Awesome, you are all packed and ready for the trip you’ve been planning for a long time. You have your boarding passes downloaded and printed, but suddenly, a cold chill cruises down your spine. What if the hotel you booked is crawling with bed bugs, you wonder?
And unfortunately, these thoughts are justified. With the recent increase in bed bug infestation in hotels in large cities and homes alike, the chances of bed bugs hitching a ride on your clothes and suitcase are high.
And while you might have read online reviews of the hotel you have booked, and all seems to be good, you can’t be too comfortable and sure about it. Why? Well, the thing about bed bug infestation is that it can change fast. But this does not mean you are doomed to a life of transporting bed bugs from one hotel to the next. No. And to help you out, we compiled a list of everything you should know about dealing with bed bugs when you are traveling.
What you should do
Now, whether you have seen a bed bug in the hotel or not, you should do the following things. The tips below will keep you on the safe side, regardless of the prevailing situation.
1. Locate bed bugs
The first thing you do when you check into a hotel room is to assume that there are bed bugs and start looking for them right away. This is especially important if you are not staying in a 5-star hotel or a hotel that looks well taken care of.
And since we’ve mentioned it, we should point out that bed bugs don’t discriminate between luxury and budget accommodations. It’s a myth that they like dirty places and stays away from clean hotels.
Once a bed bug is introduced into a room, all it needs is finding a dark, cool and secluded hiding place, a mate and the infestation starts to thrive (whether the room is clean or not).
However, an untidy hotel does help in sustaining the infestation given that it has a lot of places for bed bugs to hide.
Now, when you are inspecting the hotel, it’s important to know what you are looking for and where to check (common places bed bugs hide). First, bed bugs are tiny bloodsucking insects. They are small (about 5mm in length) and red-brown. They appear flat and have a large abdomen.
Because of their size, they are easy to miss. And depending on the size of the infestation, you might not come across an actual bed bug. However, below are some signs that point to a growing bed bug infestation in the hotel:
- Bloodstains – hotels are generally clean spaces. As such, you might not find bloodstains on the bedsheets. After all, the sheets are changed and cleaned daily. So instead of checking for stains on the sheets, inspect the mattress. The bloodstains are from bed bugs getting squashed while they were feeding on an unsuspecting guest.
- Shells – bedbugs lay eggs in the mattress seams. If there is an infestation, you will come across tiny eggshells or eggs, which measure about 1mm in length. Moreover, as the bed bugs go through their life cycle, they leave behind yellow molting.
- Bed bug feces – when feeding, bed bugs leave their droppings behind (to create more room for blood). These too can be found on the mattress.
If the infestation has progressed, you will come across bed bugs without trying too hard. During the inspection, concentrate on the spaces that are hidden and receive little to no traffic. These spaces include headboards, the side drawers, mattress lining, closet, bed joints and under lampstands.
As you will notice, it is difficult to inspect the tiny spaces with your hands. As such, you need some form of a tool to get into the crevices during the inspection. We recommend using a credit card since it won’t cost you a dime and you’ll have it every time you check into a hotel.
2. Protect your luggage
Before you start inspecting the room, you should protect your luggage. Almost every part of the room is a potential haven for the bed bugs, even at the center of the room. The best place to keep your luggage is in the bathroom. If there’s a bathtub, throw your luggage in there.
While bed bugs can be anywhere in the room, they are least likely to be in the bathroom for a couple of reasons. First, the bathroom is moist, and they prefer spaces that are dry and cool. Second, most bathrooms are designed with white tiles, which makes it easy to spot a bed bug even when it tries to make a run for it. And last but not least, bathrooms are by far the most vigorously cleaned spaces in every hotel room.
3. Inform the hotel management
In the unfortunate scenario that you come across a bed bug, or find the above-mentioned signs of a bed bug infestation, you should alert the hotel management ASAP. You cannot afford to take matters into your own hands. Informing the hotel management opens the door to cooperate and to come up with the best solution.
If one of the solutions involves switching rooms, accept the offer but do not take one that is directly adjacent to the previous room, or even below it. Bed bugs are sneaky and can easily hitch a ride on housekeeping carts, and luggage into neighboring rooms.
It’s important to note that every hotel has its own set of protocols regarding handling a bed bug infestation. Some might offer alternative accommodation, and some might even launder your laundry for free. But whatever the protocol, work with the team to ensure you have a cozy night sleep and most importantly, don’t leave the hotel with bed bugs clinging onto your belongings.
Packing and preparing for a bed bug-ridden hotel room
Before you leave home, there are some things you can do to ensure that you reduce your chances of giving bed bugs a ride back home. Though staying in a bedbug-infested hotel is terrible news, it’s even worse when the bed bugs are in your house because it means you can’t pack and leave for another home (not unless you have enough money that affords you that luxury). You’ll be forced to call in a professional to handle the situation.
4. Use bedbugregistry.com
When you are choosing a hotel, you need to ensure that it is bed bug-free. Luckily, there’s a website that has been created specifically for hotels that have been inspected and cleared of bed bugs – bedbugregistry.com.
The site is a great resource to find a hotel. However, if you come across several complaints from a hotel listed in their database, you should get another option.
5. Wrap luggage with plastic
If you’ll be flying, your luggage will have to go through the check-in process. Here, it will mix with other people’s luggage, and if any of them is infested, yours will be too.
We recommend wrapping your luggage in plastic. In this case, even if other bags are infested, your bag will be protected. When sealing your bag, make sure you use plastic that meets airport security regulations.
6. Buy hard-sided suitcases
When choosing the suitcase, go for the kind that has hard sides as opposed to those that have soft sides. Bed bugs can easily get into small places, and the soft suitcase fabric provides lots of hiding places. But if you are hell-bent on getting a soft fabric suitcase, then you can choose one with a light color. This way, you’ll have an easier time spotting bed bugs hitching a ride.
7. Pack clothing that is resilient to high temperatures
You know that bed bugs thrive in changing temperatures and loathe extreme temperatures. It’s because of this that professional bed bug exterminators choose to use heat treatment or freezing treatments to kill bed bugs.
In light of this, you should pack clothing that you can wash at high temperatures and throw in your dryer. Any clothing that should be washed in room temperature or hand washed should be avoided. Unfortunately, this means that it’s not a good idea to carry your precious merino wool garments.
8. Pack your clothes and shoes in Ziploc bags
If lining your suitcase is too much (as it can attract attention from people), then you should consider packing your items in Ziploc bags.
When using these bags, make sure that they are airtight. If it’s not airtight, then your belongings are not protected from bed bugs.
You can also buy travel space bags.
9. Wash your clothes before leaving for home
Once your vacation is over, and you are preparing to go back home, ensure that you clean your clothes.
Use hot water to clean your clothes (this is the reason you packed clothing resilient to high temperatures). And once they are clean, throw them into the dryer.
If the hotel doesn’t have laundry services, you should pack the clothes carefully in the Ziploc bags and ensure it is airtight. When you get home, the first stop should be your bathroom. Unpack your clothes and throw them into the washing machine immediately. You don’t want to allow the bugs to infest your home.
10. Carry bed bug spray
As you pack for the vacation, don’t forget to pack a bed bug spray. You might not use it, but it’s better to have it in your bag and not encounter bed bugs, than not to have it and suffer in the hands of those tiny bloodsuckers. There are a lot of variations and brands to choose from. Pick one with the best reviews.
We should point out that a bed bug spray is not designed to fight a bed bug infestation. Instead, it is created to kill a handful of bed bugs that choose to cling to your luggage.
When choosing the best bed bug spray for your travel, select one that is small enough to fit in your bag and that is not toxic to you. Remember that this means that you’ll have to throw away your suitcase and your clothes after spraying.
11. Pack an LED Flashlight
Bed bugs don’t bask in open areas even when the room is dark; they hide in tiny crevices in a room, usually the bed and furniture. And since they are tiny, they can be difficult to see. So, to help you find them or even notice their molting, blood stains and eggs, you need to flood light into these spaces.
The best way to illuminate these spaces when you are in a hotel is by using an LED flashlight. LED flashlights are tiny and give a bright, white light that’s enough to help you point out eggs, bed bugs, and their feces. Nothing will be hidden from your sight with this flashlight.
12. Pack long-sleeved clothing and long pants
Bed bug bites look similar to mosquito bites. However, there are slight differences. Mosquito bites are only on spots that are exposed, and they are often random. This is because mosquitoes can fly. However, bed bug bites are linear or clustered. Additionally, they tend to bite spots that are exposed. But also, they can crawl under loose clothing and bite your back.
Because of this, we recommend packing long pants and sleeved clothing. This way, your hands, and legs are going to be protected. And though they might try to crawl under your clothing, they will not get too far before they get squashed.
13. Teach your kids the protocol of checking into a hotel
It is important to teach your kids the process of inspecting a hotel room and explain to them why it is important. When you are going on vacation, you are excited and can’t wait to check into the hotel. The feeling of excitement is almost overwhelming, and you’ve probably been on vacation many times. So you can only imagine how your kids are feeling.
You need to help them contain their joy the moment they walk through the door at least until you’ve given an all-clear. Most parents teach kids about mosquitoes, bees, and other insects. The same should be done for bed bugs.
As you teach them about bed bugs and what they should be on the lookout for, bear in mind that insecticides can be harmful to their health. If the hotel room has recently been sprayed (even with a mild insecticide), ask to be relocated to another room or even switch hotels. On the same note, watch out for powder signs as it could be a pesticide used to handle a previous infestation.
14. Inquire from the management how they handle bed bug infestations
Before you check into the hotel room, we advise that you ask about the hotel’s process and practices for bed bug control treatment and prevention. You’ll be shocked to learn that most hotels spend a lot of money to protect their staff and guests. They usually have proactive inspections and partner up with pest control companies to help solve the infestations fast.
Though making this inquiry will help to put your mind at ease, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t inspect the hotel room for bed bugs. Always do your due diligence to be on the safe side.
15. Pitch a tent
One of the best ways of ensuring that bed bugs aren’t eating you in your bed is avoiding sleeping in beds altogether. There’s always the option of pitching a tent in the woods. Bed bugs are rarely found in the woods. They prefer indoors and spaces that are close to their hosts.
However, you shouldn’t let the fear of bed bugs keep you out of hotel rooms forever. Provided you are extra cautious, you’ll survive the holiday without coming close to a bed bug infestation.
What not to do
16. Freak out
Bed bugs are indeed a pain. No one wants little vampires disturbing their sleep and putting itchy bumps on their skin. But while they are disgusting and annoying, they are far from life-threatening.
Believe it or not, there are no studies or reports that record a patient ever dying from a bed bug bite. And in case you are wondering, the amount of blood they suck isn’t enough to kill you. Also, bed bugs don’t spread diseases, mainly because viruses and bacteria can’t survive in their bodies.
But on the flip side, once you are bitten and have an allergic reaction (meaning red and itchy bumps appear on your skin), you should be careful to treat them with care. You also need to clean them regularly to keep them from getting infected and getting worse.
Lastly, though the bumps are itchy, you should fight the urge of scratching with every bit of your being. Scratching will only make things worse and help spread the infection.
With all that said, there’s no need to freak out. Calm down and handle the situation rationally.
17. Take it out on the hotel management
As mentioned above, bed bugs are clingy travelers. As such, it’s not entirely the management’s fault that they have a bed bug problem. In all honesty, it’s difficult to run a hotel and keep it free from bed bugs. After all, they accept people from all over the world. They often do their best to handle a bed bug infestation and even prevent it in the first place.
As they try and find a solution for you, it helps if you are calm and not lashing out at them. If you feel you have to speak your mind, a follow-up email, an honest review or a complaint is most effective.
18. Throw everything away
When you follow the above tips and spot bed bugs or signs of an infestation early, you’ll not need to do anything special other than move to another room or another hotel altogether. This is because you’ll have reduced the chances of the bed bugs clinging onto your clothes close to zero.
But even if you feel the bed bugs might have clung to your belongings, there’s no need to throw away any of your belongings. You can simply treat them with a bed bug spray and be on your merry way.
19. Stay put
This is the worst decision you can make. When in any hotel room, you should leave the moment you learn it’s infested. The longer you stay in the room, the higher your chances of transferring the bed bugs to another room.
Even if the hotel doesn’t offer to move you to another room, you are better off counting your losses and finding another hotel altogether. It’s cheaper to pay for another room that paying a professional bed bug exterminator to rid your house of a bed bug infestation. Plus, it will save you a lot of discomforts.
Flying bed bug-free
Sorry to burst your bubble, but hotels are not the only place you can get bed bugs – planes are unfortunately their haven as well. There have been reports of bed bugs being found on airplanes and shocking, in the Business Class Section. This is sad, especially when you remember that the individuals have paid a lot of money for comfort. Because of this, it’s important to know how to protect yourself while on planes as well.
20. Pack light
To avoid getting bed bugs back home, you must pack light. Only carry essentials for the trip. This means you’ll have fewer items to inspect when you get home. And in the event they are infested, you’ll have fewer items to treat or to dispose of.
As stressed in a previous section, carry items that can withstand high heat.
21. Check-in most of your items
When flying, try to check in most, if not all, your luggage. This is because bed bugs found on planes are usually hiding between seats and in spaces that are close to the hosts. Checking in most of your luggage will help you save money on bed bug control later on.
Bed bugs don’t hide in the cargo area. But even then, we don’t dispute the fact that other luggage would be bed bug-infested. So because of this, remember to pack clothing in Ziploc bags or wrap your suitcase with appropriate plastic. And once you arrive, perform a thorough inspection of your bag.
22. Use insecticide on your luggage
Spray your bags and suitcases with DEET spray. This will prevent bed bugs and other insects from clinging onto your luggage. But before you do this, ensure your clothing is protected in plastic or airtight bags. You don’t want your clothes reeking of insecticide once you land.
23. Use essential oils
If you don’t like DEET, you can make use of essential oil and sprays instead. The best essential oils for bed bugs include Eucalyptus, Citronella, Lavender, Peppermint, and Lemongrass.
To use essential oil, soak some cotton balls in it and put them in your bag before you pack. The strong scent from the oils will work to repel all bed bugs, fleas, ticks, ants, flies, and roaches.
The upside of using essential oils is that your clothes will smell clean and fresh.
24. Cover your seats
Yes, there are plastic covers designed for airplane and movie theatre seats. This might feel like you are stretching things too far, but hey, better safe than sorry. And since bed bugs hide in the seats, these seat covers are a perfect solution.
The covers are light and bug proof, and even better, the fabric used is comfortable and doesn’t rip even when you are on long flights.
25. Carry your pillow and blanket
Some airlines give their clients blankets and pillows for warmth and comfort. However, there are times that these have been infested. To avoid being a bed bug meal, we recommend carrying your blanket and pillow as you fly. It might be a little inconveniencing for you, but not as much as bed bug bites are.
26. What you should do when you see bed bugs
- If you have your camera on you, take a photo of the bed bugs. This is important as you will need proof to file your complaint.
- Call for the flight attendant and inform them of what you’ve just seen
- Request to be moved to another available seat
- Once you’ve disembarked, tell the authorities of what you’ve experienced. There’s also the option of calling them from your hotel. Be sure to follow up on the issue. You might be given a refund, but at least they’ll look into it, and other passengers won’t have a similar experience.
To ensure you are heard, have other affected passengers give their honest reviews as well. Remember, there’s strength in masses.
Travelling is meant to be fun and relaxing. But this can be ruined by a single bed bug bite. So before you let loose, perform an inspection and follow the above tips for protection against bed bug infestations.