Whether your travels take you to the beach, the park or even a friend’s backyard, there’s one thing you’ll want to bring in tow if you have a little one: a playpen. While we don’t want to put our kids in “baby jail,” there are times when we just need to contain them, which is when a playpen — or playard — is the perfect solution.
Of course, a travel crib can typically serve this purpose, but traditionally, playpens are roomier. There’s also a good chance that you don’t want to put your child’s bed for the night in the sand or the dirt outside.
Fortunately, playpens have come a long way. Instead of the big and bulky plastic playpens of decades past, you can now find ones that travel significantly lighter, pop up within seconds and offer plenty of shade. There are many playpen options for your on-the-go needs — here are 11 of our favorites for your next vacation.
$195.99 at Target
In just two seconds, the AeroMoov Instant Travel Playard will pop right up, making it incredibly easy to set up a play space for your baby. At less than 11 pounds and less than 5 inches wide when folded flat, it’s one of the most compact and lightweight playards on the market. The playard also comes with a convenient carrying bag, which makes it easy to pack in your large suitcase, store in the overhead compartment on an airplane or slide into your car’s trunk on a road trip.
Although this playard is built for babies — those weighing less than 13 pounds or until they can sit up on their own — it’s one of the few playards that is also certified for safe overnight sleeping. You can also purchase a separate UV 50+ sunshade and mosquito net bundle, which is ideal for the outdoors.
$129.99 $90.49 at Amazon
The Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard Deluxe Adventurer will keep your child contained in a single and secure area, and it has enough space to keep them fully occupied with toys and games. With 15 square feet of space, the playard is both water-resistant and offers a detachable UPF 50+ sun protection canopy with full or half dome coverage. Additionally, there are roll-down shades on all six sides of the mesh side walls to fully keep the sun and bugs away.
For some downtime, a dedicated pocket inside offers touchscreen capability, so you can give your child a device and keep them entertained while also keeping the device safe from sand, dirt and water. We like this option for traveling families because the frame comes fully assembled and can be folded or unfolded in seconds. Plus, take it from the car to the campsite easily with the included travel bag, which also features a convenient shoulder strap.
$69.99 $59.49 at Amazon
The Evenflo Play-Away Portable Playard Lite is extremely similar to the Deluxe Adventure but with two main differences: the canopy and roll-down shades. With the Lite version, you’re receiving a similar base with the same dimensions — including 15 square feet of space and the interior tablet pocket — but there’s no canopy or roll-down shade. If you don’t need these features and are looking to spend a little less money on your playard, this could be a great option.
The frame itself is sturdy while also being extremely easy to set up. The frame comes fully assembled, so you can quickly unpack and unfold it so it’s ready for use. When it comes to taking this playard on the go, you can utilize the included travel bag, which features a shoulder strap for easy carrying.
$199.99 $149.99 at Amazon
The Pop ‘N Go Playpen is perfect to use for both indoor playtime or outdoor activities. The playpen comes with six ground stakes, seven sand stakes, a UV shade cover with a storage bag and a travel bag with shoulder straps. The high-quality tent can be set up with one hand in seconds, thanks to its pop-and-release capabilities.
The mesh netting on the side allows for maximum ventilation, and the UV shade cover blocks the sun with its SPF 50 protection. And after spending the day outside, you can easily wipe off any dirt and sand. At just over 7 pounds and offering a compact fold into the included travel bag, this is an incredibly easy playpen to bring with you on all your travels.
$109.99 at Amazon
The Graco Pack ‘n Play LiteTraveler Playard is perfect for all your travel playpen needs, thanks to its easy setup and take-down capabilities. With a one-step fold, it collapses and can fit in the included travel bag, which features a shoulder strap for easy transporting. This allows you to easily take the playpen on the road with you during your next trip.
The front of the playpen also includes a zippered door, which allows for your child to come in and out on their own. This will give your child some independence without the parent having to constantly bend over to get their child in and out. Plus, we like that this option is machine-washable, so you don’t have to worry about it getting dirty during any outside adventures.
$169.97 at Amazon
If you’re a fan of the basic Graco Pack ‘n Play LiteTraveler Playard but you’re hoping for something that offers more sun protection, you’ll want to instead consider the Graco Pack ‘n Play LiteTraveler LX Playard. This enhanced version offers the same dimensions and features as the standard version but with one added component: a sun shade. This removable canopy provides UV 50 sun protection and shade for outdoor usage.
Although this version is about $60 more expensive than the basic version, if you plan on bringing the playard to the beach or park, this extra feature might be a necessity. And, to make this a solid option for every trip, you can transport it in the included travel bag with convenient shoulder strap.
$89.99 $65 at Amazon
The Summer Infant Pop ‘n Play Portable Playard offers 14 square feet of play area that easily folds into the included travel bag. The water-resistant canvas floor allows you to use the playard outside — including on damp grass — and keep your child dry. Though this playard features a sturdy design, the lightweight metal frame weighs about 12 pounds and can easily pop and fold into a compact space-saving design. The playard is for use for children aged 6 to 24 months — or up to 35 inches tall.
$131 at Amazon
The Summer Infant Pop ‘n Play Deluxe Ultimate Playard is similar to the Summer Infant Pop ‘n Play Portable Playard but with one additional nice-to-have feature: a canopy. The removable clip-on canopy provides full coverage over the playpen, blocking 98% of UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, the canopy includes two zip-open panels to allow some sunshine and airflow into the playard.
On top of the canopy benefit, the Deluxe version also features a padded floor and a removable touchscreen-enabled entertainment pouch. Although slightly more expensive than the basic version, the added benefits might be well worth it. At the same time, this design retains its travel friendliness, thanks to an easy-to-fold design and included travel bag for easy transport.
$119.99 $83.99 at Amazon
As one of the more economical playards that comes with an attached canopy, the Baby Delight Go With My Eclipse Portable Playard With Canopy is a great option if you’re looking for a playpen primarily for the outdoors. The UPF 50+ canopy, which protects against 98% of harmful UVA and UVB rays, covers two-thirds of the playard.
The playard offers a nylon floor, allowing you to easily wipe up any mess. Or, since the walls and floors are fully removable, the machine-washable fabric can be thrown into the laundry. There’s also an attached storage pocket and a travel bag for easy portability. The playard is made for children aged 6 to 24 months and up to 35 inches tall.
$99.95 at Target
If you’re looking for a playard for not just toddlers but slightly older children as well, the Kidco Lightweight Portable Tent-Peapod Camp Playard is for those between the ages of 1 and 6 years old. This tent-style playard is perfect for kids to play — or nap — on the go, especially thanks to its incredibly lightweight design at less than 4 pounds. Plus, it’s easy to use, as it pops up almost instantly and can be seamlessly transported in the included travel bag.
The included side sun shades provide 50% UV protection, but they can also roll up three-fourths of the way with a magnet closure. Inside the tent, there are also three storage pockets to keep your child’s toys and activities safe and clean. There’s also an included sleeping pad to keep your child more comfortable.
$184 at Amazon
If you’re looking for a large space for your child to play or rest, the Joovy Room2 will give them 10 square feet of play space. It’s got large mesh siding on each of the four walls so you can keep an eye on your little one. The playpen also comes with two wheels on the bottom, allowing you to move it around easier. And although the playpen is slightly bigger and heavier than some other options on this list, it does come with a travel bag that allows for easy transportation, even if you’re traveling by airplane.
Find out which credit cards CNN Underscored chose as its best travel credit cards of 2022.