Vampires are real, people!
6-legged bloodsuckers could be lurking in your hotel room. Even worse, they want to come home with you.
Accommodation-wise, bed bugs don’t discriminate. They’re just there for the 5-star food: you. That’s why it’s important to check any room, whether it’s the dodgy digs I usually stay in or something fancier.
Spend 5 minutes on these steps when checking in to ID and handle bed bugs.
1. FYI: understand bed bug behaviour
Bed bugs can go 300 days without food, so you can’t really starve them out. These nocturnal opportunistic feeders only emerge when they sense carbon dioxide emitted from mammals and gravitate toward heat (exposed skin) for meals. After feeding, they retreat to safety. This could include your clothes or luggage, even openings in the hotel’s remote, your laptop or phone.
The bug bites aren’t really a thing for most- we can’t feel them feeding on us. But some people are allergic. Not sure ANYONE likes the idea of an insect sucking blood, anytime.
And NOBODY wants to bring them home.
Tiny, as thin as a credit card, and experts at clinging to things, even the adults are difficult to spot. Hitching a ride on the sly is the bed bug superpower!
Avoiding bed bug stowaways whilst travelling is the best way to keep them from your home.
2. Checking in- put everything in the bathroom
Bedbugs aren’t crazy about hard surfaces. They prefer to hide in dark crevices like the seams of mattresses or cushions. In a pinch, they’ll opt for a headboard as it quickens the commute – shudder – to your face.
When you get to your room, place all your luggage on a hard surface in the bathroom. Don’t plop your purse or laptop down on a chair!
3. Inspection time
Grab your phone and start checking. Start with the headboard and mattress. Peel back the bedding in layers (including the mattress protector) and shine your phone’s flashlight along the headboard and seams. Hike up the mattress and take a look.
Adult bedbugs are the size of an apple seed and brownish. Nymphs are smaller and unhelpfully translucent if they haven’t fed. Eggs are white.
Live bed bugs are very good at hiding, but they’re not great at picking up after themselves. They leave molted casings and poop behind. Look for tiny rust-coloured spots (bed bug poo) about the size of the full-stop at the end of this sentence.
Move on to other upholstered furniture, paying extra attention to the head and neck areas. Give the wardrobe and drawers the once-over. Check the seams and underside of the ironing board pad. Any polka dots?
No bugs? Fantastic! Move on to Step 5.
If you see evidence of bed bugs, snap photos with your phone, grab your stuff and head straight to the front desk. Show the images to the desk attendant when you (quietly) ask for a room change. If you’re staying in a vacation rental (as in AirBnB) notify the primary or emergency contact immediately. Be sure to send the images.
Discretion works well here. Creating a lobby-wide bed bug panic won’t get you the same upgrade as a quiet word.
Why just a room change and not a medivac out of town? Bed bugs prefer to stay near a food source, about 2.5 metres. A hotel room is a relatively closed environment, so the bed bugs probably came from a previous guest, not the room down the hall.
If no rooms are available, ask for a transfer to a different hotel. If the desk clerk seems unwilling, a manager should respond very quickly to your photographic proof (and understand sharing implications via the socials)
5. Whew! What now?
You can take your bags out of the bathroom now. But evidence of absence is notoriously difficult to verify, so stay vigilant through prophylactic behaviour. Stow your stuff on a rack or hard surface. Need to hang a dress or suit? Bathroom robe hooks do the trick. Avoid clothes creep; keep everything bagged or zipped up to reduce the risk of stowaways. Useful: keep your clothes in sealed bags and bring an extra for dirty laundry.
6. Just got home bug-free, still freaked out
Chemicals that kill bed bugs aren’t good for you. High heat is your friend here. Whip off your travelling clothes and add them to the sealed bags in your luggage. Optional: take a shower to reduce the mental ick factor. Bring the whole shebang straight to the nearest laundromat. Need more time? See Step 2 for temporary storage. Dump the contents straight into a tumble dryer. Dry everything that won’t melt at high heat for at least 30 minutes. (Note: laundromats frown upon people putting suitcases in dryers) Spend that time looking for telltale poo specks in your luggage – including the pockets – and the plastic bags that contained your clothes.
When possible, store your empty luggage away from clothes. Ideally in a hot place, like an attic. If you live in a warm climate, go for a super-fry after every trip: seal up your bags in plastic and pop them into the boot of a car for a few hot days.
Don’t let critters keep you from travelling
Yes, the notion of nocturnal insects feeding on your blood is awful. But don’t let a bug panic keep you from going the places you want to go!
Bed bugs are a legitimate concern for travellers, but now you’ve got 6 steps to ID these 6-legged parasites before they can sneak into your luggage or feast on you.