Tips for Traveling with a Newly Potty Trained Toddler by Jen L'Italien

December 22, 2017



Hello everyone! I’m Jen of Oh Crap Potty Training From ME To You, and I’m super excited to be sharing some tips with you today all about potty training for you city mamas.

But first, I thought I should share a little bit about me and how I’m connected to Donna and the Greenpoint/Williamsburg community. I was lucky enough to once work in the same office as Donna, back when we were both Real Simple editors. I can say, for those of you who haven’t met Donna in person, that she’s as sweet as she is talented, and she is easily one of the best-styled women I’ve ever come across. (I covet her collection of bohemian tops to this day!) While I now call Maine home, I lived in New York for 14 years, and I birthed my babes while living in Greenpoint. I spent gobs of time in Wild Was Mama, back when it was called Caribou Baby, during my first year as a new mama. My kids still wear some cool finds I nabbed back in the day at Flying Squirrel (consignment shopping is admittedly not great in Maine.) I loved living in Greenpoint for my first few years as a mama. And I did potty train my daughter in our Brooklyn apartment, so I know personally what potty training in the city looks like.

I’m certified in the Oh Crap Potty Training method, which many of you may know (back when I lived in Greenpoint, I remember there was an entire preschool co-op who was using Oh Crap.) But however you choose to potty train your kiddo, I thought it’d be helpful to share some simple tips to help you in the process and beyond, when you’re navigating Brooklyn with your newly potty trained toddler. So here are 10 tips specific for you city traveling mamas! - Jen


Summer is certainly the time for travel. But if you've spent time with a toddler who's been cooped up indoors long enough to be circling your living room like a wild wolf, well truly, anytime is a good time for a change of scenery.

Travel is different with kids. No reading your magazines on the plane. No snoozing on the red-eye, even when you miraculously find a way to get comfortable. And you're constantly thinking about another small human who will need to pee desperately fast, yet that bathroom may be desperately far away.  Whether it's flying to a new-and-exciting destination or a short roadtrip to find weekend refuge in the company of friends, travel is so very essential when you're a parent.

Travel creates a magic reset of energy that can help you tap into unknown stores of patience for your unpredictable toddler, simply by virtue of having a pretty view and a bathroom sink that is already wiped down clean. Same goes for the kiddos. Fresh new experiences always turns the tables with my kids, where everyone's relaxed, so there's less drama, and routine pressures are not present — so you get to just have fun with your child. 

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PEE AND POOP IN THE POTTY? Oh yes, that's what you're here for!  Here goes, 10 tips for traveling with a newly potty trained child.


1. Travel with potty: When your child has just started getting used to the potty, make it feel comfortable and safe. In those first few weeks and months, it can make all the difference having a potty that your child deems as a safe and happy spot to squat. I remember flying cross-country solo with my two kiddos when they were 26 months and 6 months old, and during that trip alone, our Potette potty with silicone liner got used everywhere from the terminal's bathroom floor (where a line stretched out the door post-flight) to the teeny-tiny confines of the plane bathroom (strategically placed on the changing shelf). And it's great on the beach, in the park, and it can be a miracle-saver most any place, even out at a restaurant. Our Potette gets most used in the car, since a place to stop with a bathroom is often miles away when you hear the call for "potty!". 


2. Bring backups: Whether you're just traveling down the way to the playground or you're traveling 800 miles away for vacation, you'll want to carry an extra set (or two) of clothes for your child. I don't travel anywhere without backups in my wet/dry bag. I have two and use one for extra clothes and one to store our travel Potette potty. Also, for flying or train rides (where kids may be on your lap) it is wise to pack a spare set of clothes for you. If not for the potential pee accident, then for the potential puke. I had that happen once on a red-eye, and let me say, that's a mistake you never make again. When traveling by car in the beginning days/weeks of potty training, it's also a good idea to pad the car seat, just in case. I like to keep a couple cloth pre-folds in the car for an extra absorbent layer. 


3. Talk through what's ahead: Sometimes I think it's easy to forget that this big wide world is NEW to our toddlers. It's always helpful to prep your kiddo for what's ahead, so that it feels more comfortable. Whenever you're going anywhere (even if it's just storytime at the library) point out the bathroom to your toddler as a gentle reminder that it's there when needed. Or even better, challenge your little one to find the potty. Before flying with my newly potty trained daughter for the first time, I walked her through the process with printouts of airport photos I found online  — the security check (where she'd have to give up her beloved blankie temporarily), an airport bathroom with all of its automatic flushers and hand-dryers and loud echo-y noises, what the inside of a plane looks like, a teeny tiny airplane bathroom, etc. We talked through it a few times. Then when the day arrived, it was smooth sailing at the airport (even during the blankie separation at security). 


4. Make public bathrooms feel less scary: Some kids get really wigged out by the automatic flushers. An easy trick Jamie shares in Oh Crap Potty Training to prevent traumatized potty-reversals is to pack some Post-Its in your bag and flick one over the sensor before your child pops on. 


5. Make yourself feel comfortable: A public bathroom at a rustic reststop can give us grownups the heebie-jeebies, so why expect your newly potty trained toddler to be all in? Potty training is also a process that can stir up your own baggage, so to speak, (if you have any bathroom issues of your own.) When tasked with potty training my toddler in the various states of yuck you find in public bathrooms, I made myself comfortable enough to avert passing any of my potty anxiety onto her. For me, that meant using our travel potty in the stall in the beginning (avoidance), then using those potty covers or toilet paper (reducing anxiety) and now the process has made me less squeamish in public bathrooms. 


6. Make it fun whenever possible: Two year-olds like to do everything by themselves, we know, and sometimes it just doesn't work out so neat and tidy to do just so. A perfect example is going to wash hands in a restaurant bathroom where the sink is far too high for them to reach, yet there is no handy stepstool to give a boost up. Some strong-willed toddlers will not accept the lack of stepstool as a simple reason for why you need to pick them up to wash hands. When trying to avoid the pouty lip, I think it always helps to make it fun. We do "superhero" legs in the bathroom, and that quickly made it less like I'm helping and more that I'm just turning them into their superhero alter-ego. 


7. Keep the essentials accessible: Depending on what your kiddo last ate, sometimes the poops are sticky, and just not so easy to wipe with dry toilet paper. Keep a package of wet wipes on you at all times. They can be used in a million ways when traveling. I like to keep mine in the zippered section of one wet-dry pouch. Also keep your hand sanitizer accessible, so you're not rifling through your whole bag to find it (and in the meanwhile someone starts sucking on their thumb.) I also like to keep the car stocked for road trips. This handy organizer keeps all your potty gear together. 


8. Toast to coconut: Even us grownups tend to run constipated when we travel, so it doesn't hurt to keep those poops moving for your newly potty trained toddler. Full-fat coconut is one great solution for keeping the poops loosened and regular, so your child will have a tougher time "holding" if he's feeling a little uncomfortable in new surroundings. Full fat is actually better than high-fiber for keeping the poops moving along. 


9. Sometimes you need "travel pants": All this talk of flying may lead some of you to ask, how do you fly on a plane with a newly potty trained toddler without a diaper? The answer is, you don't. There's liftoff, landing, and all those long times in between (stuck on a tarmac) where you cannot heed your child's call for "potty!" even if they are rockstars at self-initiating. So yes, for many reasons, it's best to use a pull-up for the plane when you're in the beginning of the potty training process.


Here's what you do so it's not confusing to your child. Jamie shared this tip with me when I was about to travel with my daughter and it worked like a charm. Present it as something different, because of course with toddlers, it's all in the way you frame things. Call the pull-up "travel pants" and say that you know how very well he goes pee and poop on the potty, but on this very long plane ride they do not always let you use the bathroom. So these travel pants are just for the ride. 


10. High fives for your kiddo: When you're traveling, there's always going to be the new and surprising. And same goes for finding a way to pee/poop on the go. Make it sound like you're on the same team. Give your kiddo high fives for making it to the potty on time. Sing a cute song like Mr. Sun while you wash hands together. I promise that those little moments of running to a bathroom together, seeing all the different bathrooms out there in the world (through a child's eyes), and waiting behind your car while your small human takes a tinkle in the travel potty.... these memories will be just as awesome and funny and sweet in your mind as the Instagram-worthy moments from your trip. 


Visit  Jen for more advice and tips at Oh Crap Potty Training From Me To You

Illustrations: Citrus and Mint


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