How to check for bedbugs in your hotel room

Woman arriving at hotel room on holiday. (Getty Images)
Brits are worried about the bedbug risk on holiday this year. (Getty Images)

Bedbugs caused quite the buzz last summer, with news that the blood-sucking critters were scuttling their way round Europe sending anyone travelling abroad into an itchy panic.

A wave of viral footage shared to social media saw the pests spotted scurrying over cinema seats, public transport, airport seating and in hotels.

But the UK didn't escape the little blighters either, pest control company Rentokil reported a 65% increase year-on-year in infestations across the UK.

And as summer 2024 approaches we're still somewhat traumatised by the thought of finding them in our hotel room or worst still in our own beds.

Worldwide Google Trend Data reveals that the search term ‘bed bugs’ has seen a 400% uplift in the past month alone as soon-to-be holidaymakers look for ways to spot an infestation in their travel accommodation and how to avoid bringing them back in their suitcase.

Thankfully there are some simple yet effective tips you can adopt to stay bedbug free on holiday and at home.

Bedbug on a bed. (Getty Images)
How to spot a bedbug infestation. (Getty Images)

Bed bugs are small insects that live within both bedding and furniture. They do not have wings, are brown, yellow or red in colour and appear flat.

The NHS says bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.

"A common misconception is that the insects are attracted to dirt, but this is not the case," explains Martin Seeley at MattressNextDay "Bedbugs are drawn to warmth, blood and carbon dioxide."

Bedbugs do not transmit viruses or diseases between humans, but they do bite.

"Bites are raised, itchy lumps that often form a line of three and are hard to touch," Seeley explains. "They differ from mosquito bites in appearance, as mosquito bites are larger, puss like and replicate the look of a blister."

Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so, but the NHS says there are some things you can do to help them heal including:

  • putting something cool on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling

  • keeping the affected area clean

  • not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection

(Getty Images)
Bedbug bits are often in a line or grouped together. (Getty Images)

When you've arrived at your holiday accommodation its tempting to throw your case on the bed and start unpacking but Seeley recommends doing something else first.

"Refrain from unpacking straight away and instead head straight for the bathroom, as tiled and bright surfaces make bed bugs easier to spot," he explains.

Once you've checked out the bathroom he advises heading back into the bedroom for a bug search.

"Darken the room by either turning off the lights or closing the curtains," he suggests. "Using your phone's torch (or one that you have packed), inspect the mattress for bedbugs."

It is also worth checking any couches, chairs and other upholstered furniture.

"Remember, not only are you looking for the bugs, but yellow eggs and tiny black dots (their excrement), can also indicate an infestation," Seeley continues. "Larger infestations emit an odour because of the bedbugs pheromones."

Seeley says the scent replicates expired coriander. "If the room smells musty in places, it can be because of bedbugs."

Experts believe travel could be contributing to a rise in bed bug infestations. (Getty Images)
Experts advise not putting clothes or suitcases on the bed in your accommodation. (Getty Images)

Seeley advises alerting the property owner of reception as soon as possible, no matter what the time is.

"Properties should have a procedure for this instance," he advises. "Request that you move rooms and if possible, onto a different floor. However, the room should not be directly above or underneath the room where you found the infestation, as be bugs can travel through walls and flooring."

Seeley says ensuring that your new room is as far away as possible will decrease the likelihood of finding bedbugs in your next room.

Seeley has put together some tips to ensure you don't bring the pesky bugs back with you.

  • Don’t place your luggage on the bed or any other upholstered furniture throughout your stay. Instead, keep it on tiles.

  • If you can, avoid unpacking and instead keep garments in your suitcase.

  • Vacuum pack your luggage, this will suffocate the bugs, or even better, travel with hard cases as bed bugs find it veery difficult to attach themselves to rigid surfaces.

  • Place your clothes in a tight tied plastic bag once you have finished wearing them.

  • Wash your garments without detergent at the highest temperature possible and use a tumble dryer where possible. Bedbugs do not do well in high temperatures.

  • Leaving your belongings tied up in a plastic bag and in a hot car or balcony will suffocate and essentially ‘cook’, the bugs.

  • They also freeze in subzero temperatures so if you find a bedbug on just one or two pieces of clothing, you can freeze the garment for four days to kill the bugs.