Utah Plant Pest Diagnostic Lab

Bed Bug Travel Tips

Planning on traveling this upcoming holiday season? If you choose to travel in denial or ignorance of bed bugs, you may end up with an infestation of your own. To remain bed bug free, please read my tried-and-true travel tips below. While some of these procedures might seem excessive, remember that, along with emotional and physical stress, you will spend at least $1,000 to eradicate bed bugs from your home. And remember, wealth is not an issue for bed bugs, they do not understand the difference between a 5- and a 1-star resort/hotel/motel. Anywhere you stay has the potential for having bed bugs.


Check bedbugregistry.com to see which hotels have reports of bed bug infestations. Contact the hotel and inquire if the situation has been handled. Reports on bedbugregistry are made by travelers, not hotel management. They may or may not be valid. Always contact the hotel if you have questions.

Arrival at Hotel:

When you get to the hotel do not bring your bags into the room until you have completed a thorough inspection, including:

  • Remove all bedding and completely check the mattress--seams, top and bottom, etc.
  • Remove the mattress and examine the box spring, even under the dust cover. Set box spring to the side...
  • Closely examine the bed frame and the carpet around the bed. Also look closely at the area where the carpet meets the wall. These are prime locations.
  • Remove the headboard (they usually lift up and come off easily) and examine the back of it, even in the screw holes.
  • Examine the night stands next to the bed. I usually look in all drawers, and flip the stands over to examine the undersides.
  • And if you find nothing, remember that they can easily travel from the room next door at night to feed on you…they can come right through the electrical outlets, feed, and then return to the other room!
  • When you bring your bag into the hotel, do not store it in the closet. The best place for the bag is in the tub, however I don't recommend showering with your luggage. On the floor or bed is probably the worst place for your luggage.

When conducting a bed bug inspection you are looking for a few things:

  • Adult and immature bed bugs. Adults are easily visible, about .25 inches in length and dark brown. The nymphs are smaller ranging from 1mm to about 5mm.
  • They are cream-colored/clear and difficult to see (unless they are filled with your blood), so look closely.
  • Eggs: they are about 1mm long, and creamy white. The ones with a circle cut in the top have already hatched.
  • Shed skins: between every stage of development they will leave behind a shed skin.
  • Fecal spots: these appear as blue-black "ink-like" blotches on the bed/bedding.

For pictures of the above signs, visit Bed Bug Central.

My room inspection usually takes about 20 min. In low population situations you should expect that the bugs will be on the bed or under the headboard. For larger populations, you can expect them to be anywhere and everywhere in the room. Only after this inspection do I bring my bag into the room. Sometimes, if it is only a one-nighter, I only bring in the clothes I will wear the next morning and leave the bag in the car.

Before Leaving Hotel:

When you wake up in the morning make sure to examine the sheets and pillow cases where you were laying. Look for blue-black "ink-blotches," which is the liquid fecal material from the bugs, shed skins, or blood-filled bugs. If you see any of these, assume there are bugs in the room and in your luggage. Don't throw the luggage into your car, because a car can become infested, too. Bag your stuff before you leave the room! You have to bag everything in a thick plastic garbage bag and take the stuff to a laundry mat, or home, for cleaning and drying on the hottest cycles possible. The clothes on your back may have bugs, too. Check them thoroughly. They also sell dissolvable garbage bags for about $3.00/bag. You can bag your clothes and duffle bag at the hotel, bring them home and put the whole thing right into the wash! If using traditional garbage bags, be careful not to drop any bugs when transferring your clothes to the washing machine.

General Tips:

Most people don't like to hear this, but throw away your designer suitcases and purchase wheel-less duffel bags. Duffel bags can be easily thrown into the washing machine-standard suitcases cannot. Duffel bags are also void of extra zippers, folds, wheel casings, pockets, etc., where bed bugs can hitch a ride back to your house. And that's really the critical issue: being fed on by bed bugs at a hotel is not really a big issue, but bringing them home is! It will run you well over a thousand bucks, months of re-treatments, and a lot of psychological stress if you accidentally bring them home. If you must keep your designer bag, purchase bed bug proof luggage encasements.

The other thing that may become more of an issue in the future is that people who have bed bugs will travel with infested suitcases. It may happen that your bag is tossed in the plane right on top of their infested bag, and wallah--you have bed bugs. You also have to worry about your luggage being lost. When the airline finds it, they usually put it in a big pile of luggage behind the desk. Bed bugs from infested suitcases could possibly migrate to your suitcase. Again, encasements could ease your fears about luggage-to-luggage infestation.

If you choose to live in denial about bed bugs, it is only a matter of time before you pick them up. Take the proper precautions and remain bed bug free.

*If you have comments, questions, or additions to this list, please email me: ryan.davis@usu.edu