The Toilet Training Traveller

Toilet training and travel. Do they mix? Our eldest toilet trained – day and night – during a three-month hiatus between holidays, so we never had the pleasure of finding out. I thoroughly recommend taking this course of action if you can swing it. But before you purse your lips and throw a jealousy-induced walkout from my blog, let me assure you that we have not had the same luck a second time around. Little T has long been interested in copying her big brother’s pants-wearing, toilet-using ways, but as yet she lacks the awareness she needs to realise she has to piddle more than three point eight seconds before she wets herself in the queue at the checkout.

Little T insists on copying her big brother in everything he does, even if it's not really advisable.

Little T insists on copying her big brother in everything he does, even if it’s not really advisable.

On our last trip – to Pulau Sibu – we used nappies in the car, frequent pit stops at service stations, and the elegantly simple expedient of hanging out on the beach where it didn’t matter a lot. Off the beach and away from nappies and service stations, things didn’t go so well. This time I have decided to tackle the problem in a different way – by asking the internet. Here’s what I learnt:
  • First, I found this old post by Amy at TravelMuse, reminding me that a few detours here and there wouldn’t spell the end of our attempts to potty train forever.
  • I had to agree with Amalah at Alphamom when she described the uselessness of travel toilet seats. We used to have one, but it was flimsy and, in any case, unnecessary. Both my kids have preferred to use an adult seat with a supported hold on western-style toilets (bum to the back, leaning forward with child’s hands on knees and parents’ hands around the waist) and the younger one actually prefers to use a squat. It certainly makes for lighter packing if you can manage without (same goes for seat covers, which we never use). Amalah also had great advice about treating awkward toileting scenarios as you would nap times. Many transport options come with in-built toilets, but some of them also come with seatbelt lights. Once, after three and a half hours of turbulence and some truly amazing self-control by my then-3.5yo, I had to argue patiently with two flight attendants before they let us bend the rules a little. (They were finally convinced by P’s rather ominous insistence that he needed to go sitting down.) This would not work out well during the training stage, and the nap-time comparison gives you a good bench mark for deciding which side of the line you’re on.
  • Almost everyone so far has mentioned the auto-flushing toilet sensor, and Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel has a good review of the options. I have spent years using toilet paper, post-it notes, stickers, or big hats to leave me hands-free to hold a trainee on the adult-sized seat, but I am now blessed with a child who gets a real kick out of the unexpected flushing and uses it as a cue to do her stuff – the only trick I’ve found to get Young Madam to go when she doesn’t think she wants to go. The other major piece of toilet-scariness I’ve found is the monstrously noisy aeroplane toilet. We already know Little T is ok with it, but I make a point of closing the lid before I flush everything away.
  • Louise at A Yummy Mummy? Really? has an interesting “special cushion” technique for long car trips, but I think the relative freedom of movement afforded by a flight makes traditional nappy use a better plan for our main leg. We have certainly extended the useful existence of our change mat by using it, plus a towel, in a similar way, and I will pack it again this time for the car trips. Having good, fast access to laundry facilities at our destination means we don’t don’t have to worry so much about a little thing like wet trousers.
  • Finally, I thought this series of questions by Danielle of Bubs On The Move provided a good framework for consideration by parents about to travel with a sort-of-toilet-trained toddler.  After answering them for ourselves, I was encouraged to plan most of our itinerary for fast and frequent toilet access (and timely laundering) and then get on with our day.

If you have any tips, tricks, comments or stories to add, go for it. You are most welcome.