It’s a huge triumph when your toddler starts successfully using the potty at home. But how do you keep up your child’s progress when you are traveling? It takes lots of practice and opportunities to make the connection between using the potty at home to different environments and situations. With Spring Break just around the corner, we offer tips for potty training while traveling in this week’s Triple P blog post.

Potty training is no simple task. There are lots of accidents, soiled clothes, messes, tears, and trials and errors. Thankfully, when you are in the comfort of your own home you have easy access to extra clothes, towels, showers, different methods for using the toilet, etc.

How you’re traveling and the length of the trip will affect how you choose to handle potty training.

Get Seated: Before your trip, make sure you have a portable potty seat that your child is comfortable using. For the purpose of ease and space, a potty seat that sits on top of an adult toilet makes sense to bring along a trip. But for some toddlers, sitting on the “big” toilet is too scary for them. If this is the case, you are likely using a toddler training toilet at home. If traveling by car, a training toilet is a good option to bring along—especially when they need to poop—but it might be bulky and awkward to take on an airplane. You can also purchase a travel potty that has an attached bag for ease of clean-up. If you are flying, take a few days prior to your trip to transition from the training toilet to the travel potty or potty seat. But if they are struggling with the transition, don’t push it. You don’t want added anxiety on your trip. As a last resort, try having your child sit sideways or backwards on a regular toilet seat. This can provide more stability if they are afraid of falling in.

A potty seat that sits on top of an adult toilet.

A training toilet can be good for car trips but may be too bulky for an airplane.

Map Your Route: Whether you drive, take a train, bus, or fly, knowing when and where you can stop for potty breaks is important. If you are driving, plot some places along your route that you can pull over and use the potty. Stop at rest areas. This is a great chance for your little one to run around and take care of some of those wiggles. You don’t have to wait until your child says they need to go—by then it’s often too late anyway—just pull over when you see an opportunity and say that the family is stopping for a “potty break.” Allow your child to “try” and if they don’t need to use the potty, simply say, “OK, we will try again at our next stop.” Some families use the idea of “emptying” even if you don’t feel like you need to go right then. You can illustrate the concept by pouring a half full glass of water in the toilet. You can empty your pee, just like that, even though you’re not yet full.

Toddlers can also be very particular about the type of bathroom they use. Dark, smelly outhouses are usually a “no” with toddlers—can’t blame them. Give your child many chances for success by seeking out stores or restaurants with bathrooms along your route. There are so many kinds of flushers, faucets, and ways to dry hands! Be patient and take the opportunity to see the world from your child’s point of view. If your toddler is afraid of the noise when flushing, you can offer to flush when they are washing their hands.

If you are flying, use the airport bathroom before boarding the plane and then, while on board, get up to use the bathroom every 30 minutes or so. Again, just let them “try” or “empty”  even if they don’t feel the need to use the potty, say, “Let’s try again later.” Remember, the airplane bathroom looks, feels, smells, and sounds different than the rest of the plane. Have patience (and a sense of humor) while they take it all in!

Rewards: If your toddler responds well to rewards, you could try a reward system for your trip where they could earn a sticker or small reward every time they “sit on the potty.” After earning 5 stickers, you could have a small reward for them. Creating a reward system takes some planning and preparation. Make sure you have your chart made, stickers and rewards ready to go the week before you travel.

Entertainment: Sitting on the potty is sometimes not very exciting when you are a toddler. Just like at home, you may have to come up with a way to keep your child entertained so they can spend a solid amount of time sitting on the potty. If this is the case, pack along some books to read to your child while they “try.” You could also bring along a “no mess” coloring book for your child to color while sitting.

The Diaper Dilemma

It may seem easier to just diaper your toddler while traveling to avoid the hassle. But diapers or pull ups can be a signal to your child that it’s OK to wet or pass a bowel movement any time, anywhere, and may cause some potty training regression. If your toddler’s temperament is very anxious and changes cause lots of stress, this may be your best option until they master the skill and can generalize to any situation. This is a personal decision and completely your call. You cannot force a child to use the toilet, so use your best judgment with your child.

Traveling Do’s

  • Bring along lots of extra clothes in case of accidents.
  • Pack along some diapers or pull ups for emergencies, as well as lots of baby wipes.
  • Talk about the trip with your toddler beforehand so they can know what to expect.
  • Bring along your potty seat or training toilet.
  • Cover the automatic flush sensor if your child is sensitive to the loud sound of flushing.
  • In case of accidents, have something, such as a towel or cloth diaper pads, to put on your toddler’s car seat.

Remember that children can pick up on our stress. If you are stressed or frustrated about your toddler having an accident, chances are they will feel stressed, too. Take the opportunity to learn what works best along with your child. Try to see the world from their perspective. Stay calm, expect and prepare for some accidents, and, most importantly, have a wonderful family vacation.  

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).  Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at info@parentingnow.org


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