First thing I learned when shopping for an affordable, travel capable crib was that Graco makes a ton of Pack N Play models. You can easily waste hours comparing them all, but I wasted those hours for you and am here to report back.
I own both the Pack N Play bassinet (pictured at left) and the Pack N Play Travel Lite with Stages. The full-size Pack N Play is in the living room, the Travel Lite is in the bedroom.
The full-size Pack N Play is good at being useful for a long time; as your baby grows, you can use it as a play pen. Before that, it’s a huge comfy bassinet.
The Graco Travel Lite crib is good at being smaller – the full-size Pack N Play won’t fit in my bedroom, so the Travel Lite is our bedroom bassinet. However, even though it can also become a playpen, baby will outgrow it sooner.
How they’re alike
Both Pack N Play models are designed for babies ages birth to toddler. Both have a suspended sleep surface several inches from the top edge for babies that are too young to pull themselves up on the edge. This suspended sleep surface is great because it means you don’t have to bend very far to pick up or put down your baby, which you will do like 100 times a day in the early weeks.
There are cheaper Pack N Play models, but they lack the (removable) suspended “bassinet” feature. I wouldn’t want to bend almost all the way to the floor to pick up and put down my baby. If you get the bassinet model, then you’ve got a piece of furniture that can hold your newborn from birth to toddler years.
When your baby grows, the bassinet part can be removed and the pad placed at the bottom of the Pack n Play. Now the bassinet is a playpen, and get over 2 years of usefulness out of a single thing. Cool!
In summary, both the Pack n Play bassinet and the Travel Lite:
- Are safe for newborns and infants
- Are easy to assemble/take down
- Have a foldable “sleeping pad”
- Become a playpen if you take out the suspended bedding part
Pack n Play bassinet review, pros and cons
Baby B definitely prefers the big Pack N Play to the Travel Lite. That could be because we use a Dream on Me mattress inside the Pack N Play. This Dream on Me 3″ mattress is noticeably softer and more supportive than the pad that comes with the Pack N Play. However, it’s not so soft and mushy so as to be unsafe – it’s just got a nicer feel to it, especially with a lightly padded mattress cover.
- Fits the Dream on Me mattress, which Baby B seems to prefer sleeping on
- Baby can lay at any orientation inside it
- Larger play area – 39.50 x 28.25 x 29.00 inches
- Will last longer into baby’s childhood
- Cheaper than the Travel Lite (despite being larger and generally more useful)
- Folds up easily, travels fairly well (that is, in a car – I wouldn’t carry this thing recreationally)
- Wheels on one end for easy moving
- Looks nice, lots of color palettes available
- Big enough to use it as a makeshift changing table that baby can’t roll out of
Baby B is 10 lbs / 4 weeks old in this photo. As you can see, there’s plenty of room for her to grow and still sleep in this Pack N Play. When she starts pulling herself up, we’ll lower the mattress to the bottom of the crib by removing the bassinet insert.
- Doesn’t fit in our bedroom
- Included sleeping pad is hard and rather Spartan; we had to buy a better mattress along with sheets and a mattress pad for it before Baby B would actually sleep on it peacefully
- Not a full-size crib, so forget about ramps and bedding intended for actual cribs
Pack n Play Travel Lite review, pros and cons
Honestly, unless your room just can’t hold the standard sized Pack N Play, there’s not much reason to get the Travel Lite. However, if you can’t fit the normal size one, this is the next best thing and way more awesome than similarly sized competitor products, such as a standalone bassinet that baby will outgrow within a few months. At least the Travel Lite can become a play pen (or fairly deep storage, I suppose!) as baby outgrows it; other co-sleepers and bassinets I came close to buying are really only good at being a baby bed.
- Fits in smaller spaces – 20% smaller than normal Graco playards (23.2 x 33.5 x 32.2 inches)
- Included sleeping pad is softer than normal Pack n Play’s sleeping pad, but not as soft as a Dream on Me mattress
- Includes “canopy” cover
- Wheels on one end of it for easy moving
- No obvious equivalent to the Dream on Me mattress that fits in the larger Pack N Play
- Sheets for its pad are not readily available; I used a set of stretchy 20″x30″ jersey pillow cases from Target
- Baby will outgrow sooner
- Pricier than a normal Pack N Play
- Only available in one color palette right now
Baby B is about 9 lbs 3 oz in this photo. As you can see, she will outgrow the Travel Lite long before she outgrows the bigger Pack N Play.
Which one should I get?
Unless it just won’t fit in the space you have, get the full size Pack N Play.
It’ll last longer into your child’s life, it’s cheaper, and there are more mattress options if your baby hates the included sleeping pad like mine does. It travels just as well as the Travel Lite crib and is just as portable around your home.
My recommended “Pack N Play starter kit”
Here’s my exact Pack N Play setup, mattress and all.
This particular combination of play yard, mattress, sheets, and pad is the result of a couple hours exploring Amazon’s “Customers also bought”, checking dimensions, materials, and user reviews. The Dream on Me mattress fits perfectly and snugly – no gaps for baby to fall into.
It’s really easy to accidentally end up on a product meant for a full-size crib, so always check dimensions before buying.
To save you trial and error, here are links to the exact Pack N Play play yard and bedding I use:
- Pack N Play bassinet – mine’s “Pasadena”, but as long as yours has the bassinet option it should be similar (if not identical) to mine
- 3″ Dream on Me mattress – fits perfectly (no gaps) and my baby actually sleeps on it (flat on her back, no less)
- American Baby Company 100% cotton sheets – buy at least two so you can always have a clean one ready to go (I have 4)
- Waterproof mattress pad for a bit of softness (make sure yours is 27 inches x 39 inches x 5 inches). You can probably get by without a mattress pad, but the Dream on Me mattress has a plastic surface and I think the extra bit of cotton from the mattress pad adds warmth and comfort without adding any hazardous bulk.
Note on mattress safety: Whether you decide to use a supplemental mattress is a personal decision – do your research and don’t use (or stop using) anything that makes you feel insecure about your baby’s safety. Do not use a mattress that does not fit snugly on all sides, and don’t add padding or blankets beyond the mattress and sheets.