Watch Out For Bedbugs When Traveling

The next time you’re in a hotel, whether it’s a cheap day-rate one for your sad little affair or a luxurious business suite that the company has unwittingly paid for, check to see whether the mattress has an “allergy free” cover on it—it’s a codeword for “bedbug-proof.” Also, if you see trained beagles roaming the hotel sniffing out mold, there’s a good chance the “mold” is another codeword for “bedbug.” Hotels are quietly doing their best to locate and exterminate the insects to protect themselves from particularly vengeful lawsuits—but since an infestation can occur anywhere (it has nothing to do with “cleanliness” or sanitation), it’s a tough battle to win.

So, how worried should you be? First, the scarequote:

A study by the Steritech Group, a commercial and institutional pest management company, found that nearly 25% of the 700 hotels it tracked over a three-and-a-half year period between November, 2002, and April, 2006, required treatment for bedbugs.

The truth of the matter, though, is that obviously not every room in a hotel had an infestation; the same study said that less than 1% of the 76,000 rooms in those hotels were infested. It’s a real problem, but certainly not yet a common one.

For whatever reason, bedbug infestations have been on the rise in homes, apartments, and hotels over the past several years, and don’t show any sign of abating—so all those commenters who are about to complain that we’re scaremongering, well, we’re not! We’re simply pointing out that you may want to take some precautions when traveling. Look at sites like this one for information on how to spot signs of bedbug activity and what to do with your luggage if you think you were exposed. It’s expensive and time-consuming to get rid of an infestation in your home or apartment, so a little precaution might be worth it.

“The Cost of Bedbugs” [BusinessWeek]

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Trai_Dep says:

    sigh. I remember when, “Don’t let the bedbugs bite” was an endearing send-off to the land of nod…

  2. MickeyMoo says:

    and now it’s a disclaimer you have to sign before you check-in…

  3. matvey says:

    I was at a hotel industry trade show earlier this year, and there were a number of exhibitors (10-20) who specifically mentioned bedbug control/eradication/prevention in their displays.

  4. pyloff says:

    The majority of current complaints can be tracked to rise in population.

    The direct relationship of mindless person to creepy bug attached rises. IT RISES!!!


  5. humphrmi says:

    This is a problem that isn’t caused entirely by cheap hotels, nor can it be solved entirely by legislation or regulation. Bedbugs, for some reason, have been making a comeback globally. They are efficient tag-alongs which allows them to infest quickly even in clean environments.

    The best thing you can do is (1) make sure you’re not a carrier. Wash or dry clean your clothes and inspect your other packed items when you travel. (2) If you discover bedbugs, get out of the situation as quickly as you can… and then inspect all of your packed belongings and re-clean as necessary. If you move from a bedbug-infested hotel to a clean one, you have likely just carried the bedbugs from the infested hotel to the clean one… starting the cycle over again.

  6. humphrmi says:

    Oh yeah, there’s other things of course… don’t buy new mattresses from companies that haul away their customers old mattresses in the same truck. Don’t buy or adopt used furniture, or at least inspect it thoroughly inside and out before bringing it in to your house. Same for used clothes. Cleanliness doesn’t affect their infestations because they aren’t attracted to waste, but vacuum cleaners pick them up nicely.

  7. JiminyChristmas says:

    A couple I know discovered bedbugs in their house about three months ago. They have two theories as to how they got there: 1)The husband does a lot of travel for work, so he picked them up in a hotel. 2)The wife likes to shop at consignment and vintage clothing stores, and brought the bugs home on some item from there.

    Getting rid of the bugs has been an ordeal. Just when they think they have eradicated them, they reappear somewhere else. They’re still dealing with it.

    One tip worth passing on: if you buy used clothing, before you bring it in the house put it in a large ziploc bag, then stick it in the freezer for a couple of days. It will kill the bugs.

  8. @JiminyChristmas: Yes, good point. The article mentions something about freezing too:

    Salinas hired a company to empty each apartment and freeze the contents for 48 hours. (Extreme temperatures are one of the few reliable ways to kill bedbugs.)

  9. ChrisC1234 says:

    I had bedbugs in my bedroom about 6 years ago. Getting rid of them was an ordeal. They were living in the walls, behind picture frames, and in fabric folds on the side of the mattress. It took several months of repeated visits by the exterminator to get them all. They come out at night when the lights are out. We figured out that if you shut off the lights and waited 10 minutes with someone in the room, they’d come out of their hiding spots.

    I hope to never deal with them again. I’m still not sure where I picked them up from.

  10. holocron says:

    I was on a company junket to Portland, OR. several years ago. We were put up in a very ritzy hotel in downtown Portland, OR. I woke up the following morning covered with little welts, red spots all over the sheets, and little bugs all over the room. I thought they were ticks, but in hindsight I now realize they were bed bugs. Evidently there was a nest/infestation behind the headboard. This isn’t just a problem with cheap hotels.

    Oh, I never got anything out of the ordeal. The company that flew me to Portland, OR, didn’t have to pay for that night at the hotel.

  11. mthrndr says:

    I traveled for business all the time last year. Twice I found itchy bites on me after staying in decent hotels. The welts lasted weeks. Fortunately, I didn’t bring them home because I never saw them again.

  12. spryte says:

    If only bedbugs were actually butterflies like in the pic…wouldn’t be so bad :)

    I’ve never had an encounter with them, but I’m pretty germ-conscious, so whenever I’m in a hotel, I always thoroughly check the bed linens and such (for hair and other nasty things) so at least I’d spot them there…though I guess now I’ll be all freaked out and tear apart the entire room.

  13. mgyqmb says:

    I was in Morocco for a month last summer. These guys kept you company at night – I don’t think there’s a bed outside of Europe and N. America that doesn’t have em.

  14. homerjay says:

    According to the website you link to, a visual inspection of a hotel room will go VERY far in keeping these things at bay. Why aren’t these hotels (especially the expensive ones) training their housekeeping staff to inspect each room when they clean?

    Oh, right… cha-ching…

  15. Snakeophelia says:

    I got ravaged by bedbugs staying in a Vegas motel last year. Came home with hundreds of tiny little bites all over me. I suppose that’s not as bad as what some people come home from Vegas with, though.

    What aggravated me was that my husband slept in the same bed and got like, maybe, three bites. I guess the bugs go for the softer and somewhat fattier flesh. The only upside was that I got the automated email survey from the hotel while I was still itchy. I had fun explaining why I didn’t really enjoy my stay (I was in this particular hotel only one night, so there was no time to tell management while I was there).

  16. backbroken says:

    Let me guess, these bed-bugs were maade in China and are lined with lead.

    No? Then what is this article doing on Consumerist!

    Seriously, I’ve travelled extensively throughout Europe and India and have never encountered them. Most of the places I stayed in India would not meet Western standard. I guess I have been really lucky, or else there is something in my blood that the bed-bugs don’t like.

  17. jgb1 says:

    It can be an absolute nightmare. My wife and I had a bad experience while staying at a hotel in Florida two years ago. As part of the settlement, we were asked not to discuss it, so I will only say that the great granddaughter of this particular hotel chain’s founder is an a slutty attention whore.

    My wife had an allergic reaction to the 100 or so bites and ended up in the emergency room. I received a call from the hotel’s lawyer while we were still in the ER. He asked me how my wife was doing (he did not yet know about the trip to the hospital). I responded that the doctor was starting an IV to give her something to help her breathing. The sound of this guy sucking in his breath was priceless. He did try to pull a fast one by offering me 500 dollars for “immediate needs”. I asked if he intended that to be a settlement or if me accepting it would be construed as a liability waiver and he told me “of course not”. The 500 never arrived and was never mentioned again.

    We ended up settling and my wife put it away in her funny money account. She calls it her bed bug money.

  18. MeOhMy says:

    @backbroken: Because it’s a consumer issue? WOW!

    The writeup points out that while 25% of 700 hotels had bedbug treatment, only 1% of the total 75000 rooms had them, so it’s not yet “common.”

    Yet just knowing how to do a quick check to look for them can save you a heck of a lot of trouble down the road.

  19. Dilbitz says:

    The Red Roof Inn in Rockford, IL had to shut down a wing for a week in October after some poor Joe encountered red bumps and saw a line of bedbugs marching in his bed.

    The Red Roof in Springfield, IL is just as bad. I had them all over me (and ended up bringing them home)and the floor was so dirty that my socks turned black. That, and the door didn’t lock…That was the place I was sent to by my company. Eww

    Perhaps Red Roof should take a better look at their facilities.

  20. jamesdenver says:


    A lot of places in the west don’t meet western standards either.

  21. FLConsumer says:

    What do they mean, the cause for the increase is unknown? It’s very well-known. Huge increase in the number of people who travel, especially internationally plus the banning of several pesticides which were rather effective at killing these little pests.

    As an aside, does anyone know what temperature actually kills these little guys? Is it the freezing (and expansion) of the water inside that kills them or can colder temperatures do the same? I’ve not encountered them yet, but with me now out of town every other week, I think it’ll probably be a “when” rather than “if.”

    @jgb1: Ewwe. I hope your wife is doing well now. Without being terribly specific, what region of FL was it? I don’t want to send any of my business associates there, but I might have found a new place for inlaws.

  22. hapless says:


    It’s actually even simpler than that. Bedbugs had been eradicated from N. America in the 50s. With DDT bans, they’re slowly making their way back in. The nature of the beast is that of exponential growth, hence their “sudden” appearance.