Friday, 24 August 2012

How to travel with a recently toilet trained child

You've started the process of toilet training your child, they are doing really well and wearing big girls/boys pants in the day time and you are pleased that the 'accidents' are reducing in number.

So what do you do when you find yourself needing to take a long car journey with them?  Do you put them back in a nappy or pull-up for the duration?  Does that contradict all the messages you've been giving about their progress into big girls/boys pants and the new rule that involves only weeing on the toilet (or potty)?  Will it take you a few steps backwards in the process?

If your journey is going to take longer than half an hour you need, in all cases to ALWAYS put your child on the toilet just before you leave the house and don't give them large drinks within half an hour of travelling.

You also need a toilet training travel pack as follows:

Toilet training travel pack

  • Spare pants for the child (At least 2 pairs just in case!)
  • A couple of nappies (not to wear - see below)
  • A packet of wipes
  • A handful of nappy bags
  • A muslin (or two)
  • A spare set of clothes.  (Maybe two sets of trousers/skirts just in case)
  • A potty or travel potty (optional - see below)
Keep it somewhere easily accessible.  I find the foot well under your child's feet the easiest place.  The canvas shopping bags that are so readily available these days are a perfect size to keep this kit in.  

Travelling with a recently toilet trained child


By car.  On motorways.

This is the worst type of journey that you can face in the UK.  In  France they've got it sorted because there is a place to stop for picnics and toileting literally every 5 minutes on their main roads.  Maybe this is because the culture is more for picnics than for buy your own lunches at the mall-style service stations you find on UK motorways?  Whatever the reason, you can find yourself stuck on a stretch of UK motorway and the 'Services' sign will tell you that the next 'Services' are in 43 miles.  43 miles!

You are on a motorway.  You aren't supposed to stop on the hard shoulder.  There won't be actual toilet facilities for 43 miles!

You have two approaches on a motorway that don't include putting a nappy on your child and don't ask your child to hold it for half an hour, which may be too much of a challenge early in the training process.

1.  The Special Cushion Method -  This is, by far, my favourite, as you are not racing a clock to find somewhere to stop.

You take a nappy, fold it over so that the most absorbent part is upwards and the tabs etc are tucked under.  Carefully fold a muslin around the nappy so that it could pass for a rectangular cushion.  Hold carefully and place it on your child's car seat so the absorbent part is still upwards.  Carefully ensure your child sits on top of the 'special cushion'.  With them sat on top of it the cushion is placed exactly where a nappy would be if they were wearing it.  If they have an accident, the worst case scenario is that their pants/trousers/skirt and the muslin all get wet.

At the next safe available opportunity you can pull over, pop the nappy/muslin/clothes into nappy bags and seal them to avoid smells, place on clean clothes and make a new cushion.

2.  The Potty in the Car Method - When you need to and it's safe to, pull over onto the hard shoulder.

Girls - For young girls you may get away with staying in the car (safest).  If their child seat is behind the passenger seat you have easier access to them when you turn towards your left shoulder.  You can unhook their seat belt and grab that kit.  Drape the muslin over the back seat behind you.  Sit the potty in the middle of it.  Sit the child on the potty.  Allow nature to take it's course.  Wipe child's bottom.  You could empty the potty out of the car; it involves a tricky balancing manoeuvre where you lift the potty up, through the gap between the front two seats and onto your lap, open your car door a little, empty the potty out, shut your door.  This is only really appropriate for wee wees in my view.  Wipe out the potty and place all wipes in a nappy bag.  Seal tight.  Refasten child securely into child seat.

Boys - For young boys the approach detailed for girls above may work, but they may not be able to sit on the potty.  Instead try them kneeing next to it.  This gets them closer to their target.

You can also buy travel potties that include liners.  This cuts out the need for clean up as you simply seal the bag once they have done.

In both cases this approach doesn't involve getting out of the car, so is probably the safest potty option.

By car.  On main roads with appropriate parking but no actual toilet facilities. 

Where you can pull over and exit your car safely at parking stops or on the road side on lower speed roads you also have another option.  Some may not be comfortable with this option, but sometimes needs must!  

3.  The Potty (or Hold) Outside the Car - When you need to, pull over into appropriate parking facilities.

You can exit your vehicle, place the potty on the floor next to the car, let your child use it, then clean up as before.

Alternatively, in the absence of a potty you can hold your child a little off the ground to enable them to wee (just watch your shoes!)

In both cases I'd consider how you park when you park.  What I mean is, if you park next to another car and open both front and back doors on your car, you create a small private space between your two doors to give your child a little bit of privacy.

Additionally it's easier for children to 'water grass' than to do this over concrete simply from the point of view of keeping your shoes dry and not creating rivers of wee across car parks!  So parking next to a grass verge or hedge is often helpful.    


So there are my methods of coping with travelling with a child that is in the early stages of toilet training, and where you don't want to revert to nappies that you have worked so hard to remove.

I hope it's been useful.  If you know of any mums that may find this information useful please do feel free to share this page/URL with your friends on Twitter, Facebook, or your preferred social network.

For further tips on parenting, beauty, getting organised, travel, entertaining the kids and cheap days out with the kids, you can follow me by email.  Simply enter your email address in the right hand panel.  You can also follow on Twitter here or the Facebook page here.  

Finally, a selection of potties and travel potties are below in case you need to stock up! 


  1. such a useful post. I don't have a car so do all my long journeys by train, but that ddoesn't make it easier as you can't ask a newly potty trained child to wait in a queue for the train toilet. I used the potette portable potty and it was a life saver in these instances (although there are no litter bins on stations any more so you do have to walk around with a bag of wee for a bit)

    1. Yes, trains and planes can be challenging. May do a follow-up post just for those!

      Thanks for your comment. It's great to know it's useful.


  2. good tips and ideas! I remember those days well...and I do not miss them! knowing my child would not be wearing diapers in high school helped me relax about the whole issue, until the kids decide to do it for themselves.
    I am your newest follower from the hop..pls follow back if you can.
    good luck!!

    1. Thanks and welcome to the blog! I shall pop over and check yours out too! Thanks again :-)


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