One of the most common ways for bed bugs to spread is through travel. Bed bugs are expert at hitching their way onto clothing and luggage and then drop off when they arrive at the next location.
Bed bugs are frequently found on airplane seats, airplane overhead bins and in hotel rooms.
These bed bug travel prevention tips are designed to help you:
- Avoid picking up a bedbug from a hotel room, cruise ship or even public transportation by knowing what you are looking for. Bed bugs are visible with the naked eye. Adults are about the size of a apple seed.
- Understand where they are found such as in luggage or the hotel room mattress.
- How to inspect a hotel room for bed bugs.
- What to do if you have been in a room with bed bugs.
How Bed Bugs Travel?
Bed bugs are great hitchhikers. They will hide on shoes, clothes or in luggage seams until reaching their next destination.
Bed bugs do not travel on humans like lice.
bed bug travel tips when preparing for your trip
Before leaving home, you can do several things to prevent picking up bed bugs while you are traveling. This includes:
1) Treat Luggage With a Bed Bug Travel Spray
Treat luggage with a bed bug spray before you leave home to kill any insects that come in contact with the luggage surface. We recommend J.T. Eaton Luggage Spray which can be purchased from Amazon for less than $6 a bottle. Treat outside in a well ventilated area 1 day before you leave along the seams of the suitcase. Allow dry and then pack.
How to Apply Bed Bug Luggage Spray
2) Use Bed Bug Proof Luggage Liners
When packing belongings use bed bug sealed luggage liners. You seal it with a zipper before you put it into your suitcase. It minimizes the number of cracks and crevices where bed bugs can infiltrate into your belongings.
If you purchase the bed bug proof luggage, the lining is built in and doesn't need to be purchased as a separate item.
Shown: Bed Bug Sealed Luggage Liners from Bed Bug Supply
3) Travel With Bed Bug Proof Suitcase or Luggage
A bed bug proof suitcase is designed to prevent bed bugs from entering the luggage. Luggage should have a hard out case (no seams), zippered lining and built in heater with timer to kill any insects at the required temperature.
This type of luggage is a favorite of frequent travelers such as airline pilots who because of their frequent travel schedule are likely to pick up insects and look for new bed bug travel protection ideas.
Shown: ThermalStrike Bed Bug Luggage From Amazon
The ThermalStrike brand luggage shown above meets the criteria for bed bug proof luggage:
- Hard sides and no seams to minimize hiding place
- Inside zippered compartments
- Integrated heating elements for removing bed bugs before returning home
For more information about bedbug smart control see our ThermalStrike Bed Bug Proof Luggage review.
4) Leave suitcases in Large Sealable Plastic Pags
An alternative or additional step for a bed bug proof suitcase is to seal luggage in plastic bags. Ziploc big bags are a good choice for this approach. After returning home, keep luggage in these sealable bags to trap any bed bugs that may have hitched a ride.
prevent bed bugs when traveling
1) Ask About Procedures for Handling Bedbugs
Before checking into a hotel, ask the front desk about bed bug handling procedures. Ask when your room was last treated and inspected.
2) Inspect The Hotel Room for Bed Bugs
Shown: Bed Bug Travel Inspection Kit
How to Inspect a Hotel room for Bed Bugs:
When entering a hotel room and before going to sleep, keep your luggage closed and at the the entrance to the room until you complete an inspection.
- Peel the covers off a corner of the mattress. Observe if the mattress is completely clean and free of stains. If it is, the hotel room is probably bed bug free.
- On the mattress, ff you see stains of any kind, such as fecal matter, or blood spots, particularly if they look like the pictures below, call the hotel manager and ask for another room. Specifically ask if the room was inspected for bed bugs. Regardless of the answer, ask for another room that is not next to, above or below the room with the possible infestation.
- Check around the edges of the headboard (bed bugs are visible to the naked eye).
- If you aren't sure, use a thin object since as a credit card and drag it through the mattress seams to see if you dislodge any bed bugs.
Many travelers pack and small flashlight and magnifying glass to aid with any motel room inspections.
We have not seen an effective bed bug repellent spray. Use sprays that are insecticide based that kill bed bugs on contact or when the insects come in contact with the spray field such as the one offered by J.T. Eaton.
3) Use A Low Cost Bed Bug Alert Monitor
A bed bug alert monitor is a low cost way to detect bed bugs when traveling and staying in hotels or cruise ship room. They work by using a pheromone attractant to draw bed bugs into a sticky glue. You can protect yourself with an alert monitor for under $15.
4) Other Tips to Protect Yourself In A Hotel Room
Shown: Bed Bug Proof Travel Pillow and Encasement
- The more things you bring into your room, the more chances you have for bedbugs to infiltrate your belongings. Instead, leave the luggage in the car and seal essential items in a Ziploc big bag or the luggage liner described above. Same for computer bags.
- If you do bring items into the room, the best bed bug free zone is the bathtub. The insects will find it difficult to climb up smooth surfaces and then hide in your items. Store items such as laptop cases and luggage in this area.
- As an alternative, when entering the room, place luggage on racks and away from the floor and 10 feet away from the bed (about the distance bed bugs will travel on their own).
- Keep luggage zipped when not using.
- Hang clothes in the bathroom, not the closet.
- Keep clothes out of drawers since these might be infested with bedbugs.
- Look for signs of an infestation such as bedbug bites on exposed skin areas during sleep such as on the lower arms and legs. Not everyone is allergic to bedbugs so one person may have bites while another does not.
- Place items you cannot wash in a zip lock bag such as electronics. Items such as clothing can be washed to make them bed bug free.
- Pack your own pillow or a bed bug travel pillow which is designed with zippers and seams to keep out bed bugs. The same pillow can also keep out mold, dust, pollen and dust mites.
5) Cover Airline Seats
Disposable bed bug seat covers can be used to put a layer of protection between the airline seat and you. It also keeps away any germs that might be on the seats.
Shown: BugOff Seat Covers From Amazon
prevent bed bugs when returning home
Portable Bed Bug Heaters
The best way to ensure that bed bugs are not in your belongings when returning home is either to use a bed bug proof suitcase as mentioned above or place all belongings in a bed bug heater such as the one offered by Thermalstrike.
Both the heater and suitcase work by heating belongings to approximately 120+ degrees Fahrenheit. This will rid all items of any pest such as bed bug eggs, nymphs (baby bed bugs) and adults. Before heating, remove items that could melt such as make up or electronics. Heat works 100% of the time.
If You Have Been Exposed to Bed Bugs
If you have been exposed to bed bugs:
- Be sure to undress and unpack outside of your home (such as in the garage).
- Place all items in a portable heat chamber as mentioned above or.....
- Place all washable items in a sealable bin. Carry bin to washing machine. Wash in hot water (hottest temperature your clothes will tolerate) followed by 20 minutes on the highest heat setting in the dryer. Steam cleaning and dry cleaning will also kill any bedbugs. If you can't heat an item, freeze it in the freezer for 5 days.
- If unpacking inside the home, do it against light-colored surfaces so that you can easily spot any insects.
- Leave luggage outside of the home and treat with a bed bug luggage spray.
- Inspect any items that cannot be washed or heat treated such as electronics. Inspect items outdoors or in areas with no carpet so you can spot any insects that might drop off.
- Steam the outside of any soft sided luggage. If you don't have a steamer hold a hair dryer on the high heat setting along all seams for 10 seconds per area.
- If you see any bed bugs in your home, call in a professional such as a member of the Home Advisor Network. The Home Advisor network certifies the competency of exterminators. You can also call (877) 673-2794 to get a list of experienced exterminators near you.
An exterminator will provide a free quote and can confirm that you have a bed bug infestation. If you hire an exterminator be sure to ask for a guarantee as 3 treatments are usually needed before an infestation is gone.
For small infestations follow our bed bug treatment suggestions.
How do you know if you have bed bugs in your luggage?
Bed bugs are visible to the naked eye. Inspect all luggage seams for the presence of insects with a flashlight and a magnifying glass.
- If you have soft sided luggage consider spraying with an insecticide based luggage spray.
- Store luggage in a sealed plastic bag or container with a snap lid for an extra layer of protection.
- For hard sided luggage inspect the surface.
Other bed bugs prevention tips
- If any guests are visiting, have them leave shoes outside of the home. If inside the home, place shoes in sealable bags.
Questions and Answers
Have A Bed Bugs Cruise, Travel Story or Question to Share?
Do you have a question or story about bed bugs travel protection and prevention? Share it!
Other Bed Bugs Travel Stories, Questions and Answers From Our Editor
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...