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How to Determine if your Hotel has Bed Bugs

how to check hotel for bed bugs
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Most travelers don’t give bed bugs much thought. Depending on where you are going, it may be unlikely that you will have a run-in with them. At the same time, bed bug infestations have been on the rise in many places and in some cases, even upscale hotels haven’t been spared.

Why should I be concerned about bed bugs?

You mean besides the fact that they feed on your blood while you are sleeping? Really? Look at this thing:

Do you want that feeding on you while you sleep? If you are still unconcerned, know that bed bugs can cause skin rashes, blisters, and allergic reactions. The good news is that they haven’t yet been shown to transmit human diseases.

Perhaps the biggest reason you should be concerned about bed bugs is that there is the potential for them to jump into your own luggage and make their way home with you. Once they set up shop, they can be awfully difficult to get rid of. At the very least, you can expect to pay a professional exterminator for services and you may have to get rid of some household items. Best to avoid these tiny devils in the first place.

Avoiding hotels with bed bugs

Before we talk about how to detect bed bugs in your hotel room, let’s discuss how you can find a hotel that is bed bug free. In many cases, you can conduct some research before hand to determine if the hotel has a problem with this issue.

  • Consult sites like the Bed Bug Registry, which documents reports of bed bugs in the USA and Canada
  • Look at review sites like TripAdvisor to see what customers have to say about the hotel’s cleanliness. If there are bed bugs, you will often see this fact mentioned in the reviews. The good thing is that the hotel cannot censor these reviews in any way.
  • Can’t find your hotel? Try doing a google search for bed bugs in the city you are visiting. At the very least, sometimes you can find information on the bed bug situation in the particular neighborhood you may be trying to stay in.

While all of this is helpful, it should be noted that bed bugs can spring up anywhere, anytime. Whether it’s a dirty hotel or a clean one, all it takes is one customer carrying some bed bugs in their luggage to start a new colony. This brings us to the second, and arguably more important, part of the article.

How to detect bed bugs in your hotel room

Run through this quick checklist to ensure that your room is not home to a colony of bed bugs.

  • Take off the bed sheets and have a look at the mattress. This is the preferred home for bed bugs and if you run your hand along the seams and examine the mattress tag, you are covering prime bed bug territory. You are looking for their waste, which looks like small black dots (a bit smaller than a poppy seed), blood stains, and/or shed skin casings. Keep in mind all of the evidence will be small – it requires close examination.
  • Check all around the headboard. Bed bugs like tiny compact spaces in which they can get wedged in and build a cozy nest. Pay special attention to where the headboard meets the mattress.
  • Check any bedside tables or drawers and any nearby furniture that may offer a cozy spot for bed bugs to hide in.

If you find bed bugs, obviously you will want to report this to management immediately. Definitely insist on another room, but you may also want to look into finding a different hotel property altogether.

Regardless of whether you see bed bugs or not, use a luggage stand or something similar to keep your bags elevated. This will help ensure that you don’t end up taking anything with you.

If you are really paranoid, there are all sorts of products you can search for that either trap, kill or repel bed bugs. Just do a search on a site like amazon.com and you will see all of your options. At the end of the day, it is unlikely that you will have a run-in with bed bugs, but your odds certainly go up the more often you stay in hotels.

Do you have any bed bug stories, tips or advice? Please share them in the comments below.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adspackman/6171699727/

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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Andrea January 23, 2012, 4:01 am

    Ick! We’re about to plan a trip back to NYC soon and I know they had an infestation not long ago so this is timely. Great tips!

    • phil January 23, 2012, 6:58 am

      NYC has had pockets of bed bug infestation going on for a while now. I know when I was living there, I had friends who had their whole apartment buildings become infested. Definitely a big problem that is intensified by close proximity. Just read up on hotel reviews before hand 🙂

  • Abby January 25, 2012, 9:31 am

    I had no idea how to check, thanks. The thought of bedbugs is horrifying. I might never sleep again!

    • phil February 6, 2012, 3:42 pm

      Sure thing, Abby. I hope you can sleep, though!!

  • dtravelsround January 25, 2012, 11:48 pm

    When I was in Turkey a couple slept in a bed INFESTED with them. INFESTED. After that, i took the time to learn these tricks and before I went to sleep in any hostel bed, I did a quick check of the seam of the mattress and looked for this stuff. So gross!

    • phil February 6, 2012, 3:47 pm

      Ugh, that’s making me squeamish just thinking about it. Definitely pays to be prepared!

  • Jade - OurOyster.com January 27, 2012, 4:31 pm

    UGH I HATE bed bugs! I have had a few run ins with them over the years…. the bites get huge and swollen and last 2 – 3 weeks on me. And they seem to love biting my face. Jerks.

    • phil February 6, 2012, 3:48 pm

      Oh no, not the face!! Fortunately, and *knock on wood*, I haven’t had any run ins. I hope to keep it that way!

  • Fern March 21, 2012, 4:43 pm

    When I’ve been in doubt, I use a sleeping mat on the bed, and sleep on that. I don’t think it offers any true protection, but nice to have a barrier between me and the mattress anyways.

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