Traveling on long road-trips can be an adventure. So can finding clean and fully equipped restrooms! No one wants to deal with stalls with no toilet paper, broken toilets, or dim lighting. You don’t need an itinerary of bathroom stops (I think there’s an app for that) but there are some important things to look for. Here are five tips to help you when you are on the road and have to go.
- Big chain travel centers are the best bet. Travel centers, or travel stops, often have the cleanest restrooms. Ironically, the more crowded the travel center is, the more likely their restrooms are cleaned on a regular basis. These national, or regional, chains often have a rigid schedule for cleaning their bathrooms. They are also great for getting some more gas and some food. Single-purpose gas stations are usually more focused on gas purchases. Their bathrooms can sometimes be questionable.
Here are some of the best travel centers to look for nationwide.
- TA or TA Petro
- Love’s Truck Stops
- Pilot Travel Center
- Anything with Travel Center or Travel Plaza in the title
- State-sponsored gas/food/travel stops (aka travel plazas) are usually well kept; so are national/state park visitor centers. Travel plazas that are on state turnpikes or toll roads are often very well kept. These stops have gas, food, and restroom facilities. I am not talking about rest stops, that can be hit or miss, but the larger facilities. For example, there is a great one on the Turnpike outside of Buffalo and the ones in Kansas going up I-35 are good as well.
- McDonald’s, Starbucks, and other chains are generally a safe bet. The chain restaurants also have rigid guidelines for restroom cleanliness. It can be hit or miss but running into a McDonalds or Starbucks is usually good. I do normally order something small, just to return the favor for using their facilities.
- If the restroom is on the side of the building and faces the outside, keep driving. These restrooms were standard thirty years ago and are still found in older gas stations. The restroom, located on the outside of the building, is only accessible with a key. I’ve found that these restrooms are generally not cleaned as often as the ones located on the inside of a station. In addition, this can be a safety hazard, especially for females traveling on their own. Remember, it sounds strange but lots of visitor traffic is good!
- Follow your instincts. You never know when a gas station or travel stop is just having a bad day, so I am not going to name names. In general, I often go by the internal appearance of the shop itself. If you go in and find that the inside looks untidy, unorganized, and has seen better days, their bathroom most likely will follow suit. This isn’t always the case, but it is sometimes indicative of how much money they can spend on maintenance. Sometimes, it may only mean that their maintenance person was out sick. Just follow your gut (so to speak).
Especially in some parts of the West, you might find yourself traveling in areas where the next restroom is 152 miles away. The lead-in photo is in a stretch of Wyoming; luckily, it’s near a roadside travel stop (that also has a museum).
It’s important to plan your road trip accordingly. Before you head out, have an idea of where you all can go. Don’t just rely on your GPS or smartphone, as you may lose your signal and have to find a tree.
Most of all, avoid coffee and green tea during these stretches. If you need to wake up, get out, walk around, and just appreciate the open road!