Avoiding Unwanted Guests - the dreaded Bed Bug Invasion
I have been hearing people all worried about bed bugs lately and the news covers a story at least once a month. Last week a student asked me how they could avoid an encounter with these microscopic pests as she adventures to a third world country. So here are a few suggestions and tips:
- Before you leave: Read up on the web regarding your hotel, youth hostel, or other forms of lodging. Check out what other travelers have said about the franchise or independent hotel. Always a wise step, do your homework before you leave home.
- When you arrive: If you are traveling by car, leave your luggage in your car while you register and check out the room. If you are traveling by air, ask if you can leave your luggage at the front desk while you go check out the room. If all else fails, leave your luggage propped up at the door to your room. The very first step that I take when arriving in the room is strip off the bedspread. These are often not cleaned between guests so I fold it up and leave it in the corner of the room. I leave a note that I prefer the bed to not be made up with the bedspread. (Many hotels are getting the message and using comforters with fresh linen covers cleaned between guests. Allow me to mention that I have discovered a bedspread that was soiled on a number of hotels . . . including a room that was more than $200 a night! I was very disappointed that the housekeeping staff had not checked the underside of the bedspread. May I just say that it was very clear that someone had used the bedspread to clean their "bottom." Disgusting!)
- Check out the room completely: After pulling off the bedspread I begin my visual check of the bed. Pick up the pillows, pull back the fitted sheet to examine the mattress and bedsprings. What are you looking for you may ask? Bed bugs are extremely hard to see with the naked eye, so you have to look for their tell tale signs. . . fecal matter, blood stains, and bed bug casings. I have a small yet bright LED flashlight and a strong magnifying lens (I typically use this to enlarge small type but find it handy for inspections now.). I use these to get a close look in the crevices of your mattress at the head of bed, specifically the crevice between the box spring and the mattress. This is a primary hiding place as bed bugs like to be close to their food source. If you have a concern ask the manager to come to your room and show them your concern. When in doubt, ask for a different room!
- When storing your luggage in the room, try to find a luggage rack or table to open your luggage up on. I will use the floor over the bed and I always leave my luggage closed except when I am obtaining a change of clothes. Recently Ziplock has released some really large zipper super-sized bags that might be used to protect your luggage. I have not used them, but I have considered them for a future trip.
- Here is another tip: I have started carrying pillowcases with a bug-proof zipper that locks away allergens, dust mites and bed bugs. When traveling in a developing country, I tend to bring my own pillow, pillowcases, and an extra sheet. Sometimes it just feels nice to have a few comforts of home after I have been gone for several weeks.
- Protecting your luggage from bringing unwanted guests home is essential too! I have switched to hardsided luggage to ensure that I do not have any insects crawling in through the fabric. Inside my luggage, I keep my clothes in those nifty compression travel bags. They are great for keeping soiled and smelly clothese away from clean and neat clothes in addition to allowing for more "stuff" packed into the luggage. I find they are terrific for helping ensure your personal items do not spill out during those TSA inspections. I hope they appreciate the very neat and organized suitcase when they open my bags!
- When you get home . . . regardless if you have worn everything, put everything in the wash machine and dryer. Heat kills the bed bugs and their eggs. Do not unpack in your bedroom and never on your bed. Afterwards empty the suitcase and wlipe them out with an antibacterial fabric spray . . . it can't hurt to do this again before you pack for the next trip. It will not kill bed bugs so if you suspect that you have stayed in a room with bed bugs or other crawling insects, then you need to use an insecticide to kill off the insects.