Bed Bugs: How To Keep These Dirty Little Critters From Coming Home With You

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How to Check For Bed bugs

How to Check For Bed Bugs In Your Hotel Room

We have all heard the horror stories, some even first hand like I have. Someone goes on a vacation to relax and get away and comes back with more problems then they ever imagined. They are having their house treated, needing to dry every piece of linen, cotton and clothing in their house to destroy an invading pest. A pest that hitchhiked their way into their lives via their suitcase. What they are left with is a huge amount of stress, a massive bill, embarrassment and despair. It is something that I do not wish on my worst enemies. And, it is something you can try to avoid by doing a bed bug inspection when you are traveling. I will show you how to check for bed bugs in your hotel room and some other tips that can hopefully help save you from this headache.

Bed bugs are sneaky little devils and they are not easy to track down. They do not discriminate and contrary to popular belief they do not care if it is a 5 star resort or a 1 star dive.

My Hotel Bed Bug Inspection System

If I am being honest I never used to check for bed bugs. I mistakenly thought that it was an issue you only found at roadside motels. I have stayed in hundreds of hotels and never had an issue or gave it a second thought. Having said that, now I check every time I enter a hotel room.

So what changed? A family member ended up bringing these suckers home and had recently stayed at our house so we were put on high alert. We ended up avoiding disaster but I saw what it did to them and the stress we had for days worrying about if we were next. We even had a bug sniffing dog come out to ensure we were safe, more on that later.

First Things First – Stow Your Bags

The first thing I do when entering the room is keep my bags back. I either leave them in the entry area or in the bathroom. The last thing you want to do is find traces of bed bugs and realize your bags are sitting on the bed. It is good practice to never put your bags on the bed honestly. Put them on the bag holders or on top of the dresser when you unpack.

Get That Flashlight Out

The next thing I do is bust out my flashlight. Yes I have a flashlight in my travel bag. You can also use your cellphone light (and I do in a pinch). I find the flashlight to have a brighter beam and it is easier to to maneuver while moving stuff around.

Check the Corners Of The Bed

I usually start by checking the mattress. I pull back the sheets in a few corners of each mattress in the room. You want to get all the way down to the mattress here to look for signs of bed bug activity. That is small brown stains from dried blood or pieces of bugs etc. Any type of small blotty stain should put you on high alert. Make sure you move the folds and piping around the mattress around, the nooks and crannies are where the bugs live.

If the mattress has a bed bug cover on it you will not be able to see the mattress. This also does not mean there can not be bed bug activity. All the covers do is prevent the hotel from having to throw a mattress away, they do not stop bed bugs. That is because bed bugs can live in outlets, on the box springs or other furniture etc. So you still will want to check the corners of the cover for any activity.

How to Check For Bed bugs
Check above the beds as well, that is a pathway for the bugs

Scan The Headboard

Next I move onto the headboard and picture frames above the bed, if there are some. Bugs will hide behind these during the day. I shine my light behind both to see if I can see any activity.

Check Under The Mattress

After scanning around the bed it is time to check under it, here comes the heavy lifting. The next thing I do is lift up the mattress and check the box springs with my light and search for activity. I’ll do this for every bed in the room.

Check Dressers, Cupboards & Other Furniture

Just because they are called bed bugs doesn’t mean they just live in and around the bed. They can be found on other furniture like night stands, dressers, chairs and couches. While the chances are less likely they can still be there. I will do a scan with my flashlight in each of these areas and will search under the chairs etc. If there is a pullout couch I will check it at this point too after flipping over the cushions.

Inspection Complete

I know it sounds like a lot but it really only takes 5-10 minutes when you get it down. That is well worth it to me versus the potential of bringing these suckers home and spending thousands of dollars to fix it.

When I was in New Orleans for our meetup back in February we made a quick YouTube video of my process.

How Do Hotels Manage Bed Bugs?

Remember that this doesn’t only happen a lower end hotels. I think that belief has come from the fact that bed bugs don’t spread disease or come with any real risk besides being disgusting. So some people or places that can’t afford the cost it takes to properly remove them will just live with it.

How do hotels manage keeping the bed bugs out then? A lot of it is proper training of front line employees and showing them what to look for. Maids are looking at the mattresses on a regular basis when changing the sheets. When they are performing their normal room flip they should be checking the mattresses for any type of bed bug activity.

There should be a more thorough inspection whenever a room goes under a deep clean. These happen at a much less frequent time but rooms will periodically go under a deep clean or maintenance schedule that offers a great time to take a thorough look at the room.

Lastly, some hotels will be extra cautious and bring in bug sniffing dogs on a regular basis. These dogs are trained to smell even one bug in a much larger area, much like a bomb sniffing dog. They are trained from birth and can scan an entire room in minutes. This is what we had come to our house and they are pretty impressive. 

How To Check For Bed Bugs: Final Thoughts

Hopefully I gave you a thorough breakdown on how to check for bed bugs at your hotel. Taking a few minutes out of your trip can save you a world of issues and a pile of cash in the future. It is worth it to me but I understand many may think I am over the top. I know some people prefer not to jump through the hoops and will instead just sanitize their luggage after the fact with heat or run all their clothes through the dryer etc. There are a few ways you can handle this but hopefully you never have to deal with the aftermath of an infestation.

Do you do something similar or have you ever had to deal with bed bugs? Let me know in the comments below.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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