The low down on tackling toilet training while on the move
OK, not the prettiest, most glamorous or exciting of topics we’ve had the pleasure of tackling on the Globetrotters blog, but nonetheless pretty essential for young family travellers.
In fact, when anyone asks me how to handle potty training while travelling my immediate response is JUST DON’T DO IT!!
Well kids always have their own plans, don’t they? And my Master J has always had a strong will. So when he started undressing himself at every opportunity just a couple of weeks before our Jordan trip – we knew it was now or never: our final round of potty training was about to commence, whether we like it or not….
Progress, however, was slow. Much slower than we found with the other two. By a week in he was refusing to put diapers back on at all. This left me in a panicked rush to find out more about potty training on the move, a topic we’ve avoided for the most part up until now!
Now I guess you’ve stumbled upon this page as you’re in a similar situation, right? On this page we will talk you through:
- What to expect during the potty training phase and travel
- Top 9 tips for potty training during travel
- Essential supplies to pack with a potty training toddler
- Best portable potties
- Extra resources for families at the potty training stage
This post is part of our toddler travel advice series
What to expect during the potty training phase and travel
Each child is different and will have their own little quirks and peculiarities when it comes to toilet training. Some simply love the ‘roam free’, while others will hold themselves until their blue in the face waiting for the right moment, or for that diaper to be firmly returned to their bottom before letting go!
One trait pretty much all newly toilet trained kids display is an urgency to wee! When they’ve got to go, its NOW!
Accidents, of course, happen frequently in the early days. It’s undoubtedly a little embarrassing for all concerned when your child has an accident in public.
Travelling increases the chances that those accidents will happen in public – so your job is to be prepared for it and have a backup plan. Without the ‘comforts’ you’d have at home, how will you deal with little incidents for everyone’s comfort and hygiene?
If you’ve hit the point of no return in your training prior to travel, consider what your child will accept.
- Is the occasional diaper or pull up still going to be OK with them, or do they kick, scream and fight it every step of the way?
- Will they use a toilet instead of a potty?
- Are they capable of going ‘just in case’?
- Can they pee standing up or squatting?
Top 9 tips for potty training travel
So with the above factors in mind, and drawing on our own experience here are top 9 tips you can try to make potty training on the move run a little smoother.
1. Practice makes perfect before you go
If you haven’t even made it on a trip to the Mall yet, do this before tackling anything further afield. Get used to packing your new day bag supplies; practise mandatory pit stops, public restroom behaviour, good hygiene (soap or sanitiser) and where possible practice using the toilet itself, not a potty.
If your angel is used to the deluxe version potty with a royal staircase with all the bells and whistles at home, they’re going to be in for a bigger adjustment while travelling. Keep your home potty really simple!
2. Not all public restrooms are built alike
If your child is used to the comfort of their own toilet, they will soon see it’s not all the same. And I’m not just talking pit toilets (though we’ve seen more than our share of them in Asia & the Middle East).
The problem with some public toilets is that they have an automatic sensor flush that can go off when they wiggle. This can really scare a young child, always check for this and see if you can cover this (some have suggested a simple post-it note over the top of the sensor but I haven’t tried this yet!).
And whatever you do, don’t let your child’s first public appearance be the plane toilet!! This can be another experience in itself and a further step in their toilet training journey to prepare them for. That flush is seriously scary, even my seven-year-old still won’t touch it.
3. Make your child’s need known
Another note on using public toilets, don’t feel ashamed to announce your child is training and needs to go NOW. You’ll find the vast majority completely understand this.
In fact, I’ve been blown away with generosity over the years ladies letting us cut line to take the kids in first. No doubt many in the queue have been there, done that, too. Kindness DOES exist around the world. It’s a favour I will certainly return to any mum now mine have passed this stage.
4. Bring the right supplies with you
In MOST countries, there is nothing wrong with pulling up on the side of the road and DISCREETLY whipping out your portable potty (see our recommendations below) or letting them hang loose if they can’t wait for a toilet stop. Just avoid anyone’s front verge.
We have also found it effective to give our kids their own special potty supplies bag during this phase. The Globetrotters take great pride in carrying their own stuff – (more on what we include below) – maybe something with a favourite character on it might entice them that this toileting business isn’t so scary after all?
It also avoids the problem when you split up to go to the restrooms that you have the right bag with you, attached to the right child!! (Parents with multiple children, you’ll know what I mean!)
Another essential supply we always take is a piddle pad (see more below), these protect the car or plane seats by absorbing little accidents.
5. Pull-ups are not regression, just a special side step
Sometimes on long flights or road trips, it’s simply not possible to go when they need to and holding just isn’t an option. Although I know we can be at pains to avoid letting our tots slip back into their diapers, until you’ve been sat watching the potty dance take place waiting for the seatbelt sign to go off at 38,000 feet you will see what I mean.
You don’t want your child to become ill from dehydration either, so reverting to pullups might be your safest option. The material on pull up diaper these days is very light and discreet and will still give them the feeling of being in ‘big boy (or girl!) pants’.
We explain that they are their special flying pants and the captain will come and check if they have them on! (I’m not sure if this helps or they’re fearful of why the captain will be leaving the cockpit to come and inspect their underpants…. anyhow its worked for years; though my children also believe that the captain is going to come and inspect the length of their fingernails too, another pre-flight ritual that works amazingly well….)
6. Dress kids appropriately
I think it should go without saying that overalls, one piece bathers, anything overly fiddly that needs buttons or undoing are not appropriate for this phase.
Colder climates with multiple layers add additional challenges as not only are they hard to access, you may not notice three levels deep when they have had an accident! Tracksuit pants and elastic waists work best for this stage.
Oh, and unless you’re 100% certain they’re ready for the pool, keep the swim diaper on. You don’t want to ruin everyone else’s day out. Once you’re certain they’ve progressed, I still look for swim shorts for boys that have a mesh lining or on girls are very well fitted to catch any emergency escapees.
7. Reward systems need to be portable too
If you have been rewarding good potty behaviour with a sticker chart or motivating prize, either try to bring this with you or create a special travel one. The rules might have to be flexed if you are using pull-ups, but perhaps move your reward system to a notepad (kept in their special bag!)
8. Cleaning as you go
Needless to say by now you probably take a handy supply of tissues and spare underpants everywhere you go.
- Larger spills in public you may also find a supply of muslin cloths and surface wipes helpful.
- Sanitiser. Loads and loads of hand sanitiser when you travel!
- No doubt there will also be the need for extra loads of laundry around toilet training time. This can be difficult if you’re staying somewhere without full laundry facilities (but a good incentive for why serviced apartments are great for families!).
- If you are staying in a hotel, bring a small container of laundry soap with you so you can do quick hand washes if need be.
9. Delay it!
Ideally, block off time away from your travel plans to commence toilet training. Some kids get toilet training in a week; others can take months to perfect it.
Of course, if accommodation or flights are already booked, I wouldn’t suggest changing it if your child is showing signs they want to start NOW! But getting a clear start at home it is indeed the better option where possible. If, like us, your child has chosen the timing not you, go with the flow.
Don’t stress, people worldwide need to toilet train their children and while it’s frustrating, and I won’t lie, maybe even slightly embarrassing at times, this phase will pass.
Never yell, scream and embarrass your child for their ‘misbehaviour’ – trust me, I’ve seen a few parents do this in my time and they are only embarrassing themselves and making a scene. Accidents WILL happen.
Remember, no matter how many times you ask them to go before you leave the nice clean hotel it’s sod’s law they will need the toilet five minutes later when there isn’t a public convenience in sight. And that phase last for YEARS (we are still going through it with all 3!) – the good news their advance warning system does slowly but surely improve!
Essential supplies to pack during potty training
In our portable potty training survival kit (either kept in their own little backpack or in a backpack diaper bag) we always have:
- Hand Sanitizer
- Sanitizer wipes
- Old muslin cloths
- Spare underpants and shorts/skirts
- Pocket issues and coins (some countries will charge you for the toilet -not great if you’re in a hurry!)
- Portable potty seat – see below!
- A wet bag
- Piddle pad for the car
- Bed liner (if not using a night diaper)
- Ziplock bags
- Rewards/reward chart
Best portable potties
If your child is not one for emergency squatting or has an aversion to sitting on a big toilet, taking your own portable version is the way to go. Unlike the first monstrosity of a box, my friend introduced me to with child number one, portable potties now are very light-weight and easy to fold into your day bag.
Most will double as either an infants toilet seat or have pop-out legs and you just place a bag underneath to capture the goods ready to dispose of. The best we have found are:
Do try these with your kids at home though before assuming they are the answer to all your problems – not all kids like these products. My preference is for teaching kids early in the process how to balance on the toilet seat itself but I know not all the kids have the strength and coordination to do this.
Do note that some parents also report that portable seats that you put on top of the toilet can have a nasty habit of pinching kids on the back of their legs – you’ve been warned!
Other Toilet Training & Toddler Travel Resources
Feeling Flushed? Our top 10 tips for toileting on the move – a guide for older children What to pack in your toddlers plane bagOur best toddler travel advice – all our best posts on what to pack, how to fly and tips and hacks to save your sanity in one spot!
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