Sleep tight - don't let the bed bugs bite...
The best way to avoid bed bugs is to avoid staying at hotel with a known problem. Duh! Obviously, that's not always possible. If you've got the itch for travel (but can do without the itch of bed bugs) listen up: it's easy to protect yourself if you know the tricks.
Tip # 1 - Bring a flashlight
Your flashlight (or cell phone with a light) is your new travel buddy - the rest is simple. The little buggers hate light. Ever lifted up a rock and watched the bugs scurry? Same thing happens with bed bugs when you shine light on them. Use your flashlight wisely and you too can travel bed-bug free.
Okay, it's not really that simple - bed bugs are invasive, hard to catch and more difficult to get rid of than dust. Bringing them home from a trip could cost you thousands of dollars and a lot of lost shut-eye.
Tip #2 - Inspect your hotel bed
When you arrive at your hotel, begin by putting your luggage in the bathroom or outside on the balcony while you poke around. Then grab your flashlight.
- Start with the headboard - shine the light into the spot where the brackets connect with the wall and follow along the path back to the bed. Watch for dark red or brown spots (fecal or blood stains) that mark a trail.
- Check the bedding - pull back the sheets quickly and look for dark red or brown stains in clusters. Look closely at the corners and seams where they hide during the day.
- Inspect the box spring - lift the mattress at the corners and shine your light into the darkness quickly. Check closely for stains and scurrying.
Tip #3 - Inspect your hotel room
Bed bugs can live up to a year without feeding, which means a sofa or desk chair can be a comfy place to live. But you can also find them in desk drawers and other dark places.
Pay close attention to corners and cracks - and keep an eye open for small stains.
Tip #4 - What to do if you find bed bugs
Whether you spot a live bug or evidence on the sheets, call the front desk immediately and explain what's in your room. Invite the hotel manager or another supervisor to your room to inspect the evidence, but make it clear you will not be staying in the room overnight.
Most hotels will happily give you another room. Remember to repeat the inspection again in your new room.
If you find bed bugs after you've slept in the room, ask to speak to the hotel manager and accept nothing less. The room should be steam cleaned immediately and your clothes laundered. If you meet with resistance, learn how to rant and get results.
Tip #5 - Prevent bed bugs from hitchhiking home with you
Protecting yourself and preventing hitchhikers from following you home is simpler than knowing which hotel has bed bugs in it.
- Never put your luggage on the bed. Stand the luggage rack on a hard floor (like the bathroom). Keep the rack well away from the wall or furnishings.
- When you get home, unpack on a hard floor - stay away from carpets. Watch closely for escapees as you unpack.
- Wash all your clothes in hot water. Water temperature should be at least 110F - and set your dryer on it's highest possible setting as well.
- Vacuum your suitcase. If you're worried about stowaways, unpack outside.
- If you live in a cold climate, temperatures must be below 23 F and you'll have to leave items outside for a minimum of 5 days (although 2 weeks is recommended).
- Don't forget your briefcase and purse. There are cases of libraries being infected with bed bugs - they aren't picky where they find their next meal. Don't leave any crevice un-sucked.
- Before you sleep in your own bed, shower. It's unusual for bed bugs to travel on people (we move too much for them to find a comfortable hiding place) but it's not unheard of.
Bed bugs are in hotels in every state and province in North America. Protecting yourself from the nasty critters takes travel smarts and diligence - both of which GoGirlfriend readers have plenty of.
Hungry for more info? These sites are great places to start: