Bed Bug Prevention When Traveling
If you travel often and stay in a hotel or motel, keep these bed bug travel tips in mind. it is important that you take some precautions to ensure that your room is bed-bug free before you settle in. In a recent survey by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), 98% of pest control companies report encountering bed bugs in residences; 75% in hotels and 21% in transportation.
The NPMA recommends the following tips for bed bug prevention when traveling:
- At hotels, pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, for telltale stains or spots. If you see anything suspect, notify management and change rooms/establishments immediately.
- Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas/chairs. If any pests are spotted, change room/establishment immediately.
- If you do need to change rooms, be sure that you do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation. Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the point of origin.
- Consider placing your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or protective cover during the duration of your trip to make certain that bed bugs cannot take up residence there before departure.
- Don’t leave your suitcase on the floor or chairs.
- Don’t leave your shoes on the floor.Keep them inside your luggage liners when not in use.
- Remember: bed bugs travel by hitching rides. After your trip, inspect your suitcases before bringing them into the house. Vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing them away. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which will kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have hitched a ride home; or launder with high heat. Be careful not to ruin sensitive garments—check the label first!
- If you find bed bugs on your suitcase or clothes, consider placing them in a sealed plastic trash bag them throwing them away immediately. That’s right! It’s far less expensive in most cased to buy yourself a new suitcase and outfit, than it is to pay for a bed bug extermination.
- Once home, wash all of your clothes – even those that have not been worn – in hot water to ensure that any bed bugs that may have made it that far are not placed into your drawers or closet.
How to Look for and Avoid Bedbugs in Hotel or Motel Rooms
Bed Bug Prevention Product Options for Travel
If You Suspect Bed Bugs Are In Your Hotel Room
- Notify management and request to change rooms immediately.
- Do not move to a room adjacent and/or directly above/below the suspected infestation. Bed bugs can easily hitchhike via housekeeping carts, luggage and even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin.
When You Arrive Home
- Inspect your suitcases outdoors before bringing them into the house. vacuum your suitcase thoroughly before storing it. Consider using a garment hand steamer to steam your luggage, which can kill any bed bugs or eggs that may have traveled home with you.
- Wash and dry all of your clothes – even those that have not been worn – on hot cycles.
- Keep clothes that go to the dry cleaner in a sealed plastic bag until they can be transported.
You can use your washing machine and dryer to kill bed bugs that may be infesting clothes. Clothes laundered in hot water and/or dried in temperatures hotter than 122° F for 20 minutes will kill all stages of bed bugs. This is typically the medium-high setting. If you are not sure what temperature you drier can reach, ask a professional to test it for you. You can also sterilize curtains and other fabrics, rugs, shoes, backpacks, stuffed animals, toys, and similar objects by drying them for about 30 minutes (for a full load).
Items that cannot be washed may be heated or frozen. Currently, research is being conducted to determine the most effective thermal conditions for killing bed bugs, while not damaging materials. However, based on related research, a two-hour core exposure at 120°F (45°C) should be considered a minimum target temperature for heat treatments.
For freezing, a minimum of 23°F (-5°C) must be maintained for at least 5 days. As the temperature is decreased, the time of exposure is shortened. For instance, the articles could be “flash frozen,” resulting in a very short time of exposure, but the target temperature should be -15°F (-26°C), the conditions required to instantly freeze the eggs. Keep in mind that most household freezers will have varying temperatures between 30°F and 20°F, and a 2-week freeze time is recommended if you are uncertain of the freezer temperatures.
If heating or freezing conditions are used, remember that these adverse conditions must reach the core of the articles being treated.
How can I assure that my items are not carrying bed bugs without throwing them away?
Many people may want to discard all luggage and clothing after discovering an infestation, but this is unnecessary. The key is to contain all items suspected of carrying bed bugs in plastic bags until the items can be laundered, washed by hand, heated, or frozen.
Before leaving the infested site, anything that can be laundered should be sorted and placed in plastic bags. Separate the laundry as you would if you were normally laundering items, specifically: light colored clothes from dark items; delicate items from items that can be laundered on wash / dry regular cycles; and finally, dry cleanable items. Separating the clothing permits easy loading of the washing machine and you can avoid escaping bed bugs as you try to sort the laundry at home.
Suitcases and other items that cannot be placed into a washing machine should be carefully inspected, and if bed bugs are found (or you are not sure) place them into plastic bags, as well. Suitcases may be hand-washed. If hand-washing any items, use soapy water and make sure that the hottest water possible is used. Test the item to make sure it will not be affected by the hot water. A target temperature of 100°F to 120°F should be sufficient. Use a scrub brush along the seams and folds.