When you arrive at your hotel the first thing you should do is inspect your room. A thorough inspection can save you many sleepless nights in a room that is infested with bed bugs. Many people who are bitten at night realize it until they return home from their holiday. It is quite common for people to assume the bites are from another type of insect or just had an allergic reaction on the skin.
Before you begin your inspection of the hotel room leave your luggage outside. The last thing you want is having your luggage in a room that is crawling with bed bugs. It is a good idea to have a bed bug luggage liner whenever you go on vacation. Once you verify that the room doesn’t have any bed bugs you can then bring your belongings inside.
A small flashlight can be invulnerable in the search for bed bugs. This is not absolutely necessary, but it can aid in the inspection process. Bed bugs will always be hiding in small crevices that are usually dark and hard to reach, making a little flashlight or LED key-chain very useful in the inspection process.
Learn how to Identify Bed Bugs and their Markings
An adult bed bug is oval in shape, brown or dark red in color. If you find a young one it will be a lighter color. These bugs will tend to be in groups, so it is rare to only have one in your room. People who are bitten by bed bugs can often wake up with blood stains in their sheets from crushing them at night. Bed bugs will leave behind small little dirt like substance that is their skin and fecal spots that can be spotted on the mattress. The following pictures demonstrate what bed bugs look like and their carcasses and fecal spots that are left behind.
[the above images show bed bug feces stains and old skins that are on a bed mattress]
[the image to the left shows bed bug feces on a wooden furniture piece]
[these pictures illustrate what bed bugs look like]
Where to Look In a Hotel Room Inspection
The first place you should search in your hotel room is the bed. Although the bed might have fancy sheets and fresh linen on it, it is a favorite hiding spot for bed bugs. Start by flipping over the mattress and inspecting the interior of the seams and ruffles in the mattresses. Always look for old traces of bed bugs that may exist. The above images of old skins and droppings are some signs you might have a bed bug problem.
In many cases you won’t see any traces of bed bugs even if they are living in the bed. If your bed has a spring box you will need to inspect that also. Any dark crevices, cracks or corners are hiding spots for these bugs. This is why having a little flash light is extremely handy when doing a thorough inspection.
[Here is a link to a user uploaded report with pictures of bed bugs in an America's Best Value Inn]
Once you have inspected the bed and mattress in your hotel room you can then move on to any furniture that is in the room. Bed bugs like hiding in furniture that has upholstery such as a couch or reclining chair. If you see any traces of these bugs make sure you assume the worst, even if they may already be dealt with by the hotel.
The final place you should look in your hotel room is the carpet edges. It is quite common for bed bugs to travel along the corners of carpets in rooms. So make sure you thorough inspect the edges of the carpets in your hotel room. Just remember that these bugs like hiding in dark corners and tiny cracks, so unless you are actively searching for them you won’t find them.
What to do if you DO NOT find bed bugs in your hotel
If you didn’t find any bed bugs after a thorough inspection of the room it is now safe to bring your luggage inside the room. Consider yourself lucky and enjoy the rest of your vacation, however, keep in mind that even professional inspectors cannot be 100% sure of any inspection. There might actually be bed bugs in the room that you missed with your untrained eye.
Always be sure to keep your luggage in bed bug cases and liners to ensure you don’t bring anything back with you from your vacation. Keep your bags and luggage stored above ground on a luggage rack or on a dresser to add further protection. If you don’t have a bed bug liner or luggage cover you can use a basic garbage bag to seal your items of clothing. Make sure the bag is tight shut before you go to sleep to ensure maximum protection.
What to do if you FIND bed bugs in your hotel room
People who find bed bugs in their hotel rooms should consider themselves the lucky ones. In most cases people find out after their holiday that they were bitten by bed bugs during their stay. If you happen to find yourself in a situation when you find bed bugs in your hotel room follow these steps.
- Remove Your Belongings – The first thing you should do if you find bed bugs is remove your luggage out of the room. If you made the mistake of bringing your backs in the room before the inspection – get them out. Nothing is worse than bringing bed bugs back with you from the holidays. It will not only ruin the memory of a vacation, but it could end up costing you thousands of dollars in fees to get rid of the bugs.
- Store Everything in Plastic Bags and Hot Wash and Dry- If you stayed in the room for a night you need to move all of your belongings into plastic bags. This includes your suitcases and backpacks. Make sure everything you own is washed in hot water and make sure they are put in the hot dryer. The warm temperature will kill any bed bugs that might be contaminated in your clothing. You should keep your plastic bags separated and grouped by clean bags and contaminated bags to ensure that you wash everything. You should ask to use a vacuum from the hotel and vacuum out all of your suitcases and backpacks.
- Document Evidence of Bed Bugs - Using a camera phone or digital camera is a great way to ensure that you have evidence of the bed bugs. Even if you just saw traces of bed bug skins or droppings make sure you take pictures of it. What often happens is hotel management will immediately try and refute your claim of bed bugs. Because a reputation of hotel is very important for business, a claim of bed bugs can be very damaging to the hotels reputation. Having pictures and proof will go a long way in getting a refund or complementary stay for your inconvenience.
- Talk to Management - After you have documented the bed bugs with picture evidence you should then go down to the reception immediately and talk to management about the problem. The response will vary depending on the cost of the room, the reputation of the hotel, and the particular manager you are dealing with at the time. Some hotels will go the extra mile to ensure that you are completely taken care of for the inconvenience you suffered, while others will engage in denial.
- Change Rooms - The standard response to a bed bug complaint from a hotel or guesthouse will be to offer you to change rooms. Most of the time the hotel will not be able to verify your bed bug claim until they bring in a pest control expert who will search the room for bed bugs the next day. Remember if the hotel offers you to change rooms you should never choose a room that is adjacent to the room or above or below the room. Bed bugs can travel through the different pipes and cracks in the walls, so those rooms could be contaminated too. When you enter the new room, immediately do a thorough inspection of the room to ensure it doesn’t contain traces of bed bugs. If you don’t trust any of the rooms in the hotel then you should ask for a refund and pack your bags to find another place to stay. Even if they refuse to refund your money, it is worth finding another place to stay to avoid the risk of bed bugs.
- File a Report at BedBugs.net – Once you have finished with your encounter with bed bugs you should fill out a report at our bed bug registry. The report will help future travelers decide if the hotel is right for them. Putting detailed information with pictures and the hotel’s reaction to the situation can help future guests decide of that place is right for them. The most important part of the bed bug report is the hotel response to the situation. Almost all hotels will have an encounter with bed bugs at some point and it is their response that will determine if guests will go back there.
It is important to remember that picture evidence of bed bugs will go a long way in getting a few complementary nights at the hotel or have your stay refunding. This doesn’t only include pictures of the actual bed bugs, but of any bites you have received. In most cases people won’t be able to find the bed bugs and will only have the markings on their skin to prove they were bitten. A good hotel will try and ensure that all of their customers are happy to ensure the brand stays strong. A negative review on tripadvisor.com or agoda.com is something that all hotel managers fear.
Always be firm in your demands, but never be rude to management as they are only doing their job. Keep in mind that the hotel isn’t the one who planted the bugs in your room, it was previous guest that stayed there. Remember that even 5 star hotels are not exempt from bed bugs. Bed bugs can be found in a back alley guesthouse in Thailand or in a luxury hotel in New York.
What to Do When You get Home
When you are returning from a stay with bed bugs in a hotel or guesthouse you should always make sure you have decontaminated your luggage. If you already haven’t washed and dried your belongings in plastic bags, do that now. Make sure everything is kept tied up in garbage bags outside your house until they are properly treated.
If you have a deep freezer you can put your suitcases and backpacks in there for a few nights to kill any bed bugs with the cold temperature. This is a solution that some hostels do with a high amount of bed bugs. They keep a deep freezer for backpackers who get bed bugs. Always make sure everything you have is treated before bringing it into your home. If you don’t have deep freezers use a vacuum and thoroughly vacuum out every nook at cranny in your bags. Once you have finished vacuuming out the bag you will then need to store them in your home. Storing your bags in plastic garbage bags completely sealed is a sure way to ensure that you don’t bring any unwanted bugs back into your home.
The key to dealing with bed bugs is taking the right steps to prevent them in the first place. Although most people won’t encounter bed bugs on a vacation, it is always best to be prepared for the worst. Properly inspecting a hotel room will only take a few minutes and it can save you from days of restless nights and upwards of thousands of dollars if you end up bringing bed bugs into your home.
[If you have any questions related to bed bugs please post them in the comment section and we will do our best to answer it. Anyone with a past experience with bed bugs in a hotel should add the bed bug report in our registry.]