If you are unfortunate enough to have stayed in a hotel room with bed bugs and think that was bad it'll be so much worse if you unwittingly infect your home with them when you return.
Luxury will not save you
Staying in luxury hotels does not mean you'll be immune as bed bugs do not only live in dirty environments. They like the folds of mattress seams, cracks in wooden furniture or between floorboards, crevices within upholstered furniture and any other small, dark and hard to get to hiding space.
A bed bug is a small, oval-shaped, reddish-brown insect. It's about 4-5mm long which is similar to the size of a ladybird or an apple seed.
How to check for bed bugs
When you arrive at a hotel, before you admire the view from the balcony put your suitcase in the bathroom, preferably in the bathtub, as it's the least likely room for bed bugs to be as they don't like tiled floors and the lack of hiding places. Plus they like to be near to where people sleep as we're their food.
A small torch/flashlight can really help to see in the dark corners of a hotel room so try and remember to attach a keyring flashlight to your holiday essentials.
As bed bugs like to nibble us while we sleep the first place to look is on the mattress. Pull back all of the bed linen and check around the edge of the mattress seam and under the mattress. Remove the pillow cases and look behind the headboard.
As bed bugs are nocturnal you are very unlikely to see them during the day but you may well see signs of them such as their droppings which can look like ground pepper or mould, yellowing cast-off skins or blood stains from previous 'victims'. There may also be a sweet, sickly smell which is recognisable to those who deal with infestations.
What to do if you find signs of bed bugs in your hotel room
Go straight back to the hotel Reception and let them know so it can be dealt with. Experts say a hotel with bed bugs in one room is actually unlikely to have them in every room so you can ask to stay in another room. That's up to you. I think I'd stay elsewhere.
What if you wake up with bites?
Bed bug bites are itchy but not life-threatening. The bugs feed on human blood while we sleep and, unlike mosquito bites which are randomly spaced, bed bug bites tend to be grouped in threes as they like their breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same sitting. Use over-the-counter creams to soothe the itchiness and avoid infection.
Didn't see any bugs but take no chances
Even if the hotel looks clean you should still avoid putting your suitcase on the hotel room floor or bed. Those previously untouched luggage racks seem much more important now, don't they? Be aware that suitcases on wheels can pick up bugs when dragged along in the street.
During your stay don't throw your clothes over upholstered furniture or leave your clothes on the carpet.
When you get back home
Bed bugs can hitch a ride in luggage so do not unpack your suitcase on your bed. If you find they have got into your suitcase then get it outside quickly and throw it away. Shake out your clothes and wash them all at 60C or higher, or have them dry-cleaned.
Enjoy your travels and try not to feel too itchy after reading this!