Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 24, 2023

Protection in advance against bites in the night

You’re on your dream vacation and you’ve just unpacked your suitcase. Things that wrinkle are hung in the closet and everything else is neatly lined up in your temporary chest of drawers. That’s the way you’ve been doing it for years.

You’ve been wrong and, so far, you’ve been lucky because bedbugs may be waiting for you to check in.

Veteran travelers have some suggestions on the safest way to take a vacation or business trip without bringing home souvenirs you really don’t want in your house.

First, when you check in to your room, take a look at the mattress. If you see any brown or black spots, immediately request another room.

“The basics of checking the corners of the beds, pulling up the fitted sheet to check the mattress, checking for black spots by both the headboard and footboard is never a bad idea,” says Caryn Hatcher, an agent of Key To The World Travel in Nolensville. “If they do that when they first get to their room, it is much easier to take their yet-to-be-unpacked luggage to a different room.”

The first no-no is unpacking your luggage at all. The next is leaving your open bag on a luggage rack or table. Bedbugs not only lurk in mattresses, but also in tiny cracks in wooden furniture and baseboards. Remember they’re the size of apple seeds so chances are you won’t see them.

“It’s a really bad idea to unpack or hang all your clothes in the closet,” says Jason Oliver, a research professor at Tennessee State University and frequent traveler. “They’re going to be where previous travelers have brought them. The safest place is the bathtub so put your bag there. Never put it on a luggage rack.”

Hatcher stresses to her clients to be intentional with their clothing and luggage.

“I use packing cubes on my trips,” she says, “and only open a cube at a time as my trip progresses. When those clothes are done, those dirty clothes go back in their original packing cubes and I open another. When I get home from the trip, everything, whether I wore it or not, and the packing cubes go in my washing machine.”

Dr. Karen Vail, an entomologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, says she always carries a lint roller with her when she travels. The sticky sheets catch bedbugs when they’re rolled over. Even so, she runs her clothing through the dryer when she returns home.

Oliver says he takes a large plastic bag meant for storing blankets with him when traveling.

“I will pack that in my luggage and I keep my bag in that bag. When I get back, I freeze the bag or dispose of it.” He has a large chest freezer and he’ll also freeze his empty luggage for three weeks to be 100% safe.

Dr. Stylianos Chatzimanolis, a professor in the department of biology, geology and environmental science at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, doesn’t even bring his suitcases in the house when he returns from a trip. “We leave our suitcases when we come back in the garage,” he says. “We empty them and wash the clothes and the suitcase never makes it in the house.”