Three and Potty Trained: When Traveling With a Kid Gets Easier

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Whether it is in the middle of an unexpected mid-air meltdown, or when you get to a hotel with an exhausted toddler only to find that your room won’t be ready for hours, or when your child is covered absolutely head to toe in a diaper ‘blowout’ in the middle of Manhattan where no store has a public bathroom and it is 35 degrees outside, or when you reach the end of your own metaphorical rope and just wish you were back at home with your crew, every traveling parent with little kids will ask this very same question at some point…when does it get easier?

Unlike most loaded questions in the travel world that can best be answered with a frustrating, ‘it depends’, this big question has an actual answer.

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When does traveling with a kid get easier?

It gets easier when your child is three and potty trained. Life in general gets easier when your youngest child is three and potty trained. If you narrow the conversation to travel, once those two milestones are unlocked, your travels will get easier in almost every imaginable way. By the time most kids are about three years old and toilet trained you can talk with them, reason with them, bribe them, entertain them, explain what happens next, push through some amount of tiredness, and then enjoy practical benefits of having a toilet trained kid.

I don’t know if I wrote an article on that topic when my first daughter unlocked those all-important ‘three and potty trained’ milestones, but I have written it in my head a million times. Being three and potty trained is such a line of demarcation in a family’s life. My second daughter turns three-years-old next month, but I thought that we would not achieve the second part of the “three and potty trained” moniker for goodness knows how much longer. We just weren’t even close, which was okay.

However, that reality meant that she was going to be old enough for many travel experiences and kid’s clubs, but excluded from admission because she wasn’t ready to use a potty. To give just one of an endless list of examples, on the Disney Cruise Line, those who are three years old and up can visit the Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab for no additional charge. However, you must be ‘fully toiled trained‘ or you can’t stay without a parent. You will find similar language when looking at almost any kid’s club, ski school, or similar activity. The minimum age for these sort of activities may go as low as three, but only if that crucial potty trained caveat is also met.

In truth, I thought we were on the verge of having to delay some penciled in travel plans because our soon-to-be-three-year-old just wasn’t ready to be out of diapers. Again, this was not a big deal in the grand scheme of life, but it was something we were going to need to adjust for in the short term.

Crossing over into the world of three and potty trained

But then, out of the blue, she was ready. She went from never successfully using the potty once in her short life to only having one accident over a span of three days like it was no big deal. This exactly mirrors the pattern of how she has hit every milestone, so I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised. You start to worry it will ‘never happen’, and then overnight it is over and done with like she’s an old pro.

We will celebrate her third birthday at Disney World next month a day before she actually turns three, so that she is still ‘free’. After that, we’ve entered all new traveling territory. Maybe the days of packing a bag that is 95% comprised of diapers and wipes are behind us. It all happened so fast that it’s still setting in that maybe, just maybe, our youngest child is now a full-fledged ‘big girl’ and our traveling lives are about to change for the better.

When does traveling with kids get easier? It gets so much easier your youngest kid is three and potty trained, and I absolutely cannot believe we are almost there.

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Comments

  1. That was the trick that finally got our daughter potty trained (at 3 3/4): my parents took us on a cruise and she couldn’t go to the Kids Club unless she was out of diapers. Suddenly she had no problems!

  2. Do you find it difficult to plan for potty breaks everywhere along your travels? As much as we are so happy our daughter is potty trained, we now need to plan for our version of ETOPS, basically how far from a bathroom can we reasonably be. Before potty trained we didn’t need to worry so much about that. In some ways it has made us worried travel will be more difficult.

  3. My 5th child is now 3 and potty trained and it is so so true! Thus after being pregnant/breastfeeding/diapers for the last 12 years solid we can FINALLY travel more exotic places and are thus just getting in the credit card points game (would never be able to afford the travel without it!!) I always still bring diapers (and wipes) with me though because it comes in handy many times even with some of the older kids when you have a potty emergency somewhere there is no bathroom!!

  4. But from a miles and points perspective, would you rather have a “free” lap infant at 23 months old and save all those miles (not to mention find award availability)?

    • True. Also, traveling in places like Europe many hotels will give you a crib for a baby without an extra charge, but typically won’t allow two adults and a bigger kid or two in standard room.

    • Stannis, honestly, no. I’ll take a three and potty trained kid over a one year old all day everyday. It costs more, yes, but that’s why we are in this game! At 23 months I booked her a seat anyway. It was time. I think our last lap infant flight happened at around 18 months or so. Now, excuse me while I squeeze in one more ‘free’ Disney visit before she turns 3…

  5. As a parent, I can completely understand everything in this post. But just want to send a big hug to any other parents who are reading this like me – where I’ve got a 4.5 wonderful boy who has Autism and potty training doesn’t happen like it does with typically learning children. As a parent, it can feel hard to deal with pressure from family and friends who don’t understand that your child doesn’t respond the way their child did to the same learning challenge or think the fault is on the parent when the child is older than three and not potty trained. We are getting there. But it takes patience, learning new skills and knowledge.

    • Carissa, yes to all of that and big hugs from me. I didn’t get truly into it in this post, but there was very much a time when our little one was not hitting milestones and we didn’t know what would come next. https://mommypoints.boardingarea.com/2016/03/02/30791/ That’s why we very much were okay with her not hitting some things, like potty training, at the same time her sister did. Every kid is so different, so special, and your journey with them is so unique. Even at not quite three we were getting some potty training pressure, so you have my full support and thanks for offering that reminder to other parents on their journeys.

  6. My now 14 year old son was newly potty trained and we took a flight from the west coast to ORF. He needed but refused to use the public airplane lavatory. He refused to use a pullup since he was now potty trained. He was in some serious pain. He refused to use the concourse restroom. He collapsed on the floor of the concourse, I put him, crying loudly, on a carryon bag and rolled him to baggage claim. My wife was finally able to convince him to go to a secluded and under-used restroom near baggage claim. I’m glad he relented before we got in the rental car for the long drive to the Outer Banks…

    And I’ll add that my youngest are now 9 and yet we still buy baby wipes…the best learned lesson from parenthood 🙂

  7. Potty trained is definitely an awesome milestone for traveling! Way to go little S! The next “milestone” that made traveling easier for me was being able to ditch the stroller. It felt like we were traveling so much lighter when my youngest stopped needing one (or, more accurately, started refusing to ride in one).

    • Yes! We actually rarely bring a stroller these days. Haven’t in many trips. We will use a stroller at Disney, but otherwise I think the last time we brought it was last fall. Totally agree it is much easier to get used to moving without it!

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