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Baby & Toddler, Motherhood

Three top travel cot hacks

A baby crawling around. There’s a baby walker to the right of the baby. Article is about travel cot hacks.

Kids come with all types of paraphernalia. Some stuff you need, some stuff you can live without. But if, like us, you enjoy the odd night away from your little cherub, then a travel cot is a crucial piece of kit.

We were given a Graco compact travel cot by our neighbour, but you can pick them up quite cheaply online. I think this travel cot is excellent. It’s suitable for newborn babies and it will see them through until they’re ready to move into a bed.

I think it’s best to get a sizable travel cot, rather than a travel bassinet, because it will be useful for longer. If you decide to get a second-hand travel cot, then I’d recommend that you get a new mattress. They are widely available online.

Even if you do get something roomy (rather than a small bassinet), then  how often are you going to use it? Yes, you may plan the occasional family weekend away, but is it mostly just going to sit, taking up space in the corner of the spare room? If that’s the case, then you may want to consider getting one to share with a friend, or using it in some alternative ways.

A review… explaining how we used our travel cot

I wanted to write a review about travel cots and how they can be used. Kids come with so much equipment that it makes sense to double up where you can, right?

By thinking outside of the box, we get a lot of use out of our travel cot. It also saved us from buying extra accessories that we didn’t really need. 

If you have a travel cot and you’re wondering how you can use it efficiently, then continue reading.

1) For the purpose it was made… as a travel cot

Travel cots can obviously be used in the typical way. It was used for when Arthur stayed at his granny’s house, or his Gran’s house. We also took it away with us to hotels. We found that Arthur slept better because he was familiar with this particular piece of furniture. When he was put into it, he knew where he was.

We also occasionally put the travel cot up in our room and allowed him to sleep there. This was handy when he was having a particularly unsettled night. If you do this though, be sure not to use it as a dumping ground for baby clothing and random boxes (yes, I’ve been guilty of doing that before…).

2) Oh baby… using the travel cot as a playpen

We used our travel cot as a playpen. You’re probably not going to use it to contain your three year old. However, if your child is aged 12-18 months, then this solution is more than adequate. 

I also found that it came in handy when I needed to run to the loo, or grab a brew from the kitchen. I was reassured to know that my son would be safe. He could enjoy some independent play, or to look at some books, whilst I quickly popped to another room. 

We currently have our Graco compact travel cot set up as a playpen in our bedroom. I put my little boy in there if I need to contain him whilst I get ready, or grab a shower.


3) Using our travel cot as a ball pit

If I think about my mummy group, the majority have invested in a ball pit. After all, it’s an opportunity to bring a fun activity into your living room or garden. However, why purchase a ball pit if you don’t need to? It’s another piece of kit to store and another thing to buy. That’s why I used my travel cot.

I actually think that putting balls into the travel cot makes a lot of sense. Ball pits tend to be quite shallow and I find that the balls are more secure in the travel cot. That said, if your little babe is confidently on the move, then this might not be the solution for you. You’ll probably want something they can get in and out of themselves. You won’t be able to turn your travel cot into a ball pit if you only have a small bassinet either. 

Is it worth it?

Travel cots are popular pieces of kit and most people I know with children under the age of two own one. They might also own a playpen and a ball pit. But with this hack, you can buy a compact travel cot and use it in a number of ways, for a solid 18 months.

Three baby accessories for the price of one? It works for me. This isn’t the only multi-use item that I have either, I have adapted my baby box to ensure that I get full use out of it. 

Even if you end up buying a separate playpen or ball pit eventually, at least you can save some money and space initially by using this hack. Just remember to buy a new mattress if you pick your travel cot up secondhand. 

If you want to do some research on the best travel cots, then this article should help. You should also check out the second-hand baby items that I swear by and the toy storage bag that every parent needs in their life!

A picture of some multi-coloured plastic balls (the type you’d usually find in a ball pit). The text over the image reads: ‘Hacks: three items for the price of one -- utilising your travel cot.’

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2020, but it has been revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.