Potty training is usually easier at home. But eventually, you need to take your potty training toddler out to run errands, to a restaurant, to visit friends or even take a trip or vacation. Making sure your child is comfortable using toilets in unfamiliar settings, like public bathrooms or at other people’s houses is an essential step in their potty training journey. But with a thoughtful approach for on the go, you can make the experience less stressful for everyone!
Make a Plan Before You Leave Home
First, know where the bathrooms are in each place you go in case you need to get to one fairly quickly. Try making it a game to see who spots the potty first – not only will you both learn where the bathroom is, you’ll also take care of any immediate potty needs before you start your shopping, errands or visiting. This potty search will be especially reassuring to kids with cautious or shy personalities. Some kids are amazed when they discover that locations like the grocery store or Grandma’s house ALSO have toilets. They might have thought that the potties in your house were the only ones in the whole world!
Lansky also says the best way for a child to potty on the go is to invest in a portable, fold-up potty seat that fits over an adult-sized toilet. Inexpensive and made of plastic, these seats fold up small enough to fit into a purse or other bag. They’re easy to wipe down and can be used anywhere. Try using it on the toilet at home a few times before using it in an unfamiliar place. It may also be a good idea to buy a potty seat for the car.
Here are a few other strategies for potty training away from home:
- Pack a potty training kit with all the essentials.
- Be sure the child goes potty right before and after going anywhere.
- Keep potty needs top of mind in the midst of all the distractions that can occur while on the go.
- Use the larger, accessible stalls in public restrooms. They allow a parent and child to be more comfortable.
- Be flexible, and don’t make a big deal about accidents. Even for kids who are well on their way to being potty trained, accidents can happen when you’re on to go. Take them in stride.
- Keep potty training fun and entertaining on-the-go by using the same games and encouragement you’d use at home. This will also bring a level of familiarity to unfamiliar surroundings.
Pack a Travel Potty Training Kit
- A change of clothes for your child just in case of accidents. If you visit someone like a family member often, you might also want to leave a change of clothes at their house.
- A portable potty seat that can fit over a regular toilet seat in public restrooms.
- Stickers or other small treats that you are using as rewards.
- Any must-have potty props, such as stickers or a special book. For example, if reading is part of how you potty train at home, be sure to carry a book when you go out. It’s important to keep the routine as familiar as possible, and hearing a story can bring some calm to a situation that might feel a little scary to your child.
- Bring along a set of Potty Flash Cards. These detail each step in the potty training process and will reassure your child that everything is still really the same. Plus, they can practice on-the-go what the steps of going potty are.
- Pull-Ups® training pants. Even if your child has been using underwear, it’s okay to resume using training pants when you’re away from home. They can give you and your little one peace of mind as they learn to navigate unfamiliar surroundings.
- A travel pack of flushable wipes
- A resealable plastic bag that can be used for wet clothing
Keep Potty Needs Top of Mind While You’re Out
- When you’re busy crossing items off that grocery list or catching up with friends and family, don’t be so distracted that you miss your child’s signals that they have to go. Your child might be excited and distracted too. Prepare your child for when she will need to go by scoping out the restrooms in an unfamiliar place.
- Look for the toilet right away and show your child where it is so you’re ready to whisk your kiddo instantly if they start saying, “I need to go potty!”
- Make finding toilets into a game. When you arrive at a new location, say “Hold my hand and I’ll race you to the potty. Let’s see if we can find it!”
- Show your child how a public toilet flushes. It can be a bigger, louder flush than they’re used to at home, and that might be a little scary if they aren’t prepared – especially if there are other toilets flushing in the public restroom at the same time.
Consider Your Toddler’s Potty Personality
- Cautious personalities will appreciate knowing ALL the details of the potties along the way.
- Shy personalities will be cautious about all the newness and notice all the differences in the environment. Talk about what you expect to see along the way, like how the potties might look, and ask how they’d like to handle it.
- Eager-to-please personalities will do best with an explanation of how the trip will go. Involve them in the process of prepping for airplane or roadside bathroom stops.
- Free-spirited and high-energy personalities will be so fascinated by the newness of the trip that potty training will be last on their list of interests.
Beware the Scary Flush!
“It was one of those automatic flushing toilets, and it flushed when she was on it,” says Kuehn. “She was terrified and for a long time wouldn’t go to the bathroom when we were out. I had to make sure she went beforehand, make sure the trips were short, and just drop everything and come home if she had to go.”
Thankfully, she got over her fear, but Kuehn’s story is a great way to prepare for unexpected out-of-home potty experiences.
Tips for Long Trips
- Give their outfit a second look. Be sure to dress your traveling toddler in easily removable clothing for quick bathroom trips and changes.
- Plan time for frequent potty visits.
- Check out airplane bathrooms ahead of time. Have your child use the toilet, wash their hands, and then stand outside the door while you flush. The roar from the airplane toilet might be scary.
- Consider Pull-Ups® training pants. If your potty trainee has been using underwear and you want to instead use training pants while traveling, it’s fine to do that. They can really come in handy during lengthy car rides, plane trips or any other situation that calls for a little more security and convenience than underwear can provide.
Keep Up the Encouragement
Then, share that positive energy with your toddler. They could use a little encouragement too, and that includes celebrating the little successes and not getting hung up on the challenges. Consistency and positivity while you’re away from home can go a long way toward helping you both experience happy travels.
- Bring along potty favorites. If your child has a favorite potty book or toy, toss it in your bag.
- Keep track of successes. Have a sticker chart at home? Bring along a little notebook so you can write down how many stickers to add when you return home. Or, make a traveling sticker book so you can add them on the go.