Options for making space for a pack-n-play so your baby or toddler will sleep soundly on board

pack-n-play boat

Space is a premium on all boats – no matter how small or big your boat. But when your baby is too big for an infant co-sleeper, yet not quite big enough to sleep alone in a berth, a pack-n-play may be your only option.

The good news is that bringing a pack-n-play on board your boat is only a temporary situation. Depending on what time of the year your baby was born (and how long your boating season is), you may only need a pack-n-play for a few seasons. You’ll likely need a pack-n-play from when your baby is old enough to sit up and roll over (5-6 months old) until your toddler is about 2 or 2 1/2 years old. After the age of 2 it will be hard to keep most toddlers in a pack-n-play.

Both of our kids were born in the summer. We used an infant sleeper on our boat the first summer they were born, and then moved them into a compact pack-n-play the following two seasons. The summer they turned 3 we had them move into the bed in the aft cabin.  And yes, we were very happy to say goodbye to the space stealing pack-n-play.


Where to Place a Pack-n-Play on a Boat

One of the biggest problems with having a pack-n-play on your boat is that it will not fit in most private cabin areas due to the amount of floor space required. This can really cramp your style by having a pack-n-play in the middle of your salon… tip toeing around your cabin during naps and early bedtimes… but for many boat layouts there are no other options.

In come cases you will need to make more floor space inside your cabin by removing tables and table poles. Or, you may need to take furniture off your aft cabin style boats that has extra barrel chairs in the salon.

For our first baby, we had a smaller 30 foot cabin cruiser with one wide open salon, forward and aft cabin area. The level floor actually made it very easy to slide a pack-n-play into the aft cabin area with the aft bed in sofa position. We also did not need to use the aft bed for another child so it was perfectly fine to block the aft area of the cabin with the pack-n-play.

pack-n-play aft cabin
The pack-n-play in horizontal position blocked the aft cabin.

For our second baby, we had stepped up to a 41 foot cabin cruiser – a 2002 Sea Ray 410 Sundancer with a salon and private aft and master staterooms. We thought we would have much more space for two kids, with the ability to have the pack-n-play in the aft stateroom.

Turns out it was actually harder to accommodate the pack-n-play because our 410 Sundancer had a step down aft stateroom and the floor was not level to accommodate all four legs of the pack-n-play. We could try to place it in a horizontal position alongside the couch, but then it blocked the entire aft stateroom and our older daughter could not sleep on the sofa alongside the pack-n-play.

pack-n-play platform
Platform for pack-n-play to make it level in the boat aft cabin.

The solution was building a small platform that would create a level area for the pack-n-play.

It was a large U-shaped structure that had a ledge on the edge to keep the pack-n-play from sliding off the platform. It was made with heavy pressed wood so that it would not slide around and was strong enough to support the weight of the pack-n-play and baby.

We joked that it didn’t have to be teak because it just had to last us two boating seasons.

room for a pack-n-play on boat

Positioning the pack-n-play this way gave just enough room for our older daughter to walk past it and sleep on the couch in the aft stateroom. Most importantly, it provided us enough clearance to close the pocket door at night when the kids went to sleep or when the little one was napping during the day.

Having our pack-n-play on a platform was a huge help during nap time when we tend to go in and out of the cabin a lot… we didn’t have to worry as much about waking our daughter while she slept in the pack-n-play tucked away in the aft cabin.

Compact Pack-n-Plays for Boats

To make your pack-n-play fit on your boat you may find that you’ll need to buy a more compact. Either way, you’ll likely need to buy another pack-n-play specifically for your boat so you can just leave it set-up for weekend use without having to pack it up and bring it back every weekend.

There are many other portable baby bed options that are good options for slightly older babies. As babies learn how to sit up, roll over and generally move around more they need a slightly bigger baby bed. Until a baby is almost 2 years old, I think they need to be in some type of baby travel bed when sleeping on a boat to be safe. This is when it gets particularly challenging with the small amount of floor space you have on a boat.

Here are some good travel baby beds that would work well with for babies older than 6 months sleeping on a boat:
Kidco Peapod – Cranberry This indoor/outdoor baby travel bed is a great option for older babies sleeping on a boat. It doesn’t take up too much room in the boat cabin and it can even be brought up into the boat cockpit to double as a safe and shaded play space (with UV protection!) It has an inflatable mattress for comfort and is very portable. It measures 47 x 30 x 19 inches (LxWxH) when open. Available for only $69.99 on Amazon. (also comes in other colors)


BABYBJÖRN Travel Crib Light 2, Blue
The compact and lightweight design of the Baby Bjorn travel crib (only 11 lbs) easily folds up into a carrying case and is a great option for older babies or toddlers on boats. Measuring 45 x 31.5 x 25.5 inches (L x W x H), the crib has a uniquely compact design that features a base with slanting edges. For babies that are standing, it is very sturdy for them to stand up and have a safe place to play on a boat. It is a bit pricey, but a good investment in a safe travel crib that is compact. You can buy it on Amazon for $219.


Gocrib Portable Baby Travel Crib and Play Yard
If you have a bit more floor space on your boat, the GoCrib is a standard size, ultra-portable travel crib that packs into a lightweight backpack. It features 27″ x 39″ insulating mattress and 25″ depth sleeping and play area (same as a standard play yard). Available for $249 on Amazon.

This summer our second daughter will be three and our plan is to ditch the pack-n-play on the boat and have both daughters sleep in the aft cabin. It will be an adjustment because our little one still sleeps in a crib at home, but because the sides of a pack-n-play are so much lower than a crib it will safer to not have her sleep in one this summer. And we are SO looking forward to having our much needed floor space back in the cabin!




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Diane Seltzer

Founder at BoaterKids.com
Diane is the founder of BoaterKids.com as well as the boating lifestyle site MyBoatLife.com. Active in the boating industry, Diane is the marketing director for SureShade, maker of patented retractable boat shade systems, and founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.

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