Potty Training on the Go (From Road Trips to Running Errands)

Public restroom sign attached to the side of a wall to illustrate potty training on the go with a toddler on road trips or running errands.

When out and about with a toddler, potty training on the go can be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, there’s no need to get stressed. These tips and hints will help make potty training while out of the house easier for both parents and toddlers.

Should You Stay Home When Potty Training?

You’ll often encounter the advice that it’s best to just stay at home for the duration of the potty training process. While staying home can definitely make things easier, it’s often neither possible nor practical. This is especially true when we consider the fact that potty training, for many kids, takes a few months. 

In truth, there’s no need to stay home that long. If you’re able to, it can be helpful to stay at the house the first few days of potty training. This allows you and your toddler to establish new routines.

It’s often advisable to take newly potty training kids to the toilet quite frequently, and that’s much easier to do at home. Staying in the house those first few days also allows for easier cleaning up and changing of clothes when needed. 

Once those initial days are over though, it’s great to get out and about again. These tips will help make things simpler.

Don’t Forget to Use the Bathroom Before Leaving the House

This one’s fairly obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Taking your little one to the bathroom just before heading out can absolutely buy you some time to get well on your way before they start asking to go again.

Using Pull-Ups or Pull-On Diapers and Training Pants Works for Many Toddlers

Even if you have your child in underwear at home, having them use pull-on diapers or training pants can be useful when potty training on the go. This depends on the individual child, though.

Some kids who’ve graduated to underwear get upset if put back in something closer to a diaper. Others don’t mind it at all. Try explaining to your toddler that it’s just for the time out of the house, and then they’ll be back in their regular underwear (if that’s what you’re using at home). 

If you prefer not to switch back and forth between using pull-on diapers for trips out and underwear at home, there are other things that can help though, and those will be discussed below.

Use a Potty Training Car Seat Protector If Your Car Seat Company Makes One

It’s not advisable, from a safety perspective, to use generic car seat protectors that weren’t made specifically to fit your car seat. Some car seat companies, however, do make approved waterproof car seat liners that can make cleaning up potty training accidents much easier. 

Britax and Diono are two such companies which have made potty training removable covers for their car seats. So, if your toddler’s car seat is made by either of these brands, you can check those out. 

Bring Along the Potty Chair

We took road trips with all three of our kids while they were potty training. From my experience, I can honestly say that bringing along the potty chair is the most helpful tip I can provide regarding how to potty train on the go. 

While you can buy a dedicated travel potty, we never found this necessary. Instead, we just took along the same same potty chair our kids started out with at home. Any of the basic potty training chairs with the removable toilet bowl will work.

The trick to using the potty chair on the go is to wrap the chair in one of those tall white kitchen plastic trash bags. Take out the removable toilet bowl part (you won’t use this while out of the house) and wrap the trash bag around the entire seat, allowing extra space where the toilet bowl was. 

Your child can sit directly on this covered potty chair. When they are done using the potty, clean them with a baby wipe, then just remove the trash bag, tie it shut, and throw it in a trash can the same way you would with a disposable diaper.

A pale blue and white toddler potty training chair that can be brought along when you travel on a road trip or to run errands.

This tip is particularly useful on long trips when restrooms aren’t always easy to find quickly. You can just park the car in a safe place, and let your child use the potty chair on the floorboards of the car, or in any other area that provides the necessary safety and privacy. 

Dress Your Toddler in Clothing that is Easy to Remove

When changing your child’s clothing in the car or in a public restroom, you won’t want to be fumbling with lots of buttons, snaps, or tight clothing. Choose loose, simple clothes to make things easier for both you and your toddler.

Leave a Bag of Spare Clothing in Your Car

It’s easy to underestimate how much spare clothing you need to take out of the house with you when potty training. It’s also a hassle to remember to bring it all along every time you go out. 

In order to make things easier, pack a big bag with lots of spare clothing, and keep it in the trunk throughout the time that your child is potty training. You won’t want to keep your child’s nice clothes packed away in the trunk though, so choose older pieces that are getting worn out or starting to fit a bit tightly. 

Remember to bring along extra socks and shoes as well since these sometimes end up soiled too. 

Bring Lots of Baby Wipes with You

Baby wipes are lifesavers when potty training outside of the house (and they’re pretty useful at home as well). Make sure you have a big package of wipes with you in the car. 

They’ll do the double duty of both cleaning your child after accidents or using the potty chair and also cleaning any surfaces of the car seat that get soiled. While you’ll likely want to do a more comprehensive cleaning when back at home, a quick wipe down right away can help prevent staining and make things easier to clean later on.

Try to Schedule Bathroom Breaks in Advance

On short trips to the bank, grocery store, or library, you may only need to visit one public restroom. Try to schedule this for just a bit before you expect your little one to need it. That way you can take them prior to their asking, reducing the chances of an emergency bathroom request which often leads to a potty training accident. 

On longer drives and road trips, you’ll need to plan in advance to stop more often than you normally would. Depending on the child, bathroom breaks every one to two hours (or even more often) may be needed. The tip above regarding bringing along a potty chair is particularly useful on road trips.

Recite Nursery Rhymes or Sing the ABC’s Together While They Use the Potty

Using public restrooms can be intimidating, especially to newly potty training toddlers. Try to make the experience less stressful by reciting a beloved nursery rhyme or singing the ABC’s together with your child. This can help them feel more comfortable, making it easier for the toddler to use the potty outside of the home. 

Seek Out Clean, Well-Stocked Public Restrooms

A clean nice looking public restroom suitable for bringing a potty training toddler to use the bathroom.

When out and about, toddlers tend to want to touch everything. This can be particularly unnerving in a dirty public restroom. Small kids also often need to hold on to the toilet seat (even if you’re holding on to them at the same time), so you’ll want to find the cleanest bathroom possible. A properly maintained bathroom will also be more likely to have things like toilet seat covers, soap, and paper towels in stock. 

When you’re going to the grocery store or running errands in your normal environment, you probably already know which places have the best, most well-maintained public restrooms. On longer road trips, this post has a lot of tips about how to find the best restrooms to stop at. 

Bring a Reusable Wet Bag or Disposable Trash Bag to Carry Soiled Clothing

If you used cloth diapers for your child, you may already have a dedicated wet bag that can now be used to carry soiled clothing while potty training. If not, a disposable trash bag also does the job and won’t require you to purchase anything new.

Remember that Potty Training Accidents are Normal and Expected

Nearly all toddlers have accidents when potty training, especially in the early days. It’s also important to remember that even children who are doing well with potty training while at home may have more accidents when on the go.

When out and about, kids are more likely to be distracted and not as in tune with their bodies’ signals that they need to use the bathroom. When they do realize they need to go, the wait to find a restroom will usually also be longer than at home.

You can help things out by scheduling in bathroom visits while on the go, as discussed above. While this can reduce the number of accidents, it can’t eliminate them altogether. 

Potty training accidents are messy and burdensome, but it’s important to remember that they are a normal and expected part of the process. With these tips, things should be simpler, but you’ll still need a bit of patience and flexibility.  

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