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Bed Bugs: A Travelers Guide

Traveling with your family or friends can be an exciting experience. Visiting new places and trying out new things, or perhaps even going to back to places you have been before can be fun. However, you may not be traveling with just your family, considering the recent bed bug resurgence. Throughout towns and cities across the USA, unlike ever before, infestations of bed bugs are cropping up all too frequently. Sadly, the most likely people to be in contact with them are travelers. However, don’t panic, you do not have to change your plans or cancel your vacation. By just following these few basic principles when you travel, you can still have a very good time, but fend off the bed bugs too.

Before you leave home:
Before you begin your trip, there are a few things you should do to avoid an infestation of bed bugs in your home.

  • Before you book your hotel, look at some of the reviews. Remain cautious, but bear in mind that a hotel may have eradicated the problem since the date of the review.

  • Speak directly to the Hotel Manager, ask questions about bed bugs before booking. If they avoid your questions or are unable to answer them, then you may want to consider booking somewhere else.

  • Research what the media may have said about bed bugs at your destination. Performing a simple web-search with your destination name, the city, and bed bugs will give you the information you need. By way of example, more recently, New York has been overwhelmed with bed bugs, which has created quite a stir through the media outlets.

What Do I Pack?
Besides your usual vacation items like toiletries and clothing, you should consider a few extra things so you can avoid bed bugs during your travels

  • A few large zip-lock bags. These are ideal for storing your clean and dirty clothing to prevent bed bugs nesting in them during your trip.

  • Disposable bags (extra-large) so you can put your luggage inside them when you get to your hotel room. By doing this, it will stop bed bugs taking up residence inside them.

  • A strong LED flashlight – when you arrive at your hotel, use it to examine the furniture, bedding, and other items for bed bugs.

Inspecting the room of your hotel before you bring your luggage into the room is vital. Leave your luggage in the hallway or the car you have hired until after you have examined your room thoroughly as set out below:

  • With your flashlight, inspect the bed for any brown/black specks which could be fecal matter from a bed bug. Also, check for exoskeletal shells that have been shed. Start at the top of the bed (headboard) and work your way down. During daily housekeeping in a hotel, the headboard is the only item not moved, so it is the perfect place for bed bugs to hang out. If you can, pull the headboard away from the wall to gain better inspection.

  • Remove the mattress and the bed linen and check them carefully. Examine the tag and the seams because they can often hide away in that space.

  • Open any drawers in dressers or night stands and examine them. If you see any powder inside, it is likely that the room has been exterminated.

  • If you see any of the above items in your room, then leave immediately. Head down to the reception area and ask for a different room. Nevertheless, be sure to examine the new room in the same way as you did before. Just because you have moved to a new room, it does not mean the problem is resolved.

  • If you find after your inspection that the room is clear, then you can bring in your luggage, but ensure the bags are kept off the ground. Do not put anything on the floor or the bed.

  • With the extra-large ziplock bags, you brought with you put your luggage inside and only take out what you need to use.

  • For any items that you intend to keep outside of your luggage, place them inside a ziplock bag.

Before Traveling Home:

  • Each of the items that have been left outside of your encased luggage, you will need to inspect them. If you determine that they are all right, then put them in a separate sealable back inside your luggage

  • Examine your family and yourself for any welts, bits or red blotchy skin patches, and also check the sheets with a flashlight before you leave the room. If there are blood flecks on the sheets or you notice any red marks on your skin, there is an excellent chance you have been bitten..

  • Once you have exited the room, remove your luggage from the encasement and throw the plastic bag away

Back at Home:
Even the best thought out plans can go wrong, so even if you followed these safety measures to the letter, you might still have bed bug hitchhikers on you or your items. So, to ensure you are safe, rather than sorry, the following steps need to be taken before you re-enter your home.

  • Leave your luggage in the garage or the car, do not bring it indoors until you are ready to unpack everything.

  • When the time comes to wash your clothing, place everything in another bag and transport it to your machine. Wash your clothing items on the hottest possible wash, then the same for your dryer for approximately 20 minutes beyond its usual cycle so that it will achieve the desired temperature.

  • Wipe down before you bring them indoors, with isopropyl alcohol (90%), those items which cannot be put into the dryer.

  • When your suitcase is empty, vacuum it out and inspect it very carefully, again before you bring it indoors. If the weather is good, put your luggage in empty plastic bags and store them outside or in the garage for two weeks. Any bugs that are present if the temperature drops below freezing or reaches 112 degrees.

  • Dispose of all the plastic bags you have used, as well as the cleaner bag from the vacuum once you have finished.

And finally…
Sadly, the reality is that bed bugs exist and that we humans are forced at some point to share the same space. So, you need to remain vigilant and protect your family from these parasites, no matter whether you are on a business trip or a family vacation. If it is impossible for you to undertake all our suggestions, then at the very least take a flashlight with you so you can inspect your hotel bed and the headboard, to make sure there are no signs of bed bugs. It may all sound very labor-intensive, but simple things like leaving your bag outside when you come home for a trip or any others we have mentioned will certainly help to prevent an infestation. It is a lot easier than trying to get rid of one.

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