Nowadays, bed bugs can be found in all 50 states and their prevalence in hotels is on the rise. To make matters worse, these aren’t the only critters you might encounter on vacation–depending where you stay, you might encounter other household bugs, vermin, or even “outdoor” pests, like ticks.
Not to worry. If you want to avoid making a call for pest control services mid-vacation, there are steps you can take to prevent such unpleasant encounters. Read on to learn how to ensure a pest-free holiday for you and your family.
The first step in ensuring a pest-free vacation is doing some research on your destination before you leave. For instance, certain major U.S. cities, like Chicago, DC, LA, and Baltimore, are more densely populated with bed bugs than other cities or more rural areas of the country.
Other international destinations, like France (Paris in particular) have experienced bed bug booms in recent years. Staying informed about the area you’re visiting can help you know which extra precautionary measures are worth taking.
Moreover, it might be helpful to research pests you might encounter in the climate or geographical area you’re visiting that you’d never encounter at home. For instance, if you’re visiting Arizona from the Northeast, you may need to read up on scorpions. If you’re traveling from the west coast to the woods of New England, you may need to be prepared to fend off ticks. You might find more cockroaches in the Deep South than you would in Alaska.
When booking your hotel, Airbnb, or rented home, do some research to ensure it’s clean and well-maintained. Local governments likely have policies in place when it comes to bed bugs and similar pests, so you may be able to find reports of former pest infestations online.
Typically, more floors in a building means less chance of bugs and rodents, so choose a hotel room on a higher floor or a multi-level rented home where possible (and avoid attics and basements).
Bed bugs are possible in any shared sleeping accommodation, from a hostel to a five-star resort, so doing online research and reading reviews to ensure your chosen place is historically compliant and clean is the best course of action no matter where you stay.
Packing wisely is one of the best ways to keep your trip pest-free. Wash any clothes you pack before you go and seal your items inside of plastic bags or packing cubes within your luggage. Pack your car with plastic bins. This way, even if pests like bed bugs get inside your suitcase, they won’t come into your home with your clothing after the trip.
Avoid packing liquids that could spill–keep water in a spill-free reusable water bottle, for instance. Seal up your belongings and zip up your suitcase every time you leave your hotel room.
Use plastic carrying cases where possible (bed bugs might hitch a ride in cloth toiletry bags) and consider bringing electronics over books (bed bugs hide in books, and other bugs feed on paper or glue found in books’ spines).
Hard-shelled luggage is considered pest-resistant–it doesn’t feature soft fabric that’s appealing to bed bugs, and includes fewer nooks and crannies for bugs to hide in. Store your luggage on a hard surface and use a lint roller to check for stowaway bugs. Consider keeping your suitcase in a plastic trash bag or other protective cover for the duration of your stay.
Keeping food that you travel with sealed and secure is one of the best ways to fend off almost any stowaway pest, from ants to roaches to mice. Keep any snacks you travel with sealed in airtight containers and clean loose crumbs immediately. Vacuum-sealed bags or airtight tupperware are likely your safest bet.
Inspect your room for any signs of pests as soon as you arrive. Check your headboard, bed frame, and nightstand for any signs of bed bugs. Look on the underside of the mattress and along the seams, piping, and tags (particularly at the head of the bed and under sheets–use a flashlight to disturb hiding bugs).
Check the sheets for dark spots. Look around the room for droppings (mice droppings resemble dark grains of rice, bed bug droppings are typically dark spots on the sheets, roach droppings resemble coffee ground or pepper).
Small moving or “jumping” bugs might be fleas. Piles of sawdust or rustling in the walls may indicate termites. Check for eggs (i.e. bed bug eggshells in your bed, cockroach egg sacks in the bathroom) and look for flies near trash cans (which might indicate a pesky fly infestation).
Look for any holes in window screens and ask to have them repaired; request caulking of any holes in the walls. Check along the windowsills and outside walls for spider webs and nests.
Keep bed bug best practices in mind throughout your trip, from packing to unpacking. Use the aforementioned tips to keep bugs out of your luggage, and be sure to inspect every new room you arrive in. Wash all of your clothes before you leave and when you arrive home.
Vacuum and steam your suitcase when you get home. If you need to be moved to another room because of a suspected infestation, be sure that your new room is not directly next to, above, or below your old room (bed bugs can easily hitch a ride next door on luggage, a housekeeping cart, or even via wall sockets).
In order to prevent an invasion from ants, cockroaches, rodents, or other hungry pests, be sure to keep trash cans sealed and take out the bags regularly. Dispose of food scraps immediately and clean up crumbs and spills carefully.
Even the smallest piece of trash or leftovers left out can attract pests and cause them to alert others to the nearby food source.
Be sure to keep the doors and windows of your hotel room sealed shut, especially overnight. Open doors and windows are the easiest way for almost any pest to access your accommodations. Alert your hotel or host immediately if you notice a broken door or window screen.
Insect repellent may give you peace of mind if you’re concerned about encountering pests on your trip. For example, wear bug spray to avoid attracting ticks and mosquitoes while outside. Spray Raid or another insecticide if you suspect your room may be home to cockroaches or ants.
There are steps you can take to avoid encountering bugs during outdoor activities while traveling. In addition to wearing bug spray, you can even wear permethrin-treated clothing or burn a citronella candle nearby (the scent naturally repels mosquitoes).
Consider leaving a plate of food a distance away from your picnic as a diversion for wasps and flies. Avoid fields of tall grass where possible and wear long sleeves to prevent ticks. Avoid standing water (i.e. puddles or birdbaths), which attracts mosquitoes. In a pinch, you can even clip a dryer sheet to your clothing as an insect repeller.
Finally, before leaving, clean up your space to ensure a pest-free stay for the next guest. Conduct a final inspection for any stowaways. Pack neatly and in sealed containers, the way you did before you left, to make unpacking and inspection easy when you get home. Properly dispose of any trash and politely alert the hotel to any potential issues (like holes in window screens or bugs you noticed during your stay).