Inside: Travel potty training tips for being in your car or flying on a plane with your potty training toddler (don't forget the portable potty seat!).
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To the woman I met on a cross-country flight to Seattle, back when I was a traveling solo with a 26-month-old and a 6-month-old baby, I wish I could send you a heartfelt thank you.
You stepped in like a skilled, knowing grandmother. And saved me that day.
You held my baby while I helped my daughter navigate the unknown terrain of a plane bathroom. With its cramped quarters, loud swooshy sounds, unpleasant smells, and all. I had put her in *travel pants* (see below), yet she adamantly wanted to get her pee in the potty in that moment.
So off we went with our trusty green potty under my arm.
To our green portable potty seat: thank you for saving us about 117 times that trip. The beach potty emergency. The new bathrooms along the way...big public bathrooms, tiny restaurant restrooms, and our homebase for the week...toilets which all looked and sounded different from ours at home. We always had a safe option, a portable potty seat for public restrooms.
Travel while potty training a toddler brings its own unique challenges. No doubt about it.
Here are my best travel potty training tips for getting around with a diaper-free child..
Travel with kids means..
No reading your magazines on the plane.
No snoozing on the red-eye, even when you miraculously find a way to get comfortable.
And you're constantly thinking about another small human..
Also, your newly potty trained toddler will need to pee desperately fast.
Yet that bathroom may be a distance away.
Or there may be a dreaded line of people waiting to go.
Whether it's flying to a new-and-exciting destination or a short roadtrip to find weekend fun in the company of friends, travel can recharge your spirit a parent.
What's not so recharging? Managing an accident while wedged into row 11 on a flight to see the grandparents.
So here are 10 travel potty training tips:
1. Travel with a portable potty seat
When your child has just started getting used to the potty, make it feel comfortable and safe. In those first few weeks and months with travel while potty training, it can make all the difference having a folding potty seat that your child deems as a safe and happy spot to squat. I remember flying cross-country solo with my two kiddos when they were 26 months and 6 months old, and during that trip alone, our Potette portable potty seat with silicone liner got used everywhere from the plane terminal's bathroom floor (where a line stretched out the door post-flight) to the teeny-tiny confines of the plane bathroom (strategically placed on the changing shelf).
And that portable potty seat is great on the beach, in the park, and it can be a miracle-saver most any place, even out at a restaurant. Whenever you need it, you can bring your portable potty seat for public restrooms.
Another great option for a travel potty is this bumble bee travel potty, that lets you seal up the pee and poop. A mom who I worked with shared that this portable potty seat saved her on the playground and in the airport with her toddler — for her it was the best travel potty in places where it may not be convenient to dump and flush right away.
Our Potette folding potty seat got the most use in the car, since a place to stop with a bathroom is often miles away when you hear the call for "potty!".
2. Bring backups
Whether you're just traveling down the way to the playground or you're traveling 800 miles away for vacation, you'll want to carry an extra set (or two) of clothes for your child. You can keep backups in a wet/dry bag. One for extra clothes and one to store a travel potty.
Even after your toddler is solidly potty trained, there are the occasional, explainable, accidents that can happen.
Related: For flying or train rides (where kids may be on your lap) it's wise to pack a spare set of clothes for you. If not for the potential pee accident, then for the potential puke. I had that happen once to me on a red-eye flight, and let me say, that's a mistake you don't make twice.
When traveling by car in the beginning days or weeks of potty training, it's also a good idea to pad the car seat, just in case. I like to keep a couple cloth pre-folds in the car for an extra absorbent layer.
3. Talk through what's ahead
Sometimes I think it's easy to forget that this big wide world is NEW to our toddlers. It's always helpful to prepare your child for what's ahead, so that it feels more comfortable. Whenever you're going anywhere (even if it's just storytime at the library) point out the bathroom to your toddler as a gentle reminder that it's there when needed.
Even better, challenge your little one to find the potty.
Before flying with my newly potty trained daughter for the first time, I walked her through the process with printouts of airport photos I found online of..
the security check (where she'd have to give up her beloved blankie for a few moments)
an airport bathroom with all of its automatic flushers and Dyson hand-dryers and loud echo-y noises
what the inside of a plane looks like
what a teeny tiny airplane bathroom looks like
We talked through it a few times. Then when the day arrived, it was smooth sailing at the airport (even during the blankie separation at security!).
Because when a toddler knows what to expect, you see less anxiety.
Here's a great sticker activity book about airports, so you can prepare your toddler for what that transition will look like — and have an easy distraction that fits in a carry-on bag.
4. Make public bathrooms feel less scary
Some kids get freaked out by the automatic flushers. An easy trick Jamie shares in Oh Crap Potty Training to prevent traumatized potty regressions is to pack some Post-Its in your bag and flick one over the sensor before your child pops on.
Related: A scary incident in a public bathroom can send some kids back to square one, afraid to use any toilet. Think on your child. If your toddler is sensitive to noises, be prepared. You can pack a set of toddler headphones (helpful in many ways for a flight), to muffle loud noises while your noise-sensitive child is in the bathroom. Those hand dryers are just as loud and scary as the flushers to some kids!
5. Make yourself feel comfortable
A public bathroom at a rustic reststop can give us grownups the heebie-jeebies, so why expect your newly potty trained toddler to be all in? Potty training is also a process that can stir up your own baggage, so to speak, (if you have any bathroom issues of your own, like being poop shy in bathrooms outside your home.)
When tasked with potty training my toddler in the various states of yuck you find in public bathrooms, I made myself comfortable enough to avert passing any of my potty anxiety onto her. For me, that meant
using our travel potty in the stall in the beginning (avoidance)
then using those potty covers or toilet paper (reducing anxiety)
now the process has made me overall less squeamish in public bathrooms (yay!)
6. Make it fun whenever possible
Two year-olds like to do everything by themselves, we know, and sometimes it just doesn't work out so neat and tidy to do that. A perfect example is going to wash hands in a restaurant bathroom where the sink is far too high for them to reach, yet there is no handy stepstool to give a boost up.
Some strong-willed toddlers will not accept the lack of stepstool as a simple reason for why you need to pick them up to wash hands. When trying to avoid the pouty lip (or meltdown), I think it always helps to make it fun. We would do "superhero" legs in the bathroom, and that quickly made it less like I'm helping and more that I'm just turning them into their superhero alter-ego.
7. Keep the essentials accessible
Depending on what your child has eaten, sometimes the poops are sticky, and not so easy to wipe with dry toilet paper. Keep a package of wet wipes on you at all times. They can be used in a million ways when traveling. I like to keep mine in the zippered section of one wet-dry pouch.
Also it helps to keep a hand sanitizer (or way to clean hands) accessible, so you're not rifling through your whole bag to find it (and in the meanwhile someone starts sucking on their thumb.) I also like to keep the car stocked for road trips. This handy organizer keeps all your potty gear together in the trunk of the car.
8. Toast to coconut
Even us grownups tend to run constipated when we travel, so it doesn't hurt to keep those poops moving for your newly potty trained toddler. Full-fat coconut is one great solution for keeping the poops loosened and regular, so your child will have a tougher time "holding" if he's feeling a little uncomfortable in new surroundings.
Full fat is actually better than high-fiber for keeping the poops moving along. And when it's easier to poop, it's easier to see a poop go in the potty!
Anything coconut helps with the poop, so these yummy fruit bars help in the poop department while being a packable snack.
9. Sometimes you need "travel pants"
All this talk of flying may lead some of you to ask, how do you fly on a plane with a newly potty trained toddler without a diaper?
The answer is, you don't.
There's liftoff, landing, and all those long times in between (stuck on a tarmac) where you cannot heed your child's call for "potty!" even if they are rockstars at self-initiating.
So yes, for many reasons, it's best to use a pull-up for the plane when you're in the beginning of the potty training process.
Here's what you do so it's not confusing to your child.
Jamie shared this tip with me when I was about to travel with my daughter and it worked like a charm. Present it as something different, because of course with toddlers, it's all in the way you frame things. Call the pull-up "travel pants" and say that you know how very well he goes pee and poop on the potty, but on this very long plane ride they do not always let you use the bathroom. So these travel pants are just for the ride.
10. High fives for your toddler
When you're traveling, there's always going to be the new and surprising. And same goes for finding a way to pee/poop on the go. Make it sound like you're on the same team.
Give your child a high fives for making it to the potty on time.
Sing a cute song like Mr. Sun while you wash hands together. I promise that those little moments of running to a bathroom together, seeing all the different bathrooms out there in the world (through a child's eyes), and waiting behind your car while your small human takes a tinkle in the folding potty seat.... these memories will be just as awesome and funny and sweet in your mind as the Instagram-worthy moments from your trip.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint