Congratulations! Your toddler has successfully ditched the diapers. You’re ready for a vacation and YOU DESERVE IT after all of the hard work and dedication you put into the potty training process! But how are you supposed to go on vacation when you need to be attached to the toilet 24/7?
Don’t worry. I have you covered. The "Golden Rule" about potty training before a vacation is that you need to commit to the process at least one month before the trip. This will give your child enough time to get used to underwear, using unfamiliar toilets, and going out and about without a diaper. You should expect the first one to two weeks of potty training to be a bit rocky and then in the following weeks, everything will “click,” and you’ll be good to go on your relaxing vacation!
Here are my top five tips for traveling with a newly potty trained toddler:
Take frequent potty breaks, including sitting to try even if they don’t go
Toddlers will get easily distracted by whatever is in front of their face and they won’t want to stop playing or watching TV to sit on the toilet. Once your toddler is potty trained though, it’s okay to implement planned potty break times and making them as frequent as every two to three hours. Make sure to let your child know that you will pause the movie or save their toy so that they can go right back to what they were doing before their potty break.
If you’re on-the-go, encourage your child to sit on the potty upon arrival to your destination and before leaving each spot.
I’ll tell you from my experience with three kids under three years old, you’ll be glad you stopped so often. Not only do kids need to pee often, but they need to stretch their legs! Providing them with built-in potty breaks will not only help them keep the car seat dry, but it will help them get some pent-up energy out so they’re more well-behaved on your long car ride!
Get a puddle pad for the car seat
Speaking of keeping your child’s car seat dry, you want to invest in a puddle pad. Trust me. Don’t skip this step. You’ll thank me later!
When your child says, “I need to go potty!” it means, THEY NEED TO GO POTTY NOW! When your child is first potty trained, they’re learning what that urge to pee and poop feels like. It takes a while to not only recognize that urge to go, but then to hold it until they get to a bathroom/toilet. Remember, up until now, your child is used to peeing and pooping in their diaper no matter where they are or what they’re doing, so give them some credit for notifying you when they need to go, accept the accidents as they happen, and move on. Your child is learning a lot and going through a lot, so expect some ups and downs along the way.
If you’re flying, go to the bathroom before boarding the plane
You never know how your child is going to react to the airplane toilet, so do yourselves a favor and go to the bathroom before you're in the air. Make sure you check out the bathroom when you get on the plane. Show your child that there is a toilet they can use while you’re flying and if they need to go, they just need to let you know. You don’t need to force your child to sit on it or use it, but just introducing your child to the toilet may help ease any anxiety about a different toilet.
Bring plenty of extra clothes for your child AND for you
Speaking from experience, you need to remember to bring extra outfits. Honestly, I’d just keep some extra clothes in a travel bag in the car at all times. And I really do mean it when I say to bring extra clothes for yourself as well!
When my daughter was newly potty trained, we drove eight hours away to Montauk, NY. She didn’t have a single accident on the entire drive (yes, with MANY frequent pit stops to have potty breaks and to stretch our legs), but when we got out of the car at an ice cream shop and my brother picked her up, SHE PEED ON HIM! Now this is my older brother who doesn’t have his own kids, so he was NOT expecting to get peed on. He didn’t have any other clothes with him and he had to sit through an ice cream outing with toddler pee all over him. I can laugh about this because it didn’t happen to me, but I can also warn you that it could happen to anyone! Be prepared, and pack yourself some extra clothes.
On that note, you also want to bring a plastic bag for soiled clothes. Tie that bag up tight and get it in the laundry as soon as you can, but in the meantime, make sure you have something to put the dirty clothes in.
Now that you have the general travel info down, I have a few more tips for you about public toilets:
Find the bathroom as soon as you arrive at your destination
We discussed this briefly above in terms of an airplane ride, but it’s going to apply to everything you do and everywhere you go. You don’t need to use the toilet every single time you arrive somewhere new, but if you just locate it, show your child, and ask them to sit and try, you’ll encourage great habits on-the-go.
Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of the aisle inside Target and your child exclaims for everyone to hear, “I NEED TO GO PEE PEE, MOMMY!” Then you’ll need to abandon your cart (full of things you don’t really need to buy), and you’ll have to haul over to the nearest bathroom while holding your child out in front of you, in case they just happen to start peeing before you get to the bathroom. Just be prepared and find the bathroom right when you arrive at the store instead!
Hear me out here! How many times have you been on a public toilet and it automatically flushes while you’re still going and the water splashes up on you and you feel the immediate need to run home and bathe in a tub full of sanitizer? Yeah, me, too. Now imagine that happening to a child with a wild imagination--an imagination that makes your child believe that when that happens to them, the toilet monster is going to come and get them and pull them into the toilet. Ahhh!(Yeah, I’ve heard this story directly out of the mouth of a toddler.)
So the solution? POST-ITS. Put a post-it note over the sensor and your child will be saved from the toilet monster. The toilet won’t flush until your remove the post-it, and you’ve avoided another toddler meltdown. You’re welcome!
Bring a disposable cup in case your child refuses to use the adult toilet in public
Yet again, HEAR ME OUT! Public toilets are big and different than your child’s familiar toilet at home. If you try everything to get your child to use the toilet in public and they just won’t give in, let your kid pee in a plastic cup. Seriously. I’ve done this more times than I can count with my own kids and I have zero regrets!
Need to pee at the playground, but there’s no bathroom around? Here’s a cup.
Going for a hike and there won’t be a bathroom? Here’s a cup.
Driving in the car and the travel potty was forgotten at home? Here’s a cup.
The best part? You can just throw it away. No harm, no foul, right?!
And yes, both of my sons and my daughter have peed in plastic cups and they’ve been just fine afterwards.
Invest in a travel potty seat and/or a folding potty seat
Ideally, you will have a comfortable potty situation for your child for on-the-go. If you use a small potty at home, bring it in the car with you! If you don’t want to carry a potty around, grab a folding potty seat that you can place on top of any public toilet seat. Both solutions are perfectly wonderful for traveling with a newly potty-trained toddler.
Now, after all is said and done, remember that your child is new to using the toilet. Using the muscles to hold their urine is new to them, and they need to exercise these muscles as time goes on. There will be accidents and that’s okay! Your child will feed off of your emotions, so if you’re stressed, your child is likely to become stressed out, too!
Enjoy the learning process with your child. It won’t be long before your child is learning newer and bigger skills, and you’ll miss the days of potty training. Trust me--I miss those days!
AUTHOR: Missy Yandow is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and dual-certified potty training consultant, owner of Slumber and Bloom. She is an energetic mom of 3, living the dream with her husband, Tim, in Rochester, NY.
Missy has dedicated her career to helping little ones grow and blossom. With degrees in Early Childhood Education and Child Life Psychology, Missy is passionate about sharing her knowledge about child development with families all over the world. You can find Missy providing expert sleep and potty training tips on the last Friday of every month.