Camping or hosteling during the pandemic? Here’s how to scout out your best bathroom options.

 But it doesn’t have to be this way, as I learned after spending two weeks car camping in some of New Hampshire and Maine’s most well-trod mountain and beach towns. Relieving oneself in relative comfort while traveling on a tight budget isn’t easy, but like most aspects of budget travel, it’s achievable with a little research and an intrepid mind-set. So before hitting the road, memorize these four steps for a tension-free trip to the toilet.

Consider your options

If you won’t have access to your own commode while traveling, then your shared-use venue will either be a solo bathroom or a multi-toilet bathroom that can accommodate several people at once. If you’re concerned about covid-19 transmission inside bathrooms, this could be the crucial factor to consider. Scientists have established that covid-19 spreads more effectively in indoor settings where people are congregated, especially if the room where they’re clustered has poor air ventilation. You might be able to keep six feet away from your fellow bathroom occupants, but what if they aren’t wearing masks?

Then there’s the toilet itself. We’ve seen those stomach-turning studies that show that flushing a toilet may blast aerosolized fecal particles upward, where they linger in the air for up to half an hour — and many shared or public bathrooms have flush toilets without lids. While it hasn’t been conclusively proved that inhaling fecal aerosols can result in a case of covid, this is another reason to wear  a mask, and to remember to wash your hands after touching or removing it.

“Wearing a mask is the best protection that people have from the aerosolization and transmission that can happen inside,” says Robbie Goldstein, an infectious-disease doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital. “You don’t know who was last in the bathroom, and our old understanding of how viruses were transmitted through the air seems to be wrong. We thought the droplets that people were breathing out hung in the air for seconds or minutes before dropping to the ground. But it turns those aerosolized droplets probably stick around for a lot longer and can travel farther.”

A solo-occupancy bathroom can offer some protection from people and aerosols, especially if the bathroom is an outdoor facility with a non-flush pit toilet like an outhouse or even a porta-potty. (“There’s no one else who may be in a stall next to you,” Goldstein notes.) It may be a grimier venue, but this was a problem before the coronavirus, and protocol remains the same. Plan to hover, or to wipe down the seat with some kind of disinfectant. When you’re done, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer, which should also take 20 seconds.

And if you can, try opening the door before your bathroom visit and consider keeping it partially open while you’re inside. “Letting air flow through the porta-potty is going to be the best ways to flush aerosols out,” Goldstein says.

Know before you go

Before booking any lodging, pick up

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Why Planet Fitness and Floor & Decor Holdings Jumped Double Digits in August, but Camping World Fell 20%

What happened

Shares of construction-oriented retailer Floor & Decor Holdings (NYSE: FND) rose 11% in August according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. Gym company Planet Fitness (NYSE: PLNT) had an even better showing, rising 16.5%. However, all retail names didn’t do nearly that well, with recreational vehicle and outdoor specialist Camping World Holdings (NYSE: CWH) off by roughly 20.5% in the month. 

August represents an interesting turn of events when you step back and look at the earnings of each of these three retail names. To help put that in perspective, however, it helps to examine the price performance of the stocks between January and August. Over that eight month span Camping World Holdings was up 97%, Floor & Decor was up 44%, and Planet Fitness was down nearly 19%. For reference, the S&P 500 index was up 8.5% over the same period. 

An arm pointing to graph on computer screen

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Planet Fitness is easily the biggest turnaround of the three when it comes to stock price. That makes complete sense given the impact of COVID-19 on its business. The company’s gyms were at the center of the pandemic storm, noting that the coronavirus is easily spread in group settings with a lot of heavy breathing going on. Not surprisingly, its gyms were shut down, cutting off revenue across its business. When it reported second-quarter earnings in early August the numbers were terrible, with revenue off by roughly 78% over the same quarter in 2019. Earnings fell to a loss of $0.36 per share compared to a profit of $0.41 per share in the previous year. Investors, however, had been expecting bad news. The focus, instead, was likely on the fact that the company had reopened 1,477 of its 2,059 gyms. Moreover, those numbers actually included 21 new gyms, as Planet Fitness is continuing to expand despite the current headwinds. Investors clearly think the future will be much brighter than the recent past, which is not at all an outlandish assumption given how bad things got during the shutdown.  

Floor & Decor reported earnings in late July and it, too, was hit by the impact of COVID-19. Sales were down by 11% in the quarter compared to 2019, with adjusted earnings off by nearly 62%. Like Planet Fitness, that bad news was largely expected. The news on the reopening front, meanwhile, was pretty good, as the company was able to reopen all of its locations in June. Furthermore, comparable-store sales growth was 7.7% in June, after a series of poor relative showings during the shutdown because shuttered stores don’t generate any sales. July’s strong number, however, showed that demand has picked up quickly as the retailer reopened its stores. Floor & Decor also announced it was increasing its new store opening plans for 2020 from 11 to 13 and reaffirmed its plans to expand its store base by roughly 20% in 2021. In other words, given the COVID-19 setback, Floor & Decor is still doing fairly well overall. One thing

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