bed bug
Content Providers: Centers for Disease Control and Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack. Photography Credit: Piotr Naskrecki —

How to Prevent Bed Bugs From Coming Home With You

he phrase “sleep tight; and don’t let the bed bugs bite” was nothing more than a saying for decades since bed bugs were virtually eradicated; but the parasite returned with a vengeance approximately twenty years ago and has been causing problems for travelers around the world — especially in hotel rooms.

This article discusses how to prevent bed bugs from coming home with you — as well as how you know there are bed bugs present in your hotel room.

Consider this story of a couple from California who stayed at a hotel in New York and seemed to have nothing but horror stories. “Unfortunately, a couple from California reportedly visiting the Astor on the Park Hotel in Manhattan wasn’t so lucky”, according to this article written by Melinda Danielsen of Magic of Miles. “They posted a video to YouTube about their horrific bed bug experience, which has since gone viral on multiple sites and news outlets.”

Here is the video in question as posted by Elgin Ozlen, who is apparently looking to spread the word of the experienced purportedly endured by himself and his girlfriend, who was supposedly bitten dozens of times by bed bugs — and this video is indeed not for the squeamish:

“Curious if your hotel has bedbugs?” asked Melinda Danielsen. “There’s a great site you can check, called the BedBug Registry.” The good news is that — according to that Internet web site — “Though most Americans have still never come across one, these retro pests are spreading extremely quickly across American and Canadian cities.” I know that I have not come across any in my travels over the years, as I do not recall ever being bitten in a hotel room.

The 2013 Bugs Without Borders Survey — conducted by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky — found that “bed bug infestations in the United States continue at high rates and the pest is as much, if not more of a problem than in years past.” The latest survey conducted in 2015 reveals that approximately 64 percent of pest management professionals report that bed bug infestations continue to be on the rise; and 74 percent of pest management professionals encountered infestations in hotel and motel properties.

Bed bugs are not only found in hotel rooms. According to FlyerTalk members, they can also be found aboard airplanes — including aboard airplanes operated by American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

In fact, bed bugs can be found virtually anywhere there are human beings, as their only food source is blood. Beds are the most prevalent place to find bed bugs because a typical human being will spend several hours without interruption in that bed to sleep — giving the nocturnal parasites plenty of time to enjoy their feast.

How to Identify a Bed Bug

Typically reddish-brown in color with a flat, oval body which measures at about the size of an apple seed — or approximately one-quarter of an inch in length  — as shown in the photograph at the top of this article, bed bugs usually hide in or close to the bed; but they can spread up to 15 feet away from the bed to other areas of the room over time. The color of bed bugs can range from almost white after they molt to a light tan; then a deep brown; and then a burnt orange.

How to identify a bed bug
Graphic courtesy of The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Click on the image to access the original source.

…So What Can You Do?

While The Bedbug Registry does seem like a great resource, what if the hotel property at where you are staying has bed bugs but has not yet been reported? How can you prevent an encounter with bed bugs?

Here are five tips which can be helpful in preventing an encounter with bed bugs — or, at least, prevent the pests from coming home with you:

  • When traveling, inspect the bed and furniture at anywhere you stay — whether it is in a hotel room or in the home of a relative or friend — by looking for the pests themselves before bringing your belongings inside; or for evidence such as blood stains, droppings and eggs with a flashlight and a magnifying glass in the top and bottom seams, tufts and any rips in the covers of mattresses and box springs.
  • Keep luggage off of the floor, bed and soft furnishings such as chairs and couches in the room — the best place to store your belongings is on a luggage rack; or you can place them on the top of a hard piece of furniture such as a dresser — and inspect your luggage thoroughly before you leave.
  • Albeit inconvenient, wrapping luggage in plastic can help prevent bed bugs from catching a ride to your home — or you can use zippered plastic bags to individually wrap and protect the items within your luggage.
  • Immediately wash and dry your clothing on settings which are as hot as possible — or store it in a sealed plastic bag until you can — when you return home if you even remotely suspect you have been around or near bed bugs; but otherwise do not bring your clothing into your home under any other circumstances, as they are difficult to remove once introduced into your home environment.
  • If you are unfortunate enough to have your home infested with bed bugs, consult this informative article for detailed steps on different treatment options pertaining to how to endure the difficult and time-consuming process of getting rid of them — as well as how to detect and treat bites.


Chances are you will not encounter bed bugs during your travels; but infestations are increasing, so it pays to spend a few extra minutes to be as diligent as possible in order to prevent many hours of battling bed bugs later.

The presence of bed bugs is not indicative of how clean is a hotel room; nor is it only found in budget motel properties, as even the fanciest and most exclusive of hotel properties can be infested with them.

If you do get bitten by bed bugs, the worst you will be is uncomfortable with itchy and irritating welts, as they are not known to transmit or spread diseases. Although they are more active in the dark, they will still bite you even when there is light in the room.

By observing the tips in this article, you should be able to successfully prevent bed bugs from hitchhiking in your luggage; but in case they do, unload your luggage either outside of your home — or at the entrance or other room within your home where there are plenty of hard surfaces — and immediately wash and dry them in hot settings.

As I said earlier in this article, I have fortunately never encountered bed bugs; but if you have, please relate your experiences and advice in the Comments section below.

Content Providers of the photograph of a bed bug, which is used under the Creative Commons 3.0 license and is found here: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack. Photography Credit: Piotr Naskrecki.

  1. It’s unclear how accurate some of the reports on the Bedbug Registry website are. An unscrupulous hotel owner may falsely accuse a competitor, in order to enrich himself.

    1. That is a good caveat to state, Miles.

      As with other Internet web sites which are “crowdsourced” in terms of adding information, proceed with caution at your own risk; do not accept the information as being cast in stone; and do additional research if possible…

      …and if an unscrupulous hotel owner is proven to falsely accuse a competitor in order to enrich himself or herself — something which can be difficult to prove — that hotel owner should be reported and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    1. That is definitely true, CL.

      I do not want to actively find out if I am one of those people who does not react to the bites of bed bugs, however…

  2. Although fancier hotels can become infected, they are most likely to use bed-bug sniffing dogs on a regular basis to detect any possible infestations and treat the infestation promptly and properly, so it doesn’t get out of hand.

  3. I recently returned from vacation. I had to spend one night in a hotel. About 5 days after returning home, I awoke with a zigzag line of itchy mosquito bites. Right away I thought of bed bugs, as mosquitoes don’t usually bite my legs through the blankets. I found a live bug on the mattress and called the hotel. The hotel room lab report came back negative for bed bugs. That only leaves Delta airlines as a source. I flew only in small planes and didn’t use blankets or pillows. I was shocked that I could pick up bed bugs on a 3 hour flight. It was the first time I’d flown Delta, BTW, but between the bed bugs and the airline putting my minor children on a different connecting flight than mine (airline employee told me he couldn’t do anything, so I had to call the main customer service line while waiting to board and they corrected it), I’m not exactly a big fan.

    1. I am not sure how long you have to be exposed to bed bugs before it becomes a problem, Angel; but I would not be surprised if three hours was more than enough time.

      I am sorry to learn of your experience. At least the situation was thankfully corrected — but I can understand your still being hesitant to be a “big fan” of the airline.

  4. My son and I inadvertently brought bed bugs home with us after travelling on Southwest airlines after Thanksgiving (Tucson to Sacramento). We didn’t stay in a hotel, and our families in Tucson do/did not have bed bugs. We suspected that they hopped aboard my son’s checked luggage considering where the outbreak started in our home. I am currently in Tucson after flying Southwest again, and I had new bites on my legs after deplaning in Tucson. Looks like the bugs are in the cabin of the airplanes. I guess I’ll be stripping down to my skivvies in the garage after getting home, and I sure hope I didn’t bring them into my mom’s home. These suckers create super itchy bites and they are expensive to get rid of. :/

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