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Dealing with Potty Training and Long Car Journeys

With the festive period inevitably meaning lots more car journeys and travelling with little ones, it pays to be prepared for what lies ahead. Traffic jams, Sat-Navs, tired toddlers – it may sound like a recipe for disaster which is why there are a few simple things you can do to make it easier.

When it comes to travelling with a recently toilet trained child – the focus of today’s post – there are a few golden rules to follow above all else. Always take your child to the toilet just before you leave the house and keep liquids to a minimum for half an hour before the journey.

Back to Nappies?

One of the big questions is whether you should go back to nappies for the journey “because it’s so much easier” or stick with your potty-training progress. We would advise using nappies as a last resort as this will confuse your child and risk regression.

Worse still, you may need to start the entire process all over again when you get home, only for it to rear its troublesome head when the next long car journey presents itself.

That being said, it’s up to every parent to make their own decision on this one and you may need to be flexible. It depends how advanced your child is in the potty-training process and the nature of your journey.

If you’re travelling for many hours on the motorway, you are at risk of your child needing the loo when you’re many, many miles from the nearest services. If you’re uncertain that they can hold it and don’t want to risk them having lots of accidents, nappies might be a temporary solution.

Clear Communication

If so, it’s important to explain to your child that they are only wearing nappies for the long journey. Communication is a key part of potty training – a fact that we constantly reinforce especially through our work with I CAN charity. As long as he/she understands what is happening and why, then it may avoid a lot of headaches. Practise what you preach and put them right back into their big girl/boy pants and take them to the loo as soon as you reach your destination.

You may also want to use nappies if your child is very new to the process and is not yet showing independence when he/she has to use the toilet.

There are many other ways you can reduce the stress of taking your potty-training child on the road.

  • Pack smart. Include two or three pairs of spare pants (you can never have enough), two spare sets of clothes and lots of wet wipes. Keep this in a bag close at hand – the last thing you need is to be rifling through suitcases at the service station when your toddler is bursting for a wee. You can also pack a travel potty for use in public toilets or on the side of the road (see below).
  • Make time in the schedule for stops. You don’t want to rush your toddler when they use the loo or stretch their legs. Work out how many stops you will need in advance and set aside a realistic amount of time in your travel plans for each one.
  • If you know you have a big journey coming up, don’t start potty training right before you go. Your toddler will need to have a good grip on the basics for a least a month before you set off.
  • Prepare for the unfamiliar with public toilets. Your child may be nervous about using a different toilet. Take a portable potty with you instead or disposable seat covers to stop them sliding around on the seat and minimise contact with germs.
  • Keep things consistent by taking your Family Seat potty training rewards chart with you on the journey. You can fill it in when you reach your destination and show your child that all of the benefits of potty training continue outside the home.
  • Prepare for accidents because, if you’re not using nappies, then they happen to the best of us. We recommend taking fabric washable pads for your car seats. If you can pull up on the side of the road, though, then that travel potty will come in very useful.
  • Always take your child to the toilet when you stop for a break, even if they’re not showing the signs of needing the loo. Lead by example and you will more than likely trigger their need to go.

So that sums up the most important points that you need to know on taking long car journeys with your potty-training toddler. Good luck and happy travels!


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