10 Tips for Traveling with a Potty-Training Toddler
Maybe you're still struggling to potty train your almost 4-year-old or maybe one morning your toddler decided to wear Big Kid underpants on his own and hasn't had an accident since. Either way, traveling with a kid who's potty training -- or has just mastered doing things the grown-up way -- adds a whole new dimension to your trip.
"Traveling can lead to more accidents but it won't sabotage the potty training," says Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist at Brown University. "Some parents worry that if you don't keep on top of potty training at all times, the child will never learn. But the good news is that's not true."
Here are 10 tips for traveling with a potty trainer that will make your trip easier on you and your child:
1. Don't push it: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stipulates it's perfectly normal for children not to master toilet use until they are over three years old. "Kids are going to be in a gray zone with potty training for awhile," explains Rende, who says there is nothing wrong with switching back to diapers or Pull-ups while traveling.
2. Talk potty: It's important to communicate with your child about traveling. "Explain it's a special situation," Rende advises. For example, you can tell your child that even though she'll be wearing a diaper on the airplane, she can go back to Big Girl underpants at the hotel.
3. Bring a portable potty seat: Jody Halsted, mother of two from Ankeny, Iowa, and founder of HaveKidWillTravel.com suggests parents keep a portable potty seat in the car for road trips. This is a lifesaver when your child needs to go and there's no rest area in sight.
4. Bring a foldable toilet seat cover: Halsted also recommends carrying a foldable toilet seat cover for plane travel, like the Cushie Travel Potty Seat. "Airplane potties are scary to toddlers," Halsted says. "You want to keep things as normal as possible."
5. Bring extra outfits: Most parents think to pack extra training pants or diapers, but they sometimes forget extra clothing. "Parents should expect that there'll be some setbacks in a new environment and bring spare clothing on their outings each day," suggests Debbie Dubrow of Seattle, Washington, mother of three and founder of www.DeliciousBaby.com.
6. Bring a swim diaper: Even if your wee one is potty trained, if you're going somewhere warm and wonderful, be sure to bring a washable swim diaper. Nobody wants pee pee in the pool.
7. Prefer cloth? No problem: Increasing numbers of American parents are using cloth, and many report that children in cloth diapers potty train more readily. Alma Gordillo, a mother of two in Houston, Texas has traveled with her toddlers to Norway, Mexico City, and across America using only cloth diapers. She brings an extra suitcase with diapers and washable waterproof bags for the soiled ones and makes sure there are laundry facilities where her family is staying.
8. Adjust trip lengths or itineraries: Instead of long road trips, consider quick weekend getaways, says Kara Williams, mom of two and co-owner of The Vacation Gals. "Schedule trips to Grandma's," Williams, who lives in Carbondale, Colorado, suggests. "She might not mind a little pee on her hardwood floor."
9. Ship ahead: These days most airlines charge extra for each checked bag, and you may not want to lug diapers and extra clothing across the country. Mail them ahead to yourself or use a shipping service. Williams recommends trying BabiesTravelLite.com or JetSetBabies.com. (The post office is your friend for the way back too -- if you find yourself with too much to carry, ship some of it home!)
10. Make going potty fun: You don't want your fabulous family getaway ruined by the power struggles that sometimes come with potty training. Make potty breaks into a game by yelling, "I have to go potty, my turn first!" and running in the direction of the bathroom (then let your child beat you) or keeping a journal of the different bathrooms you visit. If your toddler goes without complaint, he gets to take the photos.
Jennifer Margulis is the editor and co-author of "Toddler: Real-Life Stories of Those Fickle, Irrational, Urgent Tiny People We Love" (Seal Press).