Scientists say that the only living creatures found at, post atomic bombed, Hiroshima were cockroaches. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they possibly overlooked a bed bug or two. If any insect could survive a nuclear attack, I would lay my money on the dreaded bed bugs. As I was sitting down to write a new destination piece, I was reminded of my now limited hotel recommendations for that destination. Why? Because it only took one bed bug incident, two years ago, to have me keeping well distanced from extreme budget digs in big cities.
Imagine my shock to discover that I not only had souvenir bites from bed bugs,
I had also brought some home with me!
In my defense, being prone to insect bites had me discovering my situation just late enough to be an expensive and time consuming pain in the butt. Do note that not everything that bites you in a hotel room should be credited to bed bugs. Mosquitoes and Sand Fleas also love humans, but better safe than sorry. And before you go spouting off on Trip Advisor about bed bug bites, please at least give the hotel the opportunity to either check out the situation as well as make things right with you. If they ignore you, then I’d say go for it and future guests will probably thank you for that. I sure would.
So how did a smart intrepid traveler such as myself bring home these nasty beasts? Well, to be honest I was clueless about bed bugs. My preventative measures to keep any creepy crawlies out of my luggage was apparently one of the one worst things to do. If there was no designated place for my opened suitcase to be placed, for easy access, I usually kept my suitcase on my bed or the spare bed in the room. That’s right, bouncing from hotel to hotel to home and repeat.
I often kept a suitcase half-packed on my bed at home, between trips.
Until that fateful day I discovered my faux pas.
I couldn’t hit Google fast enough. Peter Greenberg had some insights and travel tips that had me suddenly thinking, “Uh-oh.” In putting two and two together, I had remembered that my last hotel stay had had a serious decline in their cleanliness, since my previous stays with them. And to be honest it looked as if their clientele had changed to very short stay customers of the hourly variety. Lesson learned and I am now quite particular about where I stay. Especially in metropolitan cities.
Here are a few tips I learned from my experience,
which may help you also avoid the hassles of bed bugs.
1. Check the pillows and mattresses immediately for any tell-tale signs. Bed bugs lay eggs and if there is even an inkling that they have been there, there is a good chance that their future offspring are still around. There is no excuse for any hotel to have stained pillows and mattresses. But especially pillows.
You can of course put a plastic bag over the pillow. Or even bring your own pillow.
2. Never ‘store’ your luggage or backpack on a bed.
3. Bed bugs can also live in cracks in wooden walls and floors or wooden bed slats. Something to keep in mind if staying in a ‘rustic’ wooden bungalow.
4. Be extra vigilant in transient cities. There are plenty of sparkling clean budget hotels available in large cities, so don’t just grab something because a groovy guide book said it’s the hippest place in town. Unless of course it’s the hippest place in town with an excellent track record for cleanliness. And check the pillows and mattresses!
5. Post travel, always unpack away from your home furnishings, preferably in a well lit, tiled, area.
6. Heat post travel clothing in a hot dryer and consider steaming your suitcase or backpack. Hot temperatures will kill bed bugs and eggs.
SIGNS OF BED BUGS
1. Look for blood stain drops or fecal smears; which look similar to Sharpie or laundry marker dots.
2. Itching in the wee hours of the morning. If you have a sudden need to scratch the heck out of somewhere on your body and the clock says 3:00am. Turn the light on fast and take a look. Especially if this scenario repeats itself over a few nights.
3. Find a tiny brown bug of mysterious origins? Squash it and take a sniff. Bed bugs have a very distinct slightly almondish smell.
4. If 2-3 bite marks in a row appear on your skin, similar to a connect the dot. Yup that’s a sign. Hands, ankles, backs of legs. The really creepy part is, that if you are sleeping in a hotel, the bed bugs are following the blood scent from a previous guest. How grose is that right?
1. For bites, antiseptic cream to ward off infection and cortisone cream for extreme itching.
2. For home infestation? Replace your mattress and pillows or use an industrial or similar steamer and steam effected furnishings for at least 90 seconds or more. Also, wash the heck out of your bed linens and dry them in the hottest dryer setting you can use. I highly recommend doing that weekly. According to Peter Greenberg’s report, bed bugs can live for a year or more without feeding on blood!
3. Use white or light colored sheets in lieu of patterned sheets and blankets for early detection of bed bugs resurfacing. A white mattress cover is also a good idea.
4. Leave the plastic on your new pillows and mattress until you are absolutely positive you are free from those critters. You can get use to the crinkly sound of plastic if it saves you money and time.
5. Bed Bugs can happen to anyone. And even the sharpest hotel staff can miss a sign between guests. So do the hotels and yourself a favor by double checking even clean, high end hotel mattresses and pillows for the tiny tell-tale signs. And, of course take your own preventative measures to help decrease the spread of the bed bug gift that keeps on giving.
If you aren’t convinced bed bugs have become a massive problem world wide,
check out these Bed Bug Pinterest Boards
Have you encountered bed bugs while traveling? Any tips to add?