What to Do if Your Hotel has Bed Bugs

Never in a million years did I think I'd run into this problem, but we did. On night one of a three-week-long trip to Africa in a luxury hotel no less! We had our first encounter with bed bugs...that I know of. I guess I was just blissfully unaware for the whole of my life. Heck, even after squishing the pesky bug, we didn't even know that it was a bed bug until we used Google images to identify it solely out of curiosity. My body itched for days and now I'll never travel the same way again. Now that I know, here is what I'm doing differently. Here are some tips for traveling, signs to look for, and what to do if you do come across a bed bug infestation!

bed bugs in your hotel room, how to check and what to do if you find them

How to Avoid Getting Bed Bugs When You Travel

how to avoid getting bed bugs when you travel

As I mentioned, there is no discrimination. Bed bugs can show up in a luxury hotel or a budget hotel, they know no bounds! 

Check for Bed Bugs

I guess I should have had this on my radar. I always just assume that as often as hotel rooms get cleaned and linens get changed, bed bugs won't exist. Boy was I wrong. 

Bed bugs are sneaky little creatures and they can hide in cracks and crevices in mattresses, box springs, walls, and floors. They can go quite some time without feeding {up to 400 days!}, making them very resilient and hard to get rid of. They are basically a hotel manager's nightmare! And as much as you like to travel, so do those bed bugs! They will come home with you and you'll find an unwelcome souvenir if you aren't careful!

Bed bugs feed on the blood of people, usually while they sleep. Most people actually bring bed bugs home when they travel, so it's so important to check for bed bugs anytime you check into a hotel or shared lodging space like a VRBO or AirBnB.

Tips for Checking for Bed Bugs

When you enter a new room, put your luggage on a luggage rack or in a bathroom {away from the bedding where bed bugs generally like to hide}. Some people store their luggage in the bathtub for an extra level of security.

Pull back the sheets and blankets and look for any reddish rust-colored spots. You can check on the mattress and on any upholstered furniture for evidence. Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed, so they are small but visible to the naked eye.

Know what a bed bug looks like. We didn't. I snapped a photo after my husband killed the one that was crawling on the pillow headed straight for my head. We did a quick Google image search out of curiosity and sure enough it was a bed bug. Know what you are looking for in case you find one!

bed bugs identify prevent when traveling

Tips to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Home

Bed bugs are sneaky and there's nothing worse than your hotel having bed bugs than you bringing the bed bugs home with you. Store your suitcase on a hard surface. Bed bugs are less likely to make a home on a dresser or luggage rack. Whatever you do, don't unpack your clothes on the bed! 

Once you get home, you can put your clothing items on high heat in the dryer to get rid of any bugs or eggs. Some experts suggest storing your luggage in a garbage bag and sealing it for a few days. If it's warm outside, you can keep your luggage sealed in the trash bag outside in the sun and let the heat do the job of killing off any of the bed bugs that might have come home with you.

What to Do If Your Hotel has Bed Bugs


This was something new for us. And like I said, we'd spent the entire night unaware. Had we checked the room when we checked in, we would have likely seen the red rust-color stains on the pillows and sheets. We got lucky, that since this was a long layover stop, we didn't have all of our clothing, only a small carry-on backpack with us. We didn't unpack and the room was overall, pretty sterile with a wood chair {that I left my pack on overnight} and wood floors.

If you check into a room and find any evidence of bed bugs, TAKE PHOTOS. These photos come in handy if you are trying to request a refund and provide proof that you found bed bugs in the room. 

Make sure your luggage is carefully stowed away on a hard surface and then go to the front desk immediately. Request a new room. Most hotels are accommodating and will quickly change rooms for you. If you are renting through Airbnb or VRBO, carefully document any evidence and immediately call the customer service numbers available. 

If they do move your room, try to get as far away from the original room as possible. A room next door or even directly above it could be infested too. 

Not all hotels will offer a discount or even a refund for your trouble. I took the pillow to the front desk with the squished bed bug on it and wasn't offered anything, not even a new room {though to be fair we were checking out in a few hours}. You have to advocate for yourself. 

Speak to the manager on duty if possible and express your concerns. Finding bed bugs in your room is a big deal. Don't let anyone tell you that it's not. 

You likely will need to continue going up the management chain to seek a refund. But you've got those photos we talked about! You can request a refund while you are at the hotel, but in our case, it wasn't something that was honored. In fact, I had to fight to get a 30% discount for our stay as compensation.



I did write a review, hotels hate bad reviews, especially ones with mention of bed bugs! And included my photo proof in the review. Since the review on TripAdvisor mentioned bed bugs, there was an added layer of consent they took to confirm the post. I get it, no one wants to cry wolf on a hotel that they had a bad experience with. Within two days of the review being live, we received an email from hotel management offering a full refund.

There are no laws that actually entitle you to financial compensation. This is all at the discretion of the hotel or property management staff. There are things called bed bug lawsuits, and no one wants it to escalate to that. So most will happily settle with proper documentation. Remember those photos you took after you discovered them?! 

The good news is, that bed bugs aren't considered to be dangerous. Annoying, yes, hard to get rid of, also yes. Knowing what to watch for, and how to protect yourself is the first step in making sure all your travel goes off without a hitch!

Have you ever found bed begs in a place you stayed? What did you do?

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