Bed Bugs: A Vacation Souvenir You Don't Want

May 7th 2016

While bed bugs are not known to spread serious illness, these pesky insects can wreak havoc on clothing and furniture, as well as cause itchy, painful skin welts that can lead to secondary infections. Understanding the signs of bed bug infestations and taking appropriate preventative measures can help to ensure that you don't bring these unwelcome guests home after a vacation.

Double-Pack Clothing

To prevent bed bugs from attaching to luggage contents while traveling, it is always best to utilize a double-packing technique. Packing clothing and personal items in sealed plastic bags prior to placing them inside of suitcases offers an extra layer of protection against bugs that hitch rides on luggage at airports, train stations or bus stations.

Upon reaching your destination, it is important to use a flashlight and check the outer sides of your luggage for evidence of bed bugs. The insects are clear to brown in color and approximately 5 to 9 millimeters long, with four legs and two feelers.

Inspect the Hotel Room Prior to Entering

Prior to entering your hotel room, leave your luggage at the door and inspect the room in its entirety. While actual bed bugs are minuscule in size, they do leave behind evidence of their presence. Inspect the mattresses and bedding for small red specks of blood that are similar in appearance to coffee grounds.

Bed bugs also leave behind oval-shaped egg casings that are tan to brown in color. Egg casings may be found in the mattress seams, as well as along baseboards. Shining a flashlight on these areas allows for easier detection. Even if no evidence of bugs is detected, it's a good idea to perform periodic spot checks throughout your stay to ensure that your room remains safe.

Store Luggage off the Floor and Keep Clothing Packed in Plastic

As an additional protective measure, store your luggage off the floor, preferably on upper closet shelves or luggage racks. It is also wise to keep all clothing and personal items stored in plastic bags for the duration of the hotel stay.

Inspect Luggage and Wash Clothing Upon Home Arrival

After the vacation is over, inspect the outer sides of your luggage with a flashlight prior to bringing it indoors. Once inside, all clothing should be immediately washed in hot water and all plastic bags should be discarded. All suitcases and travel bags should be scrubbed out with a stiff-bristled brush and vacuumed prior to storage.


Bed bugs are definitely unwelcome visitors, as these frustrating pests multiply quickly and their bites can cause painful, itchy skin welts in sensitive individuals. While the insects are not known disease carriers, they are definitely a nuisance, as the female bed bug can lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime. Bed bugs are extremely tiny and can be difficult to detect with the naked eye, but the aftermath of their destruction does not usually go unnoticed.

Bed bugs are often referred to as "hitchhikers," as they attach themselves to suitcases, used furniture, backpacks and grocery bags. The insects are often found in hotels, which gives them easy access to suitcases and travel bags. Once attached, they become instant travel mates and head home with unsuspecting vacationers. Once a group of bed bugs makes their way into a new host home, they hide in confined areas such as mattress seams and baseboards.

The bugs feed on human blood and typically attack unwilling participants while they are asleep. While there is no sure-fire way to predict a bed bug infestation, taking some simple steps while on vacation can help you prevent these critters from hitching rides on your luggage and entering your home.

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