With more international flights than ever, and the increasing popularity of travel websites, global leisure travel is at an all-time high.
Not only are travelers seeing major sights and destinations, but services like Airbnb are allowing travelers to get local and stay with locals.
But . . .
How do you protect yourself against germs and pests from rentals and transit?
One of the biggest fears of travelers is catching a disease or even worse stubborn bugs from bus seats, trains, hostels and hotel beds.
Here is a brief highlight of those nasty risks:
Closeup of blood on a chair (Photo courtesy of Harold Harlan)
These nasty creatures are simply small invertebrate beetles that feed on blood, much like ticks and mosquitos do. They typically feed at night, in the early morning hours, and usually around the head of the sleeper (upper arms, neck, head) but sometime waist, legs and feet.
They are called bedbugs because literally, they thrive in making their homes in box springs and mattresses. But they can also hide in corners of rooms, behind baseboard trim and in carpet.
Their bites are not initially painful, but slowly develop pain and itching and can last up to a month. Bed bugs typically chain feed, meaning they bite in "chains" or rows in the same area. If you notice a row of mosquito-bite reddish looking bites, most likely it can be bed bugs.
How to check for bedbugs:
M. Potter - courtesy of university of Kentucky
Whether you are staying in a bed and breakfast, hostel, or even high-end hotel, it is always important to lift up the fitted bed sheet near the heads of the bed, and check the lips of the mattress and bed foundations. If you notice black spots that look like black scars, likely these are the feces of bedbugs. Sometimes you'll even see their dead body shells that they shed. This is an immediate sign to either switch rooms, or switch hotels all together.
Bed bugs are becoming a serious hazard, and although they are talked about like a light nuisance like mosquitos, their bites are longer lasting and just the awareness of them causes strain.
There are many kinds of mites, and they as well can feed not only on dead skin cells, but on external blood too. While dust mites are common, being exposed to too many of them can cause irritation and breathing problems.
Unclean pillows are a big haven for them. Also are unsanitary mattresses and linens.
Dust mites are the most common of mites. They are so small, they are only visible by microscope. Since they are difficult to determine, make sure that the place you are staying is regularly and professionally clean. If you notice dust on window sills and counters (simply run your finger in it), it is likely the place of sty does not properly clean their guest quarters.
If there is lots of carpet, piles of linens, and yet frequented by lots of guest stays, likely there are dust mites.
Bacteria, mold and viruses
There are so many types, and ways to detect, that we will simply cut to one solution:
Do not lay on the top comforter of the bed. Even in nice hotels, the top comforter is rarely cleaned. And since you can only imagine what the previous couple did in that room, it is simply better to peel it down or remove it all together.
Tips and tools
- Consider using your own sleeping bag or travel sleeping bag liner
If it is summer travel, or the climate is hot, a simple travel sleeping bag liner will suffice as a sleeping bag . . . because you don't want to sweat too much.
While these liners are not a guaranteed prevention of these risks, they do help, and at least provide peace of mind as a safety barrier between you and the bed or seat.
EarthTrek Gear's sleeping bag liner is one such liner, designed with an extra large space. There are many others out there that you can research and choose from too.
- Bring slippers
- Avoid sleeping on the floor
- Keep you luggage up off the floor
- Spray your sleeping area with insect repellent when ready to go to sleep. This along with nets, may help reduce night time mosquito bites.
- Bag and wash and dry in a heated dryer your clothes after a trip
- Avoid using the cheapest buses trains and planes. The upholstery and air can often have these germs
- If you are going to stay in a youth hostel, avoid the lowest priced one. These can more likely have bed bugs
- Avoid staying in the lowest priced motels. In a disgusting way, in many countries including the USA, these are used as sex-houses for people to have "one-night stands", and "Tinder meetups" and can be full of sexually transmitted diseases. Yuck!
Overall, if you simply avoid the bottom barrel priced travel arrangements, and take simple precautions, your next global trek can be a safe, clean and enjoyable trip to remember for years to come.
- Mike Cutler is a blogger and travel enthusiast. Product tester for EarthTrek Gear, his family lives in Reno Nevada and enjoys hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.