'Would you like clean sheets?" I'm still hoping that I misheard the hurried porter as he dragged a cot into our snug five-star hotel room in Athens. My attention was certainly diverted as he slotted the clanking tubular monstrosity together. A high-sided metal cage, it looked more like a ghastly souvenir from a Victorian institution than anything a luxury hotel would offer to its guests, even ones too young to make a complaint. The sheets when they appeared were clean so that was something.
When bedtime finally came, however, baby refused to enter her prison cell and wailed her way into our bed. Normally, this would work out fine as even the most standard double room in the UAE comes equipped with a super-sized bed. Not so in Europe. Three bodies made it feel dangerously snug so my husband moved onto a folded woollen blanket on the floor. Yes, the floor. I tossed him a pillow as baby flipped over and started breathing heavily. I lay awake pondering what had gone wrong.
What always goes wrong, of course. When asked, hotels - even the five-star ones - wheel out a bog-standard, fold-up cot. When I bounce up and down on a hotel bed, I expect it to be more comfortable (and more expensive) than my own bed at home. Not so with baby's hotel-room cot. Every hotel I have visited with baby in tow, barring the Grand Bretagne in Athens, has installed a travel cot of the type that's sold in any high-street baby shop.
With a metal frame and fabric mesh sides, the design is sturdy enough, but the bottom, which is rigid for support, is about as comfortable as a pallet. Parents are advised not to let babies sleep with or on excessively padded surfaces such as pillows, duvets or mattress toppers to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids). But some give would be good.
Comfort aside, an even bigger problem is that it is both high-sided and incredibly low. I've never been able to perfect the art of transferring baby, happily asleep in my arms, to the pit-like bottom without tears. Double-jointed parents and those with extending arms should find it easier.
Even the term travel cot is a misnomer. Weighing in at about seven kg, it's hardly baggage-allowance friendly. I've scoured the shops here for an alternative but the selection is limited. Mothercare sells only one design, the dreaded hotel type, at Dh300 to Dh400. In desperation, I ordered the NScessity Deluxe Travel Centre through Amazon.com for Dh290. More pop-up tent than cot, it's super lightweight and offers UV protection so it can be used as a sun shade. Best of all, it has a self-inflating mattress and comes in a small shoulder bag. All I need now is to remember to pack it.