Bed Bug Nightmares: How to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Home

My boyfriend, who is normally my travel companion, has an intense fear of bed bugs. To the point where he used to insist on us walking around in plastic bags in hostels/hotels and wrapping all our luggage in plastic bags as well (that is, until I made fun of him so much that he stopped doing this). I never used to understand this fear until one fine evening in Seoul when we encountered these little critters.

I was in bed in the hostel, trying to get some rest because I could feel a cold coming on. My boyfriend was also in bed, watching TV. All was well until I heard him shout, "what is that?" followed by a loud smack. I looked over and there on the bed was a little dead bug with lots of blood coming out of it. I hadn't quite clued in at this point. It wasn't until my boyfriend yelled, "it's a bed bug!" that I jumped out of the bed.

Panic ensued.

After a flurry of frantic exchanges (are you sure it's a bed bug? What do we do now? Should we try to find another place to stay?), we still hadn't decided what our next steps would be. It was then that I saw another bed bug moving slowly across the bed. It was clear then that we had to get out. After Googling for another place to stay that was still open for check-ins (it was nearly midnight),  we quickly packed up our stuff and left.

That was just the beginning though. Here are some precautions we made to try to ensure that we wouldn't bring the bugs back into our home.

1. Put everything in ziplock/plastic bags before we went home

Everything. We bought new clothes to wear (this luckily came to light near the end of our trip) and shook out all our other belongings before putting them into ziplock bags. This contained any of the bed bugs that may have been in our belongings in the ziplock bags. It also made it easier to transport the clothes to the dryer later on.

2. Left our suitcases outside when we got home

Lucky for us, we live in a city that gets pretty cold in the winter. It was also fortunate that we had a cold snap soon after we got home. My suitcase sat outside for a few weeks (with one week being around -40 degrees) before I brought it inside. The freezing cold weather most likely killed all of the unwelcome visitors. In the summer when it's hot and sunny, you might be able to get by with leaving the suitcase in your car and leaving your car parked outside. If neither of these options are available to you, it may be wise to vacuum all the nooks and crannies in your suitcase before bringing it inside your home.

3. Put things in the dryer on high heat

Ziplock bags full of clothes went straight from my suitcase into the dryer. I had them in the dryer on high heat for almost 50 minutes. I then washed the clothes and then put them in the dryer again, this time on medium/low heat. I put them in high heat without washing them first because I didn't want my clothes to shrink too much.

Another thing to note, bed bug bites can sometimes take up to 2 weeks to appear. My bites didn't appear until about a week after we noticed that we were sleeping in an infested bed and when they did appear, oh boy were they itchy. I had a hard time sleeping some nights and had to take Benadryl.  It's a little alarming when the bites appear when you're back home. I couldn't help but think that maybe they had followed me home and that I had been bitten at home. I held my breath every time I saw a black spot or speck at home, in fear that it was a bed bug. In fact, I still feel a pang of fear when I see a black spot these days, over a month since I got home!

Having experienced how stressful and cumbersome bed bugs are, next time I'll definitely be more careful when I'm traveling to eliminate any risk of having bed bugs get into my belongings.

Have you had experiences with bed bugs? What did you do to make sure they didn't follow you home from your travels?