A Traveler's Guide to Avoiding Bedbugs, Germs in Hotels

VIDEO: Michigan woman sues New York hotel claiming pests ruined her vacation.

Your hotel room is your home away from home, with a few exceptions -- hundreds of strangers from every corner of the world have slept there, and the hotel staff may not have the same standards of cleanliness that you do at home. It's nice to have someone fold up your towels and make your bed while you're out exploring the world, but in terms of sanitization, a neatly made bed does not equal a germ-free room.

A study conducted by the University of Virginia found that people infected with a cold who spent a night in a hotel room left contagious germs on nearly 35 percent of the objects they touched. The study also showed that a virus can live on objects like faucet handles and ice buckets for at least a day -- disturbing evidence of what might be waiting when you wheel your suitcase into a suite.

Are you prepared for a dirty bedspread, a scummy toilet or even a bedbug infestation? It's highly unlikely that a slightly soiled bathroom floor will put your life in danger, yet an unclean hotel room could affect your health; the most common afflictions are colds or stomach viruses. Try the following tips and sleep more soundly on your next adventure.

Put your black light away. We've all seen footage of people scanning dark rooms with the revealing black light; stains and smears, invisible in the daylight, pop up in the most unexpected and shocking places (not the pillowcase -- anything but the pillowcase!). But traveling with this device, which is great for a dramatic effect on television, is far from necessary. Here are a few other, less obsessive things you can do to rest assured you have a clean hotel room:

Read the Reviews

There are no international standards for hotel cleanliness. Price, location or a brand name will not guarantee completely sanitary digs. So until some international "clean commission" starts sending out fastidious officials to size up squalid toilets in hotels around the world, your best bet is to find out what your fellow travelers are saying. Most travel and hotel review sites have cleanliness as a category for evaluation. Our favorite is TripAdvisor, which offers user ratings of thousands of hotels, restaurants and businesses around the world; you can also find hotel reviews on major booking engines such as Travelocity, Hotels.com and Orbitz.

Wash Your Hands

In the interest of not sounding like your mother, I would like to preface this by saying that it doesn't bother me if you chew with your mouth open or your shirt's not tucked in. Hand washing, on the other hand, is near and dear to my heart. Frequent hand washing has been proven to reduce the transfer of colds and viruses, and will prevent bacteria from getting from whatever it is you're touching (why is this remote control sticky?) to your mouth, eyes or nose. So even if your hotel room is poorly sanitized, some good ol' hand washing will keep the icky germs at bay.

Fling Off the Bedspread

You've probably heard this one before: Most hotels do not wash bedspreads after each unique guest. The frequency of laundering varies from hotel to hotel, so if the idea of an anonymous stranger cuddling up with the blanket that now lies across your queen bed creeps you out, call your hotel and ask how often they wash their bedspreads. Or bring your own blanket and remove the hotel's altogether.


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