How to Keep Bedbugs From Coming Home With You

After checking into a motel in Berkeley, Calif., a few years ago, my husband and I began a well-rehearsed ritual. We left our two young kids strapped in their strollers, pulled back the bedding, and scanned the surface of the mattress. Poking into the deep seams of the mattress’s pillow-top padding, I found what we feared: a multitude of brown-black flecks.

The motel manager offered to move us to a different room, but instead we drove to a relative’s house that night. That experience taught me that it’s worthwhile to take two minutes to check the mattress before you unpack. A 2016 survey of 100 hotels in the United States, conducted by Orkin, a pest control company, found that 82 percent of them had been treated for bedbugs in the previous year. Bedbugs have also been found on airplanes, cruise ships, and public transportation in recent years. And according to research published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, bedbug infestations peak in the summer, coinciding with vacation season.

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But don’t let bedbugs, or the fear of them, ruin your summer travel. Despite the statistics, the chance of encountering bedbugs in any given hotel room is “pretty darn unlikely,” said Michael Potter, a professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky. Here are some simple steps you can take to make sure you don’t run into bedbugs on your trip.

In a survey of more than 2,000 hotel visitors conducted by Dr. Potter and two other University of Kentucky entomologists, fewer than one in three could correctly identify an adult bedbug.

If you’re in a hotel and find evidence of bedbugs, alert the staff right away and request a new room, either on a different floor or several rooms away. If you’re in a vacation rental or Airbnb, you may have fewer options. A representative from Airbnb said the company has a 24-hour customer service line, which can help with refunds and rebooking in the event that an issue like bedbugs arises.


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