How To Prevent Bed Bugs When You Travel

How to prevent bed bugs when you travel

Find out how you can prevent bed bug infestation while you travel.

As you and your family members travel on holidays and vacations, it is important for everyone to be aware that bed bugs are a growing problem in many hotels and motels.

No longer is bed bugs infestation just a problem in cheap hotels with poor sanitation, nowadays even the most luxurious five-star hotels and resorts can be infested.

According to the National Pest Management Association, beg bug infestations have grown at an alarming rate and complaints about bed bugs are up 81 % since 2000.

While getting bitten by bed bugs when travelling can already be uncomfortable and unfortunate,
it will only get worse if those tiny bloodsuckers hitchhike back with you to your home.

And once your home is infested, getting rid of these pests will become a very time consuming and expensive affair costing thousand of dollars and weeks to completely exterminate them.

Therefore, it pays to be extra careful when you travel.

By performing a few simple checks, you can can limit your exposure to bed bugs during your travels and help ensure that you don’t bring any unwanted guests back home with you.

Here’s a simple checklist on how to best avoid and prevent bed bugs when you first check-in to your hotel room:

Inspect Your Bed

  • The vast majority of bed bugs found in hotels are usually found in the mattress or in furnitures near the bed. Therefore the first logical step is to conduct a very basic visual inspection of the mattress.
  • Start by removing the bed linens and look at the four corners of the mattress, follow by the seams and the underside of the mattress.
  • Look for any signs of live bugs, their dark droppings or shed skins that may indicate the presence of bed bugs.

Taking Care of Your Bags

  • Be careful where you put your luggage. Do not place your bags near the places where bed bugs are typically found – on the bed, on the sofa or any type of upholstered furniture.
  • If the room has an elevated luggage stand, use it.
  • Remember to keep your bags closed or zipped up at all times when not in use.
  • If you want to be extra safe, you may also want to place toiletries, books, electronics and even jewelry seal up in Ziploc bags.
If despite the inspections, you start developing unexplained welts on your skin that itch and you suspect that those are bed bug bites , notify the hotel or resort manager in charge about the problem immediately and request that they move you to another room.

Checklist for you to prevent bed bugs infestation when you arrive home:

Unpacking Your Bags

  • Upon returning home, unpack your bags in a brightly lit area, away from your bed, sofa and upholstered furniture.
  • Always unpack your baggage one piece at a time. As you remove the items from your bag, give it a visual inspection to check for any bed bugs.
  • Take out all of your washable clothings to be hot laundered (minimum 120В°F) for at least 20 minutes. Clothes that can be only dry clean should be seal up till you can properly care for them later.

Important:While these checks are not absolute guarantees to help you prevent contact with bed bugs during your travel, however, they can greatly reduce the chances and probability that bed bugs are brought back to your home.

Tip:If you travel often, you may also want to consider getting a bed bug proof mattress encasement that will help protect your bed from being infested by bed bugs that do make it into your home (thus preventing an extremely inconvenient and costly bed bug extermination process.)

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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.

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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!

Traveling Tips to Prevent Bed Bugs

Travel Tips

(Photo: John-Reynolds/iStock/Getty Images )

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The bed bugs in the nursery rhyme seem harmless compared to the actual insect. Bed bugs infest almost anything they come in contact with, including your suitcases and clothing, allowing them to enter your home. Getting rid of the bugs is expensive and difficult. Traveling exposes you to a greater risk of encountering bed bugs in hotel rooms and other public places. Simple travel strategies reduce your chances of bringing home bed bugs.


Before you reserve a room, research the hotel to discover any past incidents of bed bugs. A site called The Bedbug Registry allows you to search for specific hotels to look for reports of bed bugs. Other travel sites that allow users to leave reviews give you a way to check up on hotels. A past problem with bed bugs doesn’t mean you should completely avoid a hotel. While difficult to get rid of the bugs, it is possible to solve the problem. Look for repeated reports at different points in time to identify major problems.


Once you arrive at the hotel, you should do an inspection of the area to look for indicators of a bed bug infestation. The bed is the obvious place to look, but the insects may also be found in the headboard, nearby furniture, curtains, carpets and walls. Pull back the blankets and sheets on the bed to inspect the mattress. If you don’t see live bugs, look for white eggs with a red spot. Small black droppings and blood spots also indicate the possible presence of bed bugs.

Luggage Storage

Never place your suitcase on the bed, even if you don’t notice signs of bed bugs. The insects can easily get on to your luggage and inside if you have the bag open. When you get home, you bring the bugs with you. A luggage rack with metal legs provides the safest spot for your luggage the entire time you are in the hotel. Move the rack out from the wall so the bag isn’t touching it or any furniture. The bathroom of the hotel room is also a potential safe zone for your luggage.

At Home

Instead of hauling your luggage right into the house, keep it outdoors or in the garage. Remove your clothes and wash them right away in hot water. Dry the clothes on high. The heat kills the bed bugs so they are unable to infest your house. If possible, store the luggage permanently in the garage so any bed bugs in the bag are kept out of the main part of the home. Vacuuming your bag can also help remove any bugs that hitched a ride home with you.


Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

How To Prevent Bed Bugs

Knowinghow to prevent bed bugsfrom entering your home can protect your family from discomfort and expense. As with most household pests, they are easier to prevent than eliminate. That’s why it’s so remarkable that at one point bedbugs were almost eradicated in the developed world.

Around the mid-90s, bedbugs became big news again, thanks to a combination of increased international travel and changes in laws about pesticide use. Nowadays, the average consumer can’t buy effective bed bug killing sprays and must hire a professional. Depending on where you live, that can run from $1,000-$1,500.

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to prevent bed bugs. Doing so will protect your home and family as well as your wallet.

How To Prevent Bed Bugs

Bed Bug nymph (L) and adult (R) feeding on human host. Source: Wikipedia

Bed Bug Life Stages

Bedbugs have three life stages. The eggs hatch in 2-6 days from breeding. Once hatched, they become nymphs which molt around five times before becoming adults, always after a feeding. Oh, and nymphs can go severalmonthsbetween feedings! As adults, they typically live 2 to 4 months — but under ideal conditions, they can liveup to a year.

Signs of Bedbug Infestations

Bedbugs are active at night when they scurry out from their favorite hiding places to feed on blood — yours as well as your pet’s. They spend 2 to 5 minutes eating, the hide and remain inactive until their next meal.

Many people don’t realize they have bedbugs until they wake with itchy red bites, usually in clusters of three. These clusters often appear on the head and neck or where the edges of bedding touch a sleeping person’s body. Those itchy spots could easily be mistaken for spider or mosquito bites, but if you wake with new ones several nights in a row, it’s time to start looking for other evidence of bedbugs in your home.

One of the telltale signs is dark spots and smears on sheets and pillows which are left behind by the bugs as they feed. In severe infestations, you may also discover molted bug skins and carcasses.

Don’t Carry Them into Your Home

To keep bedbugs from entering your home, you need to be vigilant.

1. Don’t “dumpster dive”or scavenge curbs for mattresses, upholstered furniture, clothing, or anything soft.

2. Clean second-hand furniture outdoorswhen you buy it. Be sure to remove all drawers before cleaning, inspect all crevices, and clean underneath the item, too.

3. Wash newly-purchased clothingimmediately and run it through the dryer for at least 20 minutes to kill bedbug eggs. If you can’t launder it right away, seal it in a plastic bag until you can.

4. When moving,skip the cardboard boxes from behind the liquor store. Either buy your own or get donations from bedbug-free friends.

5. Don’t put things on your bed, including backpacks, shopping bags, purses, or other items. (This includes guests’ coats when you’re throwing a party.)

6. If your area has a bed bug problem,consider putting bedbug interceptors at the base of your beds’ legs. If bedbugsdomake it into your home, interceptors make it more difficult for them to make their home in your bed.

Don’t Bring Them Home When You Travel

Hotel reviews aren’t always reliable. Summer camps aren’t required to warn if they have bedbug problems. You should take additional measures to avoid bringing bedbugs home from your travels.

1. Don’t put your suitcase on the bed.Either use the bag holder if there is one or put them in the bathtub until you’ve had a chance to inspect the room.

2. Check for signs of bed bugssuch as dark spots and smears, or dead bugs that look like squashed watermelon seeds. Look on the mattress, especially around the edges and on top of the box spring, behind artwork and headboards, on curtain liners, and in dresser drawers or closets.

3. Immediately launder clothing upon return. Use the hottest setting the fabric can handle and run everything through the dryer where heat will kill eggs. (Temperatures of 122°F for 20 minutes will kill all stages of bedbugs in clothing, while other items require greater heat.)

4. Freeze what can’t be laundered.For items that can’t be washed or subjected to heat, freezing for three days also kills bed bugs. Be sure to wrap the thing in a tightly sealed plastic bag first.

5. Vacuum your suitcaseand pack it in a plastic bag before storage, then clean your vacuum cleaner.

DIY Bed Bug Control Doesn’t Work

If you’ve found bedbugs in your home, it’s time to call the professionals. I don’t say that often — in fact, I recommend DIY methods for dealing with cockroaches, spiders, mice, and pantry moths. But when it comes to bedbugs, home treatments don’t cut it.

DIY steam treatments don’t remain at the proper temperature long enough, and homemade bed bug sprays don’t penetrate the bugs’ exoskeletons. Most DIY bed bug treatments send bed bugs looking for other hiding spots in your home, making it that much harder to get rid of them.

That said, there are two things youshoulddo in conjunction with professional bed bug treatments:

1. While waiting for your appointment,give your mattresses a thorough cleaning and enclose them in mattress protectors.

2. After professional treatment,vacuum your entire home weekly for the following three months, including all soft furnishings and curtains, to ensure you’ve eliminated any remaining eggs and nymphs.

Remember: diligence is your friend when it comes to knowing how to prevent bed bugs. So, “Night night, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

Everything You Need to Know About Bedbugs and Travel

Photodisc / Getty Images

Let’s get one thing straight: bedbugs are simply not the scourge most people think they are for budget travelers and backpackers. Bedbugs don’t transmit disease and hostels don’t harbor them any more than hotels do (and outbreaks in either place are very rare). You’re far more likely to get bedbugs in a hotel in New York City than you are on a backpacking trip to Southeast Asia.

Below we’ll lay some myths to rest while helping you learn how to identify bedbugs, showing you which signs you should look out for in your accommodation, cover how you can effectively treat bedbug bites, help you to avoid bedbugs as you travel, and share how to kill them if they decide to travel with you (they’re frustratingly tricky to get rid of).

Myth #1: Your Accommodation Will Have Bedbugs

Let’s start first by saying that hostels have no more bed bug incidents than do other accommodation options. Greg Baumann, vice president of technical services at National Pest Management Association says, "There are no data to support that hostels have a higher incidence of bedbugs (than hotels)." Nonetheless, some people will always fear hostels are bedbug hotbeds. If you’re one of those people, travel with a silk sleeping liner for peace of mind.

In the early 2000s, bedbugs became a hot travel topic when they started turning up in some luxury hotels. They had virtually disappeared from the U.S. lodging scene until a 1972 DDT insecticide ban; the spray once used on cockroaches and other pests turned out to have been an effective way to kill bedbugs, too. After DDT was banned, the number of bedbugs drastically increased. In Europe, the bugs never really left.

Canada’s Pest Control writes of bedbug hotel infestations: "The stigma attached to these parasites is influencing some hotels and other accommodations to ignore infestations or treat them without professional help. Lack of professional treatment comes with great risks, notably the possibility of litigation." Reading between the lines, we can deduce that there’s no way in Hades some hotels will agree that those red bumps on your body are bedbug evidence — and a U.S. desk clerk may not even know what bedbug bites really look like, anyway. The lesson here is to do your research beforehand.

Hostels, on the other hand, have long acknowledged the bugs’ presence in the lodging world, especially outside the United States, and many of them take steps accordingly. Some actively tell you what to look for, and some hostels don’t allow sleeping bags in hostel dorms, partly because yours can carry bedbugs (they like traveling as much as you do). Bedbugs also hitchhike on backpacks, which should tell you how easily they can be spread. If you manage to get bedbugs and don’t realize for a week, you could have transported them to three different hostels and into twenty backpackers’ bags, who have then each traveled to three other hostels.

Many people assume the bugs come with the territory of filthy hostels (another myth — that all hostels are filthy by nature). Bedbugs don’t care about a clean environment, though.

Where some truth may lie in the hostels-always-have-bedbugs myth is that the sheer density of people possible in one hostel dorm room can create a higher possibility of the bugs’ appearance than in a hotel room used by a couple of travelers at a time. If twelve backpackers are sleeping in one room, twelve chances are created for bugs to hop off one backpacker’s stuff and onto yours, or into the hostel dorm furniture.

Again, though, there is no evidence to support the idea that hostels are more prone to infestation than other lodgings; in fact, given the higher likelihood of infestation and bedbug transference in a hostel because of sheer traveler numbers, it’s remarkable that that likelihood does not translate into an actual higher infestation incidence in hostels than hotels.

Myth #2: Bedbugs Transmit Disease

Do bedbugs carry disease? Well, bedbugs do carry 24 known pathogens, but do bedbugs transmit disease? Nope, bedbug bites won’t make you sick (unless, of course, the bites get infected). And while bedbugs do feed on blood, they don’t spread AIDS or other blood-borne illnesses. In other words, if you’re bitten by bedbugs, the only things you need to worry about are not scratching the bites until they bleed and finding a way to control the itching.

Mosquitos, on the other hand, can carry plenty of nasty diseases, like malaria, dengue, and West Nile disease, which they transmit to you via a science fiction-like needle nose. If you’re going to worry about one type of critter while you’re traveling, make it mosquitoes.

That’s not to say bedbugs and bedbug bites aren’t a pain to deal with. They definitely are.

Myth #3: Bedbugs Mean a Place Is Unclean

Bedbugs are gross, no doubt about it. Thinking about creatures crawling around in your bed and drinking your blood is a real shudder inducer. That actually happens all the time, though — the creatures looking for your blood, that is (think mosquitoes). It might be the fact that bedbugs kindascuttlethat make them seem especially awful, and bedbugs are nocturnal — creatures that scuttle at night just seem particularly sneaky, despite having microscopic brains and no personality characteristics to speak of.

The presence of bedbugs in a hostel or hotel don’t mean the place is unsanitary, though. Cockroaches, ants, flies — yeah, they all love old food. Bedbugs likefreshfood. A dirty hostel does not attract bedbugs simply by virtue of its grime — that’s not how these travelers pick their new destinations.

The bedbugs hitchhike into hostels, hotels and, eventually, your own house, by way of your stuff — your clothes, your sleeping bag or your backpack. They grab a ride out the same way.

As Baumann says of unsanitary conditions, "Bedbugs don’t really care about that, and can be in the fanciest of hotels all the way to the other end of the spectrum." He goes on to say that while the whole bedbug infestation, cleanliness-impaired hotel equation is popular, there is no data to support it.

The single connection that could be possibly be made between the bugs and unsanitary habits would be that a bedbug killing recommendation is washing possessions in very hot water. Perhaps that’s how the myth started — but no one, anywhere, ever washes their curtains in boiling water every day in order to keep a clean house. (Do they?)

Now that we’ve covered the myths, let’s get stuck into what to look out for.

What Do Bedbug Bites Look Like?

A bedbug bite looks like a small welt, and it burns and/or itches like crazy.

You can’t feel a bedbug bite while it happens (they take about five minutes to feed), and the bugs are nocturnal. You’ll typically wake in the morning feeling strangely itchy and look down to discover you’re covered in red bites.

One distinguishing feature of bedbugs bites is that they often appear in a row of three. People will joke that when they bite you, they go for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while they’re there! Some bites might be spread out and others can be in clusters, so don’t assume it’s something else if your bites aren’t all in lines of three.

How to Treat a Bedbug Bite

You should wash a bedbug bite with soap and water, apply some ice, and use an antihistamine cream or no-itch cream. Check out Brave Soldier antiseptic cream: it’s the best no-itch, no infection, no-scar wound treatment around.

The most important thing here is not to scratch. These bites are itchy and the more you scratch them, the more likely it is that they’ll become an open wound and get infected.

If a bedbug bite gets infected while you’re traveling (gets very tender, feels hot, and starts oozing yellow, white or greenish goo), you should consider seeing a doctor. If you’re not able to see a doctor and are traveling with antibiotics, consider taking a course if you’re 100% convinced it’s an infection.

What Do Bedbugs Look Like?

Bedbugs are teeny flat critters; grown adults are about the size of an apple seed. Adults are brown until they consume some blood, after which they turn reddish brown. Ah, that rosy after-dinner glow.

Pinhead-sized nymphs, or non-adults, are smaller and are whitish or gold until they feed — just about the color of a mattress, making them very tough to see. (More evidence of clever, sneaky behavior.)

Where Bedbugs Like to Live?

Bedbugs like beds, of course, though "bedbug" is actually a misnomer, since they certainly live anywhere. However, they’re especially likely to like your bed — you, who are their meal ticket, are in bed all night, which is when they come out to eat.

According to the National Pest Management Organization, the bugs can also live in carpets, under wallpaper, behind baseboards, and in small cracks and crevices throughout a room. Baumann comments that the bugs can be found in all furniture, pointing out that someone carrying them in clothing can spend as much time on couches and chairs in the living room as in bed.

The bugs can travel alone, but seeing one is probably the tip of the iceberg. The nocturnal animals are transient and elusive. They can hide in the seams of mattresses or in the heads of screws, which makes them particularly tricky to track down.

They’re so frightening because they’re so hard to find.

How to Spot Bedbugs in Hostels, Hotels and at Home

The odor of a bedbug infestation, though distinct, is too subtle for amateur bug detectives. Bedbugs are said to smell like sweet, rotten raspberries, and it’s also said that an infested room smells like almonds. Most likely, you’ll need a big infestation before you can smell the bugs in a room’s air.

Bedbugs do leave tiny reddish or black streaks on sheets. If you see those upon checking into a hostel or hotel room, consider grabbing your stuff before crawling hitchhikers hop on it, and cruising straight back to the desk to ask for a new room. If need be, just go to a different hostel or hotel — cheaper than getting rid of the pesky travelers if they hitch a ride with you, and far better than being bitten all night. The staff should offer you a refund, of course.

These bugs are great world travelers. They like living in your sleeping bag, backpack, and clothes until they can get to your house and move into the recliner, where they can start raising a big family in a nice neighborhood. A female can lay up to 500 eggs over its lifetime. Take a look at the seams of your backpack or along the zipper to spot them in a likely destination. And if you suspect you might have an infestation, do not take your backpack into your home. You’ll likely have to spend thousands of dollars to get rid of them if that happens.

Let’s look at some of the bugs’ habits before learning about how to kill bedbugs.

How They Travel

The bedbugs hitch rides in baggage, sleep sacks, or sleeping bags. They jump from hotel to hostel to home on humans — someone brought ’em to your lodging, albeit accidentally. And they all want to be exchange bugs and travel to new homes internationally.

You’ll likely notice bites before, and if you see the biters themselves unless you see the telltale streaks on your sheets; the bugs are nocturnal and they hide out unless feeding.

And they’re tough customers. They can live more than a year without eating; taking a vacation in hopes the bugs will then move out won’t work. They can take the temperatures, too; the bugs are okay with boiling to Fahrenheit 113, and freezing will rarely kill them either.

How to Avoid and Kill Bedbugs While Traveling

If you’ve got bites, or you know you’ve spent time in a room harboring the bugs, vacuum your suitcases, backpack, camera bag — leave no seam unsucked. Wash everything you own in the hottest water possible to boil the little biters.

How to Kill Bedbugs at Home

The same rules on how to kill bedbugs while traveling apply at home: vacuum your living space relentlessly, including furniture, changing the bag outside (small bedbugs can wiggle through a stitch hole). Wash or dry clean everything moveable (clothes, bedspreads, throw rugs) in the hottest water. If one happy couple escapes, though, it’s all for nothing.

Baumann points out that people pay plenty trying various home remedies that don’t go so well, and recommends that you bite the bullet and foot the bill for an exterminator, to begin with. It’s easiest, fastest, and most likely cheapest in the long run.

How Exterminating Works

The exterminator will have instructions regarding jobs you should complete prior to his arrival. They’ll be things like don’t open travel bags on home furniture, like beds, and store them away from furniture (like in an outside shed), so any bugs who’ve hitchhiked may not get the chance to move in.

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