Potty Break: Preparing Your Child for Toilets Overseas

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It would be a shame to tackle saving your points, planning your travel, getting the time off work and school and surviving a long-haul flight with kids only to arrive on the other side of the world and realize that your child is ill-prepared to use the bathroom in an unfamiliar setting. I’ve taken my two children under 4 to Asia and Africa and learned this lesson the hard way.

I also reached out to the ever-growing TPG Family Facebook group for their wisdom for all things international-potty-break-related. With these tips, you can prep your kids to squat, stand or sit to go potty worldwide. And yes, overseas travel may require all three.

Discuss Before You Go and Pack Appropriately

Much like any prep before a trip, it can help ease little minds to know how they will go to the bathroom, especially if it is going to be dramatically different than at home. Before you leave, talk with your child about what the toilets might look like where you’re going and show them photos or YouTube videos of what they might encounter (making sure to preview the videos yourself first). It might be a “squatty potty” or a fancy Japanese toilet with all the buttons, bells and whistles. Because we stay in both high-end and budget accommodations, we have to prep our older son for different experiences on the same journey.

Depending on your destination, consider packing clothes that make it easier to pop a squat. Shorter dresses, loose pants and shorts are easier on the squat-style toilets that may be found some parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East — especially once you leave the more Westernized or developed areas.

A flushing squat toilet. (Photo via Getty Images)

Bring a Few Items to Become a ‘Traveling Bathroom’

If you are worried about a new type of potty break, you may also want to stock up on a few Western products before heading overseas so you can transform any toilet you come across in your travels. Travel mom Erica Weber of the blog The Worldwide Webers says that she carries a small tissue pack, flushable wipes, hand sanitizer and travel-sized disinfecting wipes with her at all times.

“My kids could poop in a bucket and we’d be fine,” she said about her recent one-month trip around Asia.

Other parents on the TPG Family Facebook group suggested packing items such as urinal bags, disposable toilet-seat covers and a travel potty. (Make sure to use the best cards for Amazon purchases if you plan to pick up a few of these items.) Several also mentioned bringing your own toilet paper, as it is customary in many countries that individuals bring their own to use in public toilets.

The Potette Potty by Kalencom (Photos courtesy of Kalencom)

Find a Western Toilet or Go Outside

When you have to find a toilet quickly in any city, the upside of globalization is that you most likely can rush to a nearby McDonald’s, Starbucks or hotel, just like at home. (Plus, you can check your email with the free Wi-Fi and get a drink with ice while you’re at it.) Remember to have local currency with you, because many restrooms charge for entrance or require you to tip the attendant. (And if you plan to make other purchases on your pit stop, make sure you use a card with no transaction fees.)

Stopping at a nice bathroom when you get the chance is usually a good idea when such luxuries can be few and far between. (We often forget this rule, so, depending on the culture and location, we sometimes let my oldest pee outside when we can’t find a bathroom fast enough.)

A McDonald’s in Shanghai, China. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Watch Out for the Spray Nozzle

The many aspects of bathrooms around the world can confound adults and children alike. Sometimes you can find a family stall with a changing table, a small child’s toilet and an adult toilet. Other times, it’s just a hole in the floor.

Make sure to size up your circumstances. I had a shock from my then-2-year-old son when he was in the stall with me while I sat on the toilet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He found the washing hose (a small hose found in most bathrooms in Asia) and sprayed me in the face, soaking my clothes, before I could stop him. My husband had a good laugh when we emerged. Luckily it was hot outside, but it made for an uncomfortable few hours while my clothes dried. Lesson learned.

When All Else Fails, Put Them Back in Diapers

While this won’t work well with a 7-year-old, I agreed to put my nearly 4-year-old son back in diapers during a recent trip to Ethiopia after he just refused to use the toilets on our stay. We talked about it for a while, and he said he would be more comfortable in a diaper like his 18-month-old brother than using local toilets, due to their smell. I accepted this bit of regression, since it meant he felt more comfortable, as he was already coping with a lot of change on our trip.

Bottom Line

We travel with our children to show them another way of life and thinking, and that even extends to the bathroom. While many parents report having a harder time with an aggressive auto-flush in the US than with the variables of overseas toilets, it still helps to plan ahead.

Hopefully, these tips can help you feel more comfortable so you can prepare your children to do their business anywhere in the world.

Featured photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.