Gary Alpert, Harvard University, Bugwood.org
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.
Traveling is a beautiful experience but could transform into a bitter-sweet moment when you’re forced to travel back home with bed bugs – completely unaware.
See, these small, blood-sucking bugs are talented hitchhikers with a knack for covert operations. They’re stealthy, and bed bugs travel a lot.
You’ll find them latched on to your luggage as soon as it’s left in a hotel room, and they might even hitch a ride back to your place while you commute in a vehicle.
It’s funny, bed bugs are even soaring to new heights, according to a news report, and are hitching free airplane rides with full amenities. Don’t be duped; they’re not easily avoided.
On another note, just maybe, bed bugs travel more than you do.
You might even share a similar experience with this unfortunate human, who booked into a major hotel in Las Vegas but was later chewed on by bed bugs.
While his experience was summed up as “awful and terrible,” taking home bed bugs would have been petrifying.
If you’re a frequent traveler who’s in desperate need of advice on how to avoid bed bugs as you travel and house in hotels, this post was masterminded with you in mind. Like so many travelers, you may have considered the question: “How do you avoid bed bugs when traveling?”
Become a Mini Sherlock Holmes
Before setting down roots and unwinding from a long flight, inspect your hotel room. Sure, this is the least exciting thing to do, especially when dog-tired, but it’s important and could prevent numerous bed bugs from making a meal out of you while you snooze.
Like Sherlock Holmes, whose first instinct is observation, pay careful attention to what’s around you; scrutinize areas frequented by bed bugs. They stay close to their host or feeding site, so your bedding area should be the first on your checklist.
This is probably your first attempt at playing detective, so get a bright flashlight out and start examining your bed’s headboard and cracks and crevices of the mattress.
What are you looking for?
Any suspicious activities or strange-looking objects that shouldn’t be there. Bed bugs poop a lot, probably more than you exhale. As they feed, they digest, and then poop. These fecal droppings often leave mattresses smeared, and resemble dots made from a ballpoint pen.
Hence, if you stumble on small, black pepper-like spots in clusters on your mattress, your antennas should be on high alert. I’m talking Scooby-doo, ear-propping alert.
Also, look out for molts, or shed skin. Immature bed bugs need to grow up; shedding their exoskeleton is a part of the process. These fledglings molt about 5 times before transitioning into an adult. With each molt, they need blood.
If you find skin on your mattress or frequented areas of bed bugs, start making plans to switch rooms, or leave that hotel.
Further, be on guard for white, oval-shaped eggs, approximately 1/16″ in length. And, obviously, if you do find live bed bugs, that’s your cue to flee for the mountains, or a cab, to say the least.
So, now that’s out the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of things and address the elephant in the room – how do you avoid bed bugs when traveling?
How Do You Avoid Bed Bugs When Traveling?
There’s no simple, straightforward response to the above question because preventing bed bugs from traveling back home with you, from a vacation, requires a combination of things. You need to be alert, on edge, and your eyes need to be wide open.
You need to learn the art of inspection; it’s that important.
So, what do you inspect to prevent bed bugs from traveling back home with you?
Inspect Your Personal Items
What if your initial search didn’t reveal an infestation? That’s great! However, it’s best to be safe than sorry, so carrying out another check of your items, on the day you’re checking out, doesn’t hurt.
Bags, outfits, and other personal items should be thoroughly searched. If you do find bed bugs during this process, separate the items. This means bed bug-infested items are placed in a separate, sealable plastic bag to contain the infestation.
Unraveling Items When You Get Home
You’re probably accustomed to tossing your items on the floor, or bed, as soon as you get home; don’t. If you were suspicious of the room you stayed in, another inspection of your luggage when you get home is of vital importance.
Unravel personal items in a garage; and if you don’t own one, a well-lit bathtub does the trick. If you opt to unpack on the floor, ensure it’s not done on a carpeted area. This will provide an easy escape or hiding ground for bed bugs. They may blend-in with your carpet and, as such, are overlooked.
Wiping your floor with a wet cloth also slows down bed bugs should they emerge once you start unraveling.
If you did seal bed bug-infested clothing in a plastic container, they should be washed and dried on the highest possible heat, that won’t damage your raiments, of course. Better yet, launder all your clothing. As mentioned, it’s better to be safe, than sorry, right?
The next step is to inspect and vacuum your luggage. Steam-cleaning is a viable option, if you can afford to have it done.
For whatever reason a personal item cannot be heated, try freezing it. If you’re not up for dealing with the hassle, and your pockets are itching to be dug into, contact a pest control expert and they’ll do all the dirty work for you.
Avoiding bed bugs as you travel requires effort.
However, don’t allow that to prevent you and your family from getting out there and living it up. Take precautions, and if you do find bed bugs, alert management, and request another room that isn’t close in proximity to the one booked. If you’re uneasy about your accommodations, you could always leave.
So, to recap – how do you avoid bed bugs when traveling?
- Inspect your hotel room before winding down
- Inspect your luggage before leaving said room
- Inspect your luggage when you get home
- Launder your clothing
- Steam or vacuum luggage
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