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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.

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

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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  • Liz

    April 1, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    What Amalah said. WHAT AMALAH SAID.

    Power through.

  • Stephanie

    April 1, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Yup.  You’re right.  Absolutely.  No grey area in this one. 

    And, if you’re going somewhere warm/tropical, a dress with no undies is a great potty training option for girls (worked wonderfully with my daughter the summer we potty trained her). Just one less thing to deal with when she has to go RIGHT NOW.  Just make sure the dresses are long enough to offer ample coverage.  

  • Stephanie B.

    April 1, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    We traveled a few times when our younger daughter was mostly potty trained. We took two very long road trips (7-8 hours), and we put her in a pull-up. She did awesome. She didn’t pee in it once, but we were glad that we had that pack up. It was very different to her than diapers. We did the same thing to a tropical locale, except this time we flew. We put her in a pull-up on the plane, just to be careful about times when we could not get her to the lavatory. Again, she did great and told me when she had to go. We did have a situation at the pool because she was, at the time, super stubborn about pooping on the potty and insisted on pooping in her pull-up at naptime instead. So yeah, there was one accident because she just couldn’t hold it in any longer. She did also pee, in line, at Disneyland. She was wearing a dress, so it just got all over the floor. That was not fun (for me), but I did bring changes of clothes, so we managed. All this to say, do not go back to diapers. Use pull-ups for those iffy times, but otherwise, treat it the same as at home.

  • Bonnie

    April 1, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Also, if you haven’t discovered the Potette Plus (–Potty-Training-travel/dp/B003X4G55O/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1459546825&sr=8-3&keywords=potette) and still have time to get one before your trip, GET ONE. Potty ring and porta-potty in one – best thing ever. A friend of mine has even used it as an emergency adult toilet in a pinch (although, you know, not recommended). I’ll probably travel with one in my car till my kids graduate. Or at least till they outgrow the weight limit.

    • C

      April 1, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      I was just logging in to say the exact same thing!  They are very portable and excellent on scary dirty public bathroom toilets, and they convert into a stand alone potty for those times when you can’t get to a public restroom (you can get plastic bag liners with an absorbent pad for them, or a washable silicone liner for hotels). It was an amazing buy when we did lots of airplane and car travel right around the same stage with our daughter.  (And I, too, still keep mine in the car!)

  • Autumn

    April 1, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Power on through!

    Taking potty training on the road really helped it “click” with our kiddo.  We never did pull ups, but I had a package of the Honest Co disposables with all the fancy prints that I called “travel diapers” for the plane and long car rides.  

    The only accident we had was when Daddy got her up one morning, put her in underwear and didn’t have her go potty.  Which I’m putting the blame on Daddy for that one.  

    And bring some post-its to cover the sensors on the auto flush toilets of the world.

  • Erin

    April 1, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Will you have a rental car? If so, spend $10 and buy a toddler potty chair and keep it in the trunk. It isn’t any more than what you would spend if you packed diapers and you can pull it out and use it on the side of the road or at the beach if you need to. Keep bottled water and Lysol wipes with it and you’re good to go. When the trip is over just give it to someone at the hotel or trash it.

  • Cheryl S.

    April 4, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Another vote for power through.  Since we all have to pee on the potty whether we are on vacation or not, so does she.  The rules don’t change.  Obviously, things are going to be a little hectic and she may have an accident or two, but that’s life.  

    I also second the potty chair. I carried one in my car for months while we were potty training my daughter.  Best investment ever.  She goes on the potty and feels like a big girl and you don’t have to put her back in diapers or clean up a mess!

  • Susan:)

    April 4, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I agree, keep doing what you’re already doing.  Both my nieces potty trained at age two, and they did just fine on vacations. The younger one still slept in diapers at that age, but during the day it was just as easy finding a bathroom to go potty as it would’ve been finding a place to change diapers. We just took them potty whenever we could and I really don’t recall them having accidents. They were more likely to have an accident at home because we weren’t constantly doing a lets go potty before we leave thing.  I would definitely have the pull-ups and extra clothes as backup just in case, but there’s really no reason to go back to diapers. 

  • Myriam

    April 5, 2016 at 8:51 am

    And wet clothes can simply be washed in the sink with a little bit of soap. It’s not “that dirty”… You’ll make it through!

  • April

    April 6, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Like Bonnie said, the Potette travel potty. My daughter is almost 3 and we put it in a small backpack and it comes with us everywhere. So far, we’ve used it on the hiking trail, side of the road, in a kayak (yup), and at a playground that didn’t have restrooms.