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While there are many milestones parents look forward to, potty training is rarely one of them – and potty training while traveling is especially tricky! If you travel with kids, then you’re probably going to deal with this at one time or another.
There are a number of reasons to need to potty train on the go so as a mom who has already gone through it with one kid and is currently going through it with another, I thought I’d share my been there, done that potty training tips to hopefully make the process a little easier!
Should I start potty training before a big trip?
Any parent that has ever potty trained will tell you that the last thing you really want to do is start the potty training process, and then take a trip where a child will be out of their routine and bathrooms might be harder to find.
However, life happens; sometimes a child decides they are ready to potty train right before a big trip, or you end up having to travel right in the middle of potty training, and you have to just go with the flow (no pun intended!) We took an international trip right after my oldest son was trained, and we’ll be traveling a lot while my youngest is training, so I’m used to making it work!
If you have the option to wait until after a big trip, then I would probably suggest that, but if you have to work on potty training while traveling, know that it is absolutely doable!
What to do and what not to do when potty training while traveling
Start the process as early as possible before your trip
If you know you’re leaving for a trip in two months time and you think your child is ready to start potty training, get started as soon as you can. It might be that they train super quickly and will be pros by the time you travel, meaning disruption of routine won’t be as big of a deal. Even if it takes them a little longer, at least if they’ve been practicing for a few weeks, you’ll be able to figure out how they’re doing ahead of time.
Practice using other bathrooms before your trip
Once my son had the hang of potty training at home, we would practice using bathrooms in other places so he could get the hang of it and not be too intimidated when we traveled. While going out of my way to use public bathrooms is not how I usually like to spend my time, we used them whenever we found a clean one; at grocery stores, at the mall, at theme parks – and it let my son get used to going to the bathroom outside the house.
Top tip: My son was never bothered by the automatic sensors but if your child is, travel with a packet of sticky notes to cover the sensor until you’re ready to flush.
Think about where you’re going to be visiting on the trip
Will you be in a big city without many public bathrooms? Will you be out in a car and not always have the opportunity to stop? These things aren’t the end of the world, but they do involve a little pre-planning.
If you’re going to be in a big city, have a look ahead of time to see where you can find a public bathroom or if there might be department stores where you could go and use theirs in an emergency.
If you’re going to be in the car a lot, or out in the countryside where bathrooms are scarce, definitely invest in some of the potty training travel products listed below as they’ll make your life so much easier!
Make sure you’re prepared with extra clothes
Chances are, there’s going to be an accident at some point and as long as you have a change of clothes and a packet of baby wipes, it’s not a big deal. I always carry more than one change of clothes and put them in separate Ziploc bags – that way the used clothes can go in the bag that the clean ones come out of.
Top tip: While you’re packing extra clothes, I’d recommend packing a spare set for you too – you never know what might happen while your little one is sat on your lap or you’re carrying them!
Don’t be afraid to use training pants or pull-ups if you need to
I know everyone says not to go back to pull-ups once your child is potty trained, but there are some times when it’s just more practical and less stressful for everyone.
When my oldest son was newly potty trained, we took a 2-hour flight during which the seat belt sign was on the entire time. Thankfully he didn’t need to use the bathroom, but I spent the whole flight worrying about what would happen if he did, and it was incredibly stressful not just for me, but for him too.
If your child is newly potty trained and they’re at the point where they really can’t wait that long, I would suggest putting them in training pants or pull-ups before a flight. You might be faced with a situation like mine where the seat belt sign is on, there might be a line for the bathroom, they might decide they need to go during take off or landing – and an accident on an airplane is not only inconvenient for you, but for the flight crew you have to alert that there is now a wet seat.
Make it clear to your child that these are not like diapers, they’re just for in emergencies, and go back to regular underwear as soon as possible.
Potty training travel products
Best portable potty seat for toddlers
We have never used a potty; instead our kids have always used a small potty seat on the regular toilet, so that’s what we used when traveling too since they were used to it. We have this portable potty seat that folds up into four pieces so it takes up very little space, and fits on to every toilet we have found while out and about. I always carry it in a Ziploc bag and bring a packet of sanitizing wipes to clean it up after use.
Best travel potty for toddlers
We have never used a travel potty since our kids weren’t used to them, however after asking around to fellow travel bloggers, there are a couple that come highly recommended. This travel potty is about as convenient as they come; it literally folds out into a potty and then folds back up into a little travel case with a handle. The main part of the potty is removable so it’s easy to clean, and takes up little space.
A fellow mom of boys also recommended this portable travel urinal that I think it genius! It’s very small so would easily fit into a bag, and since boys could use it standing up (with a little help for aim!) it could be used pretty much anywhere.
Top tip: I just saw an amazing parenting hack for using a travel potty; line the potty with an open diaper, and once your child is done you can just throw the diaper away with no other clean up! This is such a great idea!
Other potty training travel products
When we stay in a hotel or an Air BNB with a newly potty trained child, we always pack waterproof pads or sheets so that if there’s a night time accident, there won’t be any damage to the mattress. If you know that the bed will be small or your child will be in a crib, you can just use waterproof crib sheets, but if the bed is larger it’s easier to just use a waterproof pad under the mattress.
I would also recommend bringing something to line a car seat if your child will be in one for any length of a trip, either in a car or on the plane. We’ve used a few things over the years and our biggest success was puppy training pads cut up to fit the car seat; these could be cut to size so they didn’t interfere with the car seat buckles, and they’re pretty inexpensive.
Potty training travel kit
While potty training on the go, I always pack a potty training travel kit with the essentials in so that everything is in one place.
I generally put everything together in a small backpack including our portable potty seat, sanitizing wipes, a few changes of clothes and some baby wipes, so that if nature calls, everything is all in one place and ready to go.
If we’re on a plane ride, I put it all under the seat in front of me so it’s easily accessible, and I always put it at the top of my travel bag when we go out for the day. Having everything to hand is essential when time is of the essence, and it saves hunting around for everything when packing to go out for the day.
I have always had an easy access kit as part of my diaper bag checklist, and this is basically just like that.