Bed Bugs – Tips for Travellers

We are often contacted to deal with bed bug infestations where the exposure route is believed to be overseas travel. Below is a brief guide for travellers trying to minimise their exposure to bed bugs. These are the procedures our bed bug control technicians and consultants use when working away from home, they work globally in some of the most heavily infested sites and these simple steps have prevented them from exposing their homes and family to bed bugs.

The one thing to remember when reading this is that bed bugs are just little insects. Do not let this primitive creature ruin your trip or rule your life. We have seen clients obsess over bed bugs to the point that it becomes self-destructive.

Leaving home

For the purpose of this guide we assume you do not have bed bugs at home. We would advise packing a torch to help you inspect your room on arrival. Under no circumstances spray your cases with bed bug repellent, or wrap your case in Clingfilm. If you do the nice man with the rubber gloves will be waiting for you at customs.

The Airport

Airports are a unique environment in regards to bed bug exposure. The average UK airport carries over 20 million travellers per annum, with major hubs approaching 70million.  With exposure levels like this, infestations in terminal buildings are inevitable. Departure lounges get strange use, enabling bed bug infestations to develop quickly. People sleep on the chairs when on lay overs, Travellers can be sat for hours waiting for a flight, it would be stupid to say don’t sit down. We suggest checking the seat around the seams or sitting on your case if you can bear to. A better option may be to visit a restaurant in the terminal as they pose a lower risk of bed bug exposure and the time will pass quicker.

The Aircraft

We often hear stories of travellers’ cases being exposed in the hold of a plane. In reality this risk is miniscule. By far the highest exposure risk is in the cabin itself. There are a few basic precautions you can take to reduce the risk of carry bed bugs with to your destination.

  1. When you board do not put your cabin bags and coat on the seats put them straight into the baggage lockers. This stops bed bugs crawling in to your luggage from the seats. It also reduces the risk of the cabin becoming infested from travellers’ baggage.
  2. Always use the overhead baggage lockers for your cabin luggage. In a cabin environment the most likely areas to become infested will be the seat structures, so storing your bags under the seat is not advised.
  3. Do not spray any form of bed bug repellent or insecticide onto the seats. Very few insecticides are approved for use on aircraft and most amateur products are either organic oil based or in a volatile carrier, both will destroy the flame proofing on the seat. You will probably be ejected from the aircraft if you start applying chemicals to the passenger cabin.
  4. If you believe you have been bitten contact your cabin crew and the airlines customer services department, make a note of your seat number and the aircraft ID.

The Hotel

When you arrive at your hotel a few simple choices and a quick search will drastically reduce your risks of bed bug exposure without ruining your trip or taking up to much time.

  1. The first step is probably the strangest to understand but the logic is sound. When you arrive at your hotel room put your cases straight into the bath. The bath is a smooth moat protecting your cases from a potentially bed bug infested hotel room.
  2. Take your torch out of your bag and start the search of the room. A full search should take no more 10 minutes.
  3. Start by pulling back the covers and with the torch look for any marks on the sheets. Either blood spotting or black faecal spotting. Faecal spotting of sheets spiders out in a diamond shape following the weave of the fabric.
  4. Next check the seams of the mattress for evidence of bed bugs, if infested the evidence will probably be droppings, cast skins or maybe live bugs see our gallery for examples.
  5. Check the headboard, pay special attention to the seams in upholstered surfaces and joints in timber including the wall brackets.
  6. Move onto the bed side cabinet, check the screw holes at the back and all seams in the structure including the draws. Check the spine of the Bible we have found many bed bugs over the years hiding between the spine and binding.
  7. Check the wardrobe although very low risk you will be hanging your clothes in there.
  8. Now that you are confident that your room is bed bug free, use the luggage rack when you unpack and enjoy your holiday.

If you find any evidence of bed bugs or you are not happy with any aspect of your room ask to be moved to another room. If the Hotel will not move you move to another hotel. You do not want to risk a holiday of bed bug bites or risk taking bed bugs home.

We do not suggest checking your hotel on services such as or as these sites are predominantly used for vengeance by disgruntled staff wishing to harm a hotel. To date we have inspected 26 rooms for hotels that have had reports of bed bugs through these sites only 1 was accurate.

The Return

You have got this far without exposure to bed bugs so now it is just a matter of reversing the process until you get home. When you get home to negate all risk of bed bug infestation we suggest the following procedure.

  1. Check all seams of your luggage before entering the house.
  2. Take all laundry directly from the cases and launder on a high temperature.
  3. Inspect all other items before bring into the house.
  4. Check all internal surfaces in your luggage for evidence of bed bugs before storing in the house.

We estimate that these procedures should add no more than 10 minutes either end of each journey but will greatly reduce your risks of bed bug exposure both at our hotel and at home.

To find out more about bed bugs here.

Find out about Merlin’s Bed Bug Dogs.

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