Your Hotel Room Has Bedbugs. Now What?

Bedbug infestations can quickly turn into a living nightmare. It seems like almost everyone knows at least one or two people who've been affected by the epidemic. What's more, bedbugs can easily be transported from one place to another via shoes, luggage, public transportation, and found in places you frequent like the grocery store or your favorite cafe.

Perhaps one of the most unnerving discoveries you'll ever make is finding bedbugs in your hotel room or vacation rental. You don't expect the place you've trusted to provide you with rest, refuge, and recreation to add another layer of stress to your life. So when bedbugs pop up, you'll want to know the next steps to take so that you might get some type of compensation or refund for your trouble, and be able to prevent the bugs from coming home with you.

If you find out that your hotel or vacation rental has bedbugs, here's what you should do.

Find the bedbugs

Hunting for a bedbug may not sound like your idea of fun, but it can help set up a convincing case for the hotel to take action. The EPA provides a handy guide on what the itchy offender looks like, along with the evidence that the bedbugs are around: dark blotchy blood stains, insect skins that have been shed, and even small dark droppings left by the bug.

Common places they will hang out include the creases of sheets and crevices of furniture, so start with your mattress. Lift it up. Check the edges and then look around the baseboards, electrical switch plates, curtains, and vents. Basically, anywhere there's a recess that could harbor the small bug is where you should look. (See also: This DIY Bedbug Detector Is Full of Science)

Take photos

Once you find the bedbugs, take pictures of every place you've found them. You want to get "action shots" up close and far away so that when you present the photographic evidence to the hotel, they will recognize their interior and the fact the bugs are, indeed, present on their property. If you can capture a bug, even better!

As you can imagine, there could be people who take advantage and might fraudulently plant or complain about bedbugs in order to get money back or a full refund for their hotel stay. So you want to make an airtight case that proves the presence of bedbugs.

Don't forget to take pictures of yourself, too. If you've got welts or red streaks from scratching, take pictures of them. If you visit a local urgent care facility to be treated, present the record of your visit and any prescriptions given to you for treatment.

Of course, there's no guarantee that your host will offer compensation for the inconvenience, but it's worth trying everything you can to convince them that this problem originated on their premises.

Protect your belongings

Once you're sure your hotel or rental has bedbugs, it's time to check your luggage. Empty your bags, and check your clothing.

Even if you don't find any bedbugs in your belongings, there are few things that you can do to prevent bedbug eggs or larvae from becoming full grown bedbugs that latch onto your luggage and head home with you:

  • Place your belongings, like clothing, in plastic bags you can seal until you are able to inspect and clean them.

  • Place the clothing you will be taking home in the wash and then dry on high heat (which bedbugs hate) to kill any bedbugs that could be hiding.

  • Have the carpets and furniture thoroughly vacuumed. This is an effective way to kill adult bedbugs as well as nymphs and eggs, but isn't a foolproof way to remove all bedbugs from the environment. Professional assistance may still be required, but it works as a short-term solution to the problem.

Alert your host

Your host may or may not be aware of the presence of bedbugs. They could offer you another room or send a pest control worker to contain the problem immediately.

Be diplomatic in your approach, because you could forfeit your chance at getting a refund. Present your photographic evidence, any stained sheets, or the actual bug so they know your claim is real. Be clear on the outcome you desire. If you want your stay refunded, let them know that. If you want them to cover the cost of cleaning or replacing your belongings, make that clear as well.

Report the problem

If your hotel has bedbugs, you can alert local health department officials. They may have even more tips on things you can do to protect yourself in the moment and upon returning home.

If you're not getting anywhere with your host or hotel management in terms of a resolution, reach out to corporate offices. Some people even report their problems on social platforms like Twitter to get an immediate resolution. Most hotel chains want to avoid this negative PR attention, so this can be an effective way to get a quicker customer service response.

Then there are national registries like Bedbug Registry and Bedbug Report, where you can report bedbug infestations at hotels. Don't forget to leave reviews on sites like Yelp and Google business, or even the platform where you booked your stay, like Airbnb or VRBO. (See also: What to Do About a Terrible Airbnb Stay)

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Your Hotel Room Has Bedbugs. Now What?

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