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The Travelers Guide to Bed Bugs

Traveling can be a fun and enriching experience for you and your family. Seeing new places and experiencing new things – or even revisiting old favorites can be exciting. However, with the recent resurgence of bed bugs, you and your family may not be traveling alone. Bed bug infestations are cropping up in cities and towns all across America like never before and travelers among the most likely people to come in contact with them. But you don’t have to cancel your vacation plans just yet. By following a few simple guidelines when traveling, you can still enjoy your trip while fending off the bed bugs at the same time.

Before you go:

Before embarking on your journey, there are some preventive measures you should take to guard your home from an infestation of bed bugs.

  • Read reviews on prospective hotels before you book your room. Keep in mind that the hotels may have rectified the situation since the review was written, but still remain cautious.
  • Ask the hotel manager questions regarding bed bugs when you book your room. If they do not give you clear answers or avoid answering, that’s a dangerous sign and you should consider going elsewhere.
  • It won’t hurt to do a little research about your destination regarding bed bugs in the media. Perform a simple Internet search for the name of your destination city followed by bed bugs. New York, for example, has been inundated with bed bug infestations recently, that has caused quite a stir in the media outlets.

What to pack:

Aside from your normal vacation gear like clothes and toiletries, pack these additional items so you’ll be prepared to ward off any bed bugs you may find during your trip.

  • Several large zip-lock bags – use these to store clothing and linens in so that bed bugs cannot take up residence within them while you travel.
  • Large, disposable bags that your luggage will fit in – use these to put your luggage in when you arrive at your hotel room so that bed bugs cannot crawl inside them and hide.
  • A flashlight with a strong beam, preferably an LED flashlight – use this to inspect your room, bedding, furniture and belongings for bed bugs once you arrive at your destination.

Upon Arrival:

Examining your hotel room before you bring your belongings in is key.Leave your luggage outside the door or in your car until you have thoroughly inspected your room following the procedure outlined below:

  • Use your flashlight to look for brownish black specks that could be bed bug feces, bed bug shells that have been shed and live bed bugs. Start at the headboard of the bed. In a hotel room the headboard is the only item that is not disturbed during daily housekeeping and it is great hiding place for bed bugs. If possible remove the headboard from the wall to get a better look behind.
  • Take the bed sheets off the mattress and examine it carefully. Inspect the seams and the tag, as bed bugs often shield themselves in that area.
  • Open all the drawers in the room and look carefully inside. If you notice powder in the drawers, there is a good chance the room has already been exterminated.
  • If you notice any of the signs listed above exit the room immediately, report the problem and request a room in a separate part of the hotel. If you get another room, be sure to repeat the inspection as moving to a new room doesn’t always fix the problem.
  • Once you’ve finished the inspection and the room appears to be in the clear, bring your luggage in, but keep all your bags elevated off the ground. Do not put any of your things on the bed or on the floor.
  • Encase the luggage in the large bags you brought, only taking out things you are going to be using.
  • Use the large zip lock bags for all the belongings you will be keeping out of your luggage.

Before heading home:

  • Inspect all of your items that were stored outside of the encased luggage. After you have determined the items are okay, immediately place them in a separate bag in your luggage.
  • Scan through your sheets with a flashlight before you leave and check yourself and family members for bites, welts or red patches on your skin. If you notice any of these marks or blood splotches on the sheets, there is a good chance you have been bitten by bed bugs.
  • Take the luggage out of the encasement and dispose of it as you exit the room.

Arriving at Home:

Even the best laid out plans can fail so even though you followed all of these precautionary measures, bed bugs could have still hitched a ride home with you or on you. It’s better to be safe than sorry so follow these next steps to be extra-cautious before going inside your home.

  • Do not bring your luggage contents into your home right away; leave it in the garage or in the car until you are ready to unpack.
  • When you are ready to launder your clothing, put it in another bag to carry it to your laundry facilities. Wash your clothes in the hottest water possible. Run your dryer on its hottest setting and set it for 20 minutes past its normal cycle to get the desired temperature.
  • Other items that cannot be put in the dryer should be wiped down with 90% isopropyl alcohol before bringing them into your home.
  • Your empty luggage should be vacuumed and inspected carefully, before bringing it in your home. If weather permits, place empty luggage in large bags and leave them in the garage or outside for a couple of weeks. If the temperature inside the bags reaches 112 degrees or if it goes below freezing, it will kill any bed bugs that are present.
  • Make sure you dispose of all the bags that were used and then dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag after vacuuming your luggage.


Bed bugs are an unfortunate reality that we all may have to share the same personal space with at some point. Whether you’re going on a family vacation or on a business trip, remain vigilant for any signs to safeguard you and your family against these parasites. If you’re unable to do everything suggested in the above information, at least bring a flashlight with you and inspect the hotel bed and headboard for any signs of bed bugs. Also, remember not to unpack your bags inside your house once you arrive home and wash all of your clothing that you took on the trip. As labor-intensive as it sounds, preventing a bed bug infestation is far easier than getting rid of one.

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