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How to Check for Bed Bugs when Traveling

Posted: February 1, 2023


Bed bugs can be a major nuisance infamously known for feasting on humans at night. Bed bug bites are itchy and uncomfortable, and in some cases can even cause allergic reactions. Bed bugs don’t discriminate and they will take up residence anywhere they can find a food source. While it may seem like bed bugs appear out of nowhere, the truth is, bed bugs are notorious for hitchhiking from one location to another including from hotels to homes. All it takes is one pregnant bed bug to start a full-blown infestation, but if you are diligent about checking for bed bugs when you travel, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of bringing bed bugs back as a souvenir.

Preventing Bed Bugs Starts As Soon As You Enter Your Room

Bed bugs usually travel by hitching rides in luggage. In order to avoid taking bed bugs home, you need to protect your belongings. While it’s natural to want to set your suitcase down as soon as you check in to your hotel room, this is a major mistake. The longer your belongings are in an infested environment, the higher your chances are of them sneaking inside for you to bring home. Before you let your luggage touch the ground, bed, or other furniture, you’ll want to check for bed bugs.

Where to Look for Bed Bugs in a Hotel Room

Bed bugs are roughly the size of an apple seed and are excellent at hiding, making them particularly challenging to identify. However, if you know what to look for and where bed bugs hide, you can reduce your risk of bringing bed bugs home. As you conduct your search, place your bag on a bellhop or the luggage carrier (these are typically available at the front desk or in your room.)

Bed Bug Hiding Places In most hotel rooms, bed bugs have a few favored hiding spots. Some of the most common places you’ll spot bed bugs or evidence of bed bugs include:

  • On or around the bed. Bed bugs can hide in even the smallest spots, so you’ll want to check the bed frame, headboard, linens, box springs, and mattress. In the case of severe infestations, bed bugs may take over night stands, too.

  • Room furnishings, especially upholstered furniture. If your room has a couch or sofa, you’ll want to look in between and underneath the cushions. In some cases, bed bugs may hide in night stands or dressers.

  • Other small, dark crevices. While bed bugs prefer to hide out close to where humans spend most of their time, they will find other places to live if needed. Bed bugs are known to hide in electrical outlets, behind loose wallpaper and picture frames, and on curtains.

What To Look For While the most obvious sign of bed bugs is seeing an actual bed bug, there are other things you can look for when inspecting your hotel room. Since bed bugs are nocturnal, these other signs are crucial to identify an infestation before you go to bed or unpack your luggage.

  • Check for bed bug fecal spots. Since linens are changed in between visitors, one of the more obvious signs of bed bugs may be their droppings. Bed bug feces can be found in mattress seams, behind the headboard, around the bed frame, and other areas near where the pests feed. Droppings usually present as small dark spots that can be easily missed, so make sure you check closely for this tell-tale sign.

  • Check for shed body parts. As bed bugs grow from egg to nymph to adult, they will molt their exoskeletons. These are usually spotted in the same locations as droppings.

  • Check for blood smears on bed sheets and other soft surfaces. Blood stains aren’t as common to find on initial entry, but if you wake up with itchy welts on your skin, you might want to check for signs that you were a bed bug’s dinner the night before. These blood smears are usually reddish-brown.

After you’ve checked your room and have deemed it free of bed bugs, you can start unpacking your bags. Throughout your stay, remain aware of the common signs of bed bugs listed above, and if you suspect an infestation, inform management immediately.

Once You’re Home

Even if you perform the most thorough checks when traveling, it’s still possible for bed bugs to hitch a ride back home. There are a couple steps you should always take following your trip to ensure your belongings are bed bug free.

  1. If possible, avoid bringing your bags inside for a day or two. Even if the bed bugs hatch, they will die if they do not have a host to feed on.

  2. Empty your bags and wash everything you can on a hot cycle. Doing your laundry will kill any live bed bugs that may be hiding in your clothes.

  3. If a bed bug laid eggs in your bag, you can make sure they don’t end up hatching in your home by vacuuming. Make sure you empty the vacuum bag or filter outside your home when you are done.

While these steps can’t always prevent a bed bug infestation, you can reduce your risk if you are cautious and follow this protocol when you travel. After your trip, keep a close eye out for the same signs of bed bugs you looked for when traveling.

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