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7 Rules To Avoid Getting Bed Bugs When You Travel

Last month, I went on an amazing trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Only a not so amazing thing happened at one of the hotels where I stayed. I went to bed after a night of tango dancing, and sometime circa 2 a.m., I woke up to what felt like a pin prick on my hand. “What the eff,” I thought, turning on the lamp by the bed. I saw that my hand was covered in a series of bug bites that were in precise, straight lines. Each had three bites—the telltale sign of bed bugs. I lifted up the sheet and—bam—there were two tiny bugs that looked like small, brown ticks. Gross, disgusting bed bugs! After a few minutes of freaking out, I calmly went to the desk and explained what was going on. The dude at the desk hardly seemed surprised—he offered to wash my clothes in hot water and book me a room at another hotel since there were no more open rooms.

I was terrified of bringing bed bugs home with me.Luckily, after doing lots of research on how to proceed, I didn’t—wonderful, since the average person spends $4,000 treating their home for bed bugs. But in talking to others, I’ve found many who were not as lucky. This whole experience has made me a much more cautious traveler, and so I wanted to pass on all my learnings to you.

Here your new travel guidelines for avoiding bed bugs:

  1. Always Google your hotel name along with the word “bed bugs.”. If I had done this, I would have seen that another traveler posted on TripAdvisor.com complaining about bed bugs in the exact room I was in just two weeks before I was in it. Another option? You can go to BedbugRegistry.com to check if there have been complaints at a specific hotel. Now, bed bugs are becoming a far-reaching problem and a hotel shouldn’t be blacklisted for having had them. So if you get a match, it shouldn’t completely dissuade you from staying somewhere. Just make sure to ask for a room that has never had a problem or that has been thoroughly treated.
  2. Invest in hard sided luggage. If bed bugs come home with you, they are most likely on your luggage. And apparently, they love to attach themselves to the seams and zippers of soft sided suitcases.
  3. Spray your luggage with bed bug deterrent spray before you travel. Buy the heavy duty stuff, or go for a brand like BedbugLogic, which uses thyme and cedar to keep bugs away.
  4. Inspect your room for bugs before bringing your luggage in. Lift up sheets at the top of the bed and look for any black or red dots. Because bed bugs can be very hard to spot, especially in a room where there is a low-grade infestation, one bed bug exterminator I talked to recommended this trick: always bring a hairdryer with you. Turn it on and blast slowly around the headboard and head side of the mattress. If there are bugs there, this will bring them out of hiding.
  5. Never put your clothes in drawers or in closets in hotels, especially on wooden hangers. Keep your clothes, toiletries, etc, in plastic baggies in your suitcase and only open them when you need them.
  6. When you get home, don’t bring your suitcase in with you. When returning from a trip, you should wash all your clothes in hot water and dry them for at least half an hour with heat before bringing them inside. While outside your apartment, wipe down your luggage and any non-dryable items you have with you.
  7. Make sure your apartment or house isn’t bed bug friendly. Mattress covers cost a bit but are very effective in preventing bed bug infestations. Also, avoid storing stuff under your bed, unless it’s in tightly sealed , plasticcontainers. Throw out excess cardboard and paper—bed bugs apparently love to hide there. And bookshelves, CD towers, etc, are safer to have in another room.

I’ll admit that putting this list together, it sounds a little alarmist. But—as anyone who has had bed bugs will attest—the psychological fear they breed is as bad as the bites. So do as much on this list as you feel you need to have mental peace of mind. For me, I probably won’t bust out the hair dryer trick on a regular basis. But I will certainly never book a hotel without
a quick Google search again.

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