How to sleep tight and not let the bed bugs hitch a ride home from vacation: 10 tips

Whether you're staying in a hotel, Airbnb, or vacation rental, the tips in this article will help you keep bed bugs at bay and ensure a pest-free return home.

Bed bugs are one of the most dreaded pests that can infest a home. These tiny insects can cause a great deal of discomfort, irritation, and anxiety as they bite and feed on human blood. Unfortunately, one of the most common ways that bed bugs are introduced into a home is through travel. Bed bugs can hitchhike on luggage, clothing, and other personal items, and can easily make their way into your home if you’re not careful.

If you’re planning a vacation, it’s important to take steps to prevent bed bugs from coming home with you. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, Airbnb, vacation rental, or other type of accommodation, the tips in this article will help you keep bed bugs at bay and ensure a pest-free return home.

First of all, bed bugs are serious business

Bed bugs are not just a nuisance, but can pose significant health risks and negatively impact a person’s quality of life. They can give us:

  • Allergic reactions: For some people, bed bug bites can trigger an allergic reaction, resulting in symptoms such as swelling, redness, and severe itching.
  • In severe cases, anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, can occur. Although anaphylaxis from bed bug bites is rare, those with a history of severe allergic reactions should take extra precautions to avoid bed bugs.
  • Anemia: Bed bugs feed on human blood, and severe infestations can lead to a significant loss of blood over time. This can result in anemia, a condition in which the body does not have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
  • Skin infections: Scratching bed bug bites can break the skin, making it more susceptible to infection. Bed bugs can carry bacteria that can cause skin infections, such as impetigo and ecthyma. These infections can be serious and may require medical attention.
  • Poor mental health: The presence of bed bugs can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health. The stress of dealing with an infestation, the fear of being bitten, and the stigma associated with bed bugs can all contribute to anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Studies have shown that people with bed bug infestations are more likely to report poor mental health and a lower quality of life.

In addition to these health risks, bed bugs can also lead to social isolation and financial hardship. The stigma associated with bed bugs can cause people to avoid those who have had an infestation, leading to social isolation.

Bed bug detection and prevention for travelers

There are several strategies you can use to severely minimize the risk of encountering bed bugs and avoid bringing them home.

Do your research

Before you travel, research the area where you will be staying to see if it has a history of bed bugs. Check for recent negative reviews or news articles about bed bug infestations in any hotels or short-term rentals you’re interested in. Then:

Pack with sealable bags

Pack your clothes and belongings in sealable plastic bags or luggage with tight-fitting zippers to prevent bed bugs from hitching a ride.

Use a luggage liner

You can also use a luggage liner for an additional barrier preventing bed bugs from getting into your luggage.

Use bed bug repellent

Bed bug repellent sprays and powders can be applied to your luggage and clothing before you leave on your trip.

Inspect the new room for bed bugs

Important: when you first enter the hotel room, keep your luggage off the floor and on top of a hard surface or a luggage rack. Bed bugs are less likely to be on hard surfaces and are more commonly found on soft surfaces like mattresses, bed frames, and upholstery.

  • The first place to check for bed bugs is of course the bedding. Start with the sheets, mattress pad, and pillows. Look for any small, rust-colored stains or spots on the sheets and pillowcases, as well as any small black or brown specks. These could be signs of bed bug fecal matter or shed skin. You can also look for actual bugs, which are about the size and shape of an apple seed.
  • Inspect the mattress: Lift the mattress and inspect the seams, tags, and crevices for signs of bed bugs or their fecal matter. You can use a flashlight to help you see in dark crevices. Pay particular attention to the corners and edges of the mattress.
  • Check the headboard: Bed bugs are often found in the headboard, particularly in the seams and crevices. Use a flashlight to inspect the headboard thoroughly.
  • Look for other signs: Bed bugs can be found in other areas of the room as well, such as in the furniture, curtains, and carpet. Check these areas for signs of bed bugs or their fecal matter.

Use a bed bug mattress encasement

Consider using a bed bug-proof mattress encasement on your home mattress to prevent bed bugs from infesting your bed.

Use a luggage rack

Keep your luggage off the floor and bed by using a luggage rack or placing it on a hard surface like a desk or dresser. If you have to get creative, you can even consider hanging luggage on the wall.

Avoid unpacking your clothing

If possible, try to keep your clothing in your luggage and avoid unpacking your clothes into drawers or closets.

When back home, immediately wash all your clothes

When you return home, wash all your clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat for at least 30 minutes to kill any bed bugs that may have traveled with you.

Don’t be afraid to call a professional

If, despite all your efforts, you suspect you have brought bed bugs home with you, don’t try to tackle the problem on your own — it’s necessary to hire a professional exterminator to assess and treat the infestation. You should still wash all infested items, clothing, and linens in hot water and dry on high heat to kill as many bed bugs as possible. You can place infested items in a sealed plastic bag and put them in the freezer for a few days to kill the bugs.