Karina Chronicles

Good night, sleep tight: how to avoid bed bugs when you travel

Crystal Hammon is a vintage fashion enthusiast who blogs at Dressed Her Days Vintage. When she isn’t working as a writer, she teaches yoga, plays golf, sews and reads. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The luggage that I could never own

Fashion bloggers usually try to be all light and air when we write, especially when it’s on behalf of our friends at Karina Dresses. Yesterday, I hit you right between the eyes with the world’s most taboo subject—bed bugs. But I did it for a good reason. Karina Dresses are synonymous with women on the move. And if you travel today, you must get smart about one of travel’s most inherent risks—exposure to bedbugs.

Here are 10 tips for minimizing your exposure to bed bugs when you travel.

Know before you go. There are several national registries that track bed bug reports on hotels. My husband is a traveling salesman and we always check his hotels here before we book a room. Whether a hotel has had a bed bug report is less important than how they respond to it.

Consider replacing fabric luggage with hard luggage. It’s less hospitable for bed bugs. You can also purchase luggage treaters for as little as $199. When you arrive home from a trip, drop your fabric luggage inside and heat it at 117 to 122 degrees for four to eight hours to kill bed bugs and their eggs.

Pack your travel clothes (clean and dirty) and personal items in air-tight plastic bags. This reduces the risk that bed bugs can hide in your clothing. You can purchase jumbo plastic bags online at Amazon. Otherwise, follow the suggested post-travel routine for laundry and personal items mentioned below.

Know them when you see them. Bed bugs aren’t always easy to spot because they are nocturnal and they hide in nooks and crannies. But you won’t find them if you don’t go looking. It’s always better to catch them at the earliest stages. Learn what they look like at all stages of development. Here’s a great resource to help you learn how to identify them and where to search.

Never put your luggage on the floor or next to a wall. Store it on a luggage rack—and make sure you’ve checked the rack, too. Some experts say your next safest bet is to store luggage in the bathtub.

Always give your hotel room a thorough inspection before you settle. Remove the sheets and check all along the outside seams (top and bottom) on the box springs and mattress. Use a flashlight to aid your inspection. If there are pictures over the bed, look behind them. Check the headboard, too. Search for old blood spots on sheets—a telltale sign of previous infestation.

Never unpack luggage on a sofa or bed—at home or away. When you return home from a trip, decontaminate your fabric luggage by spraying and/or brushing it with isopropyl alcohol—one of the few agents that can kill bed bug eggs.

Develop a post-travel routine for laundry and personal items. When you return home, stage luggage outside or in your garage until you can process all the contents through a dryer. Carry them to the dryer in a plastic bag so you aren’t spreading contamination from place to place. Heat clothes on high heat for at least 40 minutes. (Estimates vary on this. I sometimes dry my clothes for up to two hours, just to be safe.) Follow heat treatment with the hottest wash your garments can stand or simply take them to a dry cleaner. Heat—not chemicals—kills bed bugs. Dispose of plastic bags in a sealed garbage bag and take them to the curb as soon as possible.

Stay sane. If you are exposed to bed bugs, get a grip on yourself. Yes, it’s stressful, unpleasant and expensive to treat (as much as $1 per square foot), but it isn’t the end of the world. There are people who go to bed every night in war torn regions of the world, not knowing if they’ll wake up alive. That’s real stress.

Don’t try to hide it. Bed bugs are not a sexually-transmitted disease. They are insects—part of creation. If you suspect you’ve been exposed, forgo entertaining overnight guests. Even when you feel safe, don’t be embarrassed to ask overnight guests if they have reason to believe they’ve been exposed. Bringing this problem out into the light is one of the few ways to combat these disruptive pests.

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