Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bed Bug Travel Tips

Bed bugs are still in the news. Almost daily, I've spotted one scary article after another on major news sites and blogs. Terrifyingly, the creepy subject matter seems to be resonating across the globe- by people who are either infested by bed bugs, or scared to death that they soon will be!

Bed bugs are natural hitchhikers and aside from banning DDT, one of the reasons they have endured is their natural inclination to move and scatter and hitch a ride. This is built into their nasty, insect DNA, and they see you, and all fellow travelers, as their ticket to survival land!

I'd like to share some travel tips that can significantly reduce your chances of bringing home these unwanted guests. Yes, some of these are extreme and not all hoteliers and motel chains are going to appreciate the requests. It's up to you how ardent (or annoying) you want to be and how proactive  about prevention you wish to become.

Bed bugs are not class conscious!! A clean hotel one day, can become a breeding ground the next. It only takes one pregnant female to cause a serious problem for you down the the road.

Here is what you should consider when selecting a hotel:
  •  Visit  travel review sites like Trip Advisor to see if the hotel you are considering has had any complaints.
  • Ask the hotel if they change the bedspreads (and blankets) upon check out. Not all do! If they don't, ask them to either give you a new one or remove it. (I prefer they remove it from the room then I don't have to deal with it.)
    • Hotel bedspreads  and furnishings are commonly in dark patterns, making insect activity hard to spot
    • You have no idea what previous activity has occurred on the bedspreads. (If I see a bedspread the first thing I do is roll it up and put it away).
  • Ask that your mattress be steamed before check-in.Not every hotel, motel, B&B or Inn is going to offer this service, but there is no harm in asking!
  • Ask if they are using a bed skirt or dust ruffle. Conscientious hotels are removing these decorative bedding features because they provide additional hiding places for bed bugs. It may not look pretty, but if your bed is missing a skirt, your hotel is taking the extra step it needs to prevent the bed bug from spreading. Thank them for their efforts!
Steps you need to take:
  • Before packing your luggage, lightly dust with diatomacecous earth. See my earlier blog for more details.
  • Place all items in sealed plastic bags with a zipper seal, or use a product like Space Bags, or some of the inexpensive food storage containers. The bags, however, provide more flexibility.
        • Everything goes in a sealed container
        • Everything gets put back in a sealed container
      • Do not place your luggage on the bed or on the floor. Use a luggage rack, open up the ironing board if provided and use it, or ask the hotel for additional luggage racks.
      • Bring a hand steamer. These are about the size of a hair dryer and can be picked up in most drug stores or wherever As Seen On TV merchandise is sold. They usually run under $30. I don't travel without one! When you get into your hotel, steam any gaps around the headboard, wall art, night stand, etc.. Most hotels affix their art and furniture to the wall or floor- but there are still gaps where insects can hide in and behind. A jet of steam should force any live insects out in the open. Steam will also kill insects on contact. If you don't see any, you are safe! Try not to steam off the wallpaper however. A few short bursts should suffice!
        • You could also steam the area in between the box spring and mattress and the flooring around the bed.
      • Steam any chairs, sofas, sofa beds etc. Again, darker upholstery makes it hard to spot a problem. Bed bugs like to hide in folds, and near the base of any upholstery cording. Steaming will reveal a problem...and it also sanitizes the furnishings. It will also kill other unwanted pests, lice, etc.
      • Make certain that dirty laundry is kept in a sealed bag. Not a trash bag or a bag with a draw string. There must be a complete, 100 percent seal.
        When you return from your trip:
        • If you can, set your luggage outside in a driveway, balcony, back yard deck, etc. before bringing into the house. Remove the contents of your luggage (remember, they are still in sealed bags) and steam the inside and outside of your luggage. Allow to air dry.
        • The contents inside the sealed bags or containers should have kept your belongings safe. Inspect before bringing in. Wash laundry in the hottest setting possible. Dry on the hottest setting possible.
        • Report any bed bug activity to your hotel immediately, and also contribute helpful reports on travel review sites.
        Remember- bed bugs don't just hide in beds. They lurk wherever people hang out, sit, rest, read, etc. They are tiny and fast and the baby instars are practically invisible. They are known to hide in clock radios, tableside books, etc. If you act under the assumption that you have brought back an unwanted traveler, and act accordingly, your diligent efforts will pay the dividend of a bed bug free home!