Bedbug protection in hotels: Three ways to protect yourself while on vacation

We're about to enter holiday travel season when many of us will spend time in hotels. Others are already planning trips for spring break and renting beachfront properties.

If you're one of those people, you'll want to know the three things you should do whenever you check into a hotel to avoid checking out with bedbugs.

Martha Kraft recently checked into a motel in southern Kentucky with her daughter Cathy, and her two children while on a family trip to Lake Cumberland.

While the four of them were expecting to spend quality time together, they soon found that their room was already inhabited by pesky guests.

"I started itching all over, my hands just kept itching all night," Kraft said.

It was only when they turned the room light on that they discovered bedbugs all over them.

"I woke up in middle of the night to feed the baby, and had them actually crawling on me," Kraft's daughter said.

The two women are among the thousands of hotel guests across the country bitten by bedbugs every year.

The pesky bugs don't discriminate, either. They've been found in all 50 states and have even been reported in expensive 5-star hotels.

-- What You Need To Check For

Kurt Scherzinger is the general manager of an extermination company, Scherzinger Pest Control. Even though after a potentially long trip people want to relax as soon as they get to their hotel room, Scherzinger said it's imperative that people take the time to inspect their room before they get too comfortable.

"They definitely need to inspect before they unpack or make themselves comfortable in a room," he said.

In order to walk 9 On Your Side through a proper bedbug search, Scherzinger agreed to help inspect a local hotel room. He also provided three must-do tips for what to do when you arrive at any hotel, resort or guest house.

-- Tip #1:

Never lay your suitcase on the carpet by the bed. That's a spot where these bugs are known to hide.

Instead, set your suitcase on a luggage rack. Don't have a luggage rack? A clean table top will do.

"I recommend setting the luggage on the luggage rack right as you come in," Sceherzinger said. "Bedbugs do not stay on exposed places."

-- Tip #2:

While inspecting the room, start by pulling down the sheets and blankets, Scherzinger says. Inspect all beds (even those you don't plan to use), paying special attention to the white edging around the mattress.

"I would first pull (off) the sheet itself," Scherzinger explained. "And at that point I would look at the piping or the edging or the mattress," where they rest, waiting to feast on and annoy their next victim.

Bedbugs look like small apple seeds. They tend to leave little stains behind as well.

"You're looking for the bugs or for a reddish brown stain, which is the fecal matter of the bug itself," Scherzinger said.

During his inspection, Scherzinger found dark spots along an edge of one of the mattresses. Were they bug droppings? Possibly, but they also could have been black mold.

But these mattresses, while stained, passed the bug test.

-- Tip #3:

Once the mattress has passed the test, make sure to check around the headboard, behind the nightstands and in the dresser drawers. Bugs love warm, dark places to rest and wait before they decide to move on and call your clothing home.

"I would definitely do a thorough inspection of the dresser drawers and nightstand before you unpack a bag into the dressers," he advised.

-- What If You Are Suspicious?

What should you do if you suspect bugs? Scherzinger says demand another room immediately.

In his years of experience treating hotels, he says it's rare for several rooms in a hotel to be infected at the same time. Usually, if you move you will be fine.

Then when you get home, he says:

-Wash all clothing in hot water.

-Then dry for 30 minutes in a hot dryer.

-Place shoes and suitcases (that cannot be washed) outside in the sun in black plastic bags. The heat from the sun will kill the bugs.

The Krafts are still dealing with the itchy bites, saying "it took about four months to get rid of them."

-- How To Protect Yourself

While there are plenty of tips to help you once you've already gone on vacation, there are several things you can do to limit your risk in the first place.

One thing you can do is purchase bedbug resistant luggage. If you stay in what you'd consider "questionable motels," one these new travel tote models might be worth the price, which range in price from $20 to several hundred dollars.

One of these new type of suitcase heats the contents inside to a temperature that should kill any bugs that have made it inside.

If specialty luggage might be too financially out of reach, purchase a bedbug proof mattress covers.   Although, there is always the chance the bugs are on a hotel blanket or somewhere else in the hotel room.

One

thing you should do is check out review and reports of the hotel(s) you're considering. Websites like  BedBugRegistry.com and BedbugReports.com are a little more to the point, if you will, but general customer review sites like TripAdvisor.com are beneficial as well.

But remember: Bedbugs have been reported even at pricey resorts and new hotels. They come in with the guests.

So, just because someone reported bugs at a hotel last year does not mean they are still there. 

Hotels shut down suspect rooms immediately, and treat for bugs.

Wherever you travel there's no reason to let down your guard. That way you are safe and you don't waste your money.

Editor's note: We're not identifying the hotel we inspected in our report, because it did not have bugs during our check.

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