My kids have had potty accidents all over North America. Over the past few years, our family has become well-acquainted with the bathrooms and clean-up facilities in Jamaica, Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Cancun.
These messes aren’t my favorite travel-related memories, but they’re not unexpected. Accidents happen! Potty training while traveling isn’t the easiest parenting challenge to overcome, so hopefully you can learn from our experiences.
- Expect regression. Long after my girls were fully potty trained at home, they struggled with accidents during travel. Potty training is hard enough at home. When you further complicate things with missed naps, different time zones, and long waits with little bladders in crowded TSA lines, accidents are almost guaranteed.
- Bring (much) more underwear and pants than you think you’ll need. In airports and on car rides, I bring two or three extra sets of neutral-colored pants (black leggings or jeggings) and three sets of underwear for our three-year-old. You just never know.
- Stock up on training underwear. Training underwear (a product that falls somewhere between a cloth diaper and regular underwear) offer a bit of leak protection for those times when your kiddo is doing the potty dance and mostly makes it to the potty in time.
- Bring laundry supplies. If you get laundry samples in the mail, they’re perfect for travel. But if you don’t feel like doing a whole load of laundry on vacation, bring enough soap to help you wash little clothes in the bath tub.
- Bring a portable potty. For road trips, a portable potty could mean the difference between a quick potty stop and a wet car seat.
- Puppy pads protect car seats from accidents. We own a washable pad that fits in the car seat and absorbs liquid, but there’s debate as to if this after-market product compromises the safety of the seat. The alternative that’s recommended is an inexpensive, disposable, absorbent puppy pad.
- Wet bags are your friends. Have there been times where I’ve just given up and thrown the undergarments away? Yes. Sadly, unfortunately, embarrassingly, yes. But usually we wash the clothes as well as we can and seal them in a bag to be washed more thoroughly later. Wet bags, plastic grocery bags, puppy clean-up bags, and zip-top bags work as well.
- Bring disposable training pants. Last year we flew from Indiana to Spokane, Washington in a six-seater plane with no bathroom. Sounds fun, right? It was! It was an epic adventure. Part of the adventure was that small planes don’t have bathrooms. And did I mention that one of our girls was 2 1/2 and actively potty training? We made lots of pit stops, but in the plane we used disposable training pants. Even now, at 3 1/2 our daughter wears training pants at night. One great thing about CVS training pants is that they have refastenable sides with enough stretch to make a great fit. This makes training pants easier for parents and more appealing to older toddlers who think diapers are for babies.
- Put tape or post-it notes over the flush sensor in public restrooms. If your little one is afraid of the automatic flushing toilet (and, really, aren’t we all a little bit afraid of automatic toilet flushes?), you can keep the sensor from triggering a flush by covering it with a post-it note or removable tape. Bonus tip: We have our girls sit sideways on public potties to cut the chances that they’ll fall in the toilet.
- Prevent constipation. Constipation is generally regarded as one cause of nighttime bed wetting. When you travel, your diet changes. Make sure your kids are getting enough fiber and drinking enough water. We like to bring our own fiber in the form of dried fruits like raisins and prunes.
- Avoid diarrhea. The opposite extreme of constipation is probably a potty-training parent’s worst nightmare. When we travel internationally, we’re SUPER picky about what our kids eat. No ice, no veggies washed in tap water, no raw fruits and veggies without a thick skin.
- Never pass up a bathroom. Some people believe that asking kids to try to use the bathroom “just in case” confuses and possibly harms their little bladders. I don’t make my kids try at home, but on the road we don’t pass up bathrooms. We try before we get on the plane, in the car, onto a bus, or into a canoe. It could be too long before we come to the next bathroom.
Did I leave anything out? If so, share your tips! Also, I think it’s pretty obvious I’m no medical expert. But it has to be said: please consult your doctor on these health and dietary issues.