potty-in-car

This is the mean season for toddlers: For kids who are two or about to turn two, it’s potty training time. But for families who travel, this time of year is key: If you can complete your potty training before you hit the road for spring and summer travels, your load will be much lighter and your trip a lot more fun. Just imagine: no extra suitcase to accommodate the diapers, wipes, changing pads and ointment. No scouting out grocery stores in unfamiliar cities so you can replenish your supply. No painful wriggling in and out of swim diapers so you can enjoy the pool or ocean with your little one or having to scout out Little Swimmers in expensive hotel gift shops. For many reasons, potty trained child is a beautiful thing.

My daughter turned two in April. Well, a few Aprils ago, to be truthful. But that magic day sent me bolt upright in bed, sweating and fearful in the middle of the night: My daughter needed to be potty trained, and I’d failed miserably with my older daughter. 

And of course, in just a few week’s time I would be packing and planning our summer adventure, the last before my oldest started Kindergarten and we’d be tethered to a school calendar. We were planning a summer of luxurious hotels, exotic places, sun dresses and chic sandals. And, I worried, an agenda dictated by diapers. 

Also, I hated the idea of trying to potty train her while we were traveling. The idea of changing her diapers in airports, airplane bathrooms, roadside gas stations, truck stops and fast food joints, — well, ewwww. The only thing worse would be trying to get her to poop on the potty for the first time at one of them. Double ewwwww.

I knew moms who stationed a porta-potty in the back of the car and plopped the kid on it when the child was inspired. But I couldn’t bare to put my baby’s bathroom lessons on display for anyone passing by in the parking lot. And, I wondered, would I be able to check the portable potty in my luggage when we flew? 

Then, just after my daughter’s second birthday, through a brilliant stroke of luck, I picked up the New York Times and read Jane Brody’s column on potty training. Ms. Brody changed my life. You can read her column here.

Ms. Brody championed the advice I wanted to hear: Let my daughter go bare-bottomed until she got it. Put a portable potty someplace that she’d find it convenient, and put one  in the bathroom. Do this before she gets old enough to start to negotiate with you about using the potty. And let her do the rest. 

pottyseatSo this is what we did. We put a toddler potty near the TV, and as she learned to use it, we moved it closer and closer to the bathroom, moving it into the bathroom after a few days. She got the idea: When she had the urge to go, she found the potty and used it. During our travels she learned to tell me when she needed to go, and she learned to go even “when she didn’t need to,” letting us choose where and when to use the potty. And the best part was a summer of travel without diapers, wipes, ointments, swim diapers, diaper bags, porta potties, potty training books and more. Just a fully empowered, ready to travel toddler. 

With road trip season coming up, be inspired: get the potty training out of the way so it–or its much less attractive alternative, the diaper-dependent child–doesn’t become the background for your season of travel. And if you find yourself traveling while toilet training, here are some great tips from TravelingMom.