When Traveling Bites – Checking For Bed Bugs In 5 Quick Steps

Checking for bed bugs

Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite. 🐜

Not checking for bed bugs will certainly turn your restful sleep into a waking nightmare! Eke!

From 5-star resorts to that horror-film inn off the highway, it’s always best to know you’re in clean sheets.

And while this isn’t the most pleasant of topics, screening your travel digs for bed bugs is something you have to be aware of and prepared for.

First, a few myths to debunk before we get into your speedy bed bug checklist:


• Bed bugs eat blood
Yep. Tiny little vampires. They can host on any warm-blooded animal but their preference is human. 🤕

• They are large enough to see
Adults are about apple seed in size.

• They do not jump
True. They cannot fly and do not jump. Their preferred mode of transport is hitchhiking. Seriously:

• They are hitchhikers
Meaning they cling to stuff and can travel from stuff to stuff. 👍


• Bed bugs are only found in run-down dirty places
Simply not true. Because bed bugs are such good hitchhikers they can easily hop a ride on personal belongings and once inside they spread rapidly.

• Bed bugs spread disease
There is no risk of catching a disease from these guys. What they will leave most people with are red itchy bites.

• Bed bugs only live on beds
The bed is one of many areas these blood-suckers can hide. They can be found any place people gather including other places in a hotel room, schools, offices, retail stores, and even public transportation.

• Bed bugs only bite in the dark
It’s a common myth that bed bugs are afraid of the light. If they’re hungry, they don’t care what time it is.

What do bed bugs look like?

Checking for bed bugs
By Content Providers(s): CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack. Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki

• Mahogany to red-brown
• Flat oval-shaped when unfed, swollen and elongated when fed
• 1/4 inch long
• Found throughout the world
• Totally, utterly, disgusting 🤢

Now that you’re sufficiently creeped out, here’s your 5 step action plan when checking for bed bugs:

STEP 1: Reviews

The very first step is doing your research before you book your accommodations. Read the reviews. Hands down they are the best way to vet your choice and will not be sugar-coated.

If there have been any past bed bug outbreaks you will be sure to read about them in a review. Guests that have experienced this nightmare first hand want to warn others.

On top of reading up on the specific accommodations, you will be booking it is also advised by those in the know aka Pest Strategies (they literally wrote the book on bed bugs), that you consult the bed bug registry.

“Perhaps one of the greatest tools built to defend against a potential bed bug nightmare is the bed bug registry! Taken from their website, The Bed Bug Registry is a free, public database of user-submitted bed bug reports from across the United States and Canada. Founded in 2006, the site has collected about 20,000 reports covering 12,000 locations.”

It’s important to remember the user-submitted reports could be outdated or be inaccurate in their reporting but could put you on alert if you book travel in an affected area.”

STEP 2: Pack your bed bug inspection kit

You want access to a flashlight (the one on your phone is fine but it doesn’t hurt to have a mini one packed away).

A credit card, a large plastic bag for your luggage while you inspect and a pair of rubber gloves. Just in case you find something you rather have not found.

STEP 3: Check-in day

Once you arrive at your room, do not unpack!

Place your luggage and all personal belongings into the large plastic bags your brought for that purpose and place everything into the bathtub (the washroom gets the most cleaning attention hands down). And prepare for your bed bug inspection.

STEP 4: Inspection time

It’s time for your full inspection.

You now know what these little guys look like but they leave other evidence as well. In addition to spotting a live bug, look for rusty dark marks. These marks may be from their feces or shells and are a strong sign of infestation.

Slap those gloves on, grab your flashlight and credit card and you’re ready to inspect. Start at the top of the following list and check off each one as you go:

Remove all bedding down to the bottom sheet, look for the telltale red marks or bug activity.

Strip off the top sheet and scrutinize the top of the mattress.

Then examine the seam using your credit card to run along it all the way around. It may uncover hiding bugs, shells or bed bug poop (or hopefully nothing). Flip the mattress and check the other side the same way you did the top.

While the mattress is pulled out give the box spring and headboard a once-over, checking corner to corner, top, sides, and bottom.

Under bed frame
Pop your head underneath the bed frame and use that flashlight to check that there are no suspicious signs there.

All other furniture
One by one, inspect all furniture in the room.

The nightstand, the dresser drawers. Look on, inside and around everything. Give special attention to any upholstered chairs, couches, pillows, etc.

Electrical switch plates
Another sneaky area that bed bugs hide are electrical switch plates

Door and window moldings
Don’t overlook these seemingly innocent areas.

Run your credit card behind and around moldings and baseboards to clear them of activity. Any crack or crevice an apple-seed sized bug can squeeze into is worth vetting before you settle in.

If your room is furnished with curtains or blinds they should also be checked. Peer into the folds with your flashlight from top to bottom.

Picture frames, wallpaper & books
Sometimes bed bugs find homes in more unexpected areas.

Peeling or loose wallpaper, pages of a book, or around picture frames can also be hang-outs for these guys. Take note of your environment and inspect accordingly.

STEP 5: Post Inspection

Depending on your results do 1 of 2 things. Either unpack, kick back, and rest easy; OR if the worst-case scenario has come true and you’re concerned or convinced that there is an infestation in your room do the following:

• Take photos of any bed bug findings (where you found the rusty dark marks)
• Immediately alert management and get them to have a look to acknowledge the evidence
• Ask for your money back
• Request a bug-free room or try and change hotels
• Report to the booking agency
• Leave a review

This all may seem quite overboard but a little prevention and prep can save you a lot of time, energy, and money when dealing with bed bugs after the fact. This time spent is a tiny fraction of your trip and will give you peace of mind once you either dispel or confirm your fears with these 5 quick steps.

If it turns out despite your best efforts you end up returning home with some unwelcome guests our friends over at Tips Bulletin have put together a list of 6 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs you should read up on here.

Have you had a bed bug encounter? Comment below!

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