We need to be straight about something: there is really no practical way you can be 100% sure the hotel room you are staying in does not have bed bugs. To do a thorough inspection, not only would you need specialized knowledge, experience (and perhaps an extra person): it could take you 2 hours and a few tools you probably don’t travel with.
The point of this article is to help you reduce your level of risk to a reasonable level. And you can reduce your risk considerably if you are willing to spend about 10 minutes.
There are two things you’ll need. Make sure you have them before you travel:
- Bring a flashlight with you. It can be small but make sure it’s strong. LEDs are some of the brightest, lightest and toughest around and they are inexpensive. Try the Fenix E01 Compact LED Flashlight. It is under $15 and nearly indestructible.
- You probably already have a mirror of some sort in your bath bag. If not, pick up a small mirror to travel with.
And always keep in mind when you are doing your inspection:
- Be careful. Don’t try lifting things that are too heavy for you.
Use common sense.
- Don’t lay across the bed or lay on the floor — be careful what you touch.
If a hotel room does have bed bugs, you want to limit your exposure to it.
When you first walk in the room, you need to take care of your luggage first. Then you’ll check the bed and work your way outward from there.
When you walk in the door
Locate the luggage stand. It is normally in the closet closest to the door. If you have a suite, it may be in the bedroom closet but generally it seems to be in the same closet as the iron and ironing board.
Put your luggage on the luggage stand. If you can’t find one put your luggage on a hard surface such as the coffee table or in the bath tub.
Then turn on the lights in the bedroom.
Pull back the top sheet and everything on top of it so that you can see the bottom sheet. Look for any fecal stains or blood marks on sheets. Also check the blankets, quilts and comforters. Chances are you won’t find anything on the linens because they are changed frequently. However, other items are not changed as often.
Pull the bottom sheet back, exposing the mattress cover. Check it for fecal stains and blood marks.
Now pull the mattress cover back so you can see the mattress directly. Look for the stains as above. Also check the creases formed by the piping around the top and bottom edges of the mattress. This is a common place bed bugs will hide and lay eggs. Staining is often concentrated here making it easy to see.
If possible, slide the mattress partially off to one side of the bed so you can take a look at the boxspring and the bed skirting.
Different places have different types of bedskirts. Generally you can pull it aside or push it up or down on the boxspring. What you want to do is get a good look at the bottom underside of the boxspring. This can be a chore with only one person. You may have to settle for simply pulling up the edge of the boxspring on the side you’ve pushed the mattress off of.
Check that bottom edge of the boxspring as far around as possible, being careful not to get your fingers pinned between it and the frame. Use your flashlight and mirror so you don’t have to get down on the floor.
You can also check different parts of the bed frame using the flashlight and mirror. Look for the spaces that are formed when different parts of the frame meet. Also check screw holes and such.
If you can, check behind the headboard. The headboard is often fixed to the wall. The best you can do is use your flashlight and mirror to check at the top and around all the edges.
The Rest of the Bedroom
Now that you’ve done the bed, it’s important to check other areas of the room. Start in the areas closest to the bed and work your way out.
Artwork above bed
Often you’ll find some kind of artwork above the bed. Like the headboard, these are often fixed to the wall in a way that makes them difficult to remove. Use the flashlight and mirror to check the edges where it meets the way. Also check the corners where the pieces of picture frame meet together.
Next are the nightstands. Check them on the sides, back and underside if possible. Pull the drawers out and check them thoroughly — both on the inside and outside. Look for any stains or bugs. Then put them back in the nightstand.
You can also check the lamp, remote control and alarm clock. Look in cracks, crevices, seams and screw holds. If the lamp has a shade, check that too.
The rest of the room
From there you can check other artwork in the hotel room, check the drapes near the window and the dresser. With the dresser, pull the drawers out and check them inside and outside. Also use the flashlight to check the inside of the dresser. They are often too big to move.
If you did your homework on How to Avoid Bed Bugs Hotels and you performed the inspection outlined above, you’ll have gone a long way to protecting yourself. The job isn’t quite finished though. Make sure you check periodically throughout your stay. Bed bugs are very small and difficult to detect. It is possible you just missed them the first time around. If so and you find them later on, you can learn how to handle the situation by reading Bedbugs in Hotels and Hostels.