As George Costanza can attest, one of the keys to urban survival is knowing where to go for the most magnificent facilities.
Bathrooms, that is.
Like George, many of us have spent years memorizing the locations of stores and coffee shops with public restrooms. But for the unlucky tourist who doesn't already know the Starbucks on 42nd and 6th has no bathroom, there’s good news. It seems we are in the midst of a restroom revolution, with handy apps that help you find the nearest place when the situation is dire, and the latest entry in the peer-to-peer economy: toilet sharing.
For a curated experience, download the Flushd app. It not only quickly locates the nearest public facilities in emergency situations, but also helps you discover restrooms that accommodate specific needs (changing tables, attendants, complimentary matchbooks). Additional features allow users to track their bathroom habits, stream social media feeds and reading materials, and—for those who really crave commendation—receive badges for active use.
If you’re traveling out of public-bathroom range and in desperate straits, you can now try Airpnp. Inspired by the popular peer-to-peer vacation rental service, Airbnb, the site (and new app) lets people charge strangers to use their facilities. In Brooklyn, for example, a $5 fee will get you access to a "large commode" equipped with 2-ply toilet paper and paper towels. Another Brooklynite offers her apartmen bathroom for a cool $2.50. Bonus amenities include baby wipes and tampons. Just try to be a good house guest and clean up after yourself. Airpnp users also post public bathroom listings for bargain bathroom hunters.
Where once the mere thought of public bathrooms left us feeling squeamish, we may very well find ourselves flocking together in a shared commitment to cleanliness and camaraderie, not unlike the ancient Romans in their sweeping Baths of Diocletian.
Or, at the very least, rejoicing at a sanitary seat. As one Airpnp wrote after her experience in an office restroom in Siena, Italy: “Grandissimi!”
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.