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How to Check Your Hotel Room for Bedbugs

Door of a hotel room opening to reveal the bed.
Sompetch Khanakornpratip/Shutterstock

Hotels sometimes host things other than guests—like things that creep in the night! What’s lurking in your dark hotel room? It could be bedbugs. Here’s how to spot them and make sure they don’t hitch a ride home with you.

What are Bedbugs?

Before you can start looking for bedbugs, you need to know what they are. Since they like to hide during the day and come out at night, you probably won’t see them unless you know what to look for and where to look.

If you do find a bedbug, it will look kind of like an apple seed—they’re the same size with oval bodies. Bedbugs are brown, but they become more reddish after feeding on human (or animal) blood. These creepy little crawlers don’t fly, but they do move quickly and can travel across the ceiling just as fast as they can on the floor.

How to Check Your Hotel Room

The first thing you need to know when it comes to staying at a hotel or motel is how to check for bedbugs. Before you even enter your room for the first time, you need to be prepared.

Keep Your Luggage Away from Hot Spots

Leave your luggage in the hallway or put it on the luggage rack or in the bathtub. These are all unlikely places for bedbugs to be. They tend to hang out in and around the bed, where they can feed on you while you’re sleeping.

Examine the Mattress and Furniture

Your next step is to look for signs of bedbugs in and around the bedding and furniture in the room. Look under the sheets and between the blankets. Check under the pillows, inside the pillowcases, and under the mattress. When they aren’t feeding, bedbugs are excellent at hiding, so you need to lift the mattress and look in all the cracks and crevices on the furniture. A good penlight is invaluable in this situation.

Mature bedbugs and droppings along the lining of a piece of furniture.
Hawaii Department of Health

The eggs, nymphs, and adult bedbugs are all visible to the naked eye without magnification, but you’re also looking for evidence of their presence. During the day, you’re more likely to see exoskeletons left behind by the bugs and rust-colored spots from their excrement. In the photo above, you see both an adult bedbug and the markings you can expect to see on absorbent surfaces, like the mattress and the lining of stuffed furniture.

Check any upholstered furniture. If it’s difficult to see into the furniture or under mattresses, use a flashlight (most smartphones come equipped with a flashlight app).

What to Do If You Find Bedbugs

If you brought your luggage in, move it out into the hallway. Head to the front desk and let them know you found signs of bedbugs. It’s common, so they’ll usually be understanding.

Request another room, either on another floor or in another part of the building. Repeat the same check in your next room. It’s unlikely for a hotel to be completely infested with bedbugs, but not impossible.

How to Avoid Taking Bedbugs Home with You

Even if you don’t see bedbugs in the room, it’s a good idea to take precautions.

Don’t Leave Clothing Lying Around

Keep your suitcase zipped and stored on the luggage rack away from the bed and other furniture. Even better, store it in the shower or bathtub as that’s the least likely area to have bedbugs. Keep soiled clothes in a tied trash bag. If you have clothing that needs to be hung, make sure it’s not touching the walls or floors.

Do a Check When You Get Home

Don’t haul your suitcase into the bedroom and put it on the bed if you have any fear that you might have bedbug stowaways. Instead, take it right to the laundry room and toss everything in the dryer for 30 minutes on a hot setting. This is one of the best ways to kill bedbugs.

If you didn’t see the telltale signs but found some small, itchy bites on your skin, you might have been sleeping with bedbugs. Luckily, these nasty bloodsuckers don’t spread disease, but they do multiply, so deal with them quickly by calling pest control if you suspect an infestation in your home.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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