When you finally take a well-deserved trip, the last thing you want to concern yourself is bed bugs. But even the finest hotels can have them. The hitchhiking pests travel to new places by way of both humans and their belongings. When they find a new home, they look for places to hide, such as mattresses, headboards, couches and chairs, where they’ll have access to a blood meal undisturbed. While bed bugs can be found in other public places such as libraries, public transportation, movie theaters, retail stores, professional office and schools, they are most notoriously encountered at hotels, and taken home with you after your stay. What can you do?
1. Put your luggage in a smart spot. When you arrive at your hotel, place your luggage on non-upholstered furniture away from the bed, such as on a desk. If you use a luggage rack, inspect it for bed bugs before plopping your suitcase down. Adult bed bugs are visible to the human eye and approximately 1/4-inch-long by 1/8-inch-wide and are typically brown or reddish-brown in color. Imagine them to be about the size of an apple seed. However, bed bug eggs are very challenging to spot with the naked eye as they can be as tiny as 1/32-inch.
2. Do a thorough inspection. After your belongings are settled, pull back the corners of the bedding and check the mattress and box spring for bed bugs or signs of bed bugs. Bed bugs will molt and shed their skin before each new life stage. Often you can find these pieces of shed skin, apple-seed size or smaller, tan to off-white in color and resembling the insects, but hollow, lying around areas of infestation such as in creases in the mattress. Bed bugs also leave fecal deposits after they consume their blood meal. You can spot these small dots that appear like black marker touching fabric, such as a mattress cover. Make sure to pay special attention to seams, where bed bugs like to hide.
3. Check your skin each morning during your vacation. Be mindful of any unexplained bites or welts that seem to appear overnight. Even with a watchful eye, bed bugs can be sneaky.
4. When you return home, treat your suitcase as if you already have bed bugs. Due to the high number of potential hiding places for bed bugs on a suitcase, take precautions as if bed bugs have hitched a ride home with you. Don’t put your suitcase on your bed, couch or other furniture to unpack. If you can swing it, remove the contents from the suitcase in an area such as your laundry room, kitchen, garage or foyer. Once unpacked, store your suitcase in a non-living space, if possible, such as an attic, basement or garage. If the suitcase must be stored under a bed or in a bedroom closet, then place it in a large trash bag first and tie the bag shut. When you pack for your next family vacation, bring the items you need to pack to the suitcase, rather than bringing the suitcase into the bedroom or on top of your bed. An easy way to do this is to put your clothes, toiletries, and other items into a laundry basket and carry them to your suitcase. Remember that bed bugs can live for several months or even up to a year without feeding, so keep the suitcase stored in the garbage bag if you use it once a year or more often than that.