Potty Training and Road Trips

Kelsey P. Gonzalez September 3, 2010 No Comments


At first glance you might think ‘potty training’ and ‘road trips’ are two things that should never, ever go together.  I have to admit I was pretty intimidated by the prospect when my husband and I loaded up our then two-year old son for yet another business trip to LA.  It’s nearly a six-hour drive from our home in Southern Utah to Southern California and in between there’s a whole lot of empty desert and not much else.  Sure there are cities dotted along the way every hour and a half or so but when you have a new potty trainer, the words ‘can you hold it?’ mean very little.  With my husband’s business calling us to the LA area for days at a time twice a month I began to think carrying on a potty-training routine would be hopeless.  I’m glad to say I was wrong.  It did take quite a bit of planning, a lot of patience, and a WHOLE lot of stopping along the way but in the end, we were successful!

Safety First Potty n Step Stool
Safety First Potty ‘n Step Stool-courtesy of safety1st.com

When our son first began showing interest in the ‘big potty,’ my husband and I dashed out to buy him his own miniature version. We settled on the Safety First Potty ‘n Step Stool.  It can either be used as its own small potty or the seat can come off and be placed on an adult toilet with the potty base turning into a stool.  This was perfect for me for two reasons: 1) I can’t stand emptying toddler potties; I turn a faint shade of green just at the thought, and 2) we would take the toilet seat itself on road trips to use in the hotel rooms and…yep, for stops along the side of the road.  And I literally mean the side of the road.  We had to pull over so frequently at first that my husband was always on the watch for one of the deep, U-shaped pull-outs along the side of the I-15; these were the only safe ones to use as they sit a good distance from the highway.  Sadly, it wasn’t long before we’d memorized the location of each of these along both the North- and South-bound sides of the interstate.  At first I was embarrassed to be seen pulling a potty seat from our trunk but I soon realized that half the cars speeding past didn’t give us a second glance and the other half were occupied by parents of toddlers or one-time toddlers themselves and they’d been there too. 

Once the potty seat was in hand the usual routine commenced: I dug a hole in the ground with the heel of my shoe and set the seat on top of it.  Then I took our son from his car seat, pulled down his pants in the back seat then plopped him down on the potty.  He’d grab the handles on his portable throne and tap his toes together happily while doing ‘the deed.’  Once he was done I’d hurry him back into the car, pull up his pants, and strap him in before returning the potty seat to the trunk.  It was a ridiculous scene but it worked.  The training continued without interruption and it wasn’t long before I’d learned the essential steps that made road trips while potty training bearable.

1.  Take extra precautions.  While your child might wear regular underwear at home, it’s tempting fate a bit to leave them on a beginner for long road trips.  We put our son in Pull-Ups to guard against any accidents.  That way if we ran into something unexpected—he didn’t tell us in time, a road closure, bad weather, etc.—we wouldn’t have to worry.

2.  Keep a couple extra sets of clothes handy just in case.  Beginning potty trainers can still have accidents even while you’re rushing to set them on the seat.  Keeping clean clothes in an accessible spot makes quick changes a lot easier since you won’t have to unload the trunk to get to a suit case.

3.  Bring your own potty seat.  It’s a lot more comfortable for a toddler just getting started on potty training to have the potty or seat that he’s accustomed to using at home.  Bring it with you if possible.  It makes road-side stops and hotel visits a lot easier!

4.  Pack disposable seat covers.  We were fortunate that our son didn’t mind using ‘strange’ potties while we were away from home or the hotel room but often times those bathrooms didn’t have their own seat covers.  We found this to be especially true of the restrooms we used along the road.  Disposable covers are self-adhesive and stick to the seat far more securely than just lining it with toilet paper.

5.  Make sure to bring along some baby wipes or toilet paper.  These come in handy for obvious reasons!

I’m glad to say with our son’s potty-training nearly a year behind us, road trips have become much easier.  That isn’t to say that we don’t still need to make stops, but now he’s usually able to hold it long enough for us to get to an actual bathroom.  The days of hauling out the little potty-seat are past…at least for the moment.  It won’t be long before we’re starting all over again with our daughter.  Hmmm, I hope we still remember where all those highway pull-offs are!

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Kelsey lives in Southern Utah with her husband, their 3-year old son, and their newborn daughter. They enjoy the adventure of exploring new places together and love building memories through family travel.

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