The Unsettling Reason To Think Twice Before Unpacking Your Luggage On A Hotel Bed

You arrive at your hotel room, check out the free toiletries and instant coffee packets, and start unpacking your luggage to get settled in. For you, like many, this might involve plopping your suitcase on the bed and taking out your clothes and other items before leaving the room to grab a meal or do some sightseeing. However, if you want to keep bedbugs out of your luggage, it's a good idea to rethink how you unpack.

Bed bugs like to hide in small cracks, under soft furniture, and between clothes and other fabrics, and if the pests are living in your hotel room bed, they might mistake your suitcase for their new home. Medical experts Lin H. Chen and Mark Gendreau agree, telling The Washington Post that the biggest reason never to put your luggage on the bed is to avoid a bed bug infestation — unless you consider bloodsucking bugs a good souvenir to bring home.

If you firmly believe that the hotel bed — and nowhere else — is the most appropriate place to unpack your suitcase, then be willing to search for bed bugs. Your efforts might prove futile because of the critter's small size, but it's worth trying. Martin Seeley, CEO of MattressNextDay, told The Mirror, "In order to discover if the hotel bed is infested, first start by pulling the bedding off to reveal the bare mattress. Adult bed bugs have flat bodies and are a similar size and colour to an apple pip, depending on their age."

Where to unpack your luggage in your hotel room

When unpacking your travel bags, an easy swap for the bed is a luggage rack. However, you should think twice before using the luggage rack in your hotel room, as luggage racks can also be a haven for bed bugs. Before placing your suitcase on a rack, check any cracks or holes that could conceal the minuscule pests using a flashlight. If you don't see any critters or signs of bed bugs (such as rust-colored stains on the fabric), the rack may be safe to use.

To be extra careful, consider using the bathroom as a storage spot for your luggage, especially when the bags are open for unpacking. Katelyn Kesheimer, an entomologist at Auburn University, told Reader's Digest, "A bathroom is the least likely place that bed bugs will be found in a hotel room due to the short amount of time that humans (the bed bugs' source of food) spend in the bathroom relative to the rest of the room." Given the germs that may be lurking on your suitcase, try keeping the bag on your bathroom floor (as opposed to the sink or the bathtub) whenever you need to retrieve items. Once you're done unpacking, promptly zip it up to keep pesky bed bugs from climbing inside.

Suitcases can also carry a shocking number of germs

Unfortunately, getting sick while traveling isn't rare, thanks to the plethora of unfamiliar viruses and other microbes your body encounters in a new place. While you probably already know to wash your hands frequently on vacation, there's a good chance you've overlooked the bacteria hanging out on your suitcase. According to a 2015 study by Aquaint Sanitize (via Fox News), the average piece of luggage comes into contact with 80 million bacteria by the time you arrive in your hotel room.

A similar 2024 study by Reckitt's Lysol Pro Solutions found that backpacks carry a lot more than just books. The bags in the study, which were placed on a public restroom floor, a work desk, and a cafeteria floor, picked up hundreds of thousands of germs — similar to the number found on a toilet seat or trash can. Among the microorganisms were E. coli and candida.

While learning how to clean your luggage and make it new again is one way to limit your exposure to harmful germs, it's also a good idea to keep those bags off your bed. When you place dirty suitcases on your hotel bed, you spread viruses and bacteria to the same bedding you'll be cozying up on later. Think of it this way: If you wouldn't put your shoes on your pillow, you probably shouldn't unpack your luggage on your bed either.