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Publication: Travel Tips
Travel Is About Adventure

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Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 

Jan. 29, 2008 

Travel is about adventure.

It's about seeing new sights, experiencing new things and 
learning about how people from other cultures live their 

Many travelers, however, are surprised to find that the 
adventure often extends into the bathroom.

This week's edition includes:




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Public restrooms. 

The very phrase makes the hair on some people's necks stand 
on end. 

It's something the average person can generally avoid when 
they're not traveling. Unless, of course, they have too many 
draft beers at a sporting event or get confused navigating 
the local Super Wal-Mart and still have a half-empty cart 
when their bladder alarm goes off.

But when you're on the road, the public restroom becomes the 
great equalizer. Everyone, whether they live on a sprawling 
estate or in a trailer park double-wide, uses the same 

Personally, I like that aspect of public restrooms. What I 
don't like is that all these people - rich, poor and middle 
class - leave some of their germs behind. 

So, how do you cope? Here are some tips:

* Check your diary

Disgust with public restrooms led to the creation of a user
-produced database of toilets called The Bathroom Diaries 

This site rates more than 12,000 restrooms in 110 countries, 
ranging from places as mundane as a QuikTrip gas station in 
Des Moines to more exotic excretory venues, such as a bamboo 
hut in the middle of a Balinese goldfish pond. 

Every year it bestows the Golden Plunger Award for the 
highest-rated public restroom. Last year's winner was the 
ladies room at the Shoji Tabuchi Theatre in Branson, Mo. It 
includes a fountain, fixtures carved from black Italian 
marble and gold, Donald Trump-like chandeliers and live 
orchids at every granite and onyx pedestal sink.

The ratings are based primarily on cleanliness, although 
points are also given for safety, handicapped accessibility 
and the inclusion of baby changing tables.

So the thing to do is print out a list of all the public 
restrooms rated for the area you are visiting, and basically 
plan your day around getting to an acceptable toilet at 
about the same time you figure you'll have to go.

This is fine for people like my wife, who would rather cramp 
up in pain than use a dirty bathroom. I'm not willing to 
suffer like that. Sometimes, you’ve just got to roll the 
restroom dice.

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* Look ma, no hands

Touch as little with your bare skin as possible. Whenever 
there are automatic sensors on the sink faucets or paper 
towel dispensers, my inner Monk does a silent, celebratory 

In situations where you’ve got to touch something AFTER 
you've washed your hands, you might want to rip off a piece 
of paper towel to act as a buffer between you and germs. 

That's a bit too much work for me, so I usually just use the 
sleeve of my jacket to knock a faucet handle back into the 
off position, and my elbow to hit the "on" button of the 
electric hand dryer.

Crank-style paper towel dispensers seem to be the most 
contradictory. You finish scrubbing strangers' bathroom 
germs off your fingers only to use those clean digits to 
grasp the same dispenser handle everyone else has touched on 
their way out. 

Scope out the paper towel situation when you walk in. If 
there’s a crank, get yourself a little piece of paper to act 
as a handle shield BEFORE you go to pee.

* Carry hand sanitizer

This is a good idea whenever you’re spending time in public 
places like museums, train stations or hotels, where 
hundreds of hands run along the same railings and grab the 
same door handles.

It’s also pretty useful for public restroom trips that leave 
you feeling a little less than fresh and germ-free. Some 
people will carry anti-bacterial towelettes in their purses 
to scrub down toilet seats or sink handles.

* B.Y.O.T.P.

In much of the world, toilet paper is not considered as 
essential as visitors from the U.S., Canada, western Europe 
and other countries might like. The scarcer a country’s 
resources are, the less likely it is to make unlimited 
supplies of toilet tissue available in public restrooms.

If you know you're traveling in an area where the TP 
dispenser - if it exists - is likely to be empty, carry a 
travel pack of facial tissues with you. You can also pack 
squares of toilet paper into a zip lock plastic baggie, or 
bring a well-used roll of toilet paper that's been slimmed 
down to a handy carrying size.

The moist towelettes I mentioned earlier, can also serve 
this purpose. No sense to double pack. That would be 


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* Aim for restaurants

In my experience, restrooms in restaurants are generally the 
best maintained anywhere. 

Every time you stop to eat a meal, have a cup of coffee or 
grab a snack, make sure you go. If you shudder at the 
thought of dirty toilets, you’re probably better off taking 
a short break for a midday latte or an afternoon drink, just 
so you can use the restroom.

The same is true of your hotel bathroom, which is likely to 
be the cleanest you experience on your trip. It‘s the same, 
simple rule parents have given their children for years: Go 
before you go.

* Be alert

There's a reason why women don't like to go to the ladies 
room alone. One safety expert recently told me that public 
restrooms are the second-likeliest place for a woman to be 
attacked and robbed - or worse. The first are parking lots.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and keep your 
purse with you constantly. If you’re alone, pick the stall 
closest to the door, and make sure a traveling partner is 
waiting for you just outside. Start conversations with 
strangers simply to discourage a would-be attacker from 
thinking you are alone. If the restroom is dark, postpone 
your business and look for another toilet.

* Carry coins

In many places in Europe, pay toilets are still common. 
Make sure you've got some loose change on you at all 

* Change your expectations

If you're traveling beyond your normal cultural boundaries, 
don’t expect the world to conform to you. If the people 
who live in the place you're visiting all accept a different 
sanitary standard than you're accustomed to, do not be 
shocked when they don't get excited over a dirty bathroom 
floor or an empty paper towel dispenser. 

Just hold your breath, focus on the hand sanitizer waiting 
at the end of your bathroom trip, do what you have to do and 

Travel is, after all, an adventure.

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading.   

Your Tipmeister,   



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