Traveling with Babies & Toddlers: 7 Ways to Use A Portable Playpen

family playing in a park with a pink pop n go portable playpen

Traveling with a baby or toddler has its challenges. From carrying them around to keeping them safe and satisfied, there is much to consider when bringing your child on adventures away from home.

However, travel is a wonderful, rewarding experience for both you and your little one. It helps them learn, and experience new things gives you quality time together, and lends itself to creating memories you’ll treasure forever.

Even though traveling with a baby or toddler has its difficulties, there are products that can add convenience and ease to your adventures. A portable playpen, or pack and play, is the perfect addition to your travel checklist. Pack and plays are portable, crib-like areas that babies and toddlers can sleep and play in. They keep you and your little one covered indoors, outdoors, at home, and away.

In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of pack and plays, seven ways to use them on your family adventures, and how they make traveling with your child easy!

This post is part of our best baby and toddler gear review series


What makes a pack and play the ultimate travel essential?

A pack and play is one of the most useful, convenient products for parents and guardians. They give your baby or toddler a place to play, sit and nap comfortably and safely. While some pack and plays are heavy and built for use at home, some are portable and great for when it’s time to get away.

Want to know the best pack n’ play for travel? We love the Pop ‘N Go Playpen from California Beach Co. It is a portable pop up playpen that is lightweight and can be taken anywhere you go with an included travel bag. It also sets up (or pops up!) in seconds and can be secured with ground or sand stakes. This makes it perfect for on-the-go playtime in any outdoor setting.

POP 'N GO Baby Playpen - Portable, Pack & Carry Play Yard for Baby and Kids - California Beach Co Toddler Playpen

The Pop ‘N Go Playpen can also be used indoors at home or at hotels and vacation rentals. It is spacious enough for multiple kids to play in or even for an adult to get some quality time with their little one. We recommend a playpen for any traveler with a baby or toddler.

7 Ways to Use Your Pack and Play

Pack and plays are very versatile, can be used several ways and are perfect for any adventure at home or away. We’ve rounded up seven ways you can use your pack and play while traveling:

Outdoor Playpen

A pack and play can make a great outdoor playpen. If you’re taking a family visit to a park, playground or other outdoor areas, a pack and play will provide a space for your baby or toddler to play or nap safely. Some pack and plays, such as the Pop ‘N Go Playpen, also include a UV cover to keep your child in the shade on hot, sunny days. The cover also protects them from mosquitoes and other icky insects.

An outdoor playpen is also great for soccer games and other outdoor events. Opt for a playpen that is lightweight, portable, easy to travel with and easy to set up. It’ll add convenience to your outdoor activities and ensure your little one will never get left out of the fun!

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Indoor Play Space

Pack and plays aren’t only for the outdoors. They can be used inside as well! They’re the perfect place for play or naptime and provide safety and security in unfamiliar environments. Some are also large enough to keep their toys in one place instead of scattered throughout your space. Set one up in your hotel or vacation rental for a play space they can enjoy away from home.

For Naps and Bedtime

A portable playpen can save you stress when it is time for your child to sleep on vacation. Babies and toddlers are known to sleep better in familiar environments. If you use a particular playpen at home, take it along on your trip for use as a travel crib. It will give them a comfortable, familiar place to sleep and help them adjust to their new surroundings. Use it for naps during the day and sleeping arrangements at night.

Some playpens come with mattresses for additional comfort. If you’re using California Beach Co’s Pop ‘N Go Playpen, the Pop ‘N Go Mattress and Mattress Cover are a great way to give it a touch of cozy comfort. The mattress pad gives your little one a soft, cushioned surface to sleep and play, is water and sand resistant and fits perfectly inside your Pop ‘N Go Playpen.

POP 'N GO Hexagon Playpen Mat Cover - Compatible with POP 'N GO Play Yard Mattress - Mini Mountains

The mattress cover adds even more comfort with an ultra-soft viscose from bamboo fabric, is also water and sand resistant and can be tossed in the washing machine when you return from your trip.

Beach Trips

Pack and plays are perfect for fun, family trips to the beach. They give your little one a roomy space to play and stash their beach toys and also keep them safe. Having a designated area for them to play in keeps them from venturing down the beach or to the water unsupervised. Make sure any outdoor playpen you take to the beach has a cover to protect them from harsh sunlight and any annoying insects that buzz by.

Camping Trips

Camping is a fun, exciting adventure your family will enjoy. Though camping with a baby or toddler isn’t easy, a portable playpen is one solution that’ll smooth out the bumps in the road. It will give them their own space to nap, play and beat the heat. Your playpen can also be used as their sleeping arrangements to give them a smooth transition to catching zzz’s away from home.

A Safe Space for Weekend Visits and Babysitting

If your child frequently visits other places such as their grandparents’ home, a family friend’s home, or a neighbor or babysitter’s home, it is a great idea to keep a separate pack and play for them there. This gives them a familiar space to curl up and nap or play in for weekday, weekend, or “just because” visits.

A pack and play establishes a boundary between your child and the things they should not touch, climb or explore, providing them safety and security in homes that are not child-proof.

What is the age limit for using a pack and play?

Pack and plays are for babies and toddlers. Though the age limit on most playpens is 2-3 years old, how long you can use it also depends on your child’s height and weight. Age limits can vary from product to product, but the best thing to do is to keep track of your playpen’s age requirements and your little one’s growth over time.

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If you’re buying your first baby playpen, we recommend checking the requirements before you purchase. That way, you’ll know exactly how long your child can use it before you spend your money.

Can I take my child’s portable crib on an airplane?

If you’re traveling by plane, you can most likely bring your little one’s portable crib with you. Some airlines don’t consider them to be checked luggage and are unable to check them at the gate. Instead, they are checked as part of your bag allowance before going through security. However, this may not be the case for the airline you are traveling with.

Check your airline’s requirements for portable cribs ahead of time so you’re prepared and know what to do when you arrive.

Will a travel pack n play fit in my car?

Most pack and plays are portable and condense or fold to take on-the-go. However, fitting one into a tightly packed trunk can be a challenge. If you’re traveling with a pack and play, we recommend using one that is lightweight and comes with its own carry bag.

Some pack and plays have large parts such as bassinets and have a heavier construction. A lighter model will make it easier to fit into your vehicle and a carry bag will make it easier to take on-the-go during your trip.

Do I need to own a portable crib?

A portable crib is not required equipment for a baby or toddler. However, they’re so versatile that they are an easy solution for many problems parents and guardians face when they’re taking care of little humans. They’re convenient for travel and great for use at home too!

Final Thoughts

Though traveling with a baby or toddler isn’t easy, it is very rewarding for you and, most importantly, them! Creating memories and spending quality time away from home is an invaluable experience you’ll both treasure. A portable playpen, or pack and play, can solve many of the problems you may face on your travels such as providing a safe, designated play area and a comfortable, familiar place to nap or sleep.

It is perfect for indoors, outdoors, hotels, and vacation rentals and can be taken along on a plane or packed into a car. With a portable playpen, you can enjoy worry-free, family fun on your trip with your child safely beside you.

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A vhild playing with a playpen in the park

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