Potty training is just one more stage traveling parents need to navigate. On one hand, you no longer need to worry about packing diapers, which is pretty exciting, but on the other hand you now need to make sure you have the ability to get your toddler to a potty at all times. Those little bladders just can’t hold it for very long.
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While this may seem very intimidating, enough to make you put off travel until your child is completely potty trained and able to go long stretches without peeing, it doesn’t have to be that way. With these tips on traveling with a potty training toddler, you can start planning your next trip.
Our Experience Traveling with a Potty Training Toddler
When our son was 2.5 years old, we did a 7 week trip around the Czech Republic, Croatia and Iceland. He had enthusiastically started peeing on the potty right before the trip, thanks to our Jelly Belly reward system. We were excited about the possibility of traveling without diapers, but he just didn’t seem ready to be fully transitioned yet, so we put off the potty training until we returned home. When we got home we had two months to get him fully potty trained before our next trip.
Unfortunately, it felt like our window had passed. He was no longer interested in going on the potty no matter what we offered him. It took us weeks of trying to coax him just to try. He can be pretty stubborn when he’s made his mind up about something.
Traveling without diapers aside, we were over the regular wrestling act of trying to change him so we were pretty motivated to get this done. After a lot of chats and bribes, we finally had him trying the potty again. By this point, we had about a month to go and our mission wasn’t just to get him going pee on the potty… He needed to be able to tell us when he had to go and we needed him to be able to do both #1 and #2 in places that weren’t his familiar red plastic potty at home.
Tips for Potty Training While Traveling
Taking a newly potty trained child out for the first time can seem daunting, but once you get through that first time it will get easier. From there, you can start to work on ways that will make travel with a potty training toddler so much easier. Here is what we recommend doing before traveling with a newly potty trained toddler:
- Plan ahead and bring everything you might need. You can even plan your first outing to be within short drive and somewhere where accidents won’t be a big deal (a park or playground).
- To get both your toddler and you used to the idea of going to the bathroom in other places, you can even bring along a potty for travel or a folding potty training seat. Which would also be very handy for camping with a toddler!
- Be prepared for accidents. They are going to happen and might be more frequent that you would like.
- Plan plenty of pee breaks in your schedule and get your toddler to try to go even if she says she don’t have to.
- When planning your trip with your newly potty trained toddler, consider staying in an Airbnb or VRBO similar type vacation rental where you’ll have access to laundry; it will be so worth it for this phase.
Once you have got your toddler used to the idea of going out without a diaper, it’s time to work on a few things that will make traveling with a potty training toddler so much easier.
- Get your toddler used to doing their business outside. Trust me, this will be a life saver. Once those little bladders decide they need to be emptied, you don’t have a lot of time. You might find yourself in a park or having to pull off on the side of the highway and you’ll want your little one to be comfortable being able to go outside.
- Work on getting your toddler used to using big toilets. Yes, you can travel with a portable travel potty or a folding travel potty seat, but I speak from experience when I say a 3 year old is perfectly capable of sitting on a regular toilet and holding themselves up. Imagine all the times they are going to need to go, at the airport, on the airplane, in hotels or Airbnb’s, in restaurants, etc.
Unless you want to carry a travel toilet seat or travel potty for toddlers with you everywhere, it will make your life so much easier if they can just use a regular toilet. We had our son using regular toilets when we were out, but he was less willing to do it at home where he had his familiar red potty. Once we were traevling and he didn’t have a choice anymore, it was a non-issue and we put the potty away when we returned home (before he had a chance to see it).
- Take your toddler into plenty of public restrooms to get them used to it. I personally try to avoid them but knowing it would make travel with a toddler easier, we made a point to visit them every time we were out.
- Carry wipes (so many wipes) so you can clean up public toilet seats before sitting your toddler on them or pack toilet seat covers.
- Watch for automatic flush toilets as they can be pretty scary to little ones who aren’t expecting it.
- Don’t forget to pack some pull-ups. Sure diapers may be a thing of the past, but chances are your toddler may not be ready to go without a pull-up at night and you may want to use them if stopping for a toilet won’t be feasible. When we used pull-ups, we made sure to talk to our toddler about how we knew he was a big boy that didn’t need them but it was just in case WE couldn’t get him to a toilet fast enough. We often put them over his underwear so he would still have that wet sensation and wouldn’t regress back to wearing diapers.
One extra little tip… if you take the opportunity to also go when your toddler is in the stall with you, give them a job to do so they aren’t opening the door and running out… my two favorites are the very important job of holding my phone or counting the screws on the wall.
Flying with a Potty Training Toddler
Flying with potty training toddler won’t be all that difficult since you’ll be close to a toilet at all times in both the airport and on the airplane. However, there may be some circumstances where getting to the toilet just isn’t possible. Here are our tips for navigating a flight with a toddler who is newly potty trained:
- Take your toddler to the toilet when you get to the airport (right before security) and before boarding. Even if they say they don’t have to go, as soon as you are stuck in that security line they will have to go. You also won’t know how long it will be before that seatbelt light comes off on the plane.
- Use a pull-up for the flight. Again, have that conversation with your toddler about why. You just never know how long you might sit on the runway or if there is turbulence. If you are worried about your toddler reverting back to diapers, then put the pull-up over his underwear.
- Take your toddler to the toilet as soon as the seatbelt light goes off. Watch the flush on the airplane toilets as they can be pretty scary… I move my toddler to open door and have him start walking out before I reach back and flush it.
- Pack the essentials like a wet bag for wet undies (in case of an accident), extra pants and underwear, plenty of wipes to clean up the toilet seat and a few pull-ups (depending on the length of your flight).
Potty Training and Car Rides
What different about potty training and car rides? Most of the tips above also apply here with a few extra for road trips with toddlers who are newly potty trained:
- Have an idea of your scheduled time to be in the car and some possible places to stop in case of emergency.
- Stop before your toddler screams they need to go potty. You can plan scheduled breaks.
- Save your car seat and put a pull-up on (even over underwear). This is especially important if your toddler is likely to fall asleep in the car seat. Once,we didn’t consider this knowing we only had an hour drive and our toddler fell asleep. He then accidentally peed either when he was sleeping or right when we woke up. Dealing with a soiled car seat on a road trip is not fun!
- If you haven’t been successful getting your toddler to use regular toilets or go outside, it’s much easier to bring along a travel potty when you have your own car.
What to Pack when Traveling with a Potty Training Toddler
This is what should go in your potty training travel kit each time you leave the house and some items that you should pack in your suitcase.
- Travel potty training seat: Let’s face it, all toddlers are different and your toddler may just not be comfortable using a regular toilet seat. Setting up your toddler for success in potty training is the main goal, so if a travel potty or training seat is what will make that happen then it’s worth the purchase. Here are some highly rated options to consider.
- Extra pants and undies: I usually pack 2 pairs of pants and underwear in case of accidents and depending on the length of our outing I might pack more.
- Pull-ups: These are a just in case item, but you’ll be glad you had them. If you find yourself changing your toddler into the last clean pair of pants, you might consider using the pull-up just until you get back to your hotel or Airbnb.
- A wet bag or similar: Chances are you’ll be carrying around some soiled pants and underwear, so make sure to have a bag you can store them in until you get back to do laundry.
- For your trip, pack extra pairs of underwear and pants for your toddler just in case of accidents.
- Laundry detergent: Packing a small container of laundry detergent for your trip will be useful if you end up having to clean some pants and underwear in the hotel sink. Isn’t being a traveling parent glamorous? ?
- Mattress cover: Is your toddler night trained? If so you might want to check that your Airbnb has mattress covers in case of accidents.
We’d love to hear your best travel tips for a toilet training toddler! Send us a note at info[at]babycantravel[dot]com.