How to Check for Bed Bugs When You Travel

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This post has been sponsored by Orkin Pest Control, but all opinions remain my own.

Let’s face it. I travel A LOT. It isn’t unusual for me to sleep in 10 different hotel rooms a month. Some are super fancy and yes, some, not so much. Thing is, I’ve learned along the way that it doesn’t really matter how fancy a hotel is or isn’t, there is ALWAYS a chance that your room has bed bugs and a lot of it depends on the cleanliness and habits of the last guest who stayed there.

So let me share with you some handy bed bug knowledge and my simple routine for saving my sanity by checking for bed bugs when I check in to my hotel or AirBnB.

Sanitize and Squash the Fear of Bed Bugs

Right off the bat, there are a few “housekeeping” things I do the moment I walk into a hotel room. I sanitize commonly touched surfaces with a disinfecting wipe.

Common places in a hotel room that have a lot of germs like the TV remote control, light switches, door knobs, drawer handles, telephone and toilet flush handle get a thorough wipe down and then I move on to the linens.

Any decorative pillows on the bed immediately get tossed onto the floor, as does the comforter or any blanket on top (although nowadays the nicer properties have taken to sandwiching the comforter within two sheets as a sort of duvet cover – which is genius!).

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My suitcase goes straight onto the folding suitcase holder, or if there isn’t one, then the coffee table or any hard, non-porous surface.


This is one of the most common ways people unknowingly take bed bugs home or to the next property on their vacation, according to Orkin Pest Control

Ew. Bed bugs. Just typing that makes me cringe and get all itchy.

Many people only associate bed bugs with seedier or less expensive accommodations, but in reality, even the fanciest 5-star hotel has the potential to harbor these pests. They typically get brought in by other guests who don’t even know they are carrying the hitchhikers in. And once indoors, they can be very difficult to control without the help of an experienced pest control professional.

Fun Bed Bug Fact: Bed bugs give off a distinctively sweet odor some say is comparable to rotting raspberries.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make yourself feel more at ease about the room you’re staying in. Sweeping for bed bugs is actually pretty quick and easy.

What do bed bugs look like?

Bed bugs have small, flat, oval-shaped bodies. Bedbugs don’t fly, but they will move very quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay a ton of eggs in their lifetime, each of which is about the dimensions of a speck of dust so they are difficult to see.

Newly hatched nymphs are approximately the dimensions of the top of a pin (aka super small) and are white or tan until they feed.

It’s actually a myth that bed bugs are too small to see with the naked eye. The nymphs can be small and difficult to see, but the adults are fairly easily detectable.

what do bed bugs look like

Adults are brown in color, although their bodies get more red in color after feeding (ew, people). Full-grown bed bugs move relatively slowly and measure about 4-5 mm. They often are described as being about the dimensions and shape of an apple seed.

Are bed bugs easy to squash?

Oh my gosh, if you find bed bugs, just RUN. Run away, fast.

Just kidding. Although I may have run out the hotel room and shut the door behind me while I ran in place in the hallway with my eyes shut and brushing myself off. I don’t recommend doing this because you’ll probably lock yourself out and then have to make the trek down to the front desk barefoot and in PJs.

But yes, bed bugs are pretty easy to squash. I’ve used a book, a shampoo bottle, a room service tray, but I suggest using a shoe. Just be prepared for the reddish stain they’ll leave behind and try not to think about whether or not
its because they’ve fed on you.

How to Look For Bed Bugs

I keep a compact LED blacklight flash light in my suitcase at all times and use it to search for bed bugs. An easy way to remember what to do when you perform your sweep is to use Orkin Pest Control’s S.L.E.E.P. acronym to inspect for bed bugs:

how to search for bed bugs when you travel

Survey the hotel room for signs of an infestation. Be on the lookout for tiny, ink-colored stains on mattress seams, in soft furniture and behind headboards.

Lift and look in bed bug hiding spots: (1) the mattress, (2) box spring and other furniture like (3) couch cushions and (4) chairs, as well as behind baseboards, (5) pictures and even torn wallpaper.

Elevate luggage away from the bed and wall. The safest places are on the luggage rack, in the bathroom or on counters.

Examine your luggage carefully while repacking and once you return home from a trip. Always store luggage away from the bed. As an additional precautionary measure, I also place bed bug mattress protector covers on all our mattresses at home. They are usually waterproof and dust mite resistant as well, so I highly recommend doing this.

Place all dryer-safe clothing from your luggage in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting immediately upon returning home.

how to search for bed bugs when you travel

*If you think you might have brought bed bugs home from a trip, contact a licensed pest control provider immediately. To reach your local Orkin Pest Control branch, call 877-284-7429.

I’ve found that once I feel like my space is clean and bed bug free, a huge weight is lifted off my shoulders and I can really start settling in to my temporary home away from home.

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