Holiday travel can come with fond memories, tons of photos and, if you’re unlucky, a slew of unwanted traveling guests that follow you home. Those traveling guests are bed bugs, which are about the size and shape of an apple seed and leave you with itchy, welt-like bites that often show up in lines of three.
While bed bugs don’t travel directly on your skin like fleas or lice, they can hitch a ride on your clothing or in your luggage. Ensuring you avoid them during travel actually has more to do with vigilance than luck, and these tips can help.
Prepping for Your Trip
Choosing Your Hotel
Choosing your lodgings carefully is a must, although you may not know of any bed bug issues until you arrive. While you may feel better booking lodgings at higher-end hotels, bed bugs are equal-opportunity pests. Infestations can hit five-star resorts as easily as one-star budget motels.
Reading online reviews of hotels at sites like Yelp and the Bed Bug Registry may be helpful, although not always up-to-date. They may also be by disgruntled guests or employees and may not be 100-percent accurate.
Even if hotels have had infestations in the past, bed bug extermination plans may have eradicated the problem. Feel free to ask the hotel about any past bed bug extermination and current bed bug prevention plans.
Packing Your Luggage
Hard-case suitcases are less prone to carrying bed bugs than canvas or fabric bags, which can pick up bed bugs even airplane cargo areas. You can add an extra layer of protection by packing all your suitcase items inside sealed plastic bags or using a plastic luggage liner.
Traveling to Your Hotel
Keep an eye on seating areas at the airport, rental car or bus terminals, as well as inside the vehicles once you board. Skip the complimentary travel pillows. Inspect your luggage when retrieving it from the carousal, looking for damage as well as evidence of bed bugs.
Arriving at Your Hotel
Once you enter your hotel room, place your luggage and other belongings on a tiled surface, such as the bathroom floor, until you inspect the room. Bed bugs like to hide in crevices and cracks, so closely examine the mattress folds, headboards, carpeting, bedding, and all other upholstered items. Use a flashlight for best visibility.
While bed bugs are most often found within 15 feet of beds, extend your inspection to all areas of the room. Drapery, soft chairs and other furniture are fair game, but so are hiding places around pictures, alarm clocks and telephones and in drawers and closets.
In addition to the bed bugs themselves, signs of infestation can include:
- Little reddish or brown spots in the mattress folds
- Black dots that look like ground pepper or mold
- Shed bed bug skins
To stay on the safe side throughout your trip, place your suitcases on luggage racks instead of the floor. You can also keep your entire suitcase in sealed plastic bags, either large garbage bags or zippered bags available for suitcase protection during travel. Dirty clothes can have their own sealed plastic laundry bags.
If you do find bed bugs or evidence of infestation in your room, don’t be afraid to speak up and request a different room. Since bed bugs can spread through electrical sockets and wallboards, ask for a new room that’s at least two floors away from the questionable one.
Even if you’re not sure if bed bugs hitched a ride, you can follow a number of precautions that eliminate any that have. Bed bugs can’t survive extreme heat or cold, with research showing they can be killed off with:
- At least two hours of exposure to temperatures at or above 120 degrees Fahrenheit
- At least five days of exposure to temperatures at or below 23 degrees Fahrenheit
Leaving your suitcase in a hot trunk for several hours may take care of bed bugs if the car interior gets hot enough. You can also place sealed bags of clothing or your entire suitcase in the freezer if you happen to have a large freezer and enough room. Home freezer temperatures typically range between 20 and 30 degrees, and a two-week freezing time in at-home freezers is recommended.
- Unpacking your suitcase outside
- Immediately washing and drying all clothing on the hottest settings
- Vacuuming and/or hand-washing the interior and exterior of your luggage, using a scrub brush to get into the folds and crevices
- Dry cleaning items that can’t withstand machine-washing and drying on high temperatures
If you’re not sure you’ve eliminated the bed bugs, or need to rid your home of any unwanted new guests, our professional bed bug exterminators can get rid of bed bugs with a specialized, two-part process. Bed bug extermination services can be just the thing you need to ensure happy holiday vacation memories along with a good night’s – and bite-free – sleep.