How to Check for Bed Bugs in a Hotel: 5 Easy Steps

Last Modified on May 21, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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When traveling, the last thing you want to think about is bed bugs.

Unfortunately, bed bugs often infest hotels, so we recommend that travelers inspect their rooms for signs of these pests before getting too comfortable.

At Smith’s Pest Management, we have been providing pest management services in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 15 years.

In this blog, we’re sharing how to inspect for bed bugs in your hotel room so you can avoid bringing these critters home.

Before You Get Started

Don’t unpack your suitcase

When you enter your hotel room, place your suitcase on a luggage rack or in the bathroom while you inspect the room. If you want to be extra careful to avoid bed bugs, keep your suitcases closed and stored on a luggage rack or other hard surface for the entirety of your stay.

You should also avoid setting your coat or other clothing on the bed before you start the inspection process.

If bed bugs are present, they can climb into your luggage or infest your clothing and make their way home with you.

Gather a few tools

We recommend grabbing a bright flashlight (you can use the flashlight on your phone) and a plastic card (your room key works great for this).

Know what to look for

Here are a few signs that bed bugs are present:

  • Eggs. Bed bug eggs look like small grains of rice and are usually present on bedside tables or bed frames.
  • Molted skin casings. As bed bugs grow, they shed pale yellow skins that may be found in mattress seams or along the bed frame.
  • Live bed bugs. Bed bugs are tiny and hard to spot. If you do see them, though, they’ll be easy to identify thanks to their reddish-brown bodies, which are about the size of a flattened apple seed.
  • Bed bug bites. Bed bugs are likely present if you sleep on the mattress for a night or two and notice itchy, red bites. That said, not all unexplainable bites are bed bug bites. Bed bug bites are usually raised, itchy, and red and may appear in a line, zigzag, or random pattern. For some people, bits look like pimples with a dark red center or a single raised area of skin with several red or purple hives. Most people don’t immediately realize bed bugs have bitten them since signs of bed bug bites can take 1-3 days to appear.
  • Red spots on sheets. Pay attention if you notice red or rust-colored spots on the sheets after you’ve slept in them. These may be blood stains from bed bug bites or stains caused by bed bugs being crushed.

As you start your inspection, look for any of the above signs, including live bed bugs, molted skin casings, and black stains, on the edges or in the seams and crevices of mattresses and headboards.

How To Check if Your Hotel Room Has Bed Bugs

how to check if your hotel room has bed bugs

1. Inspect cracks and crevices around the bed

Remember that bed bugs stay close to their food sources – you!

They like to hide in cracks and crevices and are never far from where you sleep.

With this in mind, one of the first things you should check is any crevices or cracks on or around the bed or headboard.

Here are a few places bed bugs are likely to hide:

  • In tufting or seams on headboards
  • On or near the bed skirt
  • In carpet fringe and seams
  • In seams of couch cushions
  • In curtains and window coverings
  • In outlets and USB ports
  • Behind headboards or in the joints where wood and metal meet

Use your plastic card to open these spaces and shine the flashlight from your phone into them.

As you open the gaps and cracks, look for live bed bugs, red or black stains, bed bug eggs, or molted skin casings.

2. Inspect ceiling and wall texture

Remember that it’s not just the area around the bed that could contain bed bugs: if your hotel room has popcorn or acoustic ceilings or textured wallpaper, it could be enough to provide harborage for bed bugs.

With this in mind, use your flashlight to inspect the ceiling for dark stains that indicate bed bug droppings.

3. Check mattress seams

Mattress seams are some of the main places bed bugs hide.

To check for them in these areas, pull the sheets back and look for either a mattress encasement or signs of bed bugs along the mattress seams – primarily dark or rust-colored stains from bed bug droppings. These signs usually appear at the head or foot of the bed.

You can spot adults, nymphs, and eggs with the naked eye. You may also notice molted skins in or near the mattress seams or rust-colored spots on the mattress itself. To be thorough, lift the mattress and inspect beneath it.

As you inspect the mattress, take note of mattress encasements. Encasements are a good sign because they create a permanent barrier between the person sleeping on the mattress and any bed bugs inside it.

In addition to preventing bed bugs from accessing the mattress, they also trap any bed bugs that may already be inside and prevent bed bugs from biting the people who sleep on the mattress.

4. Check the box spring

Get down on your hands and knees and check the cracks and crevices of the box spring.

Look for signs of live or dead bed bugs or the dark, rusty stains left behind by their droppings. Use the flashlight on your phone to inspect hidden areas.

5. Inspect upholstered furniture

If the room has upholstered furniture, check the seams, tufts, and buttons. Remove cushions and inspect the areas around the zippers or the cracks and gaps where the arms and seat of a chair meet, for example.

I Found Bed Bugs in My Hotel Room – Now What?

bed bugs in a hotel room

Finding bed bugs in your hotel room is never a good feeling. If you’ve identified evidence of bed bugs, keep calm (remember that bed bugs do NOT transmit diseases) and follow these steps:

1. Gather your belongings

Hopefully, you didn’t place your luggage, coats, or other belongings on the bed, chairs, or other furniture in the room.

If you’ve identified signs of bed bugs, use your phone to snap a few photos or videos of the bed bug signs you found, then gather your luggage, leave the room, head to the front desk, and ask to be placed in another room in a different part of the hotel.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of another room in the same hotel, consider asking for a refund and heading to a different location.

Pro tip: DON’T bring your own chemical pesticides to use against bed bugs in a hotel room. This is unsafe and illegal and can place you at risk of a lawsuit. 

2. Clean your clothing and luggage

If you’ve been near bed bugs, you want to make sure you don’t bring them home with you. To make sure your clothing and luggage are bed bug-free, follow these steps:

  • After coming home, immediately wash your clothing in hot water and put it into the dryer on high for 60 minutes. This will kill any bed bugs present.
  • If you find signs of bed bugs in your luggage, use a handheld steamer to steam the entire suitcase (the hotel may have one you can borrow). This will kill bed bugs and prevent them from coming home with you.
  • Use your plastic card and flashlight to inspect the seams of your luggage, including the liner, for bed bugs.
  • When you get home, vacuum your luggage to pick up adult bed bugs or eggs. Promptly dispose of the vacuum bag in an outdoor trash can or empty the canister into a bucket of hot, soapy water, which will kill any bed bugs you sucked up.

For more information about how to get rid of bed bugs in your home, check out our blog on the topic.

3. Call the professionals if needed

If you’ve noticed a new bed bug infestation in your home after your travels, we recommend calling professionals.

A pest management team can help you stop a bed bug infestation and ensure that bed bugs don’t spread through your home and belongings.

Are you Dealing with a Bed Bug Infestation in the San Francisco Bay Area? We can Help!

Bed bugs are icky, creepy critters nobody wants to share space with.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live with a bed bug infestation forever.

Whether you’ve got a travel-related bed bug infestation or an ongoing infestation you just can’t seem to get rid of, we’re here for you.

We provide bed bug control services for commercial and residential customers and will work with you to ensure your space is comfortable and bed bug-free.

Ready to learn more? Request a free inspection today: (408) 871-6988


Do all hotel rooms have bed bugs if one has them?

No, not necessarily. In hotels, bed bugs can be a localized problem that affects a single room or a few rooms in close proximity. While bed bugs can be spread through contact with infested items, bed bugs can also travel short distances and may move from one hotel room to another.

How likely is it to get bed bugs from a hotel?

While getting bed bugs in a hotel is possible, most bed bug infestations occur in apartments, condos, and other multi-family housing units.

Are bed bugs visible to the naked eye?

Yes. Adult bed bugs are small, brown in color, and about the size of a flat apple seed – roughly 4-7 mm in length.

Do bed bugs only infest dirty spaces?

No. While many people believe that bed bugs are related to sanitation issues, that’s untrue.

In fact, bed bugs have been found in some of the world’s nicest hotels, and their presence has nothing to do with how clean or upscale an accommodation is.

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.