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Potty Training and Is My Toddler Ready?

Potty Training & Travel: Do I Pause or Power Through?

By Amalah


Yes, I did search the alphamom archives, and yes, I found the previous questions on this topic. And the ones about the halfway-there-kid and the 3/4-there-kid (also relevant).

But please, help me solve a marital dispute (fun!).

Our 2 year old is mostly potty-trained – only poops in her naptime diaper, but hasn’t had any pee accidents in about two weeks. We started training less than a month ago, so this all seems pretty good. We keep her in thick cotton training pants during the day, unless we know we’re going somewhere where potty access will be really iffy, in which case she gets a pull up (which she mostly keeps dry–she doesn’t think pullups = diapers = no potty). Diaper at nap and bed. We aren’t yet stressing about the poop part, that can wait a bit. She’s young, etc.

Here’s the thing. In less than 2 weeks we are going on a family vacation. We will be gone for a week. Airplanes, hotel rooms, activities in far flung places with limited potty access, beaches, etc. Potty training nightmare, clearly.

I think we should pack the same underthings we would have her wear if she were home — diapers for nap and bedtime, a few pullups to have on hand just in case, and her training underpants. And I plan to bring the potty ring thingy. And extra clothes, and a sense of humor,

My husband thinks we should just decide vacation is different rules, and only bring diapers and pullups, and not even bother with anything that would require laundry. He thinks asking her to use a potty regularly when on vacation is unrealistic, and she’ll re-adjust quickly when we get back home.

Your thoughts?

(She’s 27 months, and while she’s been compliant and interested in potty training, she’s TWO. Way more TWO than our older child ever was. I don’t want to cede any power unnecessarily).

He’s wrong. You’re right. Advice column over.

No, but seriously, your plan is completely doable, and is definitely the “err on the side of caution” approach when it comes to a newly/mostly trained kid. At home, you want to continue moving forward. While traveling, it’s okay to hit the pause button and not push for progress, but you DO NOT want to move a kid backwards. Sure, she might re-adjust…or she might abandon all her progress-to-date and not want to hear another word about potty-training until she’s four.

I mean, that’s a worst-case scenario, but what you’re proposing is what basically every parent with a semi-to-even-100% trained toddler or preschooler does on vacation. I would personally recommend keeping her in pull-ups in the airport and on the airplane, and investing in a cloth diaper wet bag for storing any accident clothing until you get home, so no laundry required.

(I’d go with a zip-up Planet Wise wet bag, as you would not BELIEVE the unspeakable diapers and clothing disasters I carried around in mine, even during long-term travel. They keep both wet and smell firmly locked in, so you can just keep it in your room/suitcase without having to deal with odors until you’re home and can dump it all in the washer. Go with the large size, just to be safe.)

And then, take it day by day, activity by activity. If she misses a nap but needs to poop, just offer a diaper around the usual time-ish. At the beach, she can go number one in the ocean. (WE’VE ALL DONE IT I PROMISE.) Most family-friendly activity destinations have plenty of restrooms, and it sounds like public restrooms aren’t a problem for her so…great! And if you have to drop everything and run around frantically asking restaurants/shops/coffeehouses if your toddler can use the bathroom, well…welcome to the rest of your life. I mean, my kids still have to GO RIGHT THIS SECOND the minute we’re no longer near a public bathroom, and we STILL end up improvising and doing what we can to prevent an accident outside of the house.

But I really would encourage you to stick with what you do at home. This cements the idea that potty training is a permanent thing and not some novelty party trick that’s only expected at home. I mean, FOR THE RECORD, this sort of situation is exactly why I often side-eye parents bragging about how they are totally potty-training their 10-month-old, like whyyyyyy would you dooooo that to yourselves diapers are so convennnnient. But you’ve genuinely got a really good, developmentally awesome thing going (particularly with all her flexibility re: treating pull-ups like underwear and using public restrooms) that I would definitely suffer a little vacation inconvenience and possible accident terror in order to keep the ball rolling.

Published April 1, 2016. Last updated March 13, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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