Don’t Let The Bedbugs Bite (Or Come Home With You) - My Family Travels
Bedbug feces on a mattress
a bedbug in closeup from a Univ. of Toronto study

Doc Holiday shares tips on how to avoid getting bedbugs and, if you’re unlucky enough to have them in your hotel room, how to get rid of them back home.

As you may be aware, bedbugs are making a comeback in many parts of the world due to the prohibition on using DDT. Around the turn of the century they were common, and have been returning over the past few decades.

Now it seems they’re everywhere. Bedbugs don’t only live in beds; you can get them from sitting on wooden or upholstered seats (yes, as in benches in NYC subway stations!), and often they are brought home from hotels. That is what happened to us.

I’d like to share our experience and what we’ve learned about how to prevent the problem.

My husband Mel and I and our 18-year-old son Sam were in Boston to tour and to visit colleges. We spent two nights at a lovely little inn on Beacon Street. The first morning I noticed itchy bites, which got much worse during the day. 

I wondered, “Mosquitoes,” although there was no buzzing, “Hives?” The second morning my husband and I both woke up with new bites, and then we realized what they were.

We did not know about bedbugs, and brought them home to New York on our clothing and/or in our luggage. This is something you definitely want to try to avoid, since the extermination involves dry-cleaning or laundering all of your clothing, living out of plastic bags closed with twist ties, and vacuuming and spraying several times per week until you have been bug-free for at least three weeks.  

Bedbug Prevention Tips

There are several things we have learned in the course of this experience about how you can enjoy travelling and prevent bringing home bedbugs. Here are my suggestions:

1.  Before you reserve, ask about bedbugs. Ask if the hotel does regular inspections and what, if any, preventive measures they take to keep their premises bedbug-free. Online, you can read about the range of measures they can take.  This is a more and more common problem for hotels, and some hotels have been sued for large sums of money, so prevention is beginning to be a trend. (For example, some hotels regularly bring in dogs that can sniff out bedbugs.)

Go to and check whether that hotel has been listed as having bedbugs in the past.

2.  Inspect the room. Take a little flashlight with you when you travel. When you enter your hotel room, look on the sheets and on the mattress (especially the seams and in the corners). Also check behind the headboard or any pictures hanging behind the bed. If you see brown specks, the size of apple seeds, or smudges of dried blood, there is a problem. Leave the room, and maybe the hotel.

3.  Do not put luggage on the floor or on the bed. Use the racks the room provides, or a table or desk. Bedbugs crawl but don’t jump. Furniture with metal legs is best as bedbugs hide in crevices; they like wood and upholstery, not plastic or metal.

Recovering from a Bedbug Infestation

If you do see bedbugs or get bitten, you may want to take pictures of your bites and of any evidence of bedbugs you see in the hotel. (Remember, you don’t always see them.)

Some people — for example, a lawyer I read about — call the local health department right away to come and inspect. You may not want to go to such lengths but if you have to exterminate, it gets very expensive, and you may want to be able to prove the problem came from that hotel, so you can negotiate with them to reimburse you.

Most important, if you do get bugs, Do Not bring your luggage or your clothing back into your home until it has been dry-cleaned or laundered and dried in a hot dryer for 20 minutes. 

The last very important measure to take if you do get bedbugs in your home is to consult a professional exterminator – trying to exterminate on your own is very likely to spread the bugs. For reassurance and other tips, visit and read their forums by other sufferers.

Travel Prepared

I wanted to write about these things not to ruin your travel experiences (it is terrible to have to worry about such things), but to try to help you prevent a big problem and hopefully give you the peace of mind to enjoy your trip.

And I’ve recently learned from a friend that bed bugs are coming in on clothing imported from various countries where they are not seen as a problem. Therefore, it is recommended that any new clothing, even underwear and socks, sheets or towels be put thorugh a clothes dryer for at least 20 minutes. The heat will kill them and their eggs before you put your new travel outfit away next to other favorite belongings.

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