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Traveling This Season?? Here’s How To Avoid Getting Bed Bugs (From Someone Who Knows)

PLEASE, for the love of whatever higher power (or moral code) you believe in, read this post if you are traveling this year. Yes, even within the US, and especially if you are going to a big city. Bed bugs are HORRIBLE, are hard to get rid of once they are in your home, and spread soooooo easily. Be a kind person to yourself and the people around you and at least do some of your own research if you don’t like any of the tips in this post. Everyone thanks you. I promise!

I understand that I may have had a slightly more unhinged response to the news that Paris was VERY infested with bed bugs during fashion week. That means fashion experts, models, and influencers from around the globe were frolicking around that beautiful city to then travel back home…potentially with some unwanted souvenirs. If precautions aren’t taken this could have a HUGE impact on a people. London is already having problems. Naturally, I immediately bought a mattress protector for my new wonderful mattress (I actually can’t believe I didn’t have one already). Y’all these bugs are literally out for our blood. To explain my panic, I was the victim of bed bugs twice while living in New York. TWICE. They were two years apart in two different apartments so they weren’t connected. COOL! What they did have in common, however, was that they robbed my roommate and I of our money and maybe more importantly…our sanity for months. The second time, my roommate didn’t believe me (or didn’t want to believe me) since I was the only one who was allergic to the bites (fun fact not everyone will get visible, itchy bites so you might have them even if you don’t see the bites. AGAIN, COOL!). That was until we hired a beagle to sniff them out (Yes, for $300 that is the real and main way people find out their bed bug fate. It might cost more now, I don’t know).

design by jess bunge | styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: moto reveal! how jess made her wfh office/living room totally multifunctional

Now, this isn’t a post about what to do if you have them in your home. If you are dealing with that I am truly so sorry. Calling your landlord or extermination ASAP is crucial. Also, please don’t put your infested things on the street without treating them. It will spread them and that’s a real crappy thing to do.

This is however a post about what to do when you get home (plus some tips while traveling). I got a lot of these tips from flight attendant, CiCi in the Sky, from TikTok but some I knew based on my past experiences. She’s great though and has a ton of useful travel tips. This is all especially top of mind since I am going to London next month which is exciting and now slightly terrifying. If you can’t tell those little monsters really did a number on me. SO because of that, I have already created a pretty detailed plan on how to make sure not a bug nor egg will enter my home. I love my things too much to have to possibly get rid of even one piece (another fun fact! according to one of my old exterminators, bed bugs can live in wood for up to six months without food (aka human or pet blood).

I want to make sure I say that while I have personally been through this hell a couple of times, I am not an expert or professional exterminator. Please do your own research too! This is just what I know will help to stop an infestation and keep me sane.

So What Am I Buying??

Bounce Dryer Sheets

CiCi said to put Bounce dryer sheets in your suitcase to deter bugs from wanting to enter. I. AM.IN! That is wildly easy and I bought them when I went to Target earlier this week. She also said that you can use moth balls which don’t have my favorite smell and an essential oil spray like lavender which is one of my favorite smells. Honestly, I might do both! Spray my clothes with lavender spray and stick a bunch of dryer sheets in the suitcase. Isn’t anxiety fun???

Hot Shot Bed Bug Mattress & Luggage Treatment Kit

When I found this kit online I immediately hit add to cart! I remember using those strips during my last infestation and they worked great. This also calms my anxiety A LOT knowing I can hot box my sweet little suitcase with all the chemicals! When it comes to bed bugs I am PRO any chemical. I know that’s not ideal but these things are strong.

TSA-Approved Non-Toxic Bed Bug Spray

I did however buy this TSA-approved non-toxic spray that I will happily take with me to London to spray my suitcase down before I leave. I do need to check if I can spray it on my clothes…

Spray Bottle + Isopropyl Alcohol

If I can’t I will be making my Isopropyl Alcohol mix (60% alcohol and 40% water). CiCi talked about this in her video but I knew about it from my New York days when I asked my exterminator how he avoids getting bed bugs given that he worked with them every day. He said he used this alcohol spray on the bottom of his pants, the bottom of his jacket, the cuffs, and the collar. Then stripped down before he walked into his house and put those clothes straight into a hot wash and dry cycle. If it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for me! Just be careful with certain materials. I may have ruined my roommate’s faux leather jacket…WHOOPS!

Travel Steamer

If you can’t use the spray or put something in the washing machine you can always use a steamer! I got this travel one because it’s compact, lasts up to 10 minutes per steam, and has dual voltage for international travel. This will be perfect for the pieces I want to wear multiple times on the trip like my coats! But if you want more coverage/don’t want to have to refill the water as often, then you can get a bigger one like this. Just remember heat will kill them!

Travel Vacuum Sealer Storage Bags + Rechargeable Tiny Portable Ultra-Mini Air Pump

Loved this storage bag idea from CiCi! Just fill it up as you are finished with your clothes then seal them up so bugs have far less access to them! I also bought this little rechargeable, portable air pump that I will take with me too. That way I don’t have to use anyone’s vacuum machine in case there’s a bug. I will also put it nicely in its own ziplock. Can you tell I’m not taking any chances??

Trash Bags

Trash bags are just good to have! I will put them in my car so I can throw whatever I need into them. Just make sure to knot the actual bag part (not just the handles) to keep any creepy crawlies inside!

My Plan Of Action Once I Arrive And Hang Out In London

  1. Spray myself with the non-toxic spray (if safe) and my bag when I arrive at where I’m staying. (I’m staying with someone I know so I won’t be checking any mattresses…and I already asked if they had a mattress protector:))
  2. Spray or steam the bottom of my pants, shoes, cuffs, and collar every time I get back to where I’m staying each day.
  3. After I am done using a clothing item, I will put it in one of the vacuum-sealed bags.
  4. When I pack up to go home, I’ll vacuum them up with my portable deflator:)
  5. Spray my suitcase one more time and make sure I have fresh dryer sheets in it.

My Plan Of Action Once I Arrive Home!

  1. Put everything I need ready to go in my car so I don’t need to go inside my apartment for anything (including laundry money and a new set of clothes!)
  2. Spray the outside of my bags down with bed bug spray.
  3. Put my suitcase and any other bags in the treatment kit bag I bought and take it to the laundry room (luckily it’s in my building’s driveway).
  4. Spray my clothes and shoes with bed bug spray or alcohol spray.
  5. Put all the clothes I can in the washing machine on high heat then in the dryer on high heat for at least 20 mins. Again, heat kills them!
  6. Change into new clothes that I prepped!
  7. Seal up the suitcase treatment bag with its bed bug pest strip as directed.
  8. Whatever clothing will get ruined in high heat put in a vacuumed-sealed bag then steam them individually. After that, put them in a new, sealed trash bag and take them to the dry cleaners. Be sure to let them know there MIGHT be bed bugs on the clothes for extra precaution.
  9. Go inside my apartment and try to relax knowing I did everything I could:)

Do I Sound Crazy???

I promise I know that I do but at the same time, this plan is a small price to pay to not have to go through bed bugs again. And while you don’t need to do exactly what I’m doing, please have some kind of plan for your trip and return (Oh here is CiCi’s video on how to check a hotel room). It will help stop the spread and keep you sleeping tight and not letting any bed bugs bite. I mean I had to put that in somewhere:) Happy and safe travels!!

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Design by Jess Bunge | Styled by Emily Bowser | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: The Feel-Good Modern Romantic Bedroom Makeover Jess Did For Her Dear Friend (All Thanks To The Company Store)

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5 days ago

You’re not crazy. I live in London, the headlines are really worrying. We’re moving house in two weeks and you’d better believe I asked the moving company what measures they’re taking against bedbugs these days!

🥰 Rusty
5 days ago

Jess, thank you! YOU ARE NOT CRAZY!!!
Hypervigilance keeps us safe.
Fun fact: I still haven’t had Covid, because…hypervigilance.
I’m out n about for sure, but careful.

5 days ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty I don’t think hypervigilance has anything to do with it. I was hypervigiliant and got Covid for the first time in January this year and it got me good. I’m in Melbourne so we were basically locked down forever. My work colleague has never had Covid and she wasn’t as bad as me with precautions. I’ve told her doctors need to study her and maybe you as well re not having ever had it, oh just remembered my sister and my mum have never had it either.

🥰 Rusty
5 days ago
Reply to  Anon

Thanks, Anon. I really felt for you guys in Melbourne with the world’s longest and strictest lockdown!
I’m in Perth and as you know, our clamped down borders kept us from the fully blown Covid for well over a year, even though we had tge first death from Covid, thanks to that Sydney cruise ship!
I was immune-compromised at the peak Covid time – having had to have chemo during it, so I lived in a hypervigilant bubble, being really, really careful. I had no killer T or B cells.
I know several other people who haven’t had Covid too. I did have Pneumonia mid-2021, but still not Covid.🤞 I still do RAT tests when I get a runny nose, sore throat, etc.
For the down-voters, I genuinely hope that you never have to have chemo and have your immune system wiped out during a pandemic – I hope that if you did, you too, would be hypervigilant.

Karyn Meadows
4 days ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

I had chemo twice during covid pandemic and immune system was already compromised by rheumatoid arthritis and immune suppressing drugs. Spent time in the hospital which was absolutely terrifying. But didn’t get covid until 2022 and it wasn’t bad!! Glad u escaped it.

4 days ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty, I doubt the downvotes are about being hypervigilant. Could they be due to the tone of “you only get Covid if you are a careless/clueless person so you deserve to get it”?

5 days ago

One tip that I heard was that while traveling you should never put your suitcase on the bed or on the sofa. Keep it away so it gets harder for the bugs to enter.

5 days ago
Reply to  Johanna

I’ve read this, too. Using the folding luggage stand is far better than placing your things on any soft/upholstered furniture. I try to hang whatever I can that won’t fit on the luggage rack, like tote bags or my purse.

5 days ago
Reply to  Johanna

Ugh, I always keep my suitcase, purse, whatnot in the room’s bathroom. A pain for sure, but nasty things can’t get it in the bathroom (I HOPE)!

1 day ago
Reply to  Jess Bunge

Yep, I keep my suitcase and any other bags in the hotel bathroom. I hang up a few things (like work blouses) on hangers on the shower rod or on hooks. I usually travel with a carry-on size wheely bag or something similar, so it’s been doable until now. I’ve had bed bugs (awful) and separately was attacked by bed bugs in a hotel (truly terrible – more than 100 bites in ONE NIGHT!).

If I have to put something of mine down outside my hotel bathroom (like my laptop), I make sure it’s on a hard surface like the desk rather than the bed or chairs. I travel with large ziplock bags and garbage bags and bag things up before going home.

Thank you so much for these tips — I’ll try out some of them.

🥰 Rusty
5 days ago
Reply to  Johanna

I read to put yoursuitcase in the bath tub, but what do you do when you need to shower?!

4 days ago
Reply to  Johanna

I keep my clothes in my suitcase the entire trip and keep the suitcase in the bathroom. I heard that bed bugs can’t crawl on tile. Not sure it’s true but has worked so far! Good luck everyone – I’ve heard horror stories too after living in NY for a decade.

5 days ago

Mark Rober made an extremely helpful YouTube video on the science of dealing with bedbugs. I highly recommend it!

5 days ago
Reply to  Andrea

Okay I am really grossed out after watching that but it was actually very interesting and helpful! Thanks for sharing. I am definitely sold on buying a steamer now.

5 days ago

This is so good. Exactly the kind of detailed post I need. You can’t be too careful with bed bugs. Better to be careful according to the science of them than to spend months and thousands getting rid of them! Thank you for this post.

5 days ago

I love how detailed this post is. You don’t sound crazy, you sound prepared! Thanks for all the great resources and ideas. I will definitely be coming back to this post before my next trip!

5 days ago

I just got back from a trip and put everything straight into the washer and put my soft sided suitcase into the dryer for 20 minutes and this post makes me feel a lot less crazy for doing so! Like other posters I am also careful where I put my bag while staying away from home. Love the dryer sheet tip! So easy, totally stealing.

5 days ago

Wow, this is a lot. I would be exactly the same LOL.
What about if you have an oblivious neighbor in your building who doesn’t do anything/care about bedbugs?

5 days ago

Can someone please explain more about the tiny air pump? How is that used and what for? I am confused by that step. Is this just for using with the vacuum storage bags or are you vacuuming up your clothes or something to catch bugs?

Cris S.
5 days ago

If it is summer and you live somewhere hot, I read that you can leave your luggage in your car and the car in direct sunlight for a few hours and the level of heat should kill them. I also read not to use the luggage racks as they can live inside the metal tubing. Bathroom and within large plastic bags is best for luggage. My husband travels frequently for work and I send him everything I read on bedbugs. I. Just. Can. Not!!!!

4 days ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Yes! When I lived in Egypt, we’d hang all our bedding out on the balcony and put mattresses out there too. Intense sunlight and heat seemed to do the trick!

3 days ago
Reply to  Cris S.

My sister worked at hospice in Florida and patients with bedbugs had their things placed in black plastic bags and put outside and the heat would kill them.
Another time here in Ohio my neighbor was in the hospital and we were helping out and discovered he had a major infestation. We washed everything we could and then bagged the rest and put it outside because the temperatures were below 0° for 3-5 days and that killed them too! We also brought in an exterminator to treat the whole condo. We stripped down in our laundry room as soon as we got back home and jumped in the shower! No bedbugs made it to our place and we had a shared wall with him. Yay!

5 days ago

Good luck on your trip. You are not crazy. We had the bugs in an apartment a few years ago, it’s so gross and awful. I had to toss so much stuff that was in the bedroom, clothing, no linen closet so I had all the extra towels, sheets, etc. in sweater bags UNDER the bed. Toss. Many sentimental things. My wedding dress. I get so grossed out just thinking about it and only glanced through your post. Lots of great tips here, thanks. Have a great trip.

5 days ago

What can I do to protect my bag on the plane? My travel bag is on the carpeted floor of the plane (under the seat in front of me) for hours during my flights. I suppose I can spray down the outside of my bag with retardant, place all my clothing inside a sealable plastic bag and then place my bag in the dryer on high heat for 20 minutes. Any other advice?

5 days ago

Those are awful. It seems like a nightmare. Diatomaceous earth is supposedly helpful. It’s good against flees in the home too. It helps to wash and dry all the clothes too, preferably in hot water, and keep suitcases away from the bedroom. I think I’ve been doing that accidentaly anyway. I also check hotel beds for those. And recheck in the morning to see any blood stains.

5 days ago

I had bedbugs (thanks to my neighbours infestation and them crawling through the communal wall) and managed to get rid of them without an exterminator or chemicals. It was a huge effort but the two things that did them in (I believe ) were steaming the heck out of everything and using diatomaceous earth (a kind of silicone / sand) puffed lightly into every crevice. I didn’t wash anything or dispose of tones of stuff apart from my bedding). Instead I placed my bed in the middle of the room (not against the walls) and put a cup of D earth on the foot of each bed leg. I then lay in bed like a lure so the little bast@£DS would walk from every crevice and dark hole in my room through the earth and die! They were gone within two weeks.

22 hours ago
Reply to  Bea

I am SO sorry you had to deal with this but the way you wrote about it hear made me laugh out loud. 😀

4 days ago

Ugh. I’m ordering everything on this list. We were forced to stop at some flea-bag motel in northern Arkansas in the spring and I came home with massive bites between my breasts and neck, multiple injections and antibiotics over six weeks with incessant HARD itchiness. Ugh. Luckily my husband was unscathed (I’d switched beds in the middle of the night cuz a full size bed is just big enough for that man AND me) and the bigs apparently bit and ran cuz we brought none home. Do whatever you can to avoid these suckers …

4 days ago

Loved this aritcle. I also love the video Mark Rober did about Bed Bugs — it is a MUST WATCH. I love the scientific tests he does and he has some really great additional tips!

4 days ago

Jess, this is ENTIRELY unrelated to bed bugs, but I messaged you on Instagram because the Habitat for Humanity store in Bellflower is selling a style of toilet very similar to your vintage one for $40! Just wanted to make sure you were aware in case your toilet saga is still ongoing 🙂 Sorry to hijack what is also a very helpful post!

4 days ago

Before you even bring your luggage into a room, go to the bed and pull back sheets at top of bed. Look at mattress to see if there are any black or dark red dots. If there are stains, call hotel manager and get another room.
Also, most of these bed bug solutions I suspect are worthless. My friend had to pay hundreds to have an expert heat her home to a temperature to kill the bugs. You can’t do it on your own.
Another friend ith the bug did put some things in black bags on front yard. But it was like 90 degrees or hotter outside. That might have helped.

4 days ago

I am going to London soon and am slightly freaking out about bedbugs as well! This all makes sense, but what about toiletries, shoes, etc? Just keep them in plastic in the bathroom at all times? What about when you get home?

3 days ago

Thank you for the advice, Emily! In 2022, during my work trip to Paris, I encountered bed bugs. It was an extremely unpleasant experience since I wasn’t adequately prepared for it! Whenever I go on a trip, I always place my luggage in the bathroom and pack my clothes in plastic bags that can be sealed. Bed bugs are a nightmare 🙁

Erin Graves
3 days ago

I haven’t personally tried it, but I read a recommendation to spray permethrin inside and outside suitcase before trip. It kills bedbugs, ticks and mosquitoes. Just be careful to keep it away from cats!

3 days ago

My exterminator mentioned the bed bug situation in Paris. He said they were a new “super bed bug”. I don’t know what that means and didn’t delve into it with him. I definitely would take all the precautions and then relax (as much as possible) and enjoy a wonderful trip.

2 days ago

The pump you linked has a “C” in fakespot reviews and only 3 stars if they remove all the fake reviews. There’s another one with 4.5 stars and an A on fakespot and it’s a little cheaper. GIGA PUMP 2.0 Electric Portable Air Pump 1300mah Battery Rechargeable Pump Ultra-Mini Inflator/Deflator Pump for Swimming Rings air Mattress Bed Pool Toy I love Fakespot. Basically Amazon has little incentive to catch fake reviews bc it makes them more money.

1 day ago

I haven’t thought about this in years…this post reminded me of when I used to go to the Dominican Republic when I was in high school. It was usually a winter trip, and we lived in suburban Chicago. Upon arriving home, we’d leave our bags outside overnight on the patio to freeze any stowaways (mostly cockroaches were the concern). Obv that wouldn’t work in LA. Good luck 🙂

1 day ago

I am going to Paris next year and I am already worrying about bed bugs :’)

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