How to Survive Public Bathrooms
One of the most common questions we get regarding van life is ‘where do you go to the bathroom?!?!’ At this time, Vanley Tucci is without a toilet. It’s something we’ve talked about adding in at some point, but as of now we just don’t have the space, so we frequent public restrooms. I’ve come to terms with this solution, and for the most part it’s really not so bad; I consider it part of my daily workout, making sure I have the least amount of skin to surface contact, trying to touch as few objects as possible. That’s all fine and good but any parent knows there is an entirely other layer involved when you bring kids in to the mix. Kids can’t help but touch every little thing in sight. Briar’s favorite activity—aside from staring me down while I pee—is to practice balancing on one foot (‘to not touch the germs on the floor’ she says), of course inevitably losing her balance at some point and throwing her hands out at any and everything—the side of the toilet where a drunk person surely just threw up; the floor BEHIND the toilet which hasn’t seen a mop in at least 46 years; the toilet brush; me, who, I’ll remind you is hovering over the toilet with super-tight leggings around my thighs, which has sent me down more than zero times…. I could go on, but I’ll spare your stomach. For now, let me just share a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way that make public bathroom experiences a breeze!
Sometimes you tell your kids to try and use the bathroom while you are stopped at a generally-sparkly-clean Love’s, Flying-J, or Buc-ee’s (the preferred spots when we get to choose), and sometimes they scream back at you I DON’T HAVE TO GO like you’re the worst person in the world for suggesting it, and almost always within 20 minutes of leaving said-sparkly clean gas stations do they scream at you again to let you know that you’ve got like 3 minutes to find a bathroom before shit hits the fan, probably literally. So you try and find the first place you can, and, if you’re not a road trip person you might not know this but it’s almost never another sparkly-clean gas station and pretty much always a gross one where you have to ask for the key, which is attached to an old tree branch or like, a wet sponge, or something else equally as porous. Travel wipes are your best friend here. I like the peace of mind that Clorox Wipes give in these situations, although I don’t love the idea of the product residue on skin, so as long as time allows there is a follow-up step with a baby wipe afterward. But I’d rather have trace amounts of bleach on my skin than whatever has been festering in this gross-ass bathroom, so it is what it is.
Yep. I bring my own toilet paper and you should too. There are some products in life that you can get by using the off-brand or inexpensive version. Toilet paper should NOT be one of them. And you really don’t find nice toilet paper in public bathrooms, regardless of the establishment. Like, it doesn’t even have perforations! It’s so thin, you don’t even need ‘tear here’ lines. And the last person grabbed above and below where they ripped, which means their hand was on the section you’re about to use. Ga-rhosssssss, and no thank you. Every time we’ve gone out of town (even pre-van) we have always brought our own. Work weekend? Yes. Out of town vacation at fancy hotel? Yup- hotels for sure aren’t spending money on nice toilet paper. Visiting family or friends? You never know who thinks it’s acceptable to buy whatever is on sale. I’m all about that bargain, but I’m also about not using sandpaper. I wouldn’t even wish 1-ply paper on my worst enemy, why on Earth would I settle for it in my daily life?
I consider this a different category than the above wipes, but if you’re the type of person that doesn’t mind baby wipes as a cleaning wipe for toilets and people parts, then this could be combined. I hate using toilet paper to clean my kids up— regardless of how thick it is, I still somehow end up touching things I planned on not touching. That’s where wipes come in! Baby wipes are a good option, and if you’re a parent you probably already have a stash. I really like Dollar Shave Club’s One Wipe Charlies— they come in a 40 ct pack or individually wrapped (I always keep a couple in my coat pocket, purse, etc so we are never without), are a fabulous size, and have a nice barely-there scent. You can grab them here and just because I love you so much, you can use this code to save $5 (which makes them a steal at only $1)!
Post It Notes
Wait what? Yes. Seriously. Post it notes. We all know to use our foot when having to manually flush a toilet. Luckily a vast majority of public toilets are now automatic flush which means one less germy thing to touch during your bathroom outing. But the drawback: how many times have you used the bathroom only set off the sensor before standing up? It only takes one time to have that memory seared in to your mind forever, and then have to live in fear every other time afterward. When you take a child to the bathroom, it’s even worse. Squirmy shorter-than-the-sensor child + parent standing in front of them almost always sets off the sensor too soon. Enter the Post it note!!! Stick that bad boy on the sensor before doing your thang and you have just guaranteed there will be no early flushing! Bonus, you can use the post it note to shield your hand if the door has a handle you have to pull.
I have always had a Marry Poppins sized purse. Although I’m sure it’ll cost me a shoulder surgery in my later life, I consider it a must-have for anyone who leaves the house more than once a year. If your current bursa can’t fit a hand vac, a computer, and 3 days worth of rations, then you need a new purse. Anyway, having a large purse makes the previous list more doable, but keeping a small ‘bathroom kit’ in your car is a perfectly acceptable option too!
I can’t promise you won’t feel ridiculous bringing your own supplies, but you will feel a hell of a lot cleaner.