Unfortunately for business travelers on the road, coping with bad airline food and jet lag aren’t the only hassles associated with business travel. In fact, frequent travelers typically face a high risk of finding bed bugs in hotel rooms, which increases their likelihood of bringing those bed bugs home.
How Common Are Bed Bugs When Traveling?
Numbers from the 2013 Bugs Without Borders Survey by the National Pest Management Association and University of Kentucky show some startling facts about bed bugs in hotels. If you travel frequently for work, it may interest you to know that:
- 75% of participating pest professionals treated bed bugs in hotels and/or motels. (This is slightly down from 80% in 2011.)
- 21% of participating pest exterminators treated bed bugs in transportation settings, such as on trains, busses and taxis. (This is slightly up from 18% in 2011.)
For those who travel frequently and finds themselves staying in new hotels often, those could be frightening numbers—especially when you consider how hard it is to get rid of bed bugs once they’re in your home. In fact, according to the same survey, 76% of respondents feel that bed bugs are the hardest pest to treat (which is why so many people worry so much about getting them). Once bed bugs are in your home, successfully treating them can be a long and expensive process. Luckily, signs of a bed bug infestation are relatively easy to see once you know what to look for.
How to Find Bed Bugs in a Hotel Room
No matter how often you travel, it’s good to know what a bed bug infestation looks like. Checking for bed bugs in a hotel room is a matter of knowing both what to look for and where to look. Things to look for include:
- Blood stains from bed bug bites. (These will look like red or black speckles, typically on bedding or other furniture.)
- Bug excrement. (This will look like black specks, similar to dried blood.)
- Bed bug bodies or eggs. (Bodies may come in any size from a tiny nymph to a full-grown adult, and eggs typically look like small grains of rice. Bodies may belong to live bugs or shed exoskeletons.)
Finally, another great way to check for bed bugs that doesn’t require you to physically look for them is to put the power of the Internet to use. Before you book your trip, check your hotel online for bad reviews. Guests who pick up bed bugs sometimes warn other travelers by using third-party review services (like tripadvisor.com). If the hotel you’re considering has a history of bed bugs, it’s probably best to stay away.
Places to look for bed bugs include:
- Around the bed. This includes on and under the mattress, bed frame, headboard and box spring. Bed bugs can infest the entire area, and they can hide, so it’s not just a matter of looking at the bed. And, since bed bugs can travel and hide feet away from a “feeding station,” the bed isn’t the only place one needs to check.
- Any stuffed or padded furniture. This can include just about anything you find in a typical hotel room, including chairs, couches, and foot rests.
- Nightstands. Because nightstands are typically positioned next to the bed, nightstands (and any electronics on them) can become a suitable bed bug home.
When checking these items, it is important to inspect not just those surfaces that are easily visible, but those surfaces that are hidden and tucked away, such as seams, folds, crevices, pleats, ruffles, fabric dimples and grommets. Bed bugs hide in tiny, dark spots that allow them to huddle together until feeding time, and it is these crevices where you are likely to find them.
Also, if you do find bed bugs in your hotel room, be sure that whichever room you switch to is not near the infested room. Bed bugs may be more likely to infest adjacent rooms than those that are far apart.
Protecting Your Belongings
Even if you’re confident that your room is bed bug free, there are a few extra precautions you can take to reduce your chances of bringing home an unexpected (and unwanted) souvenir. These include:
- Keeping your luggage off the floor and off the bed. Since bed bugs are likely to be found in either of these places if there is an infestation, keeping your luggage away from these “high traffic” areas reduces the risk that they will climb in.
- Keeping your belongs in plastic bags. Using Ziplock baggies and clothing bags with zippers is another way to seal out bed bugs.
- Hanging clothes rather than putting them in the dresser or on furniture.
- Once you get home, thoroughly inspect your belongings and launder them. Also, if possible, vacuum your suitcase before storing it. (This should prevent you from accidentally introducing bed bugs to closet clutter, which typically makes it much easier for them to hide and breed.)
Yes, finding bed bugs in your hotel room is (unfortunately) more common than most travelers want to think about. But, thankfully, with the proper precautions, travelers can reduce the likelihood of bringing bed bugs home while traveling.