protect yourself from bed bugs in a hotel room
One way to protect yourself from bed bugs in a hotel room is by checking the bed – AndreyPopov (Canva)

Bed bugs are a big fear whenever you’re traveling. They quickly get into your luggage without you noticing, and then spread throughout your home when you get back. These 10 tips will help you to avoid them so you don’t bring bed bugs back from your vacation.

1. Check Reviews

You want to check reviews before even booking a hotel room or arriving at the hotels. Many people aren’t quiet about finding bed bugs in their room and are quick to share the fact with other guests.

You want to first check recent reviews to make sure there hasn’t been any report of bed bugs in the last few months. Though most hotels have practices to prevent bed bugs from spreading, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Keep track of the reviews if you’re booking well in advance. Check back in closer to your visiting date to make sure that a case hasn’t suddenly popped up.

You also want to check their history. If they tend to get bed bugs regularly, that’s a bad sign. They may not have good practices in place to prevent bed bugs. They also may not have a way to stop them from spreading. If they tend to have a case of bed bugs every few months, it’s a good idea to find somewhere else to stay.

2. Store Your Luggage in the Shower or Tub

Once you get to the hotel, all you want to do is relax and decompress. Unfortunately, you aren’t safe yet. Before you let your guard down, make sure all of your belongings are in a safe space.

People are quick to throw their suitcases on the bed, floor, or suitcase stand. All of those places are breeding grounds for bed bugs. The best place to put all of your items is in the bathroom. Specifically, in the tub or the shower is best.

Since there is a door between the rest of the room and the bathroom, it adds some protection. However, the biggest protection comes from the fact that there’s no carpet and not very much fabric in the bathroom that might attract the nasty bugs.

You need to keep your luggage in the shower or tub at least until you inspect the rest of the room. Once inspected, if you don’t see any sign of bed bugs, you can bring out your suitcase and put it wherever you want.

3. Avoid Cloth Luggage or Zippers

If you want to be extra careful, think about your travel luggage. Soft-sided luggage made with fabric will allow bed bugs to pass right through. Bed bugs are even small enough to make it through the fabric around and the space between the teeth of a zipper.

For extra security, the best option for a suitcase is a hard-sided, plastic one without zippers. Instead, find one that has latches. They aren’t as common, but save you a lot of hassle when it comes to worrying about pesky creatures in your suitcase.

Suitcases are the first barrier between your home and your hotel room when it comes to bed bugs. They are also the hardest to protect. With clothes, you can wash and dry them to kill any bed bugs that might have gotten into them but not with a suitcase. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you have something sturdy and protected.

4. Protect Your Luggage With Plastic Bags and Bed Bug-Fighting Tools

At some point, you have to open your suitcase to get to your belongings. This means you need more than just a protective suitcase. To keep your clothes and fabric personal items safe, another good idea is to keep it all in plastic. This might be something simple like an air-tight plastic trash bag or Ziploc bag.

There are also plastic cases and bags specifically for luggage called packing cubes. While their main purpose might be for better organization and to create more space in your suitcase, they also work well against keeping out bed bugs.

If you wash any clothing while at the hotel, it should be moved directly from the drier to a plastic bag. Don’t dump it onto a surface like the couch, chair, or bed. When you’re done with clothes for the day, take them off in the bathroom and place them into a bag, sealed tight. This helps to kill any bed bugs that you might have picked up.

5. Know How to Identify Bed Bugs

Before you start the search for bed bugs, you need to make sure you know what you’re looking for. Bed bugs are small and hard to see. For many, they simply look like black spots on the bed. In some cases, it looks like there’s mold or blood on a bed.

Take some time to look at pictures of mild bed bug infestations so you know what you’re looking for. If you see black, fuzzy-looking dots around the mattress or furniture in a hotel room, it’s a good chance it’s bed bugs.

6. Know How to Search For Bed Bugs

You need a few tools to thoroughly inspect a room for bed bugs. You don’t have to go and buy anything fancy, however. Your hotel room key or a credit card and a flashlight offer everything you need.

Use the credit card to lift corners of mattresses and chairs, and to skim through the carpet. Meanwhile, look for signs of movement or little black dots with the flashlight. This is better than using your hands and gives you plenty of light to catch even the initial signs of bed bugs.

7.  Inspect the Mattress, Floors, & Furnitures for Signs of Bed Bugs

Once you know what you’re looking for and you have tools in hand, it’s time to start the search. Start with the mattress, which is where bed bugs are most commonly found. You’ll want to pull off the sheets and start by checking all four corners.

Don’t just check one corner and call it good. Take the time to inspect all corners. Lift the folds in the fabric whenever you come across one. Bed bugs like to sit in dark, cramped creases, so that’s where you need to focus most of your attention.

Even if the bed is clear, you don’t want to rest yet. Bed bugs can also sit on any fabric, including carpet, upholstered fabrics, and decorations. Take the time to inspect corners where baseboards and carpet meet. While you do this, might check for hidden cameras as well.

You also want to check in the creases of chairs and couches. If your couch pulls out, check the mattress underneath as well. Though it’s a lot of work, it may save you and your home later down the line. With first night effect being a real thing, you don’t need any additional concern to disturb your sleep.

8. Stay Calm and Collect Evidence

If you do find bed bugs, the first step is to not panic. You don’t want to go flailing around and make the situation worse. If you’ve followed this list, you’ve already taken steps to protect yourself and your luggage. Therefore, the next step is to stay calm and collect evidence.

If you can, take pictures of the locations where you found the bed bugs. You’re not going to want to stay in the room, so having photo evidence makes it easier to argue your case against the hotel staff who may try and suggest that you saw something other than bed bugs.

9. Ask to Move to a Room Two Floors Away

If you’re desperate to rest, and the hotel is in an ideal location, ask for another room. It’s unlikely that the hotel is full of bed bugs. Usually, when an outbreak occurs in a hotel, it starts in a room or two.

While the infestation may spread to the rest of the floor, it’s rare that it ever spreads to the whole hotel. This means that you can ask for a new room and be good to go. To be safe, you want a room at least two floors away from the original room.

This provides you with the most security. A room on the same floor might have already had an infestation as well. A floor away provides a decent amount of security, though not as much as you might like.

Bed bugs can climb up wallboards and electrical sockets to a nearby floor. That’s why the more floors away you can get from bed bugs, the better.

10. Find a Different Hotel

If you see bed bugs, and you don’t want to fight with trying to change your room, or you just want to be extra safe, then you need to simply find a new hotel room. Even if it’s already late, you probably can still book another hotel room. More on this in our article: how late you can book and check into a hotel.

However, you don’t want to have to pay for two hotel rooms, so the first step is to get a refund from your original hotel. This isn’t always easy and often involves you having to stand your ground while also being polite.

If you need help knowing how to get your money back for bed bugs, or anything else, our article offers a series of nine steps to keep in mind when asking for a refund on a hotel room.

Once you get a refund, you just have to look around for a different hotel or place to stay. Even when you find a new place, you want to ensure you keep following the same practices as above. After all, there’s no guarantee that your next hotel is safe from pests.


How Easy Is It to Bring Bed Bugs Home From a Hotel?

If you stay in a hotel with bed bugs and don’t take any precautions against them, you’re bringing them home. Sometimes, the bed bugs travel slowly enough that you won’t notice that they are in your home for almost two weeks leading you to believe that the infestation came from somewhere else.

Unless you take extreme precautions to keep the bed bugs out of your luggage, there’s a very good chance that you have bed bugs in your home when you get back from vacation. That’s why you need to be very careful in any hotel room you stay at.

What to Do if You Slept in a Hotel With Bed Bugs

If caught early, you can clean it yourself. The first step is to make sure everything is washed. Clean all of your clothes, sheets, and pillows on the sanitization setting on your washer. Then, place in the drier on a high heat setting. Any clothes and fabrics need to be washed and dried for at least thirty minutes.

For anything that can’t be washed, they need to be isolated and also heat killed. The best option is to wrap everything in a dark plastic bag and set it out in the sun. This will heat the contents in the bag enough to kill the pests. Generally, you want to leave them in the sun for several hours, if not the whole day to be safe.

How Common Are Bed Bugs in a Hotel?

Bed bugs are very common in hotels. It makes sense. With so many people traveling in and out of hotels, at least one or two of them are bringing in bed bugs a month.

Since hotels try to keep infestations down low, it’s hard to tell exactly how many bed bug cases there are. Roughly 75% of pest control professionals have admitted to handling bed bugs in a hotel, and studies have shown that the number of cases of bed bugs is increasing.

Now that you know how to spot bed bugs and prevent them to infest your belonging, here’s a list of the dirtiest things you shouldn’t touch in a hotel room.

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