Some questions have very complicated answers.  This one doesn’t – the answer is a resounding yes.  Bed bugs can definitely travel.  The key to understanding this issue is knowing that the question has it right – bed bugs can travel with you, but not on you.

This is because bed bugs do not usually adhere to a person’s skin except during their actual feeding time – which tends to be late at night when people are inactive.  After feeding, bed bugs scurry away and hide.  The places where they hide, however, mean that they can indeed travel alongside you.  Most people, of course, are only concerned about one direction of travel.  They do not think at all about bringing bed bugs with them on vacation – but they are definitely concerned about bringing them back home again.

How Do Bed Bugs Travel?

Although bed bugs are most commonly found lurking in and around mattresses, box springs, and headboards, they can also infest your luggage and even your articles of clothing.  Indeed, bed bugs like any environment that offers them little nooks and crannies where they can tuck themselves away and feel safe and snug.

This is a primary reason why people going on vacation should be concerned about staying only in hotels that are free of bed bugs.  Should you choose an infested hotel or hostel, during the night when the bugs are active they will have ample opportunity to crawl into your luggage or onto clothing you have left lying about.  If this image causes a crawling feeling to creep across your skin then you are not alone.  No one likes to contemplate such a scenario.

Unfortunately, the scenario gets worse.  Because the bed bugs are now in your luggage, you will bring them back home with you, and if anything is certain, it is that they will not stay inside your luggage for long.  They will scurry out again and infest the bed you sleep on each night, along with a myriad of other locations in your house, including even picture frames and the corners of drawers.  In fact, there are few places where bed bugs cannot secret themselves, which can make them a challenge to eradicate, particularly without professional assistance.

How to Avoid Bed Bugs While On Vacation

1. Check our Global Bed Bug Registry for bed bug reports

The best solution to the situation outlined above, of course, is simply not to stay in accommodations that are infested with bed bugs. You should use our Bed Bug Registry to check if any hotel you are staying at has had a bed bug infestation/report in the past. This may cut down on your chances of encountering bed bugs while staying at certain hotels. Of course, just because a hotel has had a bed bug infestation in the past, doesn’t mean it currently still does. And just because a hotel has never had a bed bug infestation (or one that’s been publicly reported) doesn’t mean there isn’t an infestation at the time you stay there.

It is tempting to assume that only hotels in developing countries, or those in poorer parts of town, are likely to have a bed bug infestation.  It is tempting, to be sure, but it is not true.  Even upscale hotels can develop problems with these creatures, who after all do not know the average income of the people who sleep in a particular bed.

2. Inspect Room Before Staying

There is something that tourists can do, however.  Ask to see the room where you will be staying before you finalize payment.  Inspect the room carefully for signs of any insect infestation.  If you find such signs, find not just a different room, but another hotel entirely.

When doing a bed inspection for bed bugs, you look for:

  • blood stains (this is usually bed bug fecal matter)
  • bed bug shells (from crushed bugs)
  • live bed bugs

You must inspect the following thoroughly:

  • Pull Back top and bottom sheets
  • Inspect bed seams on the corners and sides of the mattress — bed bugs can live here
  • Lift up mattress and check underneath for signs of bed bugs

3. Keep Luggage In BathTub

Bed bugs can get into your clothes and your luggage. If this happens, you are bringing these critters home with you and the bed bug problems won’t just be a vacation experience — they will become your daily (or we should say “nightly”) life. There are plenty of horror stories around where people stay in a bed-bug infested hotel room and bring the bugs back home with them only to endure misery for months and months.

You should NEVER put your luggage on any hotel bed. Bed bugs in an infested room will usually (but not only) infest the bed. Putting your luggage on the bed provides ample opportunity for the bugs to crawl into your luggage. They are small enough (about the size of an apple seed or even smaller) to crawl in through the seems and live in your luggage. Remember, bed bugs can go a year without feeding, are tiny enough to live in zipper seams, and can lay up to 20 eggs per day. Keep your luggage far away from a bed. Don’t even put your bags by the walls either — bed bugs can infest cracks in the wall, curtain fixtures, or any little crevice with space.

The safest spot is the bathtub.