How to Avoid Bed Bugs While Traveling

Written by Jeremiah Smith, owner of Sustainable Pest Systems
Updated March 10, 2022
Bed bugs are most commonly found at the head of the bed, behind the mattress tag or under mattress piping. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Christopher H. in Chicago)

The most common way for bed bugs to hitch a ride into your home is to stow away on your luggage.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Due to their recent resurgence, many travelers have heard of bed bugs. While most accommodations are still bed bug-free, it's best to check for bed bugs in any room where you are planning to stay.

Since it's extremely costly and difficult to get rid of bed bugs properly (for example, bug bombs are ineffective on bed bugs), an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Consider these three steps to help keep you bed bug-free while on the road.

Do research on bed bugs

The first step is to familiarize yourself with the bug. Bed bugs are ectoparasites, meaning they live on the outside of their host. Furthermore, they actually spend the vast majority of their lives hidden in cracks and crevices close to their food source (you). Their diet consists solely of blood, and they prefer human hosts. 

In order to know what to look for, do an Internet search for bed bugs (in all stages of life, including eggs), bed-bug staining and cast skins. You may find the pictures somewhat horrifying, but they will help you identify signs of infestation in the future.

Perform an inspection

Bring a flashlight with you. Bed bugs like to hide in cracks and crevices, so they are much easier to find when you have additional light. 

Begin your inspection in the areas where bed bugs are most likely to hide. Check the head of the bed and behind the headboard. Most headboards are not secured to the wall, but hung on a metal or wood bracket. 

You will most often find bed bugs at the head of the bed, behind the mattress tag or under mattress piping. If you don’t know what piping is, ask your local tailor or search online. 

If you see no indications of bed bugs in these areas, lift up the bed skirt and inspect for bed-bug staining, which looks exactly like dots or streaks of black ink. You can also look on the floor directly behind the bed for cast skins.

Protect your belongings

Even if your inspection reveals no bed bugs, it's still wise to take additional precautions. Resist the urge to leave your luggage on or near your bed, and don't put your clothes in the dressers. 

Keep your bags away from the bed — in the bathroom, if possible — since the most common way to bring bed bugs home are on luggage, not on your person. 

"I found bed bugs in my room. Now what?"

Most hotels are well-acquainted with this issue and may offer you another room or your money back. Just because you found bed bugs doesn’t mean that all rooms have the same issue. Many hotels try hard to stay on top of bed bug issues. 

If you follow these steps, you will greatly reduce the likelihood of bringing bed bugs home with you. Safe travels!

Editor's Note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on Nov. 20, 2013.

Jeremiah Smith is the owner of Sustainable Pest Systems, which provides pest control services in Raleigh, North Carolina. Since 2010, Sustainable Pest Systems has specialized in residential pest management, exclusion, trapping and more. They are a recipient of the 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

As of April 9, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.