Looking for an Air Mattress Alternative? Try these 3

So, why would you look for an air mattress alternative?

upset and still looking for an air mattress alternativeMy guess is the leakage episodes are driving you crazy.

Wait, your cat did what……?

You can’t quite tell the number of times you have fixed holes.

Well, there is a solution to this problem.

Try the following alternatives:

You could get a standard mattress like the ones mentioned in the mattresses for the dollar post.

Or buy a folding bed (rollaway bed) with a mattress if you have limited space.

But if that isn’t an option at the moment, then consider these:

  1. Tri-fold mattress or
  2. Japanese-style futon mattress

Now, let’s take a look at each of these options and how they fare against the air mattress.

The good thing is the mentioned mattresses do not require pumps and electricity to set up. They work a little similar to standard mattresses.

If you’re looking for an alternative that is somewhat closer to an air mattress, then read the waterbed post.

Otherwise, let’s proceed…. And please remember that these options aren’t the best for infants.

First on the list:

Folding bed (rollaway bed) with a mattress

 As the name suggests, this is a bed that can be folded in half. In most cases, the frame is made of metal (steel) that is lightweight and durable.

rollaway bed an air mattress alternative
CC image courtesy of Dream beds and mattresses on Flickr

They call it rollaway because it has wheels for easy movement and the fact that it’s quite popular in hospitals and hotels.


The rollaway bed can be sold together with a mattress that is also foldable.

Most manufacturers prefer the bed with memory foam mattress because it can compress under pressure, and still return to its original state.


Why should you consider the rollaway bed as an air mattress alternative?

Well, the bed has a solid support base than the air mattress. So your guest won’t be worried about the pressure his/her weight exerts on the bed.

hospital rollaway bed air mattress alternative
Rollaway bed in the hospital

Most of these beds are easy to set up and convenient to store too especially if you have limited space.

And you don’t have an identified area for guests.

There are rentals for this alternative if you don’t want to buy one. So you can hire the bed for some time and then return it when not in use.

And these folding beds are durable than most air mattresses because of their makeup. But you may be required to replace the mattress after some years of use.

The good thing is these beds don’t leak so your guests will find them comfortable to sleep on.

And the bed isn’t as noisy or bouncy as an air mattress.

The downside is it’s heavier than an air bed, and it may require larger storage space. And the smell of new foam mattress may not be to your liking.

If you feel like this could work, what are some of the things you should consider before renting or buying one?

Things to consider before buying a rollaway (folding) bed

You should consider:

  1. The size of the rollaway bed

Well, this will depend on the space you plan to place the bed. It may also depend on the number of guests you’re expecting.

You can get a cot, twin or a full size for one guest. And maybe opt for a queen size if you’re expecting a couple and have a spacious room.

  1. The makeup of the folding bed

The bed should have a solid steel structure that can support your guests’ weights.

Consider if the bed features wooden slats or a metallic base, whichever you may prefer for comfort.  You should also look for one with wheels for movement. The wheels should be able to lock when not in use.

air mattress alternative folding bed
A folding bed without wheels

Some folding beds may include strap buttons that secure the bed and prevent it from rolling.

You should also consider the height of the mattress off the ground.

Why is this important?

Well if you’re expecting young adults this isn’t important, but if your first guest is a senior the bed shouldn’t be very low.

A lot of bending activities may feel uncomfortable to your senior guest because of the stiffness and joint pains experienced during this phase.

  1. The right mattress for your folding bed

Most retailers prefer a memory foam mattress or a hybrid for the reason I mentioned earlier in the post.

The mattress to look for should be a foldable (bi-fold), firm mattress that can support at least a person of around 200lbs comfortably.

What I have found out is that most manufacturers prefer a 4-inch thickness on this type of mattress.

Why?  A mattress thicker than 4 inches will make folding hard and beat the whole folding bed concept.

  1. Rollaway storage space

Well, you should consider where the bed will be stored when not in use. You can have a temporary space if your plan is to hire.

But if you’re going to buy, then find out about the dimensions of the folded bed and mattress. This will give you an idea of kind of space that’ll be good for storage.

  1. Return policy

Consider the return policy especially if you are buying the bed online. Remember, most policies depend on the shipping companies. So, find out if there’s a return policy and what the process requires.

In some cases, you may incur shipping costs if you decide to return the bed so choose the right bed wisely. Or consider the one mentioned in this post.

  1. Rollaway bed operation

The bed and wheels should be easy to assemble and fix.

Ask the seller/ manufacturer about the assembling process and find out if you may need tools for the D.I.Y bit.

You can buy fully-expanded mattresses from some manufacturers rather than their compressed versions.

  1. Folding bed price

price for an air mattress alternativeYou can get an affordable folding bed that includes a mattress too. Or buy the bed separately if you have a foldable mattress somewhere.

The average folding bed isn’t expensive, although the price varies depending on the size, brand, and makeup.

Bottom line, you get what you pay for so consider your guests comfort before you buy one.

  1. Folding bed weight

This refers to the weight that both the bed and mattress can sustain together. You have to get one that can support the average weight of most individuals comfortably.

  1. Find out if the bed comes with any accessories such as mattress encasements or covers so that you prepare to buy some if not included.
  2. And finally, consider the lifespan of the bed. In most cases, the frame will last you a lifetime, but the mattress may require replacement after some years.

If you’re ready to buy, then I recommend the Millard premium folding bed on Amazon. 

What I like about this folding bed is it has a removable, washable cover for maintenance. The bed is easy to assemble even without tools, and it features a buckle that keeps it secured when not in use.

Otherwise, you can choose to rent one just for a short while.

Do consider the mentioned points even if you’re renting. Look for a reputable company that is licensed and fully insured.

Find out how they maintain their beds and if they use any chemicals that may be toxic to your guests.


If a folding bed isn’t your thing, then try the tri-fold mattress.

Tri-fold mattress

The tri-fold is another air mattress alternative that doesn’t necessarily require a bed frame or foundation to work well.

You can also buy this type of mattress online in an e-commerce store.

So, what is it anyway?

tri-fold mattress air mattress alternative
Covered tri-fold mattress image courtesy of Suriyati_pictures on Flickr

It is a mattress that is foldable in three sections. Now, these attached sections work seamlessly when in use.

Most tri-fold mattresses are made of foam and a combination of other materials.

They are usually described as temporary mattresses by many manufacturers. And they come in different sizes.


 Why is a tri-fold a good air mattress alternative?

Well, a good one with a non-slip bottom will minimize movement when sleeping. And eliminate that bouncy feeling that most air mattresses have.

And just like the folding bed this tri-fold mattress doesn’t deflate or have leaking episodes, but you may have to wait for it expand initially for a few hours.

If you buy a tri-fold mattress with a thicker height, you’ll get a good support base than the average air mattress. And because foam conforms to the body, then your guest can be assured of comfort and some pressure point relief.

The downside is it requires a larger storage space than an air mattress because it’s not as flexible (rollable).

An example of a good storage space can be your guest closet in case you have one.


What should you consider when shopping for a tri-fold mattress?

  • Look for a CertiPUR-US certified foam mattress that has been tested by relevant authorities for toxicity. You want to create a toxic-free environment for your guest.
  • Consider a mattress with a high-density construction so that it can last a while without losing shape.
inches of an air mattress alternative
CC inches image courtesy of Planettc1 on Flickr
  • The folds should be seamless; they should create a smooth surface for comfort.
  • Look for one with a thick height preferably over 4 inches as I mentioned before. It will comfortably support guests of different weights.
  • You should also find a mattress with a non-slip bottom for the reason I mentioned earlier in the post.
  • Get one with a zippered cover too that will keep the mattress clean and easy to maintain.
  • Consider buying from a reliable brand.

I recommend you buy this twin size tri-fold from Millard on Amazon. Millard is a well-known brand that creates good sleep products. The mentioned mattress made of certified foam features a 6-inch thickness that is just right for your guests.

Another good thing about tri-fold mattresses is that they are reasonably priced, so you can get a good one under $500.

What if you’re not interested in options like the folding bed or tri-fold mattresses because you feel they are a bit bulky? Is there any other air mattress alternative?

Yes, please continue reading………..

Last but not least:

Japanese Floor Futon

Now, this may work for you especially if your guest has slept on a similar mattress before.

So, what is a Japanese floor futon?

A Japanese floor futon is a mattress that looks like a duvet. This type of mattress features materials that make it rollable and foldable.

air mattress alternative image of a large futon
Futon image courtesy of Manumenal on Flickr

Now, the Japanese usually place these mattresses on tatami mats that make them very comfortable to sleep on.

And because the Japanese architecture has become quite popular in the West, futons have been embraced by many as temporary floor mattresses.

Their popularity has led to the creation of similar futons and other products such as the futon mattresses by some manufacturers around the world.

The futon mattresses make good sofa cushions because they are usually thicker than the Japanese futons. You cannot roll most of them, and they look similar to standard mattresses.


Are futons comfortable?

If you’ve ever used a similar type of mattress, then you’ll find futons comfortable. You can make yours more comfortable by placing it on a carpeted area if you don’t have a tatami mat. And then use a cover and sheets on it too.

You can also place it on top of a mattress topper or a tri-fold mattress if you have one.

And you can always fold a queen size into two to add comfort if you’re expecting only one guest.

One thing though, the futon isn’t for everyone. So get one if your guests have had experience with similar products.

I recommend you get this full-size futon from D&D Furniture on Amazon.

What I like about this is:

  • It is made in the USA
  • It has straps that secure its folded state
  • And it’s versatile; you can sit on it and carry it for your camping trips

The downside is, it flattens over time. And you may get one with a strong odor. If you do, air it often to dissipate the smell before you give up.


Can you find futons in different sizes?

Yes, you can find different sizes especially with futons made in the West.

They come in twin to queen sizes depending on the brand. Some brands also manufacture a size smaller than the twin futon for the very limited spaces.

Most manufacturers advise their customers to pull and stretch the futons when received so that they can expand to their full sizes.

Are futons good for the back?

Futons can be good for the back, but it depends on their comfort levels.

What I have learned is sleeping on a comfortable futon can align your spine and help reduce back pains.

And this is because there’re people besides the Japanese who can attest to this since they use futons for everyday use.

I believe futons work well as temporary sleeping solutions.

One thing to note though, an uncomfortable futon can make things worse, and this isn’t what you want your guests to experience.


Where do you buy the futon? How does the futon work?

You can buy the futon from e-commerce sites, online and department stores as I mentioned earlier in the post.

Before you buy:

air mattress alternative image of a futon on a mat
CC image of a futon on a mat courtesy on Ian Norman on Flickr

Choose the right size that will enable your guest to move around with ease. A full or queen size futon will do depending on your space.

Find out about the makeup of the futon and if it meets the flame retardant qualification laws. And also if it includes hypoallergenic materials.

What happens after you buy?

In most cases, you will receive the futon in a box after some few shipping days.

Unpack and unroll your futon preferably on the desired spot.

It would be ideal to unpack on a mat or carpeted area in case you don’t have a wooden floor.

Pull and stretch the futon so that it expands to the original size.


Because in some cases the American made futons may include a combination filling. A traditional Japanese futon has a cotton filling.

So the futon you buy may feature a combination of foam, cotton, and fiber. These materials that come in a somewhat compressed state may need some straightening.

You can place your sheets and duvet afterward for your guest to sleep on.

Care and maintenance of a futon

When you’re done with your futon you can either roll then fold, or you can just fold it and place it in your closet or anywhere else.

air mattress alternative image of airing a futon
CC futon image courtesy of kalleboo on Flickr

Remember to air it often when not in use. Let it soak up some sun once in a while.

Get a washable zippered cover that will keep the futon clean and easy to maintain. And also keep bugs away.

Even though futons have a short lifespan because most of them flatten after some time, they aren’t as expensive as standard mattresses.

So you can afford to replace one without breaking the bank.


What you want is to get a comfortable sleep solution for your guest so the three mentioned air mattress alternatives will do just fine.

I believe these options work well as temporary solutions and not for everyday use. If you move into a bigger space consider getting permanent sleeping solutions for your guests.


Author: Brenda

Brenda Nadi is a proud mama, entrepreneur, and sleep blogger. She creates guides, tips, and reviews of sleep products that make comfortable environments for new buyers.

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