How To Avoid Spreading Bed Bugs When You Travel

How To Avoid Bed Bugs During Travel

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What to do to prevent bedbugs while traveling

Bedbugs have experienced a population explosion in the recent years but theyare not the type of souvenir travelers would like to bring home from vacation.

These non-flying insects live incracks and crevicesand especially love mattresses and bedding. They feed on human or animal blood and can spread by carried on in luggage, clothing, purses, and anything that has a small dark crevice for them to hide.

Preventing having any contact with them is not only good for avoiding unpleasant bedbug bites during your trip but also to avoid you bringing them home unintentionally from a vacation.

Fortunately, there are preventative measures that travelers can take to minimize the chances of bringing home these unwelcome pests.

Check out these simple steps to learnhow to travel bed bug free.

How to prevent bed bugs from spreading during vacation

1. Check the Bedbug Registry

This is a preventive measure that can save you hassle and money. I didn’t know how to check for bed bugs when traveling but having found this website was a time saver!

Before going on a trip you can check the Bedbug registry site to view in which hotels bedbugs have been spotted across the country.

This is an extremely valuable tool because you can chose the hotels that are safe or, in case you have booked the place already, can takepreventative measures before arriving.

If the destined hotel happens to be listed, call and see what measures the hotel is taking to combat and prevent bed bugs.

2. Use bed bugs suitcase plastic bags

When packing for a vacation to an area that has had problematic bed bug infestations, Ziploc bags are a traveler’s best friend.

Here the rule is simple; everything should be packed into Ziploc bags and kept sealed tightly in the bags for the whole vacation! Maybe you have those huge vacuum Ziploc bags at home, then you can use it as abed bug proof luggage covertoo.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make that will leave you vulnerable for bedbugs is to unpack your belongings and stow them away in the dresser drawers of the hotel without first being protected by tightly sealed bags.

You can get these extra large bags that will accommodate clothing on Amazon. And here are the bedbug-proof luggage liners that you can use for prevention too.

3. Choose the right luggage

Hard-sided luggage with latches versus zippers is the recommended style of luggage to use to help preventing you from transporting bed bugs.

Can bed bugs get into hard shell luggage?Yes, specially if you leave them lying anywhere open.

But soft-sided luggage is much easier for bed bugs to access. It is not advised to use them if you are traveling to an infested area.

Light colored luggageis better then dark colored luggage because it makes it easier to spot a bed bug if one happens to attempt to crawl in.

4. Check for bed bugs

The first thing you should do upon arriving at the hotel is to check for bedbugs.

Leave all luggage outside of the room, preferably in the car, untilyou have conducted a check.

Checking the bedding when arriving at a hotel may or may not reveal evidence of a bed bug infestation. These bugs are very good at secreting themselves away from searching eyes in minuscule cracks and crevices and do their activities at night.

it is very helpful though to have a LED flashlight to check for them. Pay attention in particular to the seams along the edges of the mattresses and the box springs, and check for tell-tale signs of bug casings and dried blood specks.

Here is a quick video on how to check for for bedbugs:

5. Hack to prevent bedbugs

This is a simple hack to prevent bed bugs from crawling into your bed in the middle of the night.

Bring a roll of light colored tape when traveling and tape the legs of the bed with the sticky side of the tape facing out.

Keep all bedding and blankets off the floor to prevent bed bugs crawling up the linens.

The tape doesn’t only prevent them fromcrawling up the bedbut it also traps the bed bugs on the sticky side, so there will be definitive evidence of an infestation in the room, and can be shown to management.

You may beeligible for a hotel bed bugs compensation.

6. Use Bed Bug Spray

Another preventive measure is to spray your luggage before you travel and then your mattress in the destination.

You can then truly avoid transferring them by spraying the suitcase inside and out with strong bed bug killer spray. Using a spray is brilliant because it will cover the small places that bedbugs like to hide in.

How to protect your luggage from bed bugs

You should keep your luggage away from the floor, sleeping areas and sofas or chairs.

The best place to stow your suitcases is on aluggage rack, taking care to wrap the legs of the luggage rack in tape, sticky side out like I explained above.

High heat or intense cooling will kill bed bugs, so you canrent a steamerand clean your bag, but it is way easier to keep bed bugs out of your stuff than it is to get them out of your luggage later.

Another useful way to prevent bringing bed bugs home from vacation is tolaunder the clothes used on vacation in hot water and dry on high heatbefore repacking immediately into the tightly sealed Ziploc bags.

There is not need to get anxious about bed bugs before going on a vacation. Most good hotels regularly conduct bug checks in their rooms and utilizelocal pest control serviceswhen needed.

However, bed bugs control is not such an easy task in a hotel situation because of theconstant flow of guestsfrom all over place (who may unknowingly re-infest a location).

Therefore you should be taking these preventative measures every time you go away on vacation. They will help reduce the risk of bringing bed bugs home from vacation.

Bed Bug Prevention When Traveling

If you stay in a hotel or motel, keep these bed bug travel tips in mind. It is important that you take some precautions to ensure that your room is bed-bug free before you settle in. In a recent survey by NPMA, 75% of pest control professionals indicated that they have encountered infestations of bed bugs in hotels and motels. The NPMA recommends the following tips for bed bug prevention when traveling:

  • At hotels, pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. If you see anything suspect, notify management and change rooms/establishments immediately.
  • Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If any pests are spotted, change rooms/establishments immediately.
  • If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation. Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.
  • Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of your trip to ensure that bed bugs cannot take up residence there prior to departure.
  • Remember: bed bugs travel by hitching rides. After your trip, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing away. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which will kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home.
  • Wash all of your clothes – even those that have not been worn – in hot water to ensure that any bed bugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers/closet.

Check out our other tips for preventing bed bugs in different settings:

History of Bed Bugs

Learn about the history of bed bugs and the factors that lead to their resurgence.

Bed Bug Biology

Learn about the biology of bed bugs – from their shape and size to their life cycle and feeding habits.

Location of Bed Bugs

Wondering where bed bugs are found? Discover common bed bug habitats and infestation regions.

Signs of Bed Bugs

Learn about the common signs of bed bugs – from bites on the skin to spots on the mattress to sticky eggs.

Bed Bug Facts and Stats

Read bed bug facts and statistics compiled by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

Bed bugs

Quick facts

You may not realize that you have been bitten. Bite reactions vary from no reaction to mild red spots to severe rash or hives.

The return of the bed bug

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) were almost completely removed from North America due to mass treatments with highly toxic insecticides that are no longer in use.

Frequent travel, improved treatment methods that target other insects without affecting bed bugs, and a lack of public awareness has led to a rise in the spread of bed bugs.

Identifying bed bugs

Contact an expert to help identify any suspected bed bug specimens.

The "Let’s Beat the Bed Bug" campaign at the University of Minnesota found that 76 percent of samples submitted for identification are not bed bugs.

  • Adult bed bugs are oval, flattened, brown and wingless insects approximately 1/4" to 3/8" long (5-9 mm). They are similar in appearance to a wood tick.
  • After the bug has taken a blood meal its color changes from brown to purplish-red and it becomes larger and more cigar-shaped.
  • Young bed bugs resemble the adult in shape but are much smaller, 1/16" (1.6 mm), when they first hatch. They are nearly colorless except after feeding.

Life cycle

After mating, females lay white, oval eggs (1/16" long) into cracks and crevices.

  • An individual bed bug can lay 200 to 250 eggs in her lifetime.
  • The eggs hatch in 6 to 10 days and the newly emerged nymphs seek a blood meal.
  • Immature nymphs molt five times (they shed their outer exoskeleton) before reaching adulthood.
  • There may be three or more generations per year. All ages are found in a reproducing population.
  • Under normal circumstances adult bed bugs will live for about 2 to 4 months.
  • Bed bugs need to feed at least once before each molt, although they could feed as often as once a day.

    Young nymphs can survive without a blood meal for days up to several months. Older nymphs and adults can survive longer without a blood meal up to a year under favorable conditions.

    Bed bugs are also found in schools, retail facilities, office buildings, libraries and other public areas.

    Signs that you have bed bugs

    Look where you sleep

    Bed bugs typically group together in out-of-the-way areas. But some bed bugs will live by themselves, away from the rest of an infestation. The best way to check for an infestation is to look for bed bugs where you sleep or rest.

    In bedrooms, look particularly on and around:

    • boxsprings, mattresses, bed frames, tufts, folds and buttons on mattresses
    • furniture such as desks and chairs
    • behind wallpaper, clocks and pictures
    • cracks in wood floors and under the edge of carpet

    Be careful when you travel

    The greatest chance of finding bed bugs is while you are traveling. It is a good habit to check your room whenever on vacation.

    Check your luggage where you typically set it down when you enter your home and where you store it after travelling.

    While bed bugs are most commonly found in bedrooms, infestations can occur in other rooms including bathrooms, living rooms and laundry rooms.

    Look for spots or smears

    Bed bugs will sometimes deposit fecal spots (digested blood) while they are feeding. These are seen as dark (dark reddish or brownish) spots or smears found on bed sheets, pillowcases and mattresses, or in nearby areas.

    • Dark blood spots on sheets and bedding may indicate bed bug feeding.
    • In severe infestations, bed bugs may be more noticeable.
    • A combination of bugs, cast skins (empty shells of bugs as they grow from one stage to the next) and fecal spots will be very obvious when closely seen.

    Inspect carefully

    These insects are small (1/16" to 1/4") and very flat, so they can move into very tight corners and cracks. They have been found under picture frames between the glass and the frame.

    Bed bugs can be found behind electrical outlets and other wall plates.

    • Inspect all areas closely and, if in doubt, contact a pest control service.
    • If you find a bed bug stop inspection and begin control activity.
    • Bed bugs will move from their hiding places once disturbed. All further inspections should be accompanied by control measures.

    How to avoid bringing bed bugs into your home

    Traveling and bed bugs

    Inspect your personal items before packing and when you unpack

    You can only confirm that bed bugs are present by carefully inspecting each item. Pay attention to cracks, crevices, seams and folds of material.

    If you find bugs, then you have to be careful in containing the infestation.

    Bed bugs do not travel on people

    Bed bugs may hitch a ride on clothing, but they are not like lice and will not travel directly on a person.

    If you are concerned about bed bugs on clothing remove suspect articles and put them into a plastic bag.

    • Remove clothing in a place with a non-carpeted floor so bed bugs will have to travel before finding a hiding spot.
    • A wet cloth wiped over the floor will help contain any bed bugs that try to escape.

    Tips for reducing the risk of bringing home bed bugs

    If you think there might be bedbugs on your items seal everything in plastic bags until they can be laundered, washed by hand, heated or frozen.

    There is no need to throw away luggage and clothing after discovering an infestation.

    Before leaving the location, sort anything that can be washed and place in plastic bags.

    • Separate the laundry as you would if you were normally laundering items.
    • This will prevent escaping bed bugs as you try to sort the laundry at home.
  • Set the washer and dryer for the hottest setting that the fabric can stand.
  • If using a dry cleaning service, mention that the items may have bed bugs and that they can keep the articles in the plastic bags until just before loading into the machines.
  • Inspect suitcases and other items that cannot be placed into a washing machine and place them into plastic bags if you find bed bugs.
  • Suitcases may be hand-washed using soapy water and the hottest water possible.
  • Test the item to make sure it will not be affected by the hot water.
  • A temperature of 100°F to 120°F should be hot enough.
  • Use a scrub brush along the seams and folds.
  • Items that cannot be washed may be heated or frozen.

    • A two-hour core exposure at 120°F (45°C) is considered a minimum target temperature for heat treatments.
    • For freezing, a minimum of 23°F (-5°C) must be maintained for at least 5 days.
    • The exposure time can be reduced if the articles are flash frozen at a temperature of -15°F (-26°C), which would freeze the eggs instantly.
    • Most household freezers will have temperatures between 30°F and 20°F.
    • A 2-week freeze time is recommended if you are uncertain of the freezer temperatures.

    If you heat or freeze items, these conditions must reach the core of the articles being treated.

    Bed bugs on used furniture

    Used furniture is another potential source of bed bugs.

    • Do not pick up beds and furniture that have been left by the curb for disposal or behind places of business.
    • Bed bug infestations can be found on tables, drawers and even electronics if these items were located in a bedroom or another place that was infested.

    How to get rid of bed bugs

    Hire a professional exterminator

    We recommend that you seek assistance from a professional pest control company.

    • An exterminator uses specialty equipment to move furniture, take it apart and control the infestation.
    • They perform careful inspections along with non-chemical controls (heat treatments, vacuuming and steam treatments) and insecticide treatments.
    • The insecticides used are commercial products requiring special equipment and training.
    • Pest control services use heat treatment (118°F maintained for at least 70 minutes) in target areas.
    • All stages of bed bugs are killed when this is done properly.
    • Heat treatment does not prevent bed bugs from coming back into a home and reinfesting it.
    • Sometimes furniture is removed and heat treated in a container. But, it is not necessary to move or throw away your furniture or belongings, especially from an apartment or condominium.

    It is important to cooperate with a pest control service.

    To find a professional belonging to the National Pest Management Association, go to the Pest World website and type in your zip code in the search box under "Find a Professional."

    What you can do to help control an infestation

    When working with a pest management company there are some additional things you might have to do to help get rid of bed bugs.

    Using heat

    You can use your washing machine and dryer to kill bed bugs infesting clothes and other washable items.

    • Clothes laundered in hot water and/or dried in temperatures hotter than 122°F for 20 minutes will kill all stages of bed bugs.
    • This is typically the medium-high setting. If you are not sure what temperature your drier can reach, ask a professional to test it for you.
    • You can also heat curtains and other fabrics, rugs, shoes, backpacks, stuffed animals, toys and similar objects by drying them at medium-high for about 30 minutes for a full load.

    Using cold

    Cold temperatures can kill bed bugs if they are exposed to it long enough. All stages of bed bugs will be killed on objects left in a freezer at 0°F for 3 days.

    • Putting infested furniture outdoors during winter may kill some bed bugs.
    • Outdoor freezing temperatures will not always kill all of the bed bugs infesting an object. But, you can use the cold treatment to disable bed bugs until you decide what to do with the object.

    Encasements

    An encasement is a fabric covering that looks like a very large sack with a zipper and that completely fits around a mattress or box spring.

    They are useful when you want to protect a mattress you know is free of bed bugs (it has been heat treated or you have purchased a new mattress).

    • You can also use encasements on infested mattresses and box springs to trap the bed bugs inside them; you can keep using your bed as long as the encasements are not ripped or torn.
    • Buy encasements (from professional pest control services) that are specifically designed for protecting against bed bugs.

    Bed bug interceptors

    Bed bug interceptors are small plastic trays with an inner and outer ring. You can place them under the bed legs.

    Bed bugs that try to climb up from the floor to the bed become trapped in the outer well. Any bed bugs that try to climb down will become trapped in the center well.

    • Bed bug interceptors not only help to reduce the number of bed bugs that can reach the bed but also help determine whether bed bugs are present.
    • You can buy bed bug interceptors online, from pest management companies, or from retail stores.

    Insecticides

    • Do not try to treat bed bugs yourself. The insecticides available in over-the-counter products are not effective in controlling bed bugs.
    • Bug bombs (total release foggers) are not effective when treating bed bugs.
    • These products throw insecticide into the air and very little product comes in contact with bed bugs hiding in cracks and behind and under objects.
    • Bug bombs are potentially flammable if used incorrectly. It is easy for people to misuse or overuse bug bombs, and can result in unnecessary pesticide exposure.

    CAUTION:We strongly discourage you from trying to treat bed bugs yourself. But, if you decide to use a pesticide, it is very important to carefully read and understand the label before using and to follow all label directions. The product you use should be labeled for bed bugs.

    How to Prevent Bed Bugs

    Updated: April 11, 2019

    This article was co-authored by Jurdy Dugdale, RN. Jurdy Dugdale is a Registered Nurse in Florida. She received her Nursing License from the Florida Board of Nursing in 1989.

    There are 22 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

    Bed bugs are a growing concern since they’ve become more common in recent years and are extremely difficult to exterminate. While hotels are high on the list of bed bug concerns, any public place can be a haven for bed bugs. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent a bed bug infestation in your home. By avoiding contaminated materials, avoiding bed bugs while traveling, and protecting your home, you can prevent bed bugs.

    Related wikiHows

    About this article

    To prevent bed bugs, use protective plastic covers on your mattress and box springs so bed bugs will not be able to infect your bed even if you accidentally bring them home. When you’re staying in a hotel, check the sheets, mattress, and headboard for small brownish bugs, and contact management if you find any. Wash your travel clothes separately from your regular laundry and dry them on the highest possible heat setting. To learn how using essential oils can help repel bed bugs, read on!

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