The holiday season is just around the corner, and for many of us the celebrations are likely to include some serious traveling. Maybe you’re planning on driving out to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the in-laws, or better yet flying down to the Florida coast for a sunny Christmas visit with grandma and grandpa. Whatever your destination the festive season should be filled with comfort and joy, but the good times can easily turn sour if you pick up some unwelcome traveling companions along the way.

Of course,we’re talking about bed bugs. These annoying little pests can turn in up in some pretty surprising places, and they are more than happy to hitch a ride with unsuspecting holiday travelers. Following their new hosts home to set up colonies in the new year. So, how can you make certain your holidays remain parasite free? How do you ensure you don’t bring any unwelcome visitors home from your travels? We’ve got some simple tips that will get you through your holiday travels safe and sound, blocking any attempts by those pesky bed bugs to follow you home.

Preparing for Your Trip – Lodgings

The key to any successful trip is preparation, and part of that should include thinking about bed bugs. Granted, it’s not very glamorous but it will pay of in the long run. Before you book a hotel room or cottage for the holidays take the time to do a bit of research. Online review sites like Yelp and Bed Bug Registry are a good place to start. While the reviews offered on these sites may not always be bang up to date they do, at least, provide some first hand reports that can help you make an informed decision about your holiday lodgings. Keep in mind that cost is not always an indicator of a pest free environment. Bed bugs can just as easily be found in luxury 5-star hotels as in affordable locally owned bed and breakfasts. When finalizing your bookings make a point to ask about any past bed bug infestations, and check to see that the hotel or B & B makes a point to schedule regular inspections.

Luggage Tips

Soft-sided luggage has become fairly popular over the years, largely due to the reduced weight and ease with which bags and suitcases can be packed into tight places (such as the trunks of cars and luggage compartments of buses, trains and airplanes). Unfortunately, soft-sided luggage is very attractive to bed bugs. The fabric covering makes it easy for bed bugs to grab hold and ride along with you until you reach your destination. At which point they’ll happily jump off and start setting up their colonies. Hard shell luggage is almost always your best option. It’s easier to keep clean and less prone to pick up bed bugs throughout your travels.

Another simple tip – when packing your luggage put items into zip lock plastic bags for added protection. It’s also a good idea to use a plastic luggage liner to protect your clothes and toiletries on the off chance your luggage does get exposed to a few adventurous bed bugs.

Traveling to and From Your Destination

If you’re traveling by bus or rental car you’ll want to take a moment or two to check out the seats (and in the case of a rental car the trunk). If your flying to your holiday destination you’ll also want to give the airplane seating a similar inspection. While bed bugs are fairly small they are not invisible, and you should be able to spot them easily enough with the naked eye. The same rules apply to the seating areas in bus terminals and airport lounges. For those traveling by bus or airplane, you won’t have much control over your bags once they head for the luggage compartment. However, when you retrieve your luggage from the baggage carousel take some extra time to inspect it for any signs that a stray bed bug or three have decided to hitch a lift on your belongings. 

Checking in and Unpacking

Once you reach your hotel or B&B you need to take some time for another quick inspection. When you enter your room place your luggage in the bathroom. The tiled floor will help protect your things while you look over the room. Bed bugs like to hide in remote areas so take your time while performing this inspection. Check out the mattress and the bed linen as well as the carpets, curtains and any upholstered furnishings.

Look for the following tell-tale signs of bed bug colonies:

  • small reddish brown spots on mattresses or bed linen

  • clusters of black dots that look like mold

  • shed bug skins

Should you find any signs of bed bug infestation do not be afraid to bring it to the attention of the front desk. Ask for another room, preferably at least two floors away from the room you are vacating. Bed bugs can travel through electrical sockets and wall-boards so you want to choose a room as far away from the colonized room as possible. If you do need to change rooms be sure to give the new one a good once over as well before unpacking.

If you find that the room is satisfactory feel free to unpack and settle in. To ensure some added protection during your stay keep your luggage on a luggage rack or continue to store it in the tiled bathroom. In extreme cases you can also keep your luggage secured in plastic bags for added safety.

Home Again

If you’ve followed the tips outlined here you should be in good shape when you return home from your holiday travels. However, if you want to be extra careful (and, let’s face it, diligence pays dividends) there are a few extra steps you can take to minimize the potential risk of any bud bugs setting up shop in your home.

  • unpack and inspect your luggage outside

  • immediately wash and dry all of your clothes on the hottest settings

  • dry clean any clothes that need special attention

  • vacuum out your luggage giving special attention to any inner compartments or recessed areas

  • hand wash the outside and inside of your luggage if necessary

The holiday season should be filled with family, friends and festive cheer. It most definitely shouldn’t bring the unwanted gift of a bed bug infestation. That’s no way to start off the new year. But if you follow the simple tips we’ve laid out here you should be in good shape throughout your holiday travels. However, if you return home and find you have some lingering doubts about fully escaping a possible bed bug invasion make a point to schedule a routine inspection of your home. Bed bug infestations are much easier to eliminate when caught early. A timely professional inspection now can save you from a massive pest control nightmare come the new year.