Nothing says vacay vibes quite like stopping every hour to sit your toddler on the toilet, amirite?
But just because you are potty training on the go, doesn’t mean your trip needs to revolve around finding the closest bathroom to everywhere that you are. It just means you’ll need to do a little extra planning. I’ve been through it a few times, so here are my top tips for traveling while potty training!
Delay until after a trip if possible.
First things first. If you are not yet in the middle of potty training, and it wouldn’t throw off your schedule too much, consider waiting until after your trip. Potty training does add a big wrinkle to travel, and it will be easiest for everyone involved if you are either fully (or mostly) potty trained before you leave, or stick with diapers for the trip.
Obviously that is not going to work for every schedule. But it is worth considering if it might just be better to wait!
Bring a lot of back up clothes.
I usually advocate for traveling as light as possible (we always travel carry on only), but when potty training, you will need lots of back up clothes. Bring extras of everything! Remember that even shirts and jackets can be caught in a potty accident.
This might also mean that you bring a larger day bag than usual. Having extra clothes is great, but they’ll do you no good unless you bring them everywhere you go. Remember to pack them each morning as you head out to explore.
Don’t forget to bring a wet bag, as well! Of course, ziplocs work just fine for this, but it can be nice to have a dedicated bag that you can rinse out at the end of the day.
Stay in an Airbnb for the laundry machine.
I often recommend staying in Airbnbs (or other short term rentals) for traveling with young children, but this is even more true if you are potty training. The main reason? Laundry. You might need to do a lot of it, and you might need to do it often. Staying in an apartment with a washer and dryer will make a world of difference.
Most large hotels and resorts will offer laundry services for a (hefty) fee. If you are happy to go that route, great! Keep in mind that you might be dropping off poopy pants to the laundry service, and decide how comfortable you are with that notion.
Whatever you do, if possible, avoid relying on either just having enough (you know you’re tempting fate if you do that) or needing to spend time in laundromats. These days, it is so easy to find apartments to stay in with laundry, all around the world. Take advantage, and don’t forget to bring your favorite detergent from home.
And also, keep in mind that someone owns that washing machine. Treat it like you would your own, and prewash those poopy undies!
Plan ahead for inevitable accidents.
Mentally prepare yourself for what to expect if your cherub does have an accident in the hotel or apartment. I’ve had to clean pee out of my fair share of hotel beds and sofas, but I’ve thankfully never had to clean poop. What is your plan if that happens? Reach out to the hotel staff or Airbnb host? Clean it up yourself? If that’s the case…
Bring cleaning supplies.
Whatever you would use to clean up accidents at home, you can bring a travel-sized amount of. Think about having plenty of baby wipes, disinfecting wipes, laundry detergent, stain remover – really, whatever your cleaning supplies of choice are. This is a painful truth of traveling while potty training. You will need to be prepared.
This article from Today has a great, simple explanation for cleaning pee out of sofas or beds. You’ll want a microfiber cloth, vinegar, and dish soap. You could easily pack these into travel toiletries containers and be all set to go. This set from Amazon even has a little scrub brush and a funnel, which is a nice bonus.
This is another area where staying in an Airbnb will help. If the apartment caters to families, you’re more likely to find a good supply of cleaning materials. But sometimes, all of the cleaning supplies are locked up and inaccessible, so having some from home is always a good idea.
In all honesty, I’ve made do with baby wipes and hotel towels and lots of water and soap. But I really wished I’d just brought something specifically for cleaning urine.
Get to the airport extra early and plan for bathroom stops.
Always always always get to the airport early when traveling with babies or toddlers. And if you are potty training? Even more so.
Plan time for multiple bathroom stops, including one right before you board the plane. Get to the gate early so that you have plenty of time for relaxed bathroom stops. You don’t want to be in the middle of the “I think it’s happening soon” debate while they’re calling your row.
Take regular bathroom breaks on the plane.
Either check in with your child constantly, or just schedule a bathroom break every hour or so. If the need arises quickly, there is no guarantee that there won’t be a long line. In the current post-pandemic landscape, many airlines do not allow you to queue around the bathrooms. That makes it even more complicated to go right at the right moment (although, many flight attendants would probably recognize a squirmy toddler and allow you to wait outside the bathroom in that case).
The flight might be the one time that you consider using pull ups, if you are not using them otherwise. Having an accident on the plane would be a massive headache.
Like when you travel with a baby, always have some spare clothes in your carry on bag just in case. It helps to have a spare set for you and your partner, in the unfortunate event that you are caught in the crossfire, like holding your child when it happens.
Check the main attractions you are visiting ahead of time for bathroom accessibility.
This is not as big of a deal when you’re traveling domestically, but if you are traveling international – especially to less developed areas of the world – you might encounter major attractions that do not have bathroom accessibility. Or, in many cases, there might be toilets that you will need to pay for.
These are just things to check into ahead of time so that you know what to expect and can plan accordingly. If there are pay toilets, be sure to have small change with you. In some areas, almost all public toilets will require small change, so get used to carrying it.
Pull ups are your friend.
If you are in the early stages of potty training, or are willing to forego the “put them in underwear cold turkey” advice, consider using pull ups. They are more underwear-like, and a great in-between for a kid who goes potty on the potty… most of the time. Especially if your child does not normally wear pull ups, you might be able to convince him that these are really just travel underwear, and not a diaper, if reverting back to a diaper is a potential problem.
Try reusable training pants.
Maybe pull ups are too close to diapers for your little one. Have you tried reusable training pants? They are kind of the cloth diaper equivalent of pull ups, but without so much protection. They are a reusable material, and while they won’t hold in a water bottle’s worth of pee, they will go a long way toward keeping a mess contained.
And if that mess happens to be #2, you will be especially thankful for reusable training pants. Like a high quality swim diaper, they will contain all but the very worst poo.
You might not choose to use them all the time, but training pants could be a great solution for super stressful potty situations, like a long tour or the airplane.
Get a really great travel potty.
If you like the idea of having a child-sized potty, there are plenty of travel potties on the market.
I personally have zero experience with this. I have always been the type to go straight to the grown up toilet, but I have talked with a lot of parents who use and love travel potties. There are a few different styles to consider, from the ultra-compact folding potty seat topper, to the adorable suitcase style (that you would have to carry with you, but would be ideal for a kid who needs consistency), to the 2-in-1 style that can be used as a potty topper or as a stand-alone potty and packs pretty compact.
Don’t forget your swim diapers.
If you are planning for any beach or pool time, you’re going to want to make sure you have good swim diapers as well. Toddlers are notoriously bad at proactively choosing to step away from a super fun activity for a bathroom break, so even if you are close to fully potty trained, I recommend bringing a swim diaper.
My preference is for reusable swim diapers, particularly those that are built into swim suits already. I can honestly go on all day about swim diapers, which I do here if you would like to read all there is to know about swim diapers.
Traveling internationally? Prepare for different toilet styles ahead of time.
Another consideration if you are traveling to different parts of the world are the toilets. I’ll never forget the first bathroom I stopped at in Uganda, and I didn’t have any clue what to do. Toilet styles vary greatly around the world, and it will be prudent to know what to expect ahead of time and prepare your child. Are there videos you can watch online with your child that show how the toilets work? (Hint: preview the video first, I feel like that youtube search is just asking for trouble…)
The first time you use a new toilet style might be a challenge, but practice makes perfect. Also, allowing your child to see how you confidently navigate the strange new toilet can help.
Note that in many countries, including all over Europe, toilet paper gets thrown away instead of flushed. This is just one more thing to keep in mind and watch for while using the toilet when you’re traveling. Help your child remember this, and don’t let them touch the bathroom stall garbage bin.
Bathroom standards vary around the world.
You are quite possibly going to encounter some bathrooms that are not up to your usual standards. Whether they are unclean, tightly cramped, don’t have any toilet paper, are literally just a hole in the ground, or anything else – think about how to make your child more comfortable in some uncomfortable situations. I’ve always found my toddlers are more easy-going about it than I am, but I know that is not true of all kids.
And definitely don’t expect to find disposable paper toilet seat covers. I’ve never seen those outside of the US. You can always choose to bring your own, of course.
Bring your hand sanitizer.
These days, do you really go anywhere without it? Just a friendly reminder to make sure you have it in your bag at all times. I know my toddlers have a tendency to touch the toilet seat (and stall walls, and everything else) while potty training. While I’ve never encountered a bathroom without a sink, I’ve encountered plenty without soap.
Your child could regress.
Regressions are totally possible, and that’s okay. They can happen regardless of whether you travel, so don’t feel terrible if you revert to square one. Don’t blame your trip, don’t blame your potty training style, and don’t blame your child. It’s normal, it can happen. Just try again, and think back to all the fun you had on your trip to take your mind off it.
There are different styles of potty training.
You might switch styles during travel, but everything else is different about travel too, so that’s okay. Maybe you’re usually the type to put them in undies but stop by the bathroom constantly. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to switch to pull ups during travel. Or maybe you typically use a child-size potty at home. You can totally use grown up potties while you travel. You don’t have to be dedicated to one specific way of doing things.
In fact, you could bring the travel potty, reusable training pants, pull ups, and undies. See what works day by day.
A lot of times, it feels like there is a right way and a wrong way for, well, everything in parenting. There’s not.
If you are worried about your child getting confused because you’re doing things different, just remind them (and remember yourself) that all things get changed up when you travel – the foods you eat, your schedule, your screen time expectations, everything. Potty training is no exception.
Hopefully you’re feeling a bit better about this whole traveling and potty training thing. It’s honestly not much harder than doing it at home, and at least you’re distracted by the awesome new location, right?
Just plan ahead, bring the right supplies, and try not to worry too much.
Have any other great tips that I missed? Or questions I didn’t answer? Leave them in the comments!
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7 thoughts on “Potty Training While Traveling”
I don’t have kids so I don’t have first-hand experience of this, but I can see how your advice makes a lot of sense, especially the tip about renting an apartment with a washer dryer. As with most other things in life, I guess it all comes down to being prepared but not overthinking, and keeping your sense of humour!
Sense of humor is key when traveling with little ones! 😄
Great tips for young parents traveling with babies. Potty training while traveling seems to be a little challenging, but with those hints should be possible.
I didn’t use pull-ups when trying my kids. In fact I don’t think they were even a thing in those days but I sure can see how they’d be a life saver when travelling. The suggestion to stay at an airbnb is also beneficial. It would be so handy being able to do laundry rather than packing a tonne of clothes
As much as I love traveling, I would rather do that at home. I imagine visiting a nice museum or being in the middle of nowhere and then an emergency happens which may ruin some of the experience…or, to see it from another perspective, make it a memorable experience.
Hahaha, yes definitely memorable. It’s tricky… some kids potty train so quickly, but some drag it out for months! But yes, when possible, delay potty training until you don’t have a trip imminent!
I can imagine how difficult potty training while traveling would be. You have provided some great tips here though! I can especially see how staying at an Airbnb or something similar would be so useful!