You’re planning on taking a trip with your baby. You’re ready to book your flight, but as you go through your list of necessities, you wonder about flying with a pack and play. Your pack and play is an essential piece of baby travel equipment for sleeping and playing that no mom wants to be without!
Don’t worry– we’ll go through all the ins and outs for flying with a pack ‘n play. Learn how to prepare for your trip, how to travel with a pack ‘n play, the best lightweight pack ‘n play, and how to prepare a pack and play for a flight.
Here’s how you can bring this essential baby travel item on board!
Pack ‘N Play vs Travel Crib
Flying with a baby can be stressful, especially if this is your first time flying with your child. Flying is not the only consideration to plan for– you also need a safe place for your baby to sleep and play once you get to your destination. That’s where you’ll want to consider traveling with a pack n’ play or a travel crib.
If you are debating between a travel crib or pack ‘n play, here are the main differences and why you might want to consider traveling with a pack n’ play.
Differences Between a Pack ‘N Play and Travel Crib
When comparing the pack ‘n play and travel crib, know that the travel crib will be lighter and easier to carry on the plane. Travel cribs may even be small enough to pack into your suitcase.
However, pack and plays have advantages you won’t find in a travel crib. You won’t be able to leave your baby to play in a travel crib because it isn’t as roomy or as sturdy as the pack ‘n play. You also shouldn’t leave your baby alone to sleep unattended in a travel crib, especially if your baby is mobile, standing and trying to climb out of your travel crib.
Both travel cribs and pack ‘n plays have to adhere to safety guidelines. Make sure you read the guidelines and safety considerations no matter which you choose.
Advantages of a Pack ‘N Play:
- Babies can move and play safely.
- Mesh sides allow you to see the baby at all times.
- Roomy enough for the baby and all the toys.
- Can take it to the beach, park, or on outdoor adventures.
- Easily placed in any room for bedtime and naps.
- Provides a familiar place to ease anxiety in a new environment.
- Many hotels and Air B&Bs don’t offer cribs.
While many of these items also apply to travel cribs, the main advantage of a travel crib is that they are lightweight and small for travel. The biggest disadvantage of a pack n’ play for travel is that they are heavy and bulky. A pack n play does not pack small.
Chances are that if your hotel has a crib available for your, it will be a pack n play.
How To Travel With a Pack ‘N Play
When considering how to travel with a pack ‘n play, there are three important questions you need to get answers on before flying with pack n play:
- Can I fly with a pack and play?
- Can I gate check a pack ‘n play?
- Is a pack ‘n play considered a piece of baby equipment that can be checked for free?
Fortunately, most airlines allow you to check baby equipment for free. Some airlines, like Delta, allow you to check all baby items for free curbside, at the ticket counter, or at the gate. Others have a minimum or don’t consider playpens a mobility device like a car seat or bassinet.
To find the answers for your particular airline, look at their “travel with children” page. Just do a google search for “[airline] traveling with children” and you should find all their policies for traveling with pack n plays.
If you’re still unsure or have questions, make sure you reach out to your airline before your trip! It’s better to be prepared ahead of time than to walk into a new situation feeling stressed.
The Best Pack ‘N Plays for Airplanes
If you’re set on bringing your existing pack ‘n play, it should be an easy fold pack and play. If it’s not foldable and compact pack n’ play, consider purchasing one better suited to take on a plane. There are excellent lightweight pack n’ play options available that are great for traveling.
The Graco Pack N’ Play Portable Playard is the highest rated for easy folding and transportation, and is excellent for travel. It also comes with a carry bag and weighs less than 20 pounds. This playpen folds with the click of a button and has handy wheels for moving it around.
While you can fly with any pack n’ play, we do recommend considering these lightweight travel cribs instead. See all our recommended baby travel cribs here.
- An inexpensive option to consider, just for travel, is the Dream On Me Travel Light Playard. It only weighs 10.5 pounds and comes in a travel bag. It folds up flat and measures 23.5 x 19 x 6 inches when folded.
- If you feel you must bring your pack ‘n play onboard, you may want the Lotus Travel Crib Backpack. It’s more expensive than some other options here, but you can’t beat its comfort and portability. Simply strap on the 11-pound backpack and you are good to take this travel crib anywhere, even on a plane.
Can I Check a Pack ‘N Play at the Airport?
If your pack ‘n play is compact, light, and portable, you can fly with a pack ‘n play and even bring it on board and stow it in the overhead compartment if it meets the carry-on requirements. You always have the option of checking a pack ‘n play at the ticket counter with your luggage.
How To Check a Pack ‘N Play
How you check your pack ‘n play depends on its size and weight. If the airline allows the pack and play as a free baby item, it’s a no-brainer. Go ahead and check it. If you will be charged for checking your pack ‘n play, you still want a compact and foldable item as it will make your life easier.
Can You Gate Check a Pack ‘N Play?
If you have a long wait at the airport gate, which can be possible if you are flying internationally and have to check in two hours in advance, you may want to bring your pack and play to the gate. If it meets the requirements for a carry-on, you will most likely be allowed to check it there.
To gate-check an item, ask the gate counter personnel for a tag. Fill in your information and carry the pack ‘n play to the platform just outside the entrance to the plane (called the jetway). There will usually be airline employees or baggage personnel there to assist with gate-checked items.
Leave your pack ‘n play there to be placed in the luggage compartment of the plane before departure. It will be the first item unloaded when you arrive and will be waiting for you when you disembark on the jetway.
If the airline doesn’t allow the pack and play as one of your free checked items, you most likely won’t be allowed to check it at the gate.
In either case, you may have an easier time checking it with your regular baggage. Then, you won’t have to lug it through the airport and then again at your destination airport.
Tips for Checking a Pack ‘N Play
If you end up having to check your pack and play, the goal is to have it arrive safely at your next destination. Here are some helpful tips.
- Get a large suitcase and include the pack ‘n play with other items rather than checking multiple bags. Doing so will help protect the pack ‘n play from getting damaged in its own case. Consolidate what you can, and reduce the cost of checking the pack ‘n play by itself. You will pay anywhere from $35 to $50 on most airlines to check a pack ‘n play.
- If your combined items are above the normal size requirements or are over 50 pounds, you may be charged an additional fee. Check the size and weight requirements for your airline before you go. You don’t want any surprises at check-in. Extra-large bags will be considered oversized items.
- Buy a box and pack it with the pack ‘n play. Then, stuff diapers, blankets, and clothes around the crib to help protect it. Tape the box well and write “fragile” on the box. You can’t guarantee airline employees will be careful when handling, but it never hurts, and it may decrease the chances of damages occurring.
- Large duffle bags are great for pack ‘n plays. They don’t offer much protection, but you may be able to fit other items in the duffle bag with it. Blankets are always a good choice as they help protect it and are useful when you get to your location.
- If you are packing only the pack ‘n play in the duffle, consider wrapping it in bubble wrap or a blanket and taping it up. You don’t want it to get bumped and partially open. If it ends up partially open, it increases the chance of it getting damaged in the loading and unloading process.
- Place your pack ‘n play in a distinguishable bag. Make it brightly colored if you are buying new so it stands out when it comes down the conveyor belt. Alternatively, take a strip of colorful patterned fabric and tie it securely around the handle of your bag. It’s extremely unlikely someone else will have the same color and pattern as you!
- If your bag is oversized, it may not be in the regular baggage claim area. Check with the airline to find out where the oversized bags are released.
We traveled with a pack n play just once. We checked it with our luggage, just in it’s regular bag. We were lucky that it wasn’t damaged and arrived on the baggage carousel as expected.
Since we only had one flight and were renting a car at the airport, our time carrying it was minimal. After that experience we decided it was worthwhile to invest in a lighter baby travel beds and toddler travel beds. Especially since our travel style had evolved into longer trips with more moving around and not always with a rental car!
Flying With Pack and Play Take-Aways
Bottom line: you can fly with a pack ‘n play! All it takes is some preparation. You will have to check with the airline you are flying on to determine if it considers a pack ‘n play a freely-checked baby item. If the airline doesn’t allow non-transportation items for free, you will have to pay to check the pack ‘n play.
If your pack and play is not compact, foldable, and easy to transport, you might consider purchasing a lightweight travel crib. There are several available that are highly rated, light, small, and come with bags that will fit in the carry-on compartments of the airplane.
If you have to check your pack ‘n play, try to consolidate it with other items. Pack in a large suitcase or duffle bag and wrap it securely in a blanket or bubble wrap to ensure it arrives undamaged at your destination.
Pack ‘n plays can be so useful when traveling with your baby. They provide a safe and sturdy place for your baby to sleep and play and are comforting in a new environment. Use them for sleeping, outings to the beach, or a safe area for your baby to play with toys.