Pop up travel cots like the Samsonite Bubble (opposite) or the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light (below) literally ‘pop up’ when taken out of the bag. That is their key attraction for parents – they are quick and easy to assemble.
This makes them ideal for the type of travel where you arrive late and your priority is to get your exhausted little one down to sleep as quickly as possible.
When ‘popped up’ they resemble a small tent. They are usually oblong dome-shaped and the structure is supported via spring-loaded poles. The inner mattress is generally quite thin, sometimes a blow up mattress, and is laid inside or sometimes into a zippered pocket incorporated in to the base.
Because of their simple structure, pop up cots are always super light, usually between 5 and 11 lbs. They generally come in a bag that you can sling over your shoulder and pack away small enough that you can take on a plane as hand luggage.
The pros are so obvious with a pop up cot. They are light, easy to assemble and disassemble and pack away nice and compactly. This makes them perfect for air travel, where packed-up size and weight are key issues.
Most pop up cots have integrated mosquito netting so they are handy for nap times in the park or at the beach.
They are generally cheaper than bigger playards, though there are expensive higher quality models like the Baby Bjorn travel crib
Because of the light structure and bubble shape of the Samsonite bubble, there can be a danger of toppling.
Pop up travel cots are generally unsuitable for infants over 18 months or very active babies. If you leave the zipper open you risk your baby rolling out. Having said all that, my three children all slept in the Samsonite bubble on trips away up until they were about a year and a half and we never had any problem. Obviously though you have to be careful not to set it up near a stairs or that there is anything sharp or dangerous in the vicinity.
Some of the newer models like the Sun & Sleep Bubble cot have velcro straps for anchoring them to furniture.
Most pop up cots sit directly on the floor. This can be hard on your back when laying a sleeping baby down. Although a standard travel cot is only a few inches of the floor so there’s not a huge amount of difference really.
The shape of the pop up cot is different to a regular cot, plus some of them are completely enclosed, so it will probably feel unfamiliar to your infant the first time they use it. Some babies will like this difference, others will feel unsettled by it. So I would definitely try it out before heading off on a trip.
Some people (namely me!) find the folding-down of bubble cots like the Samsonite pop-up cot problematic. There is a knack to it… and I just never got it. However the fold-down isn’t an issue with the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light which is a cinch to put away.
The mattress can be thin, definitely with the Samsonite Bubble this was an issue. It’s fine for a night or two, but if on a long trip you will not want your baby sleeping on this thin mattress for an extended period of time. You can of course supplement with quilts or blankets underneath though. Or you can get a travel mattress. Because the shape of our travel cot was awkward, we bought a made-to-measure fold-up travel mattress which gave an extra 5cm of comfort to baby.
Or you can go for the more expensive (but totally worth the extra bucks) Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light which has a lovely deep cushioned mattress.