How to Identify Bed Bugs in New York Hotel Rooms
I have both the pleasure of calling myself a seasoned traveler and the displeasure of having experienced a bed bug infestation first hand. Though the latter occurrence was highly disagreeable, to say the least, I learned a lot from it, and want to share my findings with you.
As you may know, there has been a major bed bug outbreak - not just in New York City, but all around the world. As a result, it is more important than ever to know how to check for bed bugs in your hotel rooms when you travel, as well as adopt measures to lower the chances of your bringing bed bugs back home with you.
I have a particularly strong aversion to parasitic bugs, and this aversion plus my first hand experience has made me a bit of an expert on the subject. Allow me to share my expertise with you. Below you will find helpful tips on checking for bed bugs before you book a hotel, entering and unpacking in your hotel room in such a manner as to avoid picking up any of the bloodsucking pests, checking your room for an infestation (or any stragglers, for that matter), and evacuating the premises should you identify anything troublesome. Enjoy!
Bed Bug Finder Resources
- Bed Bug Reports for New York City
You can search by hotel name and location here - most convenient! As you'll see on the map, New York City is all lit up with reports.
- Bed Bug Hotels - Bed Bug Hotel Reports - Bed Bug Apartment Reports
BedBugReports.com. Report your hotel and apartment bed bug incident here.
- Bed Bug Registry
A site that allows you to check Apartments and Hotels Across North America
Before You Book
Before booking a hotel in New York City, there are several resources you can check to see whether or not bed bugs will be an issue. Many of these sites have convenient map overlays, and allow you to search by neighborhood, zipcode, or even hotel name.
These sites (which are conveniently listed to the right) are not all New York City-centric; many of them cover cities all across the United States, if not cities on major continents around the world.
Most of these resources are made possible by the contribution of normal hotel dwellers such as you and I. This is both a blessing as a curse. It is a blessing in that there is more information, and the information is more immediate. It is a curse in that not all individuals contributing to these sites are bed bug experts, and might be giving false alarms. Even worse, they might be trolls out to damage the reputation of certain hotels.
Because the bed bug issue in NYC is so widespread, it is actually hard to find a hotel whose reputation is not at least somewhat sullied by bed bugs. This does not mean that you should overlook the hotel entirely. Check on the most recent reviews to see if the bed bug infestation is still an issue, or if it has been more or less irradiated (at least for the time being). If you see no recent reports of bed bugs, you should be OK
When you pack for your trip, try to modularize your clothing. Bring along a large, sealable plastic bag. All dirty clothes should be put in this bag before they return to your suitcase. Essentially, you want to set up a system whereby anything that could be potentially "infected" with bed bugs can be isolated, then washed and put through the drier (or dry cleaned) upon your return home.
What to Do Upon Arrival
When you arrive at your hotel, there is no particular reason to be nervous. You've done your research. There are certain things you ought to do once you arrive in your hotel room to both check for bed bugs and ensure that you do not bring any home with you. I'll lay these out in three simple rules.
Rule 1: DO NOT PUT ANYTHING ON THE BED: As it happens, bed bugs pretty much just stick to beds (at least in moderate infestations - if an infestation is particularly bad, bed bugs can expand to areas beyond the bed). The good news is that you're free to put stuff pretty much anywhere else. But the first thing a lot of people do when they arrive at a hotel is sit on the bed or put their suitcase on the bed. Bad idea. I wouldn't even recommend doing this if you've checked the room and are satisfied with what you've seen - it never hurts to be careful.
Rule 2: Put your suitcase on the stand: Almost all hotel rooms provide a little folding stand of some sort onto which you can place your open suitcase. Use this stand for your suitcase - this keeps it off the bed, and also keeps it off the floor, which is another likely place where you could potentially pick the buggers up.
Rule 3: Be organized: As I mentioned above, it pays to modularize your things and put dirty clothes in a sealed plastic bag before putting them into your suitcase. Be organized with your clothing and you'll not only reduce your likelihood of bringing home bed bugs, but also of losing clothing and other possessions, and struggling to fit everything back into your baggage.
Checking Your Room
Here comes the most disagreeable part of the process- checking your room for bed bugs. Blah. Yuck. Ew. I hate this part. But here's what to do:
1. Check the bedding - This is easy enough - have a look at the bedding, especially along nooks and crannies. Check the pillowcases and pillows. If your bedding is white, this is going to be a lot easier than if your bedding has dark coloring.
2. Check the mattress - work corner by corner - pick up the corners of the fitted sheet around the mattress and check the little crevices at each corner of of the mattress (they like to hang out in the grooves). Look for spots on the mattress that are red or brown in color. These are stains from bed bug fecal matter (bed bug turds!! YAY!) and tend to appear in clusters. Common places for these include the area around the headboard. If you want to, you can also check for eggs, but they're much harder to see, as they're white and about the size of a pin. They're typically affixed along the seams of mattresses, and they're so small that you would probably need a magnifying glass and flashlight to see them.
3. Check the headboard & other "problem areas" - Check around the headboard of your bed and in any cracks of the bedframe, especially in any tight corners, grooves, or crevices. A flashlight might help you out if the room isn't all that well lit. You might also check electrical appliances around the bed, drawers, the top of curtains, other furniture in the room (especially if it has cushions), the edges of any carpets and in any torn bits of wallpaper, shelves, the ironing board, corners of walls, and in doors and window frames. The farther you get from a bed, the less likely you are to encounter bed bugs, and if ANY bed bugs are in your hotel room, they'll most likely be in the bed. Why? That's where the food is!!!
Additional Ways to Check
Sniff around the mattress: Apparently, bed bugs sometimes give off a smell somewhat like coriander. It's an alarm pheromone, and it does not always occur, but this pheromone has given rise to bed-bug sniffing dogs, who are trained to identify the smell and notify people of the bed bugs' presence.
Fun Bed Bug Facts
Did you know that baby bed bugs are known as nymphs? How cute!
How to Identify a Bed Bug
If you see ANY bugs in a hotel room bed, you're going to want to ask for another room - if not another hotel entirely. That said, it doesn't hurt to know what bed bugs actually look like, so that you can know if you're up against a bed bug infestation, or something else, like fleas, scabies, or whatever else might somehow end up in your hotel room bed.
Bed bugs differ in appearance depending on where they are in their lifecycle, however most are shades of brown (a light straw color when they're wee babies, a darker brown or reddish-browh color as they become adults and have their first blood meal). Adult bed bugs look a lot like miniature cockroaches.
Adult bed bugs are about the size of a grain of rice. Baby bed bugs are about one sixteenth of an inch long. They have an oval shape with pointed ends, and are relatively flat.
If you see even one bed bug in your hotel room, it's time to hightail it out of there. Leave the hotel, and if that's not a possibility, at LEAST leave that room and check the next one you move into as well.
How to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Home
As I am more averse to bed bugs than the average person, I do everything I can to avoid bringing them home with me. The best way to do so is to just assume that the room has bed bugs and behave accordingly:
- Have separate clothing that you wear to bed; keep it isolated and bring it home in a sealed plastic bag. Wash the clothing on the hottest setting you have and put it through the drier. Shower after getting out of bed and before putting on your clothes.
- Again, never put your things on the bed, and keep your suitcase off the floor.
- To be extra careful, isolate and wash+dry all of your things after your return home.