What to Do to Control Pest Problems While Traveling for the Holidays

What to Do to Control Pest Problems While Traveling for the Holidays

There is no better place to be during the holidays than our area. People in the Carolinas and Virginia are often treated to a relatively mild Thanksgiving and temperatures that are just cool enough to make it feel like Christmas. 

It is not out of the question to see a White Christmas, especially in the higher elevations of northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia. 

Our weather can be quite polarizing with winter rapidly approaching. Some area residents don’t look forward to the cold and want to escape to somewhere warmer. Others want to raise their chances of being able to build a snowman over the holidays. Regardless, the solution is to get out of town and travel to somewhere warmer or colder. 


Vacation is a time to get away from the most stressful parts of winter. Maybe you're taking a break from the cold and the short daylight hours. Perhaps you're getting away from work for a bit and shaking your stresses away. 

Whatever the reason you’re traveling for the season, the last thing you want your vacation to add is more stress. That's why it's important to adopt a few simple habits that can help you avoid pest issues on the road and when you return home. 

In this guide to controlling pest problems while you’re traveling, we are covering three primary pest concerns:

  1. How to Avoid Pests at Your Destination
  2. How to Avoid Bringing Pests Home With You
  3. How to Avoid Returning to a House Full of Pests

How to Avoid Pests at Your Destination

We think of winter as a time when pests are not as much of an issue as the spring and the summer. However, whether you are traveling somewhere tropical or somewhere colder, there will be some creepy-crawlies hanging around.

1) Research Pest Problems

It's important to look up pest problems where you're going. There may be travel warnings for your destination about pest problems or pest-borne illnesses. This doesn't mean you can't go. It just means you should consider taking appropriate precautions and following the advice of those warnings.

online reviews

2) Look at Online Reviews

Check out online reviews for where you'll be staying. If someone complains about rodents, mosquitoes, or bed bugs in the hotel – ask the hotel about it. If you find multiple reviews or a review that's very recent, think about re-booking to another hotel entirely.

3) Ask Your Doctor

Check with your doctor. Even if they don't know off-hand, they'll be able to look up accurate and reliable information for you quickly. There may be vaccines you need to get or prescription medications that you should be aware of in case you contract an illness. 

Malaria and Zika are two key illnesses that you should be aware of. Both can come from insect bites. Tick-borne illnesses can also be a problem.

insect repellent

4) Bring Insect Repellent!

That's why you should make sure to pack insect repellent or buy some once you reach your destination. Studies have shown that you can use repellents with DEET safely on your skin. Repellents with permethrin can be sprayed on clothes, but shouldn't be sprayed directly on your skin. 

Never spray repellent on pets without talking to a vet first; pets lick their fur and so may ingest the chemicals.

5) Investigate the Area

When you first arrive at your accommodations, let your inner detective run wild. Bed bugs are on the rise recently. These are pests that are often too tiny to see, rarely come out in daylight, and will happily ride home with you in your clothes and luggage. 

When they infest an area, they're extremely difficult to get rid of. They bite animals at night – including people – and feed on our blood. In the thousands, they've been known to cause severe insomnia and even PTSD.

When you arrive, check beneath the mattress and fitted sheet. Bed bugs like to hide very near their host. The most likely sign is blood spots or spying tiny red dots.

While you're at it, keep an eye out for rodent droppings, gnaw marks, and take a quick look outside for wasps nests.

6) Listen to Fellow Vacationers

You're just arriving. People who have already been there a few days know the lay of the land. If you overhear someone talking about any kind of pest problem, politely ask if you can know more. Most anyone will be happy to talk to you about it, and they may have already figured out a way of dealing with it that you can use.

clean up after yourself

7) Clean Up After Yourself

Of course, you're on vacation. You get to rely on custodial services to clean things up every day. It's still a good idea to clean up food, spilled drinks, any food prep, and empty a trash can if it has leftover food in it. Put food away instead of leaving it out. These are the first things both rodents and bugs like roaches will be attracted to.

This may sound like quite a few steps, but each of these habits takes less than five minutes to do. None of them is difficult, and doing them can save you much more stress down the road. The last thing you want to deal with on vacation is pests. Knowing about pest-borne illnesses and both how to repel and treat them can save you pain and frustration.

How to Avoid Bringing Pests Back Home With You

Making sure you don't bring any pests that travel back with you can save you from infesting your own home. Bed bugs are the primary concern when it comes to hitchhiking pests. Like your family, they love to see the world. 

“Bed bugs are tiny, oval-shaped insects, about the size of an average apple seed. To live, they feed on the blood of animals and people. You can identify them by their flat bodies and reddish-brown coloring.” - From the blog, WHAT CAUSES BED BUGS?  

Here is what you need to know about not letting bed bugs travel home with you after your holiday getaway:

1) Make Sure You Don’t See Signs of Bed Bugs

Whether you are staying with family or in a hotel, bed bugs are possibly laying in wait to jump in your suitcases. It doesn’t matter how clean a place appears, you need to look closely for signs that bed bugs are present. 

Signs include:

  • The exoskeleton of bed bugs is shed after they molt. Sometimes you will see it in sheets or furniture.
  • If you're looking for them, their little red-brown bodies are frequently found in the folds of blankets.
  • Even if you don't see the pests, rust-colored specks on your sheets, mattresses, and furniture may indicate the presence of their blood and feces.
  • You may never see them, but you may smell their sweet, musty odor in the room.

If you see signs of bed bugs, you need to make sure you stay in another room. 

dont put clothes on furniture

2) Don’t Put Your Clothes on Furniture

Even if you don’t see bed bugs, they might be present. Avoid putting your clothes directly on the bed or on cloth furniture to deter them from trying to hitch a ride.

3) Wrap Your Luggage

You can add an additional layer of protection by wrapping your luggage in plastic. Bed bugs will not be able to fight through it to get in your luggage. 

4) Wash Your Laundry 

Laundry is the last thing on your mind after a long period of travel over the holidays. While you may assume that cleaning your clothes can wait until you return from your trip the next day, postponing will allow bed bugs to establish themselves in your home. 

The best practice is to wash your laundry in hot water as soon as you return. 

5) Vacuum Your Luggage

In addition to washing your vacation laundry, thoroughly vacuum your luggage and immediately discard the vacuum bag. 

Following these steps will help keep you from bringing home these gross, unwanted pests. 

how to avoid returning to pests

How to Avoid Returning to a House Full of Pests

What could be worse than returning from a holiday vacation only to find an infestation of ants, roaches, or other pests? The key to avoiding a house full of pests is prevention:

  1. Take Out the Trash: Before you leave for vacation, take out all trash from your home. If you have trash bins, get them out of the garage if possible. 
  2. Put Away All Food: You may have already stored your holiday meal leftovers in the refrigerator and freezer; however, before you leave for an extended time, you need to do the same with all produce and other food items. Open cereal boxes, bananas, and other items typically left out will attract ants and other pests while you’re away. 
  3. Sweep and Mop Thoroughly: If there is the slightest crumb or sticky spot on your floor, you could return home to a colony of ants or infestation of roaches. 
  4. Vacuum: You want to vacuum all carpets, rugs, and furniture to make sure there is nothing left behind that would attract pests. 
  5. Inspect Your House for Moisture: Before you hit the road for holiday vacation, check your basement, crawlspace, under sinks, attic, and pipes for signs of moisture and leaks. Excess moisture could attract pests and cause other problems while you are away.

No one wants to come back even more stressed than they left, or need a vacation from their vacation. Heed this easy-to-follow advice, and you'll be set for a worry-free and pest-free vacation.

Unfortunately, you may find you did everything right and still have a pest problem this winter. If you do find yourself with an infestation during the holiday season, contact us to get rid of them quickly