How to find a public bathroom when you are traveling or just away from home

Where is the closest bathroom? Is it only available for customers? How nice is it? Is there a baby changing table? Do they charge for access?

This is the kind of information we can all use. You might know of a few public bathrooms near home. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a central place for you to enter the info you know, and others could do the same near them? If everyone participated, quite a comprehensive list could be created. Traveling might be a little easier.

Well the system already exists. In fact, I know of five of them. All that is needed, is more participation. If you are out and about, you will need Internet access at least on your phone. SMS works too for just two of these.

  1. On my iPhone, I have installed a free app called Have2P. It reports what venues are near your current location, and details about hours, do you have to be a customer, and cleanliness ratings. In my area there were locations listed, but very few confirmed by other users. Their website advertises the app, but doesn’t have any data for browsing. I tried searching internationally, but was provided a list of bathrooms in Missouri instead. Is there an Amsterdam in Missouri?
  2. Another free iPhone app is called SitOrSquat. I have not yet tried this one. The itunes reviews are mixed. It looks like the latest revision crashes a lot. But when it works, people like it. SitOrSquat however also has a blackberry app. And for all other phones, if you have SMS text messaging, you can still get results. Send a text of “sitorsquat” to DOTCOM (368266) and follow the instructions to find the closest bathroom to you. This will take 3 texts, and you will get 3 replies, while you narrow down to a location near you. Finally, with Internet access, the SitOrSquat website will let you browse a google map and get access to the locations. No apps needed. There were quite a few locations listed when I spot checked Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The locations may be from some external database. I didn’t see any bathrooms in the Netherlands that were rated.
  3. This solution is a web only site. The Bathroom Diaries is google map based. The locations provided were different than what I saw in SitOrSquat for near my home. So knowing about all three services may come in handy. The Bathroom Diaries is worth a visit just for the travel log of bathroom horror stories around the world. The site may also be more comprehensive than the others for international locations that have had reviews. However my search of Amsterdam showed only three locations. One of them implied that any police station has a public bathroom. So if you can figure out where they are, more locations may have bathrooms.
  4. Whizzer is a 99 cent app for the iPhone. I have not tried it. For the current revision, I saw only two reviews. One loved it, saying it was particularly good in Europe. The other review said the app didn’t work.
  5. MizPee is web access and SMS only. Web access is theoretical. I could get to the website from my desktop, but there were no maps or data that I could find. The site showed how the site might look on a mobile browser. However, my iPhone was never able to reach the website. The news updates seem to have stopped in 2007. For SMS you need to send a text message containing your city, and state to 415-350-2290. If this works for you, please let us know.

State Laws Mandate Restroom Access: After a store manager denied her access to the shop’s bathroom, Ally Bain, a Chicago teenager with Crohn’s disease, championed the Illinois Restroom Access Act. Also known as Ally’s Law, this Act requires businesses to allow people with medical emergencies access to private restrooms if there are three or more employees at the business. The law fines stores $100 if they do not cooperate.

In addition to Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington require businesses to provide restroom access to those with chronic conditions like IC. Most laws direct you to present a letter from your physician when asking to use a restroom. Similar legislation is pending in other states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

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