Bed Bug Tips for Travelers

Bed bugs have become a commonplace pest throughout the United States and the world.  You can come in contact with them anywhere, but be especially careful when you travel.  This does NOT mean that you shouldn’t  travel! The good news is that most hotels and convention facilities have developed bed bug surveillance programs, and the managers and housekeepers have been trained to inspect the rooms that they clean for evidence of bed bugs.  However, even the most diligent surveillance program cannot assure that a room is free of bed bugs, because new infestations typically are difficult to detect. A former guest may have knowingly or unknowingly transported a few bed bugs into the room. Often, it takes time for the bed bugs to be found, because it is their nature to hide.

Here are a few precautions to take as you prepare for travel:

Packing For Your Trip:

  1. Take only the things that you are certain that you will need.   The more “stuff” that you  take with you, the greater the likelihood that a bed bug may come home with you!
  2. Put your clothing, shoes, and toiletries in tightly sealed plastic bags such as “Ziploctm” bags inside of your suitcases.
    Put some large garbage bags that you can tie, zip, or seal very tightly in your luggage .  Put the things that you’ve worn into the bags before you put them back into your luggage.

While You Are Traveling:

  1. When you arrive at your hotel, ask to inspect your hotel room before you accept it. Leave all of your personal belongings outside.
  2. Start by inspecting the bed.  Carefully roll back the comforter, sheets, and mattress pad, and leave them at the foot of the bed.  NEVER yank, pull, or fling the bed linens around, or put them on the floor!  If you do, there is a good chance a bed bug might land on you!
  3. It is unlikely that you will see bed bugs, but they leaves traces of themselves on the mattress and box springs.  You may find tiny empty skins that the bed bugs have shed, but it is more likely that you will find clusters of brownish-black dots about this size or slightly larger:  ( . )  These dots are “fecal spots” which is bed bug manure. Look carefully at the seams and tufts of the mattress, which is where the fecal spots are most commonly found. If there are many fecal spots on the bedding, there is a good chance that the  room could be heavily infested.
  4. Look in the drawer(s) of the nightstand(s).  If bed bugs are present, you may find clusters of fecal spots and shed skins in the corners.
  5. If you find evidence of bed bugs, do not accept the room.
  6. Even If the room appears to be bed bug free, you will want to take precautions!
  • Never put you luggage on the bed or the floor!  If there is a luggage rack in the room, put your things on it.  If a luggage rack is not available, store your luggage on the vanity,or better yet, in the bathtub.
  • Keep all of your clothing in your suitcases.  Don’t put them in the drawers unless you are confident that the room is bed bug free.
  • Put anything that you’ve worn into the extra plastic bags that you’ve packed. Keep the zippers closed.
  • Put anything that you buy on your trip – especially clothing and shoes into tightly closed plastic bags BEFORE you put them into your luggage!
  • If you’ve traveled by car, put each piece of luggage in its own tightly sealed plastic bag when you are leaving the hotel.

When You Arrive Home:

  1. Do NOT take your luggage into the house!  Put it in the garage, if you have one.  If you must store your luggage in your home, put each piece in a heavy plastic bag that you seal tightly so that the bed bugs cannot escape.
  2. Carefully inspect the things in your luggage as you remove them.  Consider clothing, shoes, and carry-alls to be potentially infested whether you’ve worn the items or not!  Everything should be placed in tightly sealed bags until it can be washed and dried. Keep the bags in the garage outside of the house. Wash your clothing in hot water, and then dry it. After it is completely dry, reset the dryer timer and tumble dry your clothing on high heat for at least 30 minutes. Things that you cannot wash or dry at a high temperature MUST be dry cleaned!
  3. If you have any concerns that bed bugs may be hiding in your bagged luggage, Nuvan™ Strips, which can be purchased online or from pest management professionals, can be placed in the bag.  Follow the instructions on the package exactly. The strips release a vapor that is toxic to bed bugs.  Do not open the bags for at least 2 weeks.  If your luggage has lots of pockets, seams and other hiding places, it might take a month or so for the Nuvan™ strips to penetrate all of the nooks and crannies. Leave them sealed in the bag at least for a month to six weeks.
  4. Remember, adult bed bugs can live up to a year without a blood meal.  So depending on the length of time that has elapsed since your last trip, the bed bugs may still be active.  You may want to consider packing your luggage in the garage or outdoors if you have concerns that the bed bugs could still be present.

Traveling Questions and Answers

How likely is it that I could pick up bed bugs on an airplane?
Does a hotel manager have to tell me if s/he has bed bugs on the premises, or if my room has been recently infested with bed bugs?
I've booked my dream vacation on a cruise ship! How can I be certain that it is bed bug free?
I recently stayed at a resort, hotel, bed and breakfast (or I traveled by plane, taxi, bus, etc.), and I now have bed bugs in my home! Can I sue the company that runs that operation?
I bought the only copy of an ancient book, a valuable textile, or some other work of art Now I have bed bugs crawling out of it. What do I do?
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