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How to Avoid Having Your Kid Have to Pee on an Airplane Seat

June 17, 2014
6 min read
How to Avoid Having Your Kid Have to Pee on an Airplane Seat
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Who knew that you would need a strategy to avoid having your potty trained kid have to pee on an airplane seat, but you apparently do. If you read much mainstream media you probably already heard the story of a three year old who had to use the restroom during a delay on a recent New York - Boston JetBlue flight. The delay was reportedly around 30 minutes, and during that time the three year old told her mom she needed to "potty", mom got up to take the kid to the restroom, was told by the flight attendant she could not at that time, and you can guess what the outcome was at that point. Yup, the kid peed in the seat.

Again, you can probably guess what the next action of a parent will be when the kid and seat are covered in pee. Ding, ding ding, the mom tried to clean the kid up and was again "yelled at" by the flight attendant and told to sit down. And what, have the kid sit in a pool of pee? That sounds pleasant for everyone involved. Sounds like in the end she used her sweater to clean the mess as best as she could. As the story goes, the mom was then reported to the pilot as being a non-compliant passenger, the plane returned to the gate, and the reason gave over the speaker was that it was for a non-compliant passenger. Sigh.

The one thing this mom seems to have had on her side was that other passengers backed her up on Twitter, and an off-duty pilot a couple rows away from her reportedly helped convinced the flight crew to let her stay on the flight. Sadly what she didn't have on her side was a reasonable flight crew working the flight she was on. Obviously I wasn't there, but I 100% believe the series of events could have unfolded exactly as the mom describes. I haven't been in this exact scenario, but I have been in some pretty similar ones where some flight attendants either just don't get it when it comes to kids, or they just don't care. They don't need to really care about kids in order to do their job, but it is helpful to understand that not finding a solution for a kid that needs to potty only ends poorly for everyone. They need to care about that. Honestly, it could also be an adult who needs" to go" right that second as well or it will end poorly, too. This really isn't something relegated just for kids, but let's not go there for now.

So, what can you do to avoid having your own kid have to pee in an airplane seat? Well, first say a prayer to the travel gods and participate in sending all the good travel karma into the universe that you can, but beyond that here are a few practical suggestions to avoid accidents on planes.

  • Have your kids go right before boarding. I know you can't physically force them to go, but do your very best to instruct, bribe, whatever. I'd say we have about an 85% success rate with this step.
  • Limit fluids before flying. I'm sure this one isn't for everyone, but I certainly don't encourage my kid to tank up on drinks right before boarding. I'm not talking about dehydrating them, but don't encourage them to drink more than they need in the 60-90 minutes before boarding. Also don't encourage drinking while you are still on the ground during a delay. Of course again don't dehydrate them, but save the drinks until you are airborne, if possible.
  • Put pull-ups on kids that are "mostly" or recently potty trained. We used pull-ups for our daughter on flights after she was potty trained for a while just in case there was a slip-up or a situation where she could not safely get up to use the restroom in time. That said, there I haven't done that in a while with her as she is past the point of wanting to wear a pull-up.
  • Sit near the lav. If you can pick seats near the lav you will increase the chance you can make it in time. During beverage services the cart can black you from the lav for long periods of time if you haven't selected your seat wisely.
  • Be super nice to everyone, but don't be shy about making it clear you need to get your child to the bathroom NOW if necessary.
  • Explain to your kid in advance when you are or aren't able to use the potty on the plane - this may help them go right before getting on.

If you do all of those things you will probably never have a problem with a kid having an accident on a plane, but there are never any guarantees, and there are always factors outside of your control. So what could you do if the flight attendant told you that you cannot take your child to the lav?

Keep your kid happy and avoid "accidents" on planes

My experience with going to the lav when the seatbelt sign is on is that they tell you the seatbelt sign is on as they are supposed to, but they don't actually stop you from going. That would be a different story perhaps on an active taxiway, during takeoff, or on final approach. My understanding is this plane was not an on active runway during their delay, so theoretically things shouldn't have had to go down the way they did. I like this flight attendant's take on the situation and her suggested response for future similar occurrences.

My favorite take away from that flight attendant's post was the quote, "Flight attendants are hired for a myriad of skills, common sense hopefully being one of them." Amen. All most situations require is some common sense in order to find a decent resolution. There are rules, there are regulations, there are safety guidelines, etc. I'm sure they are all there for a reason, but when you forget to also throw in a dash of common sense everyone loses...and some end up sitting in a puddle of pee.

How did your family avoid accidents for your little ones on planes?