6 Steps to Avoid Bedbugs as Vacation Souvenirs

6 Steps to Avoid Bedbugs as
Vacation Souvenirs

 Bedbugs have been snacking on humans for centuries, but
had become very rare in the U.S. by the time Mrs. Cleaver started vacuuming in
pearls. Because of the widespread use of pesticides like DDT as well as the
vacuums wielded by more and more housewives, most Americans grew up without
even knowing that they were a real insect. Perhaps due to the regulation of
pesticides (for good reason!), an increase in global travel, and a reduced
awareness about how to identify and prevent bedbug infestations, this ancient
pest has made a comeback. Around the time we were panicking about Y2K, bedbugs
started becoming a problem in cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San
Francisco. By 2010 bedbugs had become an epidemic, and not just in these
“gateway cities.” They’ve hopped rides on suitcases and made themselves
comfortable in dorm rooms, motels, and five-star hotels all over the country.
Just thinking about the subject is enough to make one’s
skin crawl, so here’s a quick and dirty guide to avoid bringing them home. With
a few precautions, travelers can once again “sleep tight” in that hotel room,
and enjoy a worry-free vacation.

1. Do Your Research
When choosing a hotel, look at reviews, and keep an eye
out for any report of bedbugs. The bedbug registry can be a
good resource. Keep in mind that there is no way to tell if someone
misinterpreted mosquito bites from last night’s rooftop dinner, or wanted to
spread malicious rumors about the hotel — so take reviews with a grain of salt.
Also, most hotels will take every measure to eliminate bedbugs, once
discovered. It’s possible that a problem last year, or even last week, has now
been resolved. Before booking a room, it may be a good idea to ask about the
hotel’s bedbug prevention practices.
2. Inspect the Room
After finally getting that keycard to work, a savvy
traveler should temporarily stash their luggage in the bathroom (the least
likely place for bedbugs) and do a quick inspection. It can be helpful to bring
a small flashlight along for this purpose. To check the bed, un-tuck the sheets
and look all the way around the perimeter of the mattress and box spring, as
well as along and behind the headboard. If the bed looks okay, check out
potential hiding places near the bed. Look in drawers and crevices in the
bedside table and under the lamp, telephone, and notepads. Also check under
picture frames above the bed. If all is clear, do a final inspection under
cushions on other furniture, in cracks in the luggage rack, and along the
baseboards in the closet.
3. Look for Clues
Bedbugs look
roughly like apple seeds, and like to hang out in crevices of mattresses and
bedding. There are also other telltale signs that bedbugs are present — even if
the critters themselves are not visible. Look for rusty spots or little black
specks that may look like pepper or mold. Bedbugs also leave behind dark lines,
especially in the seams of mattresses. Be on the lookout for white powder, as
well. This could be an insecticide, and might indicate a previous problem in
the room. Hotel guests who do become a bedbug’s snack may notice itchy bug
bites the next day, often occurring in a line of three or four.
4. Take Action
If the search turns up any of these signs, call hotel
staff right away. In many states, hotels are not legally allowed to have guests
stay in a room or a bed with a bedbug problem, so if staff are not
accommodating, it may help to be familiar with state bedbug laws. For example, in California, hotels are required by law
to provide bedding that is free of bedbugs, and in Kansas, lodging establishments
cannot rent out guest rooms that have been infested. When you move, be sure to
request a new room at least 2 floors away, in case the infestation has spread.
5. Protect Your
Luggage
If this simple inspection doesn’t uncover anything
suspicious, weary jet setters can go ahead and bring their suitcases into the
room. To be on the safe side, however, don’t leave them on the floor or on a
bed. Use luggage racks or a hard surface, such as a desk. For an added layer of
protection, keep luggage encased in plastic (like a garbage bag or zip-up bag
made especially for suitcases). This will ward off bedbugs not only in the
hotel, but also in transit. If it seems like overkill, just bring a plastic bag
to use for dirty laundry. Bedbugs are attracted to the clothing we have worn,
so keep it wrapped up.
6. When You Return
Back home, either dry clean or wash all clothes (even
unworn items) in hot water. The water should be at least 122°F in order to kill
any of these bugs that might have somehow followed you home. Wipe down shoes
with a hot, damp cloth. Vacuum suitcases inside and out, and store them in
plastic. Afterward, change the vacuum bags and take out the trash. Finally,
make yourself comfortable to look nostalgically at photos and purchases from
the trip, then sleep tight knowing bedbugs are not among your souvenirs.
This
post
was posted by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on July 2, 2015

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