Going out and about can be a challenge for potty training parents – while your little one needs to learn to use the potty in all situations, the prospect of public toileting and wet bums can make the idea a little worrying at first.
Potty training outside the home doesn’t need to be stressful - there are plenty of ways to maximise your chances of a successful outing.
Whether you’re going on holiday or just taking the bus to a local park, preparation is key. Remember, accidents will happen when potty training on the go – after all, 15% of five-year-olds still wet themselves occasionally.
With a little consistency and plenty of calm, you can help your toddler to feel clean and confident as they get to grips with grown-up toileting.
This article explores:
Potty training outside the home
If your toddler’s very first steps felt like a big moment, their first footsteps outside in underwear can feel monumental. In fact, 16% of parents said they stayed home for the entire first week of potty training.
Still, there comes a time when all tiny toilet trainees need to experience potty training outside the home. Understanding signs that it’s the right time to start potty training may help to make your first outings a success – your child should be aware of needing to wee or poo and able to say so.
Here are a few simple steps to help your take your potty training journey out of the home:
Take your potty with you. The NHS recommends taking the potty along whenever your child goes out, so they understand this new practice is the way you’d like them to do wees and poos every time. Try a shorter journey first, such as a walk to the park where any accidents are easier to manage, then progress to visiting family.
Go further afield. Once your little one is used to the feeling of nappy-free adventures, try a supermarket or shopping centre – somewhere that has its own toilets. Every step requires careful planning, but that doesn’t mean you need to worry. Try to remember using the potty is something to celebrate, whatever your surroundings.
Keep an eye out for toilet opportunities. As you shop, ask your child how they feel and keep a mental map of the closest public toilets for potty training purposes. ‘Holding it in’ on those fateful journeys is a new skill that your little one may find stressful at first, so try to reassure them.
Prepare them for public toilets. There’s a chance your toddler will find public toilets unsettling – after all, these spaces can be busy, noisy and the toilet bigger than their potty but toilet training on public toilets is possible. What to do depends on your child – some prefer to use their normal potty in the cubicle when you go out, while others will take straight to training on the toilet. Kit, such as potty training seats and steps, can be a great help.
Potty training when travelling long distances
Many parents try potty training in the summer months, when there aren’t so many clothing layers to tackle. And as training can take between three and six months, it can mean you’re going to have to continue potty training on holiday.
If you’re facing the task of potty training on holiday, then you probably have a few questions – can you even take a potty on a plane, for instance? The good news is you can – many mums and dads bring a folding potty that fits inside hand luggage. Others opt for a folding seat for potty training, which can be placed on the aeroplane toilet to make it easier for your toddler to go.
That said, don’t be afraid to use nappies on night flights in the early days. Wetting through the night is a common challenge – and completely normal since night-time bladder control develops later than day control.
Encourage your little ones to go before you leave the house, and again before getting into the plane, train or car. Then, schedule regular toilet breaks. Rather than relying on them to tell you they need to use the potty, set a toilet timer.
Creating a potty training travel kit can also help you prepare for long journeys – these provide on-the-go gear to make the process easier for dads, mums and little bums. Your kit might include:
Portable potty or toilet seat
Car seat protector for peace of mind
Waterproof bag to store anything that gets wet
Hand sanitiser and toilet roll or flushable wipes to help your toddler learn how to stay fresh
On long car rides, don’t feel the need to take every potty training break at a service station. After all, your toddler is probably unfussy about gracing the pot in spur-of-the-moment locations, so long as it’s safe.
By the time your child visits the beach, they should know what the potty is for. Asking your toilet trainee to choose a place for their travel potty could help to remind them it’s there – if your tot can’t see the pot, sand castles could prove more distracting.
Potty training travel tips
Going out while potty training is a big step for you and your child – and can be a lot to take in all at once. We’ve come up with some top tips to help your little one to master the skill and stay confidently clean wherever they go:
Take it slow – Potty training is a marathon, not a sprint, and every child is different. Taking baby steps from the bathroom potty to familiar places, such as grandma’s house or the park, may help your child to adapt.
Be sensitive to feelings – Children are very receptive to stress during potty training, and for some tots, even the toilet flush can seem scary. Try to comfort and reassure them.
Keep things consistent – If your toddler goes to nursery or is regularly cared for by a family member, make sure they understand your toilet training methods so they can use them, too.
Avoid nappies – It can be tempting to swap back to the nappy for holidays or big days out, but this may confuse your child. Once they show promise on the potty, try to reserve nappies for bedtime.
Expect some accidents – Accidents are a normal part of potty training, especially in unusual surroundings. Some accidents may even help children to understand what it means to be clean. Seat protectors and spare clothing can help mitigate mess.
Content reviewed and approved by Amanda Jenner, the longest established and most experienced Toilet Training Expert in the UK today, and founder of the Potty Training Academy.