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Potty Training & Travel

May21

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Hey Amy,

Love your blogs and columns, and am hoping you can answer my burning question.  I saw on your blog you are attempting to potty train Ezra.  My hubby and I are currently trying to train our 17 month old, although we are well aware that we’re probably just training ourselves at this point.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesAnyhoo, things are going fairly well.  But I am taking the kid on a trip in early June.  I have no idea what to do regarding the potty training while we’re gone?  We’re flying, so we can’t bring a potty with us.  And while we are traveling to a friend’s house that is fairly kid friendly, they are by no means kid equipped.  So we are renting a crib, highchair and baby gates.

So do we get a potty when we get there?  Just put her on the big toilet and see what happens?  Forget it for the 4 days we’re there?  Buy one of those itty bity toilet seats and carry it around with us everywhere?  I have no idea.

And just to give you a general idea, we usually get about 3 to 4 pees in the potty each day, and 1 poo in the potty.  Diapers at nap and bedtime, otherwise naked or training pants.  I’m not really willing to put her back in diapers full time for 4 days, but also not sure how feasible it is to get her to the potty while in the airport, flying, at a strange house, etc etc.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Thanks,
In-Training

Oh man, you are braver parents than I.

Personally, I prefer the “boot camp” approach to potty training, meaning blocking off a few days to devote ourselves to it full-time, with no leaving the house, a naked toddler and regular parent-dictated trips to the potty. (This also gets called Potty Training In A Day or Potty Training In Three Days. I’d say it usually averages out to be more like a week.) If, after those days are up, it’s still not “clicking” and the kid still isn’t ever really initiating potty trips and having regular accidents, I take that as a sign that he’s not truly ready and put the process on hold for another time.

(Every kid is different, of course, but I know myself, and I am mostly way too lazy to deal with extended potty training, even if it means another year of washing cloth diapers. Do it yourself, kid, or do it in diapers where it’s at least easily contained in non-puddle-in-the-middle-of-Target form.)

Noah trained in about four days (at 2.5 years of age) and while we did have the occasional accident now and then, I could at least count on him to do his part of the bargain (either tell me when he had to go or at least answer honestly when I asked) (though of course I felt like I was asking 500 times a day for awhile there). Ezra…well, we’re going to try again next month, I think, once school is out and I don’t have to interrupt the training when it’s time to take his brother back and forth to school. He’s at least familiar with the concept and understood what we were asking him to do — he gets that everything going on down there is “potty” and will go sit on the potty when we ask him to, but the fundamental part of actually going to the potty while sitting on the potty (instead of 30 seconds later, after he stands up, or by complete lucky timing on our part) continues to elude him. I have no doubt that the entire concept does not translate to potties Outside Our House. So, he’s back in diapers for now.

Of course, Ezra is not our only child to hover over, so that really conspired against our dreams of early potty training. We’re hoping June will be the month, but if not, EH. I’m fine with that too.

Wow. Okay. That tangent had absolutely NOTHING to do with your question. I guess I started imagining no-diaper traveling with Ezra at his level of training and couldn’t deal with it even for pretend. BUT. We did travel with Noah post-training, or at least move beyond keeping him at home all the time. But it really does depend on where your daughter is with training. If it really is just you training yourselves at this point and you can’t really count on your daughter to help you out at all, that’s…gah. I wouldn’t do it. You’ll probably need to keep her at least in absorbent training pants most of the time, and will need to pack a TON of extra outfits and wipes and various Absorbent Things and be prepared for accidents, and it just doesn’t sound like much of a vacation.

But then again, even a kid who IS doing well at home and has had that moment of “I get this” can completely regress once they’re away from home. (That puddle in the Target aisle? Happened. Twice. In the same trip! After we’d already made two stops at the potty! What the hell, kid?) Here’s what I remember:

1) Those little fold-out plastic potty seats that fit in a diaper bag were kind of useless. Despite terrible user reviews on Amazon, I still ordered two of them, because they just SEEM like such a good idea for public restrooms. In theory, sure — but they don’t really work. They are too flimsy and your child doesn’t feel secure on them — not to mention they can (and do!) pinch little butts and legs, just like the Amazon users TRIED TO WARN ME ABOUT.

2) Getting your child used to a regular-sized potty without a seat is actually the simpler way to go. It can be scary for her to feel unsupported, so crouch down in front of her so you’re eye-to-eye and assure her that you’re holding her tight and offer your thighs as foot support. I thought practice runs at home would help (he used the Big Potty, just with a seat adapter), but it ended up being something that Noah eventually just figured out Was The Way We Do Things When We’re Not At Home. (No way I was going to push ANYTHING on him that would possibly upset the flow of the at-home training.)

3) Beware the auto-flushing toilet! Scares the CRAP out of toddlers, especially since their bodies are often too small to really “register” and the toilet can flush while they’re sitting on it. Before putting your child on one, toss a washcloth or a Post-It or something over the sensor to disable it. Some kids are just scared of regular public restrooms because the flushes are SO LOUD and going on in other stalls all around them. Be ready for this and be ready to offer up a lot of reassurance that it’s okay.

4) Treat car/plane/train rides like nap or bedtime. Pull-Ups at least, but a diaper is probably better for everyone’s sanity. By all means, visit the potty several times at the airport and even on the plane, but give yourself a decent back-up plan! You’re all going to already be distracted and probably rushed and thinking of 400 other things at the same time — put your daughter in something absorbent, for everybody’s sake.

5) The Baby Bjorn toilet trainer/seat adapter is great for at-home and travel. Noah didn’t like the kiddie-sized free-standing styles, so it was totally by luck that I figured out the added advantage of training with the Big Potty and a seat adapter: the seat fits easily into a suitcase, and voila! Every toilet at your destination can be just like the one you’re used to at home. (It’s too large to lug around in a diaper bag, which is why we tried the aforementioned fold-out seats, but we ALWAYS take the Bjorn version with us on overnight trips.) So rather than buying (or renting? ew?)  a stand-alone potty at your destination, buy this and pack it in a suitcase.

6) Tell your hosts that you’ll be potty training. I found most people to be incredibly understanding — women always let me cut in line at public restrooms when I explained that Noah was training, and more than once they heard me praising him and then clapped and congratulated him when we left the stall. But I was terribly nervous the first time we visited Jason’s aunt and uncle’s condo at the beach — Noah was pretty well trained by that point but YOU NEVER KNOW — but they’d trained their kids and were totally fine and helpful. Still, though, your hosts might want to make sure they have their preferred brand of upholstery or floor cleaner and extra paper towels. (That you will of course offer to pay for.)

7) Be flexible! Your hosts might want to plan all-day excursions or lots of things! and places! and activities! So you might very well have to choose between consistent potty training and being polite guests. Your daughter might spend more time in diapers than you’d like — or she might respond to the praise of Other People and finish training right then and there! You just never know. The only no-no, of course, is to get upset when accidents happen. So be realistic with yourself: Can you handle a potential accident at the airport cooly and calmly? What about at your friends’ house, or at their favorite restaurant?  Are you okay bagging up multiple wet outfits? If you honestly feel like maybe you’d get angry or frustrated or embarrassed (and we’ve ALL BEEN THERE), put her in a Pull-Up, at least. Even if the clock resets a little on her training progress, it’s way more important that you guys enjoy your vacation as a family and that your daughter feels successful enough to view potty training as a positive, mostly stress-free thing once you’re back home.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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8 Responses to “Potty Training & Travel”

  1. Marnie May 21 at 4:50 pm Reply Reply

    We *loved* the Graco Folding Potty Seat (here, at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Graco-800GRA-Traveling-Potty-Seat/dp/B00004DSG5/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=baby-products&qid=1274460269&sr=8-5).
    Folded, it will fit in a gallon-size storage bag. I wiped it down with wipes every time it was used and just dropped it back into the bag and kept it in the diaper bag, and then my purse when I stopped carrying the diaper bag. It took up so little room but made a huge difference in her willingness to use a public toilet. Several years ago, I had to search high and low for it and only found white; now, there are princesses and Dora and Spiderman . . . Search “folding potty seat” on Amazon.

  2. Elizabeth May 21 at 5:45 pm Reply Reply

    http://www.amazon.com/Sesame-Street-Folding-Travel-Potty/dp/B00076SL0I

    We have this potty seat and it works for us. We just returned from a trip to Spain with our newly potty trained daughter (she’s 3, though–we waited for her to train herself because we are big slackers), and it went really well. We used pull-ups on the plane when we thought she might sleep, but when she was awake she actually treated them like underwear and asked to go (at home this hasn’t been the case), which possibly was related to the novelty of going potty on a plane. And people were so nice about letting us use restrooms. We are lucky that she is really the one who is trained, though, so she tells us when she needs to go and gives us plenty of warning.

  3. JCF May 21 at 6:15 pm Reply Reply

    Oh this question is so timely. We are planning on devoting the next three days to training our 2.5 year old and are really hoping he’ll get the hang of it before the weekend is over. We are traveling to visit grandparents about 10 days after, and I’m really nervous about that. We can pretty much stay home until the trip to reinforce what he’s learned, but I’m terrified that he’ll regress when we’re away from home and I’m busy keeping track of the kids in a different, bigger house. I know I’m worrying about things WAY to far in advance and just need to take it one day at a time, but I’m seriously on the verge of canceling the trip (we’re driving, not flying, so it is possible).

  4. Sara May 21 at 7:28 pm Reply Reply

    We did early potty training for our son. He was daytime reliable at 15 months, and we did some travel in the months prior to that. But we did it a little differently & didn’t even start using training pants until we knew they would stay dry (give or take a miss every other day or so). When he couldn’t be naked I just put him in a diaper & explained that he had to wear a diaper but he didn’t have to pee in it & to tell Mama when he needed help going to the potty. If we were in someone’s house I would show him where the bathroom was & he would bang on the door when he needed to go (he didn’t pick up on signing/saying ‘potty’ until later). Or I would just declare it potty time & take him. Usually his diaper would be dry.
    And I think a diaper on a plane is a necessity for awhile – you never know when you’ll be stuck in your seat for hours at a time.
    We used one of the portable potty seats for awhile. I always found it kind of useless & messy (for baby boys at least, pee tends to shoot straight out of the front of the toilet), but my son hated to be held over a big toilet seat so we figured out how to make it work. Now, at 26 lbs, he’s finally big enough to hold himself up and not fall in so we threw the thing out, hallelujah.

  5. eva May 21 at 10:25 pm Reply Reply

    I have one of those miracle kids – at 25 months she toilet trained herself. No charts, no spending three days in the house, no nothing. I think being a daycare kid helped enormously because she sees other kids using the toilet. Therefore I can pompously say “don’t force it” because, well, I didn’t have to.
    We did LOVE the folding Dora potty seat for the first few months – if Megan had to poop when we were out and about, she just couldn’t feel stable enough on the big toilet but the insert worked perfectly. She has now declared that she has no need for an insert, and does not want to hold onto me either, which is fine. For travel though…we just haven’t done much other than weekends away since she trained, and no plane rides. We just keep a potty in the car for lengthy car rides and she considers it a huge treat to be allowed to pee on the side of the highway. Good luck!

  6. Suzanne Riffel May 22 at 3:50 am Reply Reply

    I’m a huge fan of the Kalencom On-the-Go Potty. It is small enough to fit into your purse, and is easy to clean is sturdy enough that kids feel secure! Here’s a link to it on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/27983ud

  7. T May 24 at 3:54 pm Reply Reply

    I think a lot of it depends on where the training is by trip time, but I really would not force the potty issue while on vacation if you’re not having a fair amount of success at home. Certainly not in the airport or on the airplane, as you never know when you’ll be stuck on a plane for SEVEN HOURS on what was supposed to be a TWO HOUR trip (not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything!). We have the Baby Bjorn and I highly recommend it: the way I see it, tiny toilets are just another thing to wean off of, and I’ve done enough weaning at this point in motherhood. Bonus: you can also throw it in the dishwasher. My son is now very comfortable with using the regular potty when we’re out and about without the Bjorn, and even at home if I don’t feel like going to the bathroom where we keep it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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