Now that we're coming up on the holiday season, it's time for a lot of people to begin prepping their travel plans, like where they're planning on staying. Recently, TikTok user Halee (@haleewithaflair) shared a helpful tip for checking your hotel room for any...unwanted guests.
The video is actually duetting a family of three who recently stayed in a room with bed bugs. Halee has been working in the hotel industry for 15 years, owns a hotel sales support company, and this is how she checks her own rooms before getting settled in.
"This is how you should check your hotel room before you even unpack," Halee begins. "The first thing you're going to want to do is make sure your room is dark: Turn off the lights, close any shades, and use the flashlight on your phone. And while everything is off, you're going to come up here under the covers...you're going to check on all the creases here on the bed. They [bed bugs] usually like to hang out in the corners and the creases. Pay attention if there's a mattress pad, too."
Halee also adds, "Even if you don't see bugs, make sure you check for spots. [Even] blood spots because that's not a good sign, either." Blood spots are a common indication that bed bugs are nearby, as the spots are actually the bug's blood-filled excrement. Another common sign of bed bugs is evidence of their shed exoskeletons after molting, typically in areas like beds or sofas where bed bugs can be found.
Halee's video currently has 5.2M views, 788.3K likes, and an active comment section.
Bed bugs are small insects that survive on the blood of humans and animals. Because they feed on things that are sleeping, you'll commonly find them in places like the bedroom, on the mattress, and even in places like hotel rooms. They're known for their reddish-brown color and flat shape. The CDC said that bed bugs tend to live within "8 feet of where people sleep," but noted that despite popular belief, the existence of bed bugs in a space doesn't mean that space is necessarily dirtier than others.
People commonly bring bed bugs from other places into their homes or hotel rooms through their belongings, like purses and luggage. If an un-infested belonging is placed on something that has an infestation, like a sofa or bed, the bugs can then attach to the un-infested belonging, and stay on after you bring the items to a secondary location, which can allow them to spread.
I spoke with Halee, a hospitality expert with a degree in travel tourism hospitality. Halee explained that while her video focused on checking the hotel room mattress, you should also check any couches or curtains as well, but added, "In my 15-plus years of working with at this point in time, hundreds of hotels, I've personally [only seen] one outside of a mattress." Halee also explained that because bed bugs mostly feed at night, it's important to make sure it's dark while you're checking out the room, hence the flashlight.
With 15 years of experience, Haley began her journey in the industry as a housekeeper and now owns her own hotel sales support company. In that time, she's found that the biggest misconception surrounding bed bugs in hotels is that they're exclusively found in run-down hotels. She explained, "People think that [bed bugs] are in shady, economy-style hotels — [but] you can find them anywhere. They're brought in by people, and how a hotel handles it is a totally different story."
If you think that you've found a bed bug in your hotel room, first off, sorry, but Halee advised that you'd be well within your reach to call the front desk and request a new room. She said, "Theoretically, I think getting a new room is fine. I would personally ask for a room on the other side of the hotel" as the bugs might have traveled beyond that room. She emphasized that it's important to do your checkup immediately after entering the hotel room, and said, "Take your pictures in the room. Then, walk down to the front desk, and say: "I just checked into my room. This is what's in there. Can you also come to look and inspect this, too?"
But as helpful as Halee's video is, she also suggested that a fear of bed bugs shouldn't prevent you from booking a hotel, as they're not as common as people think. She said, "I don't think it's that much more of an issue. People have commented on my video [saying]: 'I bring my own sheets everywhere.' I don't think that's entirely [necessary] — but whatever makes you feel comfortable." Ultimately, Halee said that your best chance of ensuring a good hotel room comes in the planning process. She said, "Part of that comes down to checking where you're staying when you're reading reviews. Although, as I said, it could happen anywhere. If you see a hotel that has two out of five stars — and cleanliness issues [mentioned] consistently on their reviews — that's probably not the best place to stay."
And if you're not getting the help you need, Halee offered this trick as well. She said, "If you get into a situation where you're not getting the help that you should be, because let's be honest, not everybody is as amiable to helping when they're at work as others. One of the best solutions, obviously, if the general manager doesn't help as well, is looking to see who owns that hotel. Most hotels in this country are franchised and owned by management companies or individual owners." But contacting the company or individual owner, you're more likely to get help.
Halee said that she wasn't expecting her video to blow up the way it did, but she mainly makes videos on her account for educational purposes. She said, "Hoteliers can be very subjective and work under the assumption that the public should just know [these things]. And I forget this a lot of times myself. They don't know unless you educate them and tell them — and that's been my approach."