Every year, we open our homes to spend the holidays with close friends and family. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, millions of people travel by plane, train or automobile to spend time with their loved ones. But in addition to clean sheets and towels, holiday hosts should also prepare their homes for an unexpected visitor known to hitchhike with travelers: bed bugs.
With the 2011 Holiday Season officially upon us, BBFS thought we’d take a minute to share some Travel Tips to avoid the vampire hitchhikers and enjoy a Bed Bug FREE Holiday. With a little education, awareness and diligence you can be sure that aren’t bringing any unwanted guests home for the holidays.
Bed bugs cling to baggage, backpacks and clothing, and have been found on airplanes, in hotels and on buses. Travelers are easily susceptible to the pests without even knowing it. And once they are brought into a home, it can be extremely difficult and costly to get rid of them.
Traveling ( or Planes,Trains & Automobiles )
Unfortunately, with the increases in reported bed bug cases in major forms of transportation comes the realization that many of the business “road warriors” that frequent our more infested cities have assisted in the spread of the bed bugs this year. That means that if you are flying, renting a car or taking the train, you should take a few steps to protect yourself AND your luggage this holiday season.
- Take a Look: When getting to your assigned seat, your rental car or your train car, take the time to visually inspect any areas where you will be sitting, standing or laying down for an extended periods of time. Use a flashlight if possible to check creases, cracks and crevices for evidence of bed bugs such as stains, nymphs and/or shed cask skins.
- Watch your backside: Protect yourself by investing in some temporary seat covers which provide additional protection, can be cleaned and reused and which offer some peace of mind for the truly paranoid
- Bag It and Tag It: Protect your luggage by investing in some encasements for your bags or at least bring some plastic or ziploc bags to temporarily hold your bags while they are placed on the floors of planes, trains, buses or rental cars.
- Stop ‘Em at the Door: Bed Bugs biting you en route isn’t the problem, its bringing them home to setup shop at your place, your parents place or at a friends. The way to keep this from happening is with stringent preventive measures. Establish a “bed bug checkpoint” for all of your travel items. Don’t bring luggage or carry-ons inside your home, but empty them outside and wash clothes and anything else that’s washable. A hot dryer will also kill bedbugs, so dry anything you don’t want to wash. Keeping your luggage wrapped in plastic and in the trunk of a car in the sun will give some added protection and peace of mind.
Staying Abroad: ( Hotel Hell )
Prior to checking in, visit BedBugRegistry.com, to research past reports about your location. Understand that The Bed Bug Registry is a 100% user-generated site with little or no reporting management. As with anything on the web, it should be taken with a grain of salt (or in the case of Bed Bugs, a spoonful of DE). Contact hotel management before checking in, to find out their policies and procedures for handling bed bugs. Having a proactive prevention and maintenance plan in place is key to successful elimination.
Be aware and observant of your surroundings. Investigate all areas you plan on lying down, sitting or standing still in, for any extended period of time. This is important, since bed bugs are attracted to the heat and carbon dioxide your body produces.
Inspect rooms you are visiting:
- Use a flashlight to look for bugs or blood spots in corners, cracks and crevices
- Behind the headboard (lift off brackets on the wall)
- Along the seams, crevices and piping around the mattress
- Under the mattress pad and under the sheets
- Along the edges and underneath the box spring
- Around joints in bedside tables (including drawers) and pictures above the bed
Steps you can take:
- Never set luggage on the bed or floor
- When entering a foreign room, place luggage in the bathtub and do an inspection, then store luggage on racks set away from the wall or hang items up
- Bring your own hangers for items that will be pressed or hung up
- Visually inspect the ironing board PRIOR to using it, there have been reports of bed bugs on these items since they are often removed/cleaned with the hotel linens causing exposures.
- Put any suspect items in sealed plastic bags until you can heat treat them or have them professionally treated with Sulfuryl Flouride.
- Put everything you can into the dryer on HIGH (122 degrees minimum for 60 minutes)
Staying Home (ugh! The “in-law” are coming Home for the Holidays )
If you’re having guests at your house for the holidays, follow the tips below to help minimize the chance of bed bugs hitchhiking in on them.
- Before guests arrive, reduce clutter and vacuum floors, rugs and curtains.
- Also, encase every mattress, box spring and pillow with protectors that feature bed bug proof fabric and reinforced seams and zippers.
- Don’t allow anyone to wear shoes inside the home. Leave shoes outside, place them in sealed plastic bins or bags and/or heat treat them in the dryer.
- Keep a designated place where guests can keep their coats, purses, etc. and do not place belongings on couches, beds, etc.
- Have your home pre-treated by a referred pest control operator before the holidays for added protection.
We here at BBFS hope this information helps you have the best possible 2011 Holiday Season if your staying home and having guests, if your traveling for family/friends, or if you are simply getting away for some gourmet turkey fixings or winter wonderland fun. Help spread the word and share this blog and information with your closest friends & family. Happy Holidays from BBFS!
The next time that you travel, you might want to follow these tips:
Use a flashlight or UV light to inspect your hotel room for live bed bugs or evidence of activity such as fecal material, shed skins or bloodspots. If room is suspect, request a different room.
Using a business card and hand lens to examine the cracks and crevices around the mattress, bed frame, headboard (most will lift off the wall easily), carpet edges, picture frames, closets, nightstands, luggage racks and dressers to inspect for evidence.
Move the bed away from the wall or headboard if possible. The number one trouble spot in hotels is the headboard (if any). Number two are the picture frames directly above/behind the headboard area.
Don’t unpack leave your clothes in a closed suitcase, knapsack or zipped up clothing bag. You might want to tape the zipper or put it in a large clear plastic bag.
Keep your suitcase, etc. away from bed and don’t leave clothes laying about or in dresser drawers.
If traveling light, hang your clothing bag on the shower rod in the bathroom
Bag and Seal pajamas in a clear plastic bag and examine later.
Check yourself for bites or itching, although bed bug bites are not always immediately noticeable.
When you get home:
Unpack over a white sheet, directly launder washables in water over 140 degrees and then dry on high heat for an hour minimum. Dry cleaning is NOT as effective as previously thought, so save your money there… Consider a dry-vapor steam machine for yourself or a heating solution, such as a PackTite, Bed Bug Annihilator or BBFS’s Cimex SMART Cube.
Inspect and vacuum suitcases before putting them away. If you think you may have come into contact with pests you might consider having the items treated further off-site prior to unpacking at home.
Travel with large, clear plastic bags and enclose suitcase, clothing bag and all belongings (including what you are wearing prior to returning home (change in the car, driveway or garage) and seal with tape. Consider having items fumigated using Vikane gas fumigant, subjected to a controlled heat treatment of over 135 degrees for one hour minimum or treated with a topical, aerosol insecticide labeled for use on bed bugs.
Some additional information:
NYC.gov “Guide to Stop Bed Bugs in Hotels Safely” (PDF)