Some simple precautions can minimize the trauma of dealing with hotel bedbugs.
The creepiest thing about checking into a hotel room these days is the thought that you may find bedbugs waiting there to greet you. Unfortunately, the more often you travel, the greater the risk.
Rest assured (hmm, maybe that’s not the right term), bedbugs aren’t confined to hotels alone. They have been found in movie theatres, trendy shops, offices, moving vans, laundromats, public transportation, and yes, even in ambulances. But, it’s natural that people tend to worry about them most when they think about beds!
Here are some precautionary steps you can take to avoid bedbugs the next time you check in to a hotel–and, hopefully, sleep more peacefully:
1 – Search before you go
Before you book a room, spend a few minutes checking out whether the hotel has been cited for bedbugs by other travelers. Some user review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and IgoUgo include such reports.
Raveable (a hotel review site) has a bedbug watch that compiles bedbug reports from travelers. Bedbug Registry is a free, public database of 20,000 user-submitted reports covering 12,000 locations.
Yes, user reporting isn’t always accurate but wouldn’t you feel more comfortable staying at a property that isn’t listed?
2 – Know thy enemy
Know what a bedbug looks like. The bugs are oval flat and brown — about the size of an apple seed (although size depends on life stage). Attracted to warmth and carbon dioxide, they tend to come out at night and can hide in the tiniest cracks and crevices.
The health risks are minimal but the “yuk” factor is extremely high if you bring them home. Getting rid of them can be an expensive, time-consuming and inconvenient.
3 – Check out your room
Before you take off your shoes and get under the covers, do a cursory check of your room. Look for reddish-brown specks on pillowcases, sheets, covers and the mattress (especially at seams and corners); this is a sure sign that the bugs have been feeding there. If you have a few extra minutes, check the bedframe and headboard.
4 – Pack and unpack accordingly
Although bedbugs don’t fly, they are great long-distance crawlers and hitchhikers, adept at getting into luggage, shopping bags or shoes. Only take whatever clothing or personal articles you really need and use sealed plastic bags to pack (see my prior article on the intelligent use of Ziploc bags.)
Avoid using hotel drawers or shelves, or leaving suitcases or other personal belongings on carpeted floors. If you are totally bedbug-phobic, wrap your suitcases in large plastic trash bags and store them in the bathroom. Don’t use your laptop in bed; bedbugs can decide to nestle behind the keys.
Check for signs of bedbugs immediately when you return home (preferably before you enter your house). Empty your belongings on a non-carpeted floor. Immediately transfer your clothes into a plastic bag until you can wash them in the hottest water the fabric will tolerate; dry them at high temperatures for at least 20 minutes. Alternatively, have your clothes dry-cleaned, even those you haven’t worn. Vacuum the inside of your suitcase before you put it away.
5 – Pay it forward
If you find evidence of a hotel bedbug infestation, report it both to the hotel management and to user sites like those previously mentioned. If you do find traces of them at home, don’t try to do-it-yourself. Hire a professional.
Another helpful tip from BedBug Watch: Use a hair dryer (also commonly found in hotel rooms) to look for bedbugs. Pointing the hot air towards crevices forces bedbugs out of hiding and may help you spot an infestation. Blow the air along the mattress seams and baseboards until you have some assurance that your room is bedbug-free. Bedbugs don’t like heat.