Bedbugs are back in the news again: Hollister, a trendy Manhattan clothing store, shut its doors for two days because of the bloodsucking critters, and Abercrombie and Fitch's Seaport location shut for the same reason.
All this talk about bedbugs at the height of summer travel season makes a girl wonder how she can keep the bloodsucking pests out of her suitcase. There are ways to travel safe, even in a bedbug-infested town like New York or San Francisco or Chicago. Here are some tips:
Do Your Homework
Before you book a room, make sure the hotel you choose isn't a bedbug safe haven. The Bedbug Registry is a free, public database of bedbug infestations. Type in the name of the hotel you're considering at their website, and if there have been any reports filed, you'll find out about them pronto. You can even file your own report of a hotel or apartment with a history of bedbugs.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Hotels are notorious for bedbugs, mainly because so many people travel through them. But there are ways to check and see if you've got nocturnal roommates.
When you get to your room, put your suitcase on a luggage rack -- not on a sofa or the bed -- and keep it there. Bedbugs aren't fans of those metal legs and will have trouble scaling them.
Check the seams of the mattress and the edges of the frame for any black marks, which are a telltale sign that bugs have taken up residence. If you suspect a problem, ask to change rooms.
If you wake up with a row of tiny bites on your arms or legs, that's another sign that the bugs are sharing your bed. Ask to switch rooms, but be sure to check all of your belongings carefully before you make the move.
Don't Bring Them Home
If you suspect that bedbugs were in your hotel room, don't bring your suitcase into the house. Put it in the garage and take all your clothes and belongings out, putting them into a large Ziploc bag. Wash them in hot water with lots of soap and dry them on high heat for at least 30 minutes. Then throw out the Ziploc bag. (Dry cleaning also works.) Carefully inspect all other items for signs of the bugs. Leave the suitcase in the garage, preferably in a large Ziploc bag -- Ziploc sells a line called Big Bags -- until you've had time to inspect all the crevices carefully for signs of bugs.
If the Hollister scare has taught us anything, it's that bedbugs live in more than just beds. If you do any shopping on your trip, you might want to consider washing or dry cleaning your new threads before you wear them -- especially if you venture into a recently infested establishment.