Nasty Bed Bugs: How to Spot Them and What to Do

I apologize for the yuck factor of this post. Sometimes travel ain’t so glamorous! Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite! You’ve all heard of bed bugs. Just hearing the two words makes me cringe! If you’ve never encountered them- count yourself lucky, but read this, because if you travel, chances are, you will one day. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to bed bugs. They are everywhere- including fancy expensive hotels. People don’t always have an immediate reaction to bed bug bites, so you may not even realize you’ve been bitten until after the fact. Some people may not even have a reaction at all! What’s even more terrifying, is the thought of accidentally bringing a colony of them home with you. Those little buggers love to hitchhike and enjoy traveling as much as we do. That’s why it’s super important to know what a bed bug is, how to look for them, and what to do if you find them.

A bedbug is a parasite that is pretty much a tiny vampire. They can engorge themselves on your tasty blood for 3 to 10 minutes! GROSS! They are small, red or brown, flat, and oval. The adults can be size of a sunflower seed. A mommy bedbug can lay hundreds of eggs over her lifetime. The eggs are the size of a grain of sand and they are white. Bed Bugs like to hide in mattresses, where they can camp out and wait for the midnight buffet. A bedbug bite looks a lot like a flea bite, it’s a round slightly raised red circle. Unlike a flea bite, there is no white dot in the center, sometimes there will be a red dot. The bites usually don’t itch at first. There will most likely be more than one bite in a small area, as bed bugs are looking for exposed skin. They do not fly, but they know how to get around pretty quick. Bed bugs will find any warm and cozy place to hideout, like the crack in your suitcase, or the pocket of your PJs. Obviously the best way to avoid bed bugs is prevention and awareness!

Here’s a helpful list of what you can do beforehand and what you need to be aware of.

  1. Before you check in, check the Bed Bug Registry to see if there have been any outbreaks at your rental, hotel, cruise ship or resort. If you find your accommodation on a recent incident report, don’t panic. This doesn’t mean you should immediately cancel your reservation. First, contact the manager, ask questions and tell them you are concerned. Make sure they are aware of the problem. Most likely they are, and they have taken steps to eradicate it. If you keep the reservation, make sure you have the manager note that you are concerned and move on to step 2.
  2. It can be pretty exciting to check into a new place. You’re on vacation, you want to unpack and settle in to your new home base. Your kids want to see where they’re going to sleep and claim their spot.  Resist the urge to unpack anything until you check each and every sleeping area and mattress. Do not forget to check the hideaway sofa bed and any cots you may also be using. This will only take a few minutes and once you get used to doing this, you’ll know what to look for every time. You can even teach your kids what to look for. If your kids are little, it may be a good idea to have them wait in the lobby for a few minutes or even out in the hall before coming in. Do not even bring your luggage into the bed area until you have performed this check:
    • Look at every inch of the mattress, in the seams and near the zippers. You will have to lift up the sheets. Go around the entire mattress. Look for other signs as well like reddish brown blood specs (ewww) and eggs. Get your cell phone out and use the flashlight to check dark places.
    • Don’t stop at the mattresses. Check the carpet at the seams, the baseboards, the nightstand and the closet. Remember that bed bugs are small and flat.
  3. If you’ve found bed bugs or any evidence of bed bugs, take pictures and then contact the manager immediately. Request to change rooms, preferably far away from the current room. You don’t want a room next to, above, or below the current room.

I admit, I did none of this at all and never even thought of the pests, until I got bit. It was at a well known hotel chain that had a great reputation. Unless you’ve experienced this- you may be blissfully unaware of what an extreme pain in the booty it is to deal with them…the sheer horror of the thought of them hiding in your luggage and invading your home! IF you discover bedbugs before you leave the hotel, take pictures, and then contact management IMMEDIATELY. They will need to move you and thoroughly steam clean or heat treat all your belongings. Management should be extremely apologetic, they may even offer you a refund or voucher. Try and be calm and understanding. No organization wants bed bugs- it is an industry wide problem that is hard to control.  Make sure you report the incidence to the Bed Bug Registry to help others become aware. When you get home, you may want to be extra careful with your belongings. Unload all the laundry into plastic bags and wash thoroughly with hot water. Don’t wear your shoes inside until you’ve inspected them. Check all luggage before bringing them back into your home, vacuum crevices and clean out the vacuum canister into your trash bin outside. Take a nice long shower and hope you’re in the clear. You may want to check your mattresses for the next few weeks to make sure you didn’t bring new pets into your life.

I got bit years ago, and I still have scars, so I’ve got a nice living reminder to do my bed bug scan. Although you shouldn’t be paranoid while on vacation, a 3-5 min check could save you from a very unpleasant infestation (that could potentially ruin your whole trip). Preparation and prevention go a long way! Speaking of preparation, please see my post on what to do if you’ve been robbed on vacation. I share useful tips on how to minimize the risks of this happening. Have you ever experienced bed bugs? I feel your pain. Leave me a comment and tell me about it.

If you accidentally bring them home, click here to see how to get rid of them in your home.

Make sure you Pin this so you remember what to do every time when you check in!


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