Updated: Jul 13
Inside: What's the best way to time potty training your toddler with a big trip or vacation coming up?
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Planning a trip with the family includes deciding between hotel or rental home with kitchen, to stroller or not to stroller, and do you start potty training before or after your big trip?
That is the question.
The question of how to time potty training around a family trip seems to weigh most on moms when their toddler is showing signs of interest in the potty. That’s when the doubts sneak in.
If you wait, are you missing your magic potty training window?
If you start before your vacation, are you going to ruin this big trip you’ve been planning?
What should you do? As always, you are the expert on your kiddo. But as a potty training consultant, I do have tips to consider as you’re making this decision.
Many times when a mama asks me this question, she's feeling excited to start the process.
Her child has shown interest in the potty or she's just in a mindset of knowing that her kiddo is capable.
So it should be *go time* with potty training, right?
Then there's this planned vacation coming up with travel and disruptions to the schedule and what should you do?
Isn't that setting you up for failure?
On one hand, there's the clearing of the schedule that is core to Oh Crap Potty Training. Because if there are appointments, classes, and commitments coming up that week you start, you wind up putting pressure on your child to *get it* and the process can easily unravel.
You do not want to start in with potty training and then 5 days later plan to have your child on an airplane diaper-free and think things will go swell.
But what about all the other scenarios?
What about when the trip falls a month out from when you're planning to start? Is that enough time?
Do you re-diaper for the trip?
Is it better to just wait to start potty training till after the vacation (so put it off a couple months)?
What we typically say in Oh Crap Potty Training in those instances where you have a good solid month before a big trip is to...
Go for it! Here's why.
There is indeed a magic window to potty train. There's a sweet spot developmentally where it's way easier for the child to focus on and pick up this big new skill. That being said, these are children, not robots, so every child is going to be a little different.
That *magic window* for potty training will vary by months for each child, as with every milestone.
But when you hit it right timing-wise, it makes it so much easier on you as the parent.
When is this magic window?
With all the thousands of families that Jamie has worked with before writing Oh Crap Potty Training, the magic window she's found as a pattern is one thing that has remained consistent.
The 22-26 month range tends to be the golden time to potty train children.
You can definitely potty train earlier than that range, and see success.
I've worked with many moms who've sailed through potty training with their 19-, 20- or 21-month-olds.
You can definitely potty train way past that age range.
Where they stepped in later, and the potty training process took a matter of a few days.
What we've found is that age range is a sweet spot for many toddlers, that's all.
What often happens is a mama reaches out for advice because their trip falls in that ideal potty training time frame for her child. It's scary to think of traveling with a newly potty trained toddler, but then the mama also doesn't want to miss that magic window (because who wants to potentially miss anything that could be magic?!).
We advise to start potty training before the vacation in those instances.
Because the *magic window* does not last. We don't know exactly when it falls for each child (wish we did, that would be amazing!).
So it's one of those moments where we advise jumping in and seeing what happens.
As Jamie puts it..
Wouldn't you want to see if you have magic on your side?
Especially if your kiddo is asking about the potty.
That is a huge marker when a child at that age shows interest in using the potty.
What some parents think is that the interest in using the potty will somehow build and turn into the child trying to go potty and figuring it out on their own.
But that's not something we typically see as a pattern.
The child's interest in the potty does not typically stack and build into then *using* the potty. And often what happens is the child loses the interest if you don't jump on it.
It's similar to what we see with parents seeing the dry diapers overnight.
If you keep putting a disposable diaper on your child after you've seen a cluster of dry diapers, then the child tends to move on.
The child starts using the diaper again (because it's there.)
The child starts waking up in wet diapers again. You've missed the window. That doesn't mean you won't be able to potty train at night. It will simply take a bit more effort.
So when you take your child's interest in the potty and then jump into potty training your child (even if it's a month before a vacation), that is a great setup for success. Not ideal timing with the vacation, for sure.
But we still say go for it with potty training before a vacation.
What happens if you jump in and it looks like a disaster? Rather than a potty training rockstar you hit toddler resistance and want to pull your hair out?
Then know that you always have the Oh Crap Potty Training *reset* in your back pocket.
Skip the drama and then reset till when you are back from vacation. That's the worst-case scenario.
Not so bad, right?
Dip your toe in, and if the water isn't right, then come back later.
Related: What if potty training goes swimmingly well and you and your family are getting ready to go swim in some turquoise-blue sea? That's when you want to follow the tips for traveling to the beach or pool with your diaper-free- toddler. There are easy, practical ways to handle a newly potty trained toddler so you don't feel all stressed out.
In short, when you're deciding whether to start potty training before a vacation, the Oh Crap Potty Training suggestion is pretty simple.
Chase that magic window. Everyone wants a little magic on their side.
Illustrations: Citrus and Mint