Traveling with a child that is toilet training

Potty TrainingEven a trip to the shops with a toilet training toddler bring with it stress for mums and dads.   There appears to be a divide amongst parents in relation to how best to deal with a child that is not fully toilet trained when traveling.  On one side are the purists who believe once you have started toilet training your little one you do not deviate from the plan.  On the other are those who believe you should not travel with a toilet training toddler – if you have to/choose to travel with a child who is not fully trained you should go back to nappies for the duration of the trip.

I don’t believe rigid opinions are helpful in this context.  Ultimately toilet training is a varied experience as is the type of travel families engage in. Certainly if you have a child in whom you are contemplating beginning toilet training it is sensible to wait to commence until after a trip.  Similarly, for children whose toilet training is not progressing well it may be easier just to start again after the trip.  For those who have a partially toilet trained child the follow questions may help you decide whether to revert to nappies/pull ups during the trip.

  • Is the child continent of faeces?
  • Is the child continent of urine?
  • How often to they get it right?
  • How does your child respond if they have an accident?  Do they respond with a tantrum?
  • How will you be travelling?
  • What type of accommodation will you be using?
  • What are the consequences for you if they have an accident? For example, if you are a single parent, or travelling with a baby as well it may be difficult to manage a change of clothes on the go.
  • Will the child use a regular toilet or only a potty?
  • Will the child use public toilets when out and about?

If you decide to continue toilet training on the go the following tips will help you manage.

  • Understand that accidents will occur more frequently than usual.  Travelling is so exciting for little ones that they are bound to get distracted.  Remain calm and loving when they occur.
  • Always carry a change of clothes (more than one if on long flights) for your child and potentially yourself.
  • Dress your child in clothing which is easy and quick to remove.
  • Encourage your little one to use public toilets in the lead up to the trip.  This will lessen the anxiety they will feel when on the go.
  • Ask, ask, ask.  Ask your child more than usual whether they need to go.
  • Consider buying a travel potty.  These are great for long car trips and camping.
  • Always have your child empty their bladder just prior to boarding a plane or car.
  • If your child has an accident on a plane don’t be shy – communicate your problem to a flight attendant.  Flight attendants are able to switch seat cushions on some aircraft so your little one does not need to sit on a wet seat for the remainder of the flight.
  • Depending on the stage you are at in the toilet training process pull-ups nappies may be a good idea at certain times such as on long flights.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.  When training my toddler flight attendants were more than happy to hold my baby while I assisted my son in aircraft toilets.  Similarly, other passengers are often happy to allow toddlers to the front of toilet queues once they realize the situation.
  • If travelling by car plan frequent toilet stops.  An excellent Australian resource is the National Public Toilet Map.
  • Take two plastic bed protectors such as “Brolley sheets” with you.  That way if there is an accident at night, you can quickly swap the protectors over without having to find clean sheets.


© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move

11 thoughts on “Traveling with a child that is toilet training

    • Hi Kate. Yes it can be a bit stressful. My two and a half year old is refusing to progress with is toilet training at all so we just let him continue in pull ups for our recent overseas trip. Our first was really easy though – so good luck with your little fellow.

  1. Oy. Traveling with a potty training toddler is probably my least fav part of travel. We have had accidents on planes, refusals to go, accidents in the car, etc. BUT we get through it. More than one passenger and flight attendant has held my baby so I can cram myself into a tiny airplane bathroom. And I’ll admit I have put a pull up on him when I know it will be tough to find a toilet 😉

    • I am always so grateful for those kind helpers on flights Keryn. Having a toddler and a baby in a plane bathroom really isn’t feasible at all.

  2. I think the hardest part was getting him to use public toilets especially in foreign environments where they are often smelly.

    I usually took nappies just in case eg. we were on an hour long bus trip and he needed to go so I put a nappy on. A little confusing for them but better than an accident.

    I have also discovered it is a great way to get through customs quickly with a toddler crying because they need to go to the toilet. Customs do not want an accident on their floor.

  3. Yes Sally, public toilets can be a problem. I know some folk carry a travel potty around for this reason – I just can’t bear to carry anything extra than what I already do with my kids.

  4. Pingback: The Toilet Training Traveller | Fantasy Holidays Under Five (And Over Fifty-Five)

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