What inspired this blog

I work from home and enjoy spontaneous getaways with my family. I really needed a great portable playroom for my two small children, so I went on the hunt for a pack and play. I hope my research, trial and error, and evaluations of these products can help you choose the best option for your family. If this information is helpful to you, please show your support by using one of my links to purchase your pack and play.

Lindsey Jones, mother of two

Signature
Lindsey Jones

A Mom’s Guide to the Best Pack and Plays (Updated Mar. ’20)

The Runner-Up: Graco On-the-Go

The Runner-Up: Graco On the Go Playard
8.6/10
What I didn’t like:
Not enough space
Mattress is a bit lumpy
Basic options
Read More

Newborn2Toddler Playard

8.3/10
What I didn’t like:
Long set-up process
Lots of parts
White color shows stains
Read More
9.7/10
Babyseater Portable Playard Play Pen Check price on Amazon Want it by tomorrow? Order within 1 hours and 45 mins and select One-Day shipping via Amazon
What I didn’t like:
May need extra padding on hard surfaces
Read More

Lotus Travel Crib

Lotus Travel Crib
7.4/10
What I didn’t like:
Loud zipper
Difficult to lift kids in and out
Frustrating set-up
Requires expensive sheets
Read More

Regalo My Play

Regalo My Play
7.2/10
What I didn’t like:
Floor sags in middle
Thin floor needs extra padding
Unsafe crossbars
Lower quality materials
Read More
Expand to see more
Other products considered
The Runner-Up: Graco On-the-GoNewborn2Toddler PlayardLotus Travel CribRegalo My Play Playard
Rating8.6/108.3/107.4/106.9/10
ProsSimple travel crib
Bassinet attachment
Well padded
Easy to setup
Lots of “bells and whistles”
Grows with a child
Space saver
Modern look
Zipper side entrance
Backpack travel bag
Roomy
Easy set-up & take-down
Easily cleaned
Affordable
ConsMattress pad is lumpy
Smaller space
Read More
Long setup process
Lots of parts
White colors show stains
Read More
Loud zipper
Frustrating set-up and take-down
Requires specific ($$) crib sheets
Read More
Floor sags in the middle
Thin floor needs extra padding
Unsafe crossbars
Read More

How I decided on my favorite pack and play:

Researching
8
Hours spent online researching pack and plays

Pillow
6
Pack and plays purchased and reviewed

Clock
150
Hours spent testing the pack and plays at home

Home
45
Hours spent testing the packing plays while traveling

Lindsey Jones
Work-from home, mother of two

I work from home and enjoy spontaneous getaways with my family. I really needed a great portable playroom for my two small children, so I went on the hunt for a pack and play. I hope my research, trial and error, and evaluations of these products can help you choose the best option for your family. If this information is helpful to you, please show your support by using one of my links to purchase your pack and play.

As a mom of two high-energy children – a 3-year-old boy and an 8-month-old baby girl – I’ve literally looked over hundreds of baby and child products for my kids. I’ve spent hours poring over research to find safe, effective, comfortable, and fun products. Some people think I’m a little “particular” about my research, but I’m not changing anything. What can I say? I want the absolute best for my kids, and I’m not willing to compromise.

After speaking with other moms, I realized that I should share the information I found more widely. I hope that sharing the love and information will save you time and trouble as you look to provide the best products and experience for your little one.

My most recent investigation involved pack and plays. I work from home, so sometimes I just need a safe place for the kids to stay contained and entertained (rearranging furniture to block entryways just wasn’t cutting it anymore). Or sometimes if my son is feeling overly hyper, I need a safe place to put the baby until he decompresses. 

We also love going on little adventures, so we’ll take any excuse to travel – be it a full-on vacation to the beach, a quick weekend camping trip, or a visit to the grandparents. With this lifestyle, it’s important for us to have a portable “playroom” for our kiddos to use in a hotel room, at a campsite, on the beach, or at grandma’s. 

After reading several pack and play review websites and browsing the top options on Amazon, I realized that to make a good decision, I needed to buy the top pack and plays and try them out. So I ordered the top 6 pack and play options to see what was actually best. 

I realized that I could read reviews till I was blue in the face, but nothing would help me make the right choice better than physically testing out and comparing each option. I also knew that I could return the options that did not meet my kid’s needs.

So while it was a pain to order every single one, it was an investment I was willing to make to feel totally confident with my final selection. Plus, now I can recommend it to you without any reservations. I hope you find the research helpful!

How did I evaluate the pack and plays?

  1. Find the top pack and play options
  2. Order each one
  3. Set up the pack and play at home
  4. Let the kids play in it for a little while – observe for spacing, durability, safety, and comfort
  5. Give the kids some outside time in the pack and play, as well
  6. Take the pack and play on a trip
  7. Fold it back up and put in its carrying case

What aspects were ultimately the most important to a great pack and play?

  • Comfort and safety for children
  • Ease of set-up and take-down
  • Enough space for both children to play

A note on types of pack and plays:

Before checking out the pros and cons of the top pack and plays, it’s important to distinguish what your pack and play needs are for your family. For my children, I was looking for a safe, comfortable play space that could be transported with little to no hassle. 

My main priority wasn’t so much finding a travel crib for my baby (though I’ve now discovered that it’s a valuable piece of equipment to add to my baby-gear collection). But, if you do need a travel crib/playard, I’ll review plenty of great options for you here, too. There are choices in this list that will cover every family’s playard needs.

My Absolute Favorite Pack and Play: Babyseater Portable Playard Play Pen 9.7/10

The Babyseater Portable Playard Play Pen is hands-down the best choice for a portable play yard for kids. Its hexagon shape offers a nice, roomy play place—with plenty of space for multiple children and their favorite toys. The mesh sides allow you to keep an eye on your kids, and helps them keep you in sight, too (and not feel like they’re in prison).

I was amazed at how easy this was to set up. It took no more than ten seconds—even one-handed! You just slip it out of the case, spread out the panels, and lock it open with the two foot levers on either side. Folding it up is just as easy, and it’s compact and lightweight in its travel bag. For busy parents who tend to have their hands full all the time, this is a lifesaver. 

It did great outside, too. The water-resistant material helps keep this play yard clean, as does the fact that it’s all removable, so if you’ve got a bigger mess than a quick wipe-down will clean, you can easily take it off for handwashing. 

The nylon floor does rest on the ground, which is nice since it can easily hold the weight of both kids, and even both parents, if we want to join them in their play. In most places, we’ll be able to set up the play yard on carpet, grass, or soft dirt. But there may be times it will need to be placed on a hard floor or bumpy surface. There are actual hexagonal mattress pads on Amazon that fit underneath the Babyseater perfectly—but I’ve found it’s easier and just as effective to place a thick blanket underneath or inside the play yard for a bit of padding to protect the kiddos from hard or rough surfaces.

Another convenient feature Babyseater boasts is the zipper entrance on one side. My toddler especially enjoyed being able to crawl in and out without my lifting him over the edge. It became a cute little game between him and his little sister. 

The strong frame and sturdy fabric combine for a durable product that will surely last through years of crawling, playing, messes, and travel. With the sleek look and totally practical nature of my kids’ new favorite play area, it’s amazing how affordable the Babyseater play pen is! Seriously, I felt like I was cheating somehow—but it’s honestly just the best bang for your buck.

2. The Runner Up: Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard 8.6/10

The Graco On the Go Playard is a great, simple option for those looking for a pack ‘n play and travel crib in one. It feels lightweight and has wheels on one side for easy transportation from room to room. It also includes a bassinet (a raised portion for younger infants), and a cute toybar (that you could attach your own toys to, if you want). And it’s affordable—it’s actually the least expensive Graco option with a bassinet attachment.

Setting up the On the Go pack ‘n play is a little bit tricky at first. You definitely need to follow the instructions, but after a little practice, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it.

The travel crib has a cute design, and the mattress is well-padded and comfortable. The whole thing feels really sturdy. The mesh on the sides is strong. Even after my cat tried to sharpen her claws on it, there were no tears or holes. I’m impressed! If there’s anything that needs durability, it’s infant and child products, and this Graco playard definitely meets that mark.

3. Graco Pack ‘n Play Newborn2Toddler Playard 8.3/10

The Newborn2Toddler Playard is Graco’s most heavily equipped pack ‘n play. With 7 different possibilities for use, this option includes all the “bells and whistles” you could want. It includes a small removable sleeper for small infants, a changing table, storage compartments, a raised bassinet portion, and the main playard area for older babies through young toddlers. The bassinet attachment can also be removed and converted to a toddler cot. Whew, that’s a long list.

As a mom of a baby and toddler, this checked the boxes for a lot of the things I might need. I love that it grows with a baby, and even grows with a family, as it can accommodate two young kids at the same time.

It did take a while to set everything up—about 15 minutes. It seemed a bit daunting at first, but if you just carefully read and follow the included instructions, it’s not too bad. One other slightly negative aspect is the infant sleeper is white—which looks beautiful, but when you face the reality of a newborn baby likely making a mess while in it, the effort you’d have to go to to get that stain out will not be worth it for some moms. 

I think this pack ‘n play would be a wonderful option for small families living in a small space (since you can put everything together compactly and save space), or perhaps an expecting couple on a budget (who want to get all the basic necessities together for cheaper than they would separately).  

In the end, it really depends on what you’re looking for in a playard. If we were in a smaller living area, I would hands-down choose this product for my little ones. But, given that I already have many of the equipment pieces included here, and really just need a portable play area for my kids, the Graco Newborn2Toddler isn’t quite for me.

4. Lotus Travel Crib 7.4/10

Compared to others (and the top pick!) in my list, the Lotus Travel Crib is actually one of the more expensive options here. I guess you don’t always get what you pay for.

This pack and play actually seems like a really nice, high-end option. It has a modern look, a zipper entrance on one side, and comes with a backpack-style carrying bag. It’s lightweight (about as light as the Regalo pack and play). The removable mesh cover is machine-washable, too, which is nice. 

The Lotus mattress sits directly on the ground, so I had no worries about letting both my little ones play in it. It has a side zipper like the Babyseater, too, which was fun. It is, however, quite loud, so if it were being used as a crib, it would wake my baby right up. It’s advertised as “quiet” and an easier way to put your child in bed than from the top. But it was not quiet. There’s no way my sleeping baby would stay asleep through that noise after putting her in the crib. But laying her in from the top is difficult, too, because I’d have to bend all the way down to the floor (and I’m not that flexible).

Setting up the Lotus travel crib wasn’t too difficult to understand, but it was definitely not possible one-handed (as advertised). While it supposedly takes 15 seconds to set up, it took me at least 2 full minutes to do so (I timed it). But set-up was a breeze compared to the take-down process. The biggest struggle was trying to fit everything in the travel bag. The mattress that wraps around it didn’t secure to itself like other travel cribs’ mattresses do, so it was really tough to pack everything back up. 

Another point to consider is the fact that, for this travel crib, you actually have to buy very specific (and $20) crib sheets that have slits in particular places, because the mattress has straps that thread through the bottom of the crib. 

I think the Lotus travel crib works great as a crib, perhaps for parents who have a younger baby and are willing to pay more. The zipper entrance could make it easy to slip in and nurse your baby to sleep at night, which would be nice for many moms. But for me, the hassle of set-up and take-down, the crib sheets, and the smaller space made me decide to place the Lotus travel crib as #4 on my list.

5. Regalo My Play Portable Playard 7.2/10

The Regalo My Play Portable Playard is in many ways, quite similar to the winning product (Babyseater). It’s hexagon-shaped. Set up is fairly simple and can usually be done with just one hand. You just slip it out of the case, spread out the panels, and lock it open with the two foot levers on either side. Folding it up is just as easy, and it’s compact and lightweight in its travel bag. 

The material is water-resistant and removable, but you can’t just throw it in the wash—it has to be spot-cleaned and/or hand washed, which can be a hassle for busy moms—especially with how cumbersome the material can be to try to wash in a sink (you’d probably do better just washing it in the bathtub). 

The nylon flooring of this pack ‘n play also rests on the ground, but comes up a bit on the sides to meet with the mesh material and supporting poles. Be aware, the product pictures on Amazon actually makes it look like the middle floor of the playard is raised up a few inches off the ground somehow—but it’s not. It totally sags to the ground. The material is also thin and a bit flimsy feeling. So, if you’re concerned about rougher play surfaces, I’d advise adding a blanket for padding. 

I also want to mention the cross bars that support each panel of the playard. Given that they meet in the middle (instead of just standing upright in each corner like the Babyseater), they are sadly placed for my busy children to bonk their heads on over and over and they try to stand up against the side. After lots of bonks and tears, I finally folded this thing up and put it away.

One plus for the Regalo is just how affordable it is. If you’re on a budget and want a roomy space for your kids to play, this is a great option for you.

6. Kidsry Portable Playard with Changing Station 6.9/10

If you’re looking for a play yard that doubles as a travel crib, the Kidsry Portable Playard might be a good choice. It boasts a changing station and a toy mobile, in addition to a bassinet attachment (so you can raise the level of the mattress for younger infants).

With all these helpful additions, the portable playard is definitely worth its price (similarly equipped travel cribs often climb up into the $100s and even $200s!). Unfortunately, the changing table, mobile, and bassinet portion are not as portable as the play yard itself. The crib folds up compactly, and the mattress wraps around it so it easily slides into the travel bag. But if you want to bring any other accessories on your trip, you’ll have to pack them elsewhere. 

The portable playard also feels sturdy and durable, though, given the smaller rectangular space, I don’t think both of my kids would be content to play in it for as long. It’s more fitting for one young child than two or more. In fact, after my son and daughter played in the crib together for a bit, I realized that it’s actually only meant to hold up to 30 pounds. Unlike the first pack ‘n plays, the floor of this one is raised off the ground, so there has to be a weight limit for it to stay safe. It held up just fine for those few minutes, but I wouldn’t recommend extended play above the weight limit.

The mattress is thin and hard, and feels a bit lumpy in some spots. I wouldn’t say it’s the most comfortable space for a child to sleep—or even to play on, for that matter—so that’s something to consider in your decision.

Setting up this play yard was a bit tricky. It was still easy enough, but I had to read the instructions to figure it out (rather than just winging it on my own). You have to pull the sides up just right to get them to lock in place. The bassinet attachment was difficult to put together. But again, if you carefully follow the instructions, you’ll be fine. Luckily, the crib features wheels on one end, so you don’t have to fold the entire thing up just to move it into the next room. 

The travel crib/pack and play is heavier than the first two, but still manageable. The fabric is in no way removable, so you have to go in and wipe it down, which may yield a less-thorough cleaning than removable fabric does. 

Overall, the portable play yard is an inexpensive travel crib option with helpful gadgets included, but it is cumbersome, difficult to put together, and a bit uncomfortable for kids.

Ultimately, you know what you’re looking for in a pack ‘n play. For me and my kiddos, the Babyseater Portable Playard Play Pen checked all the right boxes. It’s spacious, seamless to set-up or pack up, safe, durable, and easy to clean. It’s perfect for our getaways to the beach, the park, the grandparents’ houses, or the living room (while mommy works). It’s made things waaay easier for me and so fun for my children—a truly life-changing product for us. I hope my research, “shopping spree,” trial, and review of these top pack ‘n plays will help you to make a confident selection that perfectly matches your lifestyle and family needs.

Process

My process

How did I evaluate the pack and plays?

  1. Find the top pack and play options
  2. Order each one
  3. Set up the pack and play at home
  4. Let the kids play in it for a little while – observe for spacing, durability, safety, and comfort
  5. Give the kids some outside time in the pack and play, as well
  6. Take the pack and play on a trip
  7. Fold it back up and put in its carrying case

What aspects were ultimately the most important to a great pack and play?

  • Comfort and safety for children
  • Ease of set-up and take-down
  • Enough space for both children to play

About me

About Lindsey Jones

As a mom of two high-energy children – a 3-year-old boy and an 8-month-old baby girl – I’ve literally looked over hundreds of baby and child products for my kids. I’ve spent hours poring over research to find safe, effective, comfortable, and fun products. Some people think I’m a little “particular” about my research, but I’m not changing anything. What can I say? I want the absolute best for my kids, and I’m not willing to compromise.

After speaking with other moms, I realized that I should share the information I found more widely. I hope that sharing the love and information will save you time and trouble as you look to provide the best products and experience for your little one.

My most recent investigation involved pack and plays. I work from home, so sometimes I just need a safe place for the kids to stay contained and entertained (rearranging furniture to block entryways just wasn’t cutting it anymore). Or sometimes if my son is feeling overly hyper, I need a safe place to put the baby until he decompresses.

We also love going on little adventures, so we’ll take any excuse to travel – be it a full-on vacation to the beach, a quick weekend camping trip, or a visit to the grandparents. With this lifestyle, it’s important for us to have a portable “playroom” for our kiddos to use in a hotel room, at a campsite, on the beach, or at grandma’s.

After reading several pack and play review websites and browsing the top options on Amazon, I realized that to make a good decision, I needed to buy the top pack and plays and try them out. So I ordered the top 6 pack and play options to see what was actually best.

I realized that I could read reviews till I was blue in the face, but nothing would help me make the right choice better than physically testing out and comparing each option. I also knew that I could return the options that did not meet my kid’s needs.

So while it was a pain to order every single one, it was an investment I was willing to make to feel totally confident with my final selection. Plus, now I can recommend it to you without any reservations. I hope you find the research helpful!