Traveling and tourism are few of the notorious culprits to the spread of bed bugs across the globe. Airplanes, trains, buses, and other means of transportation act like Petri dishes that let the pests propagate and cling to human hosts and their belongings. After dozens of hosts acquired a few bugs, it would spread like wildfire in their own homes, exponentially as they continue to travel and visit other properties. It’s not easy to avoid bed bugs while traveling. One must be cautious and mindful of some factors. Here are some moves that you can practice:
1. Inspect your hotel bed
The first thing you should do before touching your luggage is to check the bed of the hotel or accommodation you booked. Look if there are black stains on the sheets and mattress or if there are tiny insects on the headboard, box spring, or foot of the cot. Focus on the corners and seams as these are the most favorite part for harborage.
If you’re traveling with your family or friends, tell them to do the same as you can also acquire the bugs through their infected baggage. Don’t hesitate to pull the sheets out to check for the telltale signs.
2. Seal your luggage inside a clean trash bag
You can actually buy a plastic container with zippers that can accommodate your bag. This would isolate your belongings from the surrounding, thus dodging any chance that the pest would climb into your luggage. If you don’t have this, you can simply use a big trash bag and seal it with a knot. Just make sure that you use a clean one without holes in it.
Glossy plastic is a good choice, as the bugs would find it impossible to climb. Also, don’t leave your bag on the floor as this will be a convenient harborage for the bugs. If you want to avoid bed bugs while traveling, follow this simple advice.
3. Don’t move to a room on the same floor as the infected one
If ever you spot the presence of bed bugs, insist that you transfer to another room. But here’s what you should know: transfer two floors away from the infested room. Bed bugs can spread fast as they can crawl on ventilation pipes that connect each room. This could span to a few meters depending on the presence of the host.
Exterminators suggest that you stay two floors away as this distance is unlikely to be reached by the bugs given that they only infest one room or floor. Even if you’d finally find a ‘clean’ room, practice the other precautions here just the same.
4. Get the attention of the hotel staff if you spot bugs
After inspecting the room, let the hotel personnel know that you have a concern with the room. Never hesitate to ask that you be moved to another room on the floor of your choice to avoid bed bugs while traveling. It’s a hassle for both you and the hotel staff but it would save you from itchy bed bug bites after your trip.
This move might create a mild tiff between you and the personnel but if you choose to keep mum, you’ll have to endure the stains on the mattress as well as a few souvenir bites from the critters.
5. Have a good look at the bathroom
It’s not just the bed that bugs would use as a hideout. There are other spots in a hotel room that could be potential spaces to mask their tiny bodies. Inspect the bathroom with the same keen eyes. The insects don’t like the tiled floors as this is slippery and they find it hard to crawl. What they love about it is that a lot of hosts spend a handsome time inside that will allow them to hitch on clothes or towels.
Another thing is that bathrooms are usually located only a few feet from the bed. And since this is mostly dark during the day, it becomes a suitable place to stay until it’s time to eat.
6. Come up with a ‘hotel protocol’
If you’re always traveling with kids, make sure that you let them know of your hotel protocol. This is a quick drill of checking possible harborage of the bugs including the bed, furniture, bathroom, and other spots. It doesn’t have to be an exaggerated case of lifting things just to appease the paranoia of a possible infestation or to avoid bed bugs while traveling.
Letting the kids know the purpose of this would encourage them to help. Bed bug bites aren’t adorable and the idea of it would surely send them scuffling to their feet to check for the pest. Another thing to look for is powder traces that could be dried pesticides used to treat a previous infestation.
7. Wash every piece of fabric
After the trip, make sure to wash every piece of fabric inside your luggage regardless if you used it or not. Bed bugs are so small and the young ones called nymphs are transparent that make it hard to detect them on clothes. Put all your garments in one bag and bring it to the laundry area for washing.
One good trick to kill possible bugs that might have been harboring on the clothes is to apply a few drops of tea tree oil while laundering the fabric. This essential oil is pungent for the pest but pleasant for humans, thus an effective way to avoid bed bugs while traveling.
8. Never unpack on your bed
The basic rule: never unpack on your bed. This is the reason why hotels have luggage racks as the bugs can’t climb on its slippery finish. You can use a chair as an alternative, preferably plastic, as the pest can’t move too much on its surfaces. Don’t toss the clothes on the floor either as this would only make your careful unpacking useless.
If you can, bring your luggage to the laundry area so you can directly wash it while limiting the possible contact of the bugs to your sleeping area. However, keep in mind that bugs are good crawlers and they can slip your watch.
9. Clean your bag
When every piece of fabric is cleaned and pressed, it’s time to clean the luggage to avoid bed bugs while traveling. The best method here is to use a steam cleaner with a flat and elongated tip. Set the heat to the highest level the material of your bag can endure. Do this inside out to have a higher chance of killing the bugs that happen to hitch on your travel.
You can also leave the luggage in direct sunlight for an added disinfecting benefit. However, you should know if the fabric used on your luggage is heat sensitive.
10. Use a luggage spray before leaving
In case you’re really worried about the bugs climbing its way through your bags, you can use a luggage spray before you leave your house. This mild pesticide will help repel the bugs. One of this is the JT Eaton 208-W6Z Bed Bug Control for Luggage. Basically, this product is made of water-based Permethrin that can ward off bugs and other insects.
Spray this on your luggage before packing your things. It’s safe to use directly on mattresses so you don’t have to worry about your clothes getting smeared. A single application has a residual application of six weeks so you’re covered for your entire vacation. If you’re traveling longer than that, you can always bring this 6-ounce pump spray with you.
Avoid bed bugs while traveling using the tips I gave here and you’ll have added peace of mind even if you’re checking on different hotels and boarding many trips or flights. Bed bugs are master hitchhikers, you better watch out so they won’t bite!