As all parents know, a lot of our lives are placed on hold when the little ones arrive. Even the most dynamic people who used to hike, camp, climb…turn into diaper-changing machines daydreaming about travel as they go through the routine of baby stuff.
And we love it because we love them.
But once your little bundle of joy “graduates” and you can finally take it on trips with you, it’s crucial that you know the INs and OUTs of organizing a trip with a toddler. An important part of that is knowing how to choose a travel bed.
That’s what today’s guide on portable beds for kids is about – choosing right and enjoying your trips, whether it’s just sleepovers at grandma house or a camping trip. The tipswill be helpful to those looking for a good transition toddler bed from a pack ’n’ play to a regular mattress, as well.
Types of toddler beds – air mattresses and folding beds
Two main types to choose between are toddler airbeds and foldable beds (cots and foam).
The decision depends on a range of factors – from yourchild’s age, weight and height to the kind of a sleeper they are.
Let’s take our time and systematically look at the PROs and CONs of both types.
Toddler air mattresses
An inflatable bed I perhaps the most popular choice. Let us look at some of the advantages and downsides of the choice.
• Convenience – it’s light and small, so it’s very convenient for travel, even if the itinerary involves air travel
• Safety – blow up bed for kids usually come with side bumpers or a whole frame around the edges to keep the tot safe. On the other hand, the materials used havea very small off-gassing footprint (the amount of chemicals they release into the air), lower than memory and gel foams or any other mattress for that matter.
Just to make sure you’re on the safe side – read the fact sheet and look for a product that lists “chemical-free” explicitly (it will usually say BPA and phthalates-free)
• Fun for the kids – anybody who ever had an airbedand had it inflated in front of the kids knows that, for most of them, the process itself is kind of hypnotizing. So, chances are you’re gonna have to do some inflating/deflating just for show.
• Easy to clean – this is an important one. An air mattress will be the choice if your infant still has “wet accidents”. These beds are made from PVC, which is plastic and doesn’t hold smell.
If this is your case – it’s probably better to choose a bed that’s not flocked. The flocked top does add to the comfort but it holds smell and it’s not easy to clean.
• Potential air leaks – even the best air mattresses are still that, an air mattress, and they can puncture if not handled correctly. If you are going camping a scenario like this can change the whole trip.
That’s why it’s important to go with a reputable brand (beds like Shrunks Tuckaire or Intex Kidz), especially because the price difference is never worth the risk.
Tip: Don’t rely on patch kits that come with the airbeds. Pick up a PVC patch kit locally, they’re usually better than that come included.
• Crackling noises – depending on whether you or your tot are light sleepers, this can be a problem. The airbeds that are not flocked tend to make crackling noises when the child tosses and turns. So, if this combo (restless sleeper and light sleep) describes your situation, an airbed is most likely not the choice for you.
In conclusion, budget-friendly and convenient, the airbed is here to stay as a sensible choice whether you’re looking for a travel sleep solution or a transition bed.
Final tip: It’s always smart to do your own research even if the bed ticks all the fields on your list. The best way to do this is visit websites with reviews of the airbeds and use that information to choose the one that’s the best fit for you.
Moving along to the alternatives...
Folding toddler beds – cots and foam
Technically, the two types belong to what you might call a folding bed, but in fact, these are two very different products.
Toddler travel cots
The most budget-friendly of the three options, it’s also the least comfortable one. It’s basically a steel frame with padded canvas stretched on top of it.
It might be a good choice for shorter or one-off trips, but it doesn’t really compare in comfort and safety to an airbed or a foam folding bed.
• The most budget-friendly solution
• Packs small enough for air travel and camping
• Depending on the weight of the child and the quality of the cot, the light padding of the canvas might not be enough to prevent the child feeling the rails underneath.
• Safety concerns – portable cots have no side rails. That makes them a good option only if your kid has already formed reliable sleeping habits and is not a restless sleeper.
So, if you have your eye on a cot, think about the points we made above and make sure that you choose a quality product (something like Regalo My Cot).
Folding travel bed (foam-based)
A folding foam bed is both the most comfortable and the most expensive option of the three we are looking into today.
Most of us want only the best for our kids and often make the mistake of following the price tag and making the conclusion that if it’s the most expensive it must be the best.
So, let’s take a step back and look at some of the PROs and CONs of this choice:
• The soft foam makes it the superior option in terms of comfort
• The fact that there are no hard parts makes it very safe
• Modern design that stands out
• No need to inflate anything, just fold and pack into the carry bag that comes with it
• Expensive compared to an airbed – the good ones (such as LeachCo BumpZZZ) cost two or three times as much
• They don’t deflate and can’t be packed as small, so they are best used as house beds or for car-camping
• Not water-resistant – it’s just foam and casing so it’s very hard to clean – it’s practically impossible to get smells out once they find their way into the foam
• Not for the restless sleeper – the sides are not high and sturdy enough to keep a restless kid in
From what we’ve said, it’s fair to say that a folding foam bed is not as versatile as an inflatable bed, but if comfort is your priority and you have a serene sleeper on your hands, it’s the most luxurious option.
The smartest way to make a summary of the points we made is to make a list of a few things you need to think about before making a choice.
Let’s make it a nice round number of 5 questions:
1. What’s the plan for using the mattress – travel or home-use, every-day or occasional?
2. If you do plan to travel, do the plans include air travel?
3. Does your child still wet the bed?
4. Are they a restless sleeper (enough so not to need side-rails)?
5. What’s your budget?
The answers to these questions will provide you with a roadmap to navigate through the variety of choices and findwhat’s best for your youngster.