Potty Training in the Car

Potty training in the car can be challenging.

Once you’ve started the process of getting your toddler to use the potty, you then have to think about how to navigate car trips.

You may be worried about accidents happening in the car seat, how you’ll need to rush to stop when she says she has to go and a lot of the other logistics involved.

From one mom to another, I get it.

When my kids were potty training, it worked a little differently for each one. I’m going to share the best tips for potty training in the car that I’ve learned over the years from potty training four toddlers.

So no worries.

Let’s break it down into everything you’ll need to make car trips a success.

Table Of Contents

Training Pants or Underwear?

The type of undies your toddler is wearing will determine how you go about traveling in the car while potty training.

You have two options: training pants (like Pull-ups) or regular underwear.

Training pants keep the mess contained should there be an accident. They are pretty easy to work with.

Underwear require a lot more diligence and a few more supplies to give you peace of mind.

Let’s explore both options.

Training pants

There are two kinds of training pants: washable and disposable.

Here are the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Good at catching accidents as they happen which means less cleanup for you.
  • Cloth training pants are washable, saving you money.
  • Disposable training pants are easy to take off and throw away eliminating the need to carry around wet undies.

Cons

  • Disposable training pants are similar in feel to diapers so they can sometimes confuse a toddler.
  • Your child may rely on them as a crutch instead of trying make it to the bathroom.
  • You may take more chances and go longer stretches of time knowing your toddler is wearing them.

Here’s a full breakdown of the difference between training pants and underwear to help you choose which one will work better for your toddler.

Underwear

If you go with underwear while traveling in the car, here are some things to consider.

Pros

  • There’s a good chance your toddler won’t like the feeling of sitting in her own “mess” and so may try harder to remain dry when wearing underwear.
  • Reinforces that there are no more diapers so there is no confusion.

Cons

  • You’ll have a mess to cleanup should accidents happen.
  • You’ll need to carry around wet and soiled clothes after accidents.

As you can see, there is no perfect answer for everyone.

Choose the type of underwear that best fits your situation. For example, is your toddler dressed up heading somewhere fancy versus a casual outing with casual clothes on?

How much time do you have to cleanup if there’s an accident?

Ask yourself these questions to get a feel for what will work best for you.

Tip: Worried using training pants might cause regression? Put a Pull-up or plastic undies over cloth undies to prevent messy accidents without confusing your toddler.

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Toddler girl with mother in the car. Image says tips to make car trips smooth and easy.

Tips for a successful car trip

Use these tips to make sure you’re prepared for whatever happens while traveling.

Preliminary planning

Once you know a car trip is in your future, start to prepare in advance with these helpful tips.

First things first, don’t start potty training for the first time only a few days before your trip.

Start weeks or even months in advance if you can so your toddler will already be familiar with the process.

Get your toddler use to a travel potty in advance. Using something new for the first time while on a road trip may make your toddler hesitant to go.

Make sure she has seen and used the travel potty at least once before the trip so she’ll be familiar with it.

Car potty training checklist

Traveling in the car while your toddler is still potty training requires its own set of special potty supplies.

Use this handy checklist so you’ll never forget what to bring.

  1. Extra pair of clothes and shoes
  2. Wet bag for soiled clothes
  3. Wipes to clean your toddler
  4. Disinfecting wipes to clean your car and car seat
  5. Travel potty
  6. Protective car seat cover
  7. Pee cup (for boys, for girls)
  8. Toilet seat covers (for using public bathrooms)
  9. Portable folding toilet seat to place on top of public toilets
  10.  Large towels for cleanup

A few things to keep in mind:

When my kids were toddlers, I’d place a towel in their car seat for protection. These days there are much better options like this piddle pad to protect their car seat.

Ditch the towel and use it for wiping up accidents instead.

Large public toilets can be scary to little kids when you’re traveling. They are unfamiliar and bigger than they’re use to.

One tip is to get a small potty seat that fits on top of regular toilets. This seat has non-slip grips to keep it from sliding around, folds small and compact and has a separate carrying bag for sanitation.

The last thing I wanted to mention is that as much as you think you’re prepared, with toddlers you just never know how things will go.

The plan is to stop and use the bathroom whenever you can, but sometimes you won’t make it. That’s where the travel potty comes in handy. You can use it wherever you are.

But what happens when there’s a real emergency and you can’t even make it to the back of the car to get the travel potty set up and ready for use? You will be so glad you have a pee cup handy (the proper term is portable urinal).

They are the size of a cup but designed for toddlers to use on the go making it super easy to turn around in your seat and help them potty immediately.

No need and no time to set up the travel potty. There’s one for boys and one made especially for girls so you’re covered for those emergency emergencies.

How to travel in the car while potty training

Now that we’ve gotten the preliminary stuff and supply list checked off the list, here’s how to go about potty training in the car.

Do:

  • Stop often. Stick with the same potty training schedule that you used at home as much as possible. If you need to, set an alarm in the intervals you need or use the potty watch timer to remind you each time you need to make a potty stop.
  • Let your toddler wear easy on/off clothes. You won’t have time for fiddling with tons of buttons, snaps and gadgets on clothes. When they have to go, they have to go.
  • Take a travel potty. You may be thinking you’ll be able to make to the bathroom at pit stops along the way, but do yourself a favor and take a traveling potty as a backup. Emergencies happen and it’s better to be prepared just in case.

Don’t:

  • Let your child hold it. Stop in a safe place off the road and use the travel potty if you have to. It’s better than having to clean up a mess and better for their small bladders.
  • Load up on salty snacks. Salt makes you thirsty which means more drinking and more chance of an accident from an overloaded bladder. Snacks are fine, just keep them healthy.
  • Assume your toddler doesn’t have to go. Just because you asked and they said no doesn’t mean they don’t have to. Little kids are notorious for not wanting to interrupt their game/play time/movie or whatever they’re doing in the moment. Stick with the schedule you have and don’t ask them, just have them go.

Car travel potty rewards

Use on-the-go potty rewards to continue to encourage potty training in the car just like at home.

Here are a few easy ideas while traveling:

  1. Put a surprise toy in several brown bags and fold them shut. After each successful bathroom stop (using the travel potty or public bathroom), reward your toddler with a surprise bag!
  2. Give stickers on a sticker chart for each successful stop and let them see if they can fill up the chart during the trip.

Decide ahead of time what “success” means for your toddler. Is it making an attempt at pottying even if nothing comes out? Or will it be actually peeing or pooping during a stop.

What about overnight car trips?

Potty training in the car presents another unique set of challenges when you’ll be traveling overnight.

It still doesn’t have to be complicated.

Follow these few rules and you’ll be prepared.

  1. Use the same car potty training checklist, but make sure to pack extras. If you packed one pair of extra clothes for a daytime trip, pack three for overnight. Double the amount of wipes, towels and anything else you need for cleanups.
  2. Skip the underwear! For overnight trips, especially for a toddler who is still mastering staying dry at night, do yourself a favor and use training pants. Since you won’t be stopping as frequently, you’ll want something that you know will keep them dry and keep the mess contained while they’re sleeping. Trust me, one trip in training pants won’t hurt anything.

The bottom line

You can do this.

Potty training in the car doesn’t have to be complicated or hard.

Make sure you are prepared with the supplies you need, make plenty of stops and you should be good to go.

Following these simple steps will put you and your toddler on the road to success.

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More Potty Training Tips

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