Have you ever encountered bed bugs? I have. I found out that I was allergic to the horrible little blood suckers that come out at night, bite you and drink your blood. Nice? Huh?
They like to bite in a line or in clusters normally on your feet, hands or back of your shoulders. The itch is uncontrollable. You may have huge welts and scarring from their bites.
My skin was left scarred for months. I spent over $2,000 in home extermination. But, I wasn’t about to let these pesky creatures keep me from my love of traveling.
Bed bug prevention became my mission. I read everything I could find to help prevent another encounter. These are the tactics that I have instituted to prevent encountering them again. I hope that you also find them helpful.
Bed Bug Prevention Tactics:
1. Research Your Hotel
Put the name of your hotel and the words “bed bugs” into your internet search engine. Look for any reviews indicating that the hotel has or ever had had bed bugs. You will want to see when bed bugs were encountered and how guests experiencing them were treated by management. I do not book hotels with any mention of bed bugs even if it was ten years ago.
2. Book an Airbnb or VRBO Rather Than a Hotel
A lot of things factor into which type of accommodation to book for a trip. I often book an Airbnb or VRBO because I feel that they are less transitory. Less people are cycling through which, for me, means that I have less of a chance of encountering bed bugs.
3. Look for Accommodation with Hard Flooring
I love to book accommodation with hard flooring because it offers less places for bed bugs to hide. The flooring and entire room can also be sanitized much easier than a carpeted room.
4. Pack Smarter
Use a hard shell suitcase. It is hard for bedbugs, nature’s great hitchhikers, to hold on to hard luggage. Spray the zipper of your luggage with lavender spray. I travel with a small bottle containing distilled water mixed with lavender essential oil that I apply as a bed bug deterrent because I have read several places that bed bugs do not like lavender essential oil.
3. Treat your “Plane Clothes”
Spray your clothes that you will be traveling in by plane, bus or train with your lavender spray the night before you travel. Try to make sure any bed bugs that have fallen off of someone else don’t look to you for their next ride.
4. Spray Your Airplane/Train/Bus Seat
Have you ever seen the OCD person spraying their seat and tray on the airplane even before COVID. Yes, it’s me. Even before COVID, I sanitized my tray and seat. If you ever had an allergic reaction to and skin scarring lasting several months from bed bugs, you would understand why. My seat, floor area and back of the chair in front of me are sprayed with my lavender spray when I board. My tray is sprayed with hand sanitizing spray.
5. Wear an Aromatherapy Diffuser Necklace
Put fresh drops of lavender essential oil inside the necklace. Wear this necklace the whole time that you are traveling.
6. Don’t Skimp on Your Hotel Accomodation
You do not want to stay in the cheapest hotel. Bed bugs can be anywhere including the most luxurious hotels. But, you do want to stay somewhere with a certain level of cleanliness overall.
7. Check Your Room
Check your mattress, headboard and bedding immediately at check in. Be sure to check the seams of the mattress and between the mattresses for any little black specks, bugs or even tiny mattress worms which can also cause an allergic reaction.
If you see any indication of anything living in the mattress, along the baseboards of the room or near electrical outlets, check out immediately and tell the reception the reason for your departure. I have found that if one hotel room at a hotel has pests that all hotel rooms are likely to have the same pests. It may be a good idea to have a Plan B hotel scouted out on standby in case your original accomodation is unsuitable.
8. Treat Your Hotel Bed
Spray the sheets of your hotel bed with your lavender spray after checking in. Allow it a chance to dry before moving on to the next step.
9. Sleep in a Bamboo Silk Sleep Sack
Purchase a nice bamboo silk sleep sack to sleep in. The natural enzymes in bamboo silk naturally repel bed bugs and other insects. Carry a sealable plastic bags to store your used sleep sack in inside of your suitcase. If you will be staying in more than one hotel on your trip, you might decided to purchase two sleep sacks that you can alternate between washing.
10. Don’t Use the Luggage Rack nor Closet
Nature’s greatest hitchhikers would have ample opportunity to travel anywhere luggage and clothing is generally stored. I avoid using luggage racks and closets or any other things where bed bugs are likely to be.
11. Don’t Place Your Luggage on Soft Surfaces
Bed bugs hitchhike. They like soft surfaces and clothing. Don’t ever place your luggage on your bed. You do not want bed bugs from the bed to crawl into your suitcase.
I try to put my suitcase on my desk. If there isn’t a desk, I place it on top of the dresser. If there is no desk nor dresser, I normally keep it near the door or somewhere on the floor away from the bed. If you have a large bathroom with hard floor, this may be a smarter storage location.
12. Don’t Unpack Your Suitcase
I have packing down to a system. Every item has its place. Packing cubes keep everything organized. The only item that is regularly kept outside of my suitcase is my toiletry bag. I normally hang my toiletry bag in the bathroom.
13. Continue to Be Vigilant When You Return Home
Unpack your suitcase from the garage or driveway. Put your clothing into plastic bags. Wash and dry all clothing on hot when you return home.
In Case You Do Encounter Bed Bugs:
1. Carry Hydrocortisone Cream and Allergy Medicine
You will be grateful that you were prepared. Did you know that you can’t buy hydrocortisone cream nor allergy medicines in some countries?
2. File a Credit Card Dispute
File a dispute with your credit card company immediately. The hotel may use stalling tactics claiming they are “trying to investigate the matter.” Do not let the clock run out on being able to seek a financial remedy.
3. Toss Your Luggage
Some claim that there are ways to salvage your luggage but though my research and life experience dealing, I know how difficult it is to get rid of them. Consider your luggage a total loss.
Do not bring your luggage back into your home. Bed bug extermination is difficult and much more expensive than a new suitcase. Your clothing can still be salvaged by following step 13 above.
4. If You Do Have to Exterminate Your Home, Look into Heat Treatment
Professional spraying did not work for me. The bugs were able to multiply between spray treatments. Heat treatment was expensive ($2,000) but was the only thing that worked once bed bugs entered my home.
5. Write a Hotel Review
Inform other travelers of bed bugs. Let them know how management handled the situation and how you were treated.
Have you ever had to deal with bed bugs? How did your body respond? What other advice would you give travelers?
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Happy, safe and bug free travels!
Marsha R. Kennedy