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Hotel Illness: Bedbugs in Your Bag

Posted: September 23rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Chris Robinson, best known as the illustrious hirsute poet of the 90’s and ex-husband to A-Rod’s girlfriend, sang the troubling lyric “This room smells like hotel illness/The scars I hide are now your business.”  How prescient, given the newfound horror of hotel rooms infested with bedbugs.

Frankly, the entire track listing for the album bearing this ditty is akin to a “Nostradamus Wuz Here: Bedbugs Ahoy” scrawl on an alley wall: “Sting Me,” “Remedy,” “Thorn in My Pride,” “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye,” “Time Will Tell?”  Anyone who travels far and wide for pleasure or business, or even just books the occasional local room for whipping tired businessmen or stringing up truckers, needs to be vigilant to avoid her own bad luck. Time will indeed tell if you’ve brought back a little stowaway  in your valise. Worst case scenario depicted below:

What can we do to protect ourself and our extensive Vuitton collections when we travel?

Before you travel: check hotel reviews online if possible. Our go-to source is TripAdvisor.com. People are vocal about any negative situations, including bedbugs or other pest or cleanliness issues. Pack a flashlight for room inspection purposes. Pack gallon-size Ziploc bags and even a trash bag with twist tie, in the event that you need to quarantine any contaminated clothing or personal items prior to returning home. Double-sided tape may also come in handy.

1. Set your luggage and other belongings down on the luggage rack or on top of a dresser as soon as you enter the room, after giving those places a once-over, of course. Some folks favor the tub for containment.  Consider skipping the carpet-floored luggage carts you may find in larger hotels. Consider not letting the staff touch anything you own and perhaps screaming “Ahhh! Get away!” depending on the establishment you’ve chosen.

2. Immediately inspect the mattress, box spring, and bedding on the bed. Check behind the headboard and on the floor under the bed. You are looking for little, flat reddish-brown bugs. Think the size of an apple seed or smaller. Want pictures? Here, we warned you. You are also looking for any unusual reddish or black pinprick-sized spots or streaks, which are bedbug feces. The seams of the mattress are especially a good catching ground for these pests and their droppings.

You should apply your normal black light inspection to comforters, as bedbugs are only a part of your worries. Luminol optional. OK, just take the comforter off completely. It’s disgusting on many levels. You do travel with your own linens and power steamer, right? Kidding. Sort of.

3. Check the rest of the furniture and textiles in the room. Curtains, sofas, chairs, and carpets are also harboring places. This is where the flashlight may come in handy. Between the wall and carpet edge is a good place to check. Remove chair and couch cushions and pillows and really check the crevices for bedbugs or bedbug signs.

4. If you discover any signs of bedbug life on initial inspection or wake up with bites or an unfortunate later find, toss your stuff in a trash bag and get thee to the front desk. A good manager will move you to a new room or refund your money, no questions asked. If you feel the need, you can snap photos of the insect defects in the room and any bites or use your sticky tape to pick up any visible bug for evidence in the event of resistance.

If you meet with resistance on your first request, try to escalate by asking for a supervisor, a manager, even the owner. Mention you can dispute any charges via your credit card company and report your experience on numerous hotel review sites. Remain calm but firm and persistent. Note the name of everyone you must talk to in the process. If all that fails, get the hell out of there and dispute any amount billed to your card. Any evidence may come in handy.

5. While you are happily snuggled in the room, keep clothing and possessions off the floors and furniture when possible. Keep suitcases, purses, and laptop and camera bags zipped shut when not in use. For added peace of mind, keep those items sealed within a trash bag while in the room. Some people swear by putting sticky tape around the legs of the bed to trap anything attempting to climb, but bear in mind bugs may already be deep in the mattress and have been known to drop from the ceiling. Your best bet is vigilance in advance, in terms of reading reviews and your own inspections.

6. When you return home, thoroughly vacuum your suitcase and other bags, paying special attention to creases. Do not mix clothing with your regular laundry. Bag it up until it can be washed, or at least throw it in the dryer on medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes if it has already been laundered on your trip. If you can’t use the dryer on your suitcase, considering sunning it outside or leaving it in sub-freezing temps or a hot car for a few days.

Ahhhhh!!! What else can I do?

Check out this list of the 15 Most Bedbug Infested US Cities from CBS News, and keep that in mind as you make travel plans. Don’t avoid any particular area, just up your vigilance as needed. Realistically, the majority of hotel rooms you’ll visit will likely be bedbug free, but it never hurts to be vigilant, and the relative status or cleanliness of the hotel is not necessarily an indicator on its own without eyewitness reviews of actual infestation.

Yours truly encountered bedbugs in a hotel in Baltimore (shocking, right?) about 5 years ago before the problem was widely discussed, but I had no idea what the bites were until I read other reviews of the hotel later. I was storing my luggage on the rack and my clothes in the dresser, so perhaps this was the deciding factor in being lucky enough not to carry any of the little Paris Hiltons home with me. There but for the grace of Baltimore went I.



6 Comments on “Hotel Illness: Bedbugs in Your Bag”

  1. 1 Susan M. said at 3:30 pm on September 23rd, 2010:

    Is it true that bedbugs really do have a smell? I have never noticed it, but I have read that it might smell sweetish, like rotting fruit. Has anyone actually observed this? I’m wondering if I should bother sniffing around the next time I travel.

  2. 2 Stickymac said at 1:05 pm on September 24th, 2010:

    I think humans can only detect the smell in cases of extreme infestation. Dogs are much better at sniffing normal occurrences.

  3. 3 Nix Bedbugs » Blog Archive » Scarred for Life: Healing Embarrassing Bedbug Scars said at 5:09 pm on September 29th, 2010:

    […] catch-22 is that the best way to be free of scars is never to get bitten at all. See our advice about avoiding bedbugs in a hotel. You must keep your eye trained on potential threats, since they can pop up in offices, schools, […]

  4. 4 Nix Bedbugs » Blog Archive » Link Rodeo 11/13/2010 said at 11:26 am on November 13th, 2010:

    […] away from the bed in hotels (since closets are normally right above beds, eh?). Frankly, we think our advice on hotels and visual inspections is a little better. […]

  5. 5 Nix Bedbugs » Blog Archive » How Dare You! said at 11:32 am on November 18th, 2010:

    […] The poor man, cognizant of the wrath he would incur if he brought home any stowaways, begins a torturous journey through the streets of New York, jacketless, to the dry cleaners, his things taped and bagged.  We highly recommend the article.  He is nothing if not thorough, after recognizing his initial error, in not giving the hotel room a thorough enough check upon arrival.  Following these steps when travelling, it is possible to avert this kind of trouble. […]

  6. 6 Nix Bedbugs » Blog Archive » Reader Question of the Week: Bedbugs on a plane! said at 4:43 pm on November 20th, 2010:

    […] Here are some other handy tips for traveling.  Happy Thanksgiving! Share: […]


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