A Pest Control Expert Tells Us How To Check For Uninvited Guests In Your Hotel Room

Souvenirs, photos, and happy memories are all things you expect to return home with after a trip. Pesky bugs? Not so much. Unfortunately, bed bugs, roaches, and other critters can be found all over the world, and they sometimes make a surprise appearance in hotels and vacation rentals. In fact, a 2024 Sleep Doctor survey revealed that one in seven U.S. travelers had encountered bed bugs during a trip.

To ensure you avoid unwanted guests and come home bed bug-free after your next getaway, Explore exclusively reached out to John Harvey, commercial sales division manager at Truly Nolen Pest Control, for expert advice. As Harvey explains, preventing run-ins with nasty bugs starts before you even arrive at your destination. "Do your homework. Read reviews by looking at recent reviews on travel websites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google. Pay attention to any mentions of bed bugs or roaches," he suggests, adding that you can also check the national Bed Bug Registry if you plan to travel within the U.S. or Canada.

Remember, however, that even reputable five-star hotels can have infestations, and sometimes, they aren't noted in online reviews (especially if the infestation is new or limited to just one or two rooms). To be safe, you should always inspect your hotel room after checking in to make sure the space isn't already occupied by six-legged guests.

What to look for when inspecting your hotel room for bugs

Before dropping your bags and heading out for a day of sightseeing, do a scan of your hotel or accommodation for signs of pests. Unsurprisingly, one of the easiest ways to spot bed bugs in your hotel room is by inspecting the bed. John Harvey recommends peeling off the bedding and checking the mattress and box spring for small, rust-colored stains or black dots. Next, check the headboard, nightstands, and any other soft furniture near the bed — bed bugs are known to hide in these spots. Finally, grab a flashlight and look behind the wall hangings. These dark, hard-to-reach crevices are a haven for the critters.

If you're concerned about roaches, Harvey says to look for droppings (they'll look like black dirt or ground coffee) under the sinks, in the drawers, and in the corners of the room. The expert notes that roach egg casings — often found behind furniture, under appliances, and in cabinets — are another dead giveaway of an infestation.

If you find evidence of bed bugs or roaches, Harvey suggests taking photos and notifying the hotel immediately. "Report the issue to the front desk and request a new room. Ensure the new room is not adjacent to the infested one," he urges. If they can't provide a new room, consider staying at a different accommodation for the remainder of your trip.

Additional ways to protect yourself from pests

Even if you don't find obvious signs of pests in your hotel room or short-term rental, it's a good idea to safeguard your luggage and personal belongings during your stay. First, be mindful of where you store your items. "Keep luggage off the floor and off the bed," John Harvey advises. "Use luggage racks or place your suitcase on a hard surface like a desk or dresser to avoid bed bugs." The pest control expert also says that clothes should be kept off the floor and away from the bed and nightstands. "Keep your clothes in your suitcase or hang them up to prevent roaches from hiding in them."

When you're ready to pack up and head home, Harvey says to inspect your luggage and personal items for any droppings, egg casings, or other signs of pests. For extra protection, clean your belongings promptly after your trip. "When you return home, wash all clothing in hot water and dry on high heat," the pest specialist shares. Then, use a vacuum to clean your luggage, including inside the pockets.

If you're still concerned about bringing home pests from your travels, Harvey recommends putting protective covers on your bed. That way, you can easily spot bed bugs and discourage them from taking up residence on your mattress.