What to do if you discover bed bugs in your hotel?
I’ve provided step-by-step instructions for doing your best to get out of an infested hotel room below.
First you MUST determine there are bed bugs in the room by finding them. If you don’t do this step, you will not be able to take advantage of the hotel’s resources and you will not be able to demand a refund. Bites alone will not support you thinking you were bit by bed bugs. Even if it turned out not to be a bed bug, it’s still a bug and we should feel safe from insects in the hotel room, where you slept, otherwise we’d be camping – not legal advice, just my opinion.
You must be able to capture or kill-capture one so you can show it to the front desk manager. DO NOT give the hotel the bug.
Some signs your hotel room may have bed bugs.
- Look for traces of pesticides or white powder around the perimeter of the room or around the base of the bed frame.
- Small blood spots on the sheets or small black felt tip marker spots which could be bed bug excrement or bed bug poop.
- If you look at the piping around the perimeter of the mattress or behind the headboard and see actual bed bugs, blood spots on the piping seams, or casts from molting.
- If you wake up with mysterious bites this can be a sign but not conclusive evidence of bed bugs.
How to get out of a hotel room if you find bed bugs.
If you confirm bed bugs are in your hotel room, your number one goal is to get out of the hotel and back in your car without any bed bugs.
First you must find a bed bug in the hotel room and show it to the hotel manager or front desk. Take a photo of the hotel, your room, any evidence in the room such as blood spots around mattress seams, and actual bugs with your cell phone or digital camera as evidence.
Put the bug in a sealed bottle, ziplock bag, or sealed container and hold onto it, just be sure it’s dead and/or can’t get out of the jar, either or both of those.
It is reasonable to expect a refund if you find bed bugs in your hotel room.
When you go to the front desk do not give the bug to the hotel in the event there is a dispute. You have a right to demand the hotel call a pest control company to help identify the bug you are showing them. It’s not unreasonable that you cannot identify a bed bug while you are on vacation and covered in bites, or because you are not an entomologist.
The hotel may tell you they will have someone check it out later. That is their option, but you will still need them to provide you with their laundry resources before you check out. If you are confident the insect you have found is a bed bug you still need to not bring their insects into your car and home. This fact doesn’t go away. They can check later, you need to check out after taking the standard precautions against the “possibility” of bed bugs (since you found a bug, have bites) and bagging your stuff.
Be prepared that the insect may not be a bed bug which should be a relief.
You want to be confident you’re not bringing bed bugs home with you.
Ask the front desk or housekeeping for about 10-12 heavy duty trash bags with twist-ties and a clean flat white sheet. The heavy-duty large yard bags are what you are looking for.
Divide them into a group of “clean” bags for items you’ve treated (in their laundry) or determined are bed bug free, and a group of bags for “contaminated” items that cannot be treated on the spot, like your luggage (unless you’ve inspected it and feel confident it’s bed bug free). The contaminated bag is for things you can’t put in their dryer that you want to bring home and treat later (or store for a while in the bag).
Mark the bags with a sharpie or tape so you can distinguish the “clean” bags from the “contaminated” bags. Contaminated bags will have the things you can’t put in the dryer but still want to bring home.
Kill bed bugs on your clothes with heat in the hotel dryer.
Before you put your clothes in the hotel dryers check the lint traps for bed bugs or lint. Empty any lint in the traps.
Put all your clothes and other items that can be laundered and heated in a dryer, in one or two of the “contaminated” bags and take them to the hotel laundry and put them in the dryer for two hours.
After everything is in the dryer from the “contaminated” bag(s), dispose of that bag in an outside dumpster immediately. Later, you will put the clothes you have on in a contaminated bag, sealed with other untreatable objects after the clean laundry is done.
While your laundry is heating, put all your other untreated possessions like books and magazines, and possibly your luggage into one or more of the black trash bags and seal them tightly. Then put those bags in another trash bag and tightly twist-tie them closed tightly. This is just in case the first inside bag gets/has a hole in it.
Mark that bag contaminated.
This will probably include your luggage or backpacks if they are not in the dryer. If you feel confident you can inspect each and every item carefully for bugs or eggs and put them into the “clean” bags for now until you are out of that hotel.
Untreatable things are in bags marked Contaminated. Clean things are in the dryers.
Pull all the blankets and sheets off the bed and put them in the tub/shower. Create a clean workspace.
Spread the clean flat sheet on the bed to put your clean bags on.
Any bed bugs around the bed will probably remain out of site and the commotion will keep them hiding till the activity dies down. Bed bugs like things quiet and safe, so they will most likely hide the entire time. They cannot jump or fly and do not have wings.
Bag your clean items separate from your ‘exposed’ items.
If you choose to inspect your items, see if the hotel will go to a drug store and get you a bottle of 90% or stronger rubbing alcohol, which you could wipe your luggage down, and which will kill bed bugs. Most pharmacies carry this but be sure it is 90% or better.
Where we are in the process
The clothes and sneakers are in the dryer, contaminated unheatable objects are in double black trash bags and each bag (inner and outer) are sealed tightly.
Do not put anything on the floor. As soon as the contaminated bags are sealed tightly put them in the trunk of your car.
Extra bonus points if it’s a really hot day, the kind that will make your trunk into an oven. It must be very hot in your trunk to kill bed bugs, and a sunny winter day won’t work. It would have to be Las Vegas hot to work, so don’t assume anything about the stuff in the trunk. Consider it contaminated with the possibility there are bed bugs in your stuff.
You have two or more unused bags left for the clothes you have on, and which we are calling contaminated. And several unused bags for the items in the dryer.
When the clean laundry is done, put it into the “clean” bags and put those in the back seat of your car, not in the trunk with the contaminated bags if you can avoid it. Getting those bags confused upon arriving home could be a disaster.
When you get home you can launder the dirty clothes and then decide what you are going to do with the contaminated objects in the bags. You could leave them sealed for 18 months which is enough time to ensure all bed bugs are dead, or you could get a Packtite bed bug heater and heat those objects to 120(F) for a few hours to ensure all bed bugs and eggs are dead. Follow directions on the Packtite to properly heat your items thoroughly.
Discovering bed bugs in a hotel is disturbing but at least you can deal with them then instead of bringing them home and creating an infestation that will cost hundreds of dollars to eliminate and cause much more stress.
But what about bed bugs on planes?
This IS a growing problem if you consider the first thing you are forced to do on a plane is place your purse and bags on the floor in front of your seat. This is actually the original reason the bed bug oven was invented. It wasn’t for people who already have infestations but for people coming home from travel. The bed bug oven can hold a standard size carry-on so you can return from a trip, put your luggage in the bed bug oven (minus lotions and things that can melt or explode such as batteries, follow directions) and rest assured you made it home without accidentally bringing vacation bed bugs home with you.
Be sure to never put purses and bags on your bed, and don’t lay on your bed in the same clothes you come home in. Change your clothes and don’t put your dirty clothes on the bed. Too tired to do anything when you get home from vacation? Put your luggage and dirty clothes in a big drawer size zip lock bag until you can get to it. The tools and (affiliate) supplies advertised on this web site are here because if you have bed bugs they really solve a lot of problems that people who don’t have bed bugs wouldn’t understand.