Bed bugs in your hotel room? Make sure you don't bring them home

Bed bugs in your hotel room? Make sure you don't bring them home

As the warmer weather leads into travel season, anyone who travels will want to be extra vigilant when it comes to picking up bed bugs. The checklist for travelers may include sunscreen, but bringing home bed bugs will be a more long-term inconvenience than dealing with sunburn. Here are some steps to identify bed bugs and what to do to prevent these unwanted hitchhikers ending up in your suitcase.


Do know how to identify a bed bug

Adult bed bugs are about one-quarter of an inch long or about the size of an apple seed and resemble a flat apple seed or lentil. While bed bugs do not transmit disease to humans, they can leave red, itchy bite marks, especially on the neck, arms and legs, which may be exposed while sleeping.

Do look beyond the bed for bed bugs

While bed bugs get their names from inhabiting bedding, these pesky bugs can make their home in a variety of locations. Bed bugs are most often found in mattresses and box springs, but they can also live beneath cushions in chairs and sofas. Additionally, bed bugs will conceal themselves in places close to these areas, such as in night stands, wallpaper, headboards, wall hangings and baseboards.

Do inspect your hotel room immediately after arrival

Once arriving to your hotel room, it is a good idea to inspect the room for signs of bed bugs before you unpack. Common places in hotels are behind the headboard that is attached to the wall, and on the box spring beneath the bed skirt; however mattresses, sheets, sofas, and upholstery are other common habitats. Look for live insects as well as other common signs such as black fecal staining, molted bed bug skins, and tiny white sticky eggs (about 1/2 the size of a grain of rice).

Do hang up your clothing bag on a closet rod and set your suitcase off the floor

While inspecting the hotel room, it is advisable not to place your luggage on the bed or floor where bed bugs may easily reach them. Hang up your clothing bag in the closet and set your suitcase where bed bugs are less likely to encounter it, such as on a luggage rack or in the bathtub.

Do wash your clothing as soon as you return home

To kill any eggs or live bed bugs hiding in your suitcase, it is a good idea to wash all clothing immediately upon your return home, even clothing that was never worn or brand new clothing that was bought on the trip. After all, the clothing all shared the same suitcase coming home. Launder in hot, soapy water and dry in high heat.


Do not place backpacks or belongings onto the bed or cushioned furniture

Bed bugs harbor in the seams and nooks and crannies of furniture. By placing your luggage or belongings onto soft surfaces such as beds and cushioned furniture in a hotel room, it can only take a few moments for bed bugs to quickly find their way into the crevices of your baggage. A better alternative is to place your luggage on hard surfaces such as a credenza, a table, or a luggage rack and hang up your clothing bag immediately on a garment rack.

Do not wait to notify hotel staff if you notice something suspicious

After your luggage is safely stored off of the beds and cushioned furniture, it is time to inspect the room. Lifting the bed covers and checking the mattress seams offers an opportunity to check for not only bed bugs, but also the black spots of fecal matter. Checking in and around the beds, such as headboards, box springs and furniture near the beds such as a nightstand and lamps is also important. Lift the cushions of any furniture and examine the legs of furniture for insects and droppings. If you notice something suspicious, immediately notify the hotel staff and ask for a different room, preferably on a different floor from the original room.

Do not set your suitcase on your bed to unpack

Upon their return home, people have a tendency to set their suitcases on their bed to make unpacking more convenient. However if bed bugs are in the suitcase, they can easily relocate right into the bedding. And in all of the chaos of unpacking, this transfer will likely go unnoticed by the exhausted vacationer.

Do not store your suitcase in living spaces

Once unpacked, be mindful of where you store your suitcase. If bed bugs and their eggs are hiding in the crevices of your suitcase, they are usually difficult to spot, (despite attempts at a thorough suitcase inspection). Therefore, keep your suitcase in the garage, basement or attic. If you must store your suitcase in a bedroom or other living area, keep it in a plastic trash bag (tied shut) to prevent bed bugs from traveling into your living space.

Do not hesitate to contact a pest professional if you find they have come home

So your trip was terrific and you made it safely home, and despite all your precautions, a few bed bugs have come home along with your travel souvenirs. Bed bug infestations can grow severe in a short period of time and are not a pest that homeowners should tackle on their own. Call in a reputable pest control company to eradicate the pest from your residence.

Jumping cartoon

Bed bugs are found worldwide and primarily feed on humans. Regular inspections and precautionary measures with your luggage/ baggage are the best line of defense in preventing an infestation. Inspect sleeping areas for signs of bed bugs such as black fecal spotting, molted bed bug skins and tiny white, sticky eggs. Upon returning home from a trip, take precautions with suitcases and other belongings, such as not unpacking on the bed, washing all clothes and storing suitcases in non-living spaces (if possible). Finally, don’t hesitate to contact a pest professional if you do spot bed bugs in your home.

More expert advice about First Aid for Travelers

Photo Credits: © Matthew Bowden -; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Nancy Troyano, PhD, BCETraining manager / Entomologist

After graduating from Lehigh Carbon Community College with an A.A.S. degree in Veterinary Technology, Nancy became a certified veterinary technician. Nancy worked as a zookeeper while pursuing a B.S. degree in Environmental Science at East Strou...

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