Checking Out Bite-Free: What Travelers Need to Know to Avoid Bed Bugs

by Julie on April 27, 2016

The good news is that you won’t be immediately inconvenienced if the hotel you’re staying at hosts bed bugs.  The bad news is that you get a skin reaction, and worse, infest your permanent with bugs.  However, a small bit of precaution goes a long way.  Read what you need to know about bed bugs and how to avoid them.

Know Your Enemy

Small bed bugs, or nymphs, measure in at about 1/16th of an inch.  Females may lay as much as 500 eggs in a lifetime.  They feed on blood alone and like to feast on people who are asleep or resting.  When they’re not eating, they seek shelter in cracks, crevices, and other hard-to-find places. Adult bed bugs can live more than a year without eating.

Do Research

These days, it’s pretty easy to do homework before arriving at a destination.  Read online reviews as well as check social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter regarding complaints made by present and former guests.  If you don’t come across any indication of bed bugs on Yelp or within the hotel’s Twitter feed, you can heave a sigh of relief in assuming today’s consumers would definitely let the public know of bad experiences.  If you are not exactly sure about what you’re searching for, take a look at bed bugs pictures online.

Check the Mattress

The mattress is one of the places bed bugs reside. Upon entering the room, keep your belongings away from the bed and get ready to inspect. Remove the top sheet and mattress pad, taking a look at the four corners of the box spring.  For those who like being thorough, a small flashlight will come in handy.  Take a close look at the corners of the box spring, the lining of the mattress, and the headboard.  Look carefully, especially if the covers of the bed are darker, which makes it more difficult to spot the small bugs.

Look Around the Room

The mattress is the most common place you’ll find ‘bed’ bugs, yet if you don’t look around the rest of the room, you may not realize the room is infested.  Inspect the furniture in the room, including chair cushions and throw pillows.  Also, take a look behind pictures hanging on the wall. Continue to spot more places in the room that small bugs would reside, including cracks in the nightstand, screw holes in furniture, etc.

Notice Bites

Upon returning home, you’ll want to check for bites, which could be an indication that the hotel room did have bugs, and more importantly, tip you off about ensuring they do not infest your home.  Some bed bug bites look like ones you would get from a mosquito or flea.  However, the bites don’t always look the same and people have varied reactions.  Some people don’t have any reaction while others wake up to find itchy, red welts on their body.  Bites may appear within hours or take weeks to show.  That’s why experts tell people to actually find a bug before assuming they have an infestation problem.

Further Educate

  • The above knowledge will help the novice search for and identify bed bugs.  However, it’s important to do more research, especially if you’re a frequent traveler or have those living in your home who do.  Look for bugs through their various life stages: eggs, nymphs, and adults.  A quick once over of a mattress is not enough.  It requires more time and effort, but thoroughly working your way around the mattress, with a flashlight and magnifying lens, will help you spot the tiny creatures.

  • Use a small pocket knife or an envelope to swipe inside cracks to reveal any bugs that may be hiding.

  • If you really want to ‘sneak up’ on them, rise out of your hotel bed before dawn, turn over the sheets, and get out a flashlight.  As mentioned, they feast on the resting and sleeping.  You may have found your bed free upon arrival but bed bugs will come out at night for food.

  • If you find signs of bed bugs, inspect your clothes and luggage before leaving the room.  The worst thing you can do is leave the hotel and take the bugs back with you to your permanent home.

  • Bed bugs have small, oval-shaped bodies.  Adults are brown with a reddish tint after feeding. Fully-grown bugs measure between 4 to 5 millimeters.  Contrary to lore, even small nymphs can be seen with the naked eye.


Jeff Grill is a regular contributor to sites that cover the global bed bug pandemic. He is the editor of the Bed Bugs Handbook, a leading resource read by thousands of visitors each day. His insights into how to prevent and kill bed bugs have helped many readers eliminate infestations from their homes and apartments.

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