor. If this is still an issue for you, chances are, this will not be your choice. It’s not easy to clean (you have to take it completely apart) and yet, once the foam soaks in the smell, there’s no going back.
- Not for the fidgety sleepers – folding travel bed is the best choice if your child has fully formed healthy sleeping habits. As we said, the sides aren’t as high or firm as those of airbeds and rolling off is a risk. We use the word “risk” here freely since there is no real risk to the child if the bed is on the floor, they will just roll off it.
A foldable bed is probably not the best choice if space is an issue or your little one is nervous sleeper.
Other than that, it’s unparalleled in comfort and style, especially as a house bed (one model worth mentioning is LeachCo BumpZZZ).
Portable travel cots
Much like a collapsible chair, a portable cot for your kid collapses and is set up and down in a matter of seconds.
It comprises of steel frame (with some plastic parts on the joints) and a thick padded cloth on top of it.
Let’s move straight to its fortes and downsides:
- Cheapest solution – if your intended use is a one-off trip or an occasional sleepover, a cot might just be a good choice, since it’s the most budget-friendly solution of the three.
- Packs small enough to be a carry-on on a plane – check the listed dimensions of the cot before you are considering but most of these pack small enough to be a carry-on for air travel.
- Keeps your child of the ground – if you are camping, you’ll probably want your to keep insects and other pesky buzzards away from your kid. A toddler cot is the only portable bed here that does that.
- The least comfortable of the three – the canvas is stretched, but if your kid is on the heavy side, they will feel the beams running underneath.
- Doesn’t lock into place – as oppose to cots for grown-ups most of the kids travel cots don’t include a mechanism that would lock the frame safely in place. So, when the child is on it, it’s kept in place by the weight.
But for playing (especially jumping around or on it), the fact that it doesn’t lock in and fiddles (no matter how little) can be a hazard.
- No side rails – to go with a cot, your kid has to be used to sleeping on a regular bed. Otherwise, if you run a risk of them rolling over the sides, a cot is not a safe option, since it’s raised and there are no side rails.
In a nutshell
We hope that by this point in the guide you have a better understanding of the differences between the three mentioned options.
But for the sake of clarity, let’s put it all in perspective by making a small list of questions to ask yourself before deciding:
- How often do you plan to use the bed?
- What kind of a sleeper is your kid (nervous or calm)?
- Are you traveling by plane and is packing space an issue?
- Is your little one still prone to “wet accidents”?
- Is the price tag an issue?
Take your time and choose carefully, read and re-read this guide and think about the specifics of your needs.
After all, if there’s no sleep for them, there’s no sleep for you.