Are you planning a vacation with a potty-training toddler? Follow these simple real-parent tips to help make potty training while travelling a continued success.
The biggest mistake you can make is postponing or taking a break from potty training during travel. It makes it much more difficult to reinforce commitment and consistency by switching back into diapers out of convenience. So, no matter how long the voyage is, keep at it.
We first started potty training out toddler when he was two and a half years old. We spent about a year stopping and starting the process because my fear of training him on-the-go kept me from staying focused. Because of that inconsistency, we're still at it now almost a year later. Kids model your behavior and if you don't maintain your focus, neither will they.
Know and share your potty plan
Before you start your trip, explain to all adults involved what the plan will be if your child says, "I have to go!" If you try to figure how you're going to handle things in the moment, you waste valuable seconds/minutes, which increases potential for an accident.
We assign everyone in the car a potty-training task before we head out on the road so that we know exactly how to approach it.
Our sample road trip potty plan:
- Dad: Find somewhere to pull over
- Mom: Verbally reassure Jack of the process and timeline ("We'll use the potty in one minute," etc.)
- Big brother: Entertain Baby Harrison in his car seat while we focus on Jack's pit stop
- Mom: Get Jack on the potty
- Dad: Clean up potty
- Mom: Reward Jack/celebrate and reassure him
Everyone should know exactly what the plan will be (whether it's related to plane or car travel) and what his/her role is in getting the child to the restroom. Eventually it will become second nature to everyone involved.
Pack with your child
Get your child involved in putting together a potty-on-the-go kit before your trip. Include all of the necessary essentials like training pants, wipes, bum spray (or a small water spray bottle) and a portable potty or potty seat. When your child sees all of this coming together before the trip, it will remind him/her that you're all still committed to the process. Jack has a special little knapsack for all of his essentials and he now looks forward to putting it all inside. I see the pride in his face when he zips up the packed bag.
Communicate with your child
Before you leave, make sure you explain to your child that you're still ready to support them in any way if they need to use the potty. We constantly remind Jack of all elements of the adventure and make potty training one part of the discussion. We show our supplies and continue to remind him to speak up if he feels the urge.
Bring prepared with extra protection
No matter how you're travelling — plane, train or car — it's hard to anticipate unexpected situations like traffic, construction, turbulence or your child falling asleep. Using pull-ups or training pants with easy-open sides helps reduce on-the-go mess (and you don't need to find somewhere to lie the child down to change him/her).
We've encountered hours of turbulence on planes and been forced to remain seated. But when a child has to go, he/she has to go! Our son didn't understand that we couldn't access the toilet. It's in these instances that you'll want your child in training pants.
"Travel size" your potty
There are a lot of different travel potty options — you can even find seats that fold-up to fit into a carry-on bag. No matter where you take washroom breaks with your child, you'll want to have something on hand that they can use comfortably. We take ours out at home, periodically, so it's not entirely foreign to our son when we're on trips.
Plan for extra stops and delays
Be sure to add on extra time to your travel day so there's no pressure or rush — whether you're going on a road trip or heading to the airport, potty-training children require extra time. Also, don't get discouraged or frustrated if your child makes you stop but don't go, or if they have accidents. We've had to take a few deep breaths along the way, that's for sure.
Pack extra clothes and plastic bags
When travelling, opportunities for potty time might be out of your control, so accidents are more likely to occur. I've run out of clothes on flights when my son had an accident — and it's not fun. Extra clothes (and plastic bags to store wet clothes) will ensure the travel experience is comfortable for everyone.
Continue to celebrate each potty achievement with your child
If potty training loses excitement for your child during travel, there's potential for them to regress. Pack stickers, snacks and other favourite rewards that are set aside specifically for potty training. For other specific family travel ideas, please visit our website www.familytravelguide.ca
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