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Most travel skills are superfluous. Finding the cheapest flight or hotel, getting upgrades, or being able to travel to new, exciting, or numerous places are voluntary tasks.
An essential travel skill, however, is being able to find convenient restroom facilities. This is especially important when exploring unfamiliar locations, being unable to access your current temporary residence (many hostels and inns close during the day), and on road trips.
For those times when a tree or bush will not suffice, here are 8 great general places that usually provide reliable restroom facilities.
- Visitor Centers. Whatever the name–tourist office, information center, convention bureau–locations that cater to visitors almost always have clean restroom facilities. In addition to doing your business, you can find deals and information on dining, lodging, and sightseeing for local businesses.
- Public Areas. This is a catchall category which may include libraries, bus and train stations, conventions centers, universities, police stations, attractions, churches, parks, and museums. Any venue where the general public visits is surely to have at least one comfort station.
- Grocery Stores. I prefer supporting small businesses and typically shop at smaller grocery stores when traveling. However, the larger chain grocery stores are more likely to have convenient restroom facilities. Allow time to visit both!
- Department Stores. In the United States, large chain stores such as Target and Wal-Mart are convenient pit stops. Places like Home Depot and Lowes work, too. In other countries, large stores can include supermercados (and hipermercados) and multi-story units with cafeterias.
- Gas Stations. While getting fuel for your vehicle, make use of their restroom facilities. It is a time-honored road trip tradition.
- Fast Food Restaurants. If any road trip tradition competes with the above, it is stopping at a roadside McDonalds or Burger King to use the bathroom. The modern, city dweller equivalent might be Starbucks.
- Hotel Lobbies. When exploring large cities, hotel lobbies are fantastic places to take a break. Large lobbies are wonderful for resting and, of course, their restrooms provide relief. More elegant, prominent properties have superb holiday decorations.
- Recreation Centers. Public (or private sometimes) rec centers are often great places for restroom breaks. When I lived on the Monterey Peninsula, I usually stopped midway through long bike rides at the Pebble Beach Pro Shop. Countless other times while traveling, I have taken breaks at pools, tennis and sports facilities, and public parks.
Charles McCool is an independent consumer travel advocate.
© 2012, Charles McCool