Three Ways to Prevent Bed Bugs when you Travel (mosquitoes too!)

Last Updated on May 23, 2021 by Christine Kaaloa

prevent bed bugs when you travel, prevent bed bugs,
3 ways to prevent bed bugs & mosquitoes when you travel


Mosquitoes, bed bugs, head lice,… oh my!

When my girlfriend returned from Costa Rica with a souvenir case of “bed bugs”, it threw my traveler’s hypochondria into a panic. I was nearing my Thailand trip and my budget agenda entailed hostels, guesthouses and trekking in the mountains.

Knowing that a travel buddy had fallen to bed bug bites – despite her religious safety precautions-warranted a call to my travel doctor for possible bed bug solutions.

How do you prevent bed bugs when you travel? Until then, I carried little travel- sized bottles of Febreze. That does no more than kill germs which create bacterial odor.

Ways to prevent bed bugs when you travel

Sawyer’s Permethrin

This comes as either a spray-pump, spray bottle or aerosol that lets you administer water-proof bug repellent to your clothing,  sleeping liner, bags, etc… to keep away mosquitos and bed bugs. It does something like mosquito repellent and Ex-Officio BugAway clothing and lasts up to 6 washes.  Permethrin is a strong (and kinda toxic) agent, so try not to get it on your skin. Read more FAQ here.

It’s definitely not a spray on your bed and immediately roll around in type of thing. After you spray it, you have to let it dry. This only treats clothing material and it is advised to apply Deet repellent to your skin in addition.  You can find it on Amazon here.

Solumel Melaleuca

Sol-U-Melir?source=bk&t=grrrltraveler 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=a9cdc318424435c118130b0249fa2c5d& cb=1499847724114 is not sold in stores (it’s sold a bit like Amway;  occasionally you can find some sellers online). Nurses and moms swear by it, as an effective all-purpose ‘problem-solving’ agent. Not only can it “kill bugs dead” but does so gently and without hurting you. This is an exciting “off-the-record” medical tip I received from both, my travel doctor and nurse.

You can apply its spray to your skin, clothing or surrounding areas. The concentrated cleaner is eco-friendly, made from Melaleuca (or concentrated Tea Tree oilir?source=bk&t=grrrltraveler 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=0957d2c1b661dcf3895dd2538c753b96& cb=1499847749201) and can be diluted for use as a spray. It can cut through the toughest stains, kill germs and odors, be used as a laundry detergent and it is rumored to be able to remove Sharpie pen marks from a scribbled photo, without damaging the photo itself.  Most of all for my traveling needs, it repels or kills almost any bug- from ticks, head lice, bed bugs, dust mites and mosquitoes.  Here’s an article post on  Solumel’s effectiveness:101 Uses for Sol-U-Mel

A Silk Liner

Silk liners are generally for camping. They are silk and they’re used to line your sleeping bag for extra warmth. However, they can also be used to deter bed bugs (not so much mosquitoes though), as silk is woven very fine and is not breathable cloth. Unlike cotton sheets, bed bugs won’t have an easy time permeating them.  An added benefit is when you’re traveling during summer or spring, it works as a travel sheet and warm blanket.   I recommend Sea and Summit silk 20&bm id=default&l=ktl&linkId=6be3cf956225bdee6f214ba6e042dfed& cb=1499848752174 They’re usually priced right as an investment and you’ll find this handy in regular travels. Note: Do not get the cotton blend; it should only be premium or 100% silk to keep the bed bugs out.

How to Prevent Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can be annoying or they can occasionally carry mosquito borne diseases like malaria, chikungunya or dengue fever.

Use repellents which contains at least 20%  DEET

This helps protect against mosquitoes and ticks. Note: this may not actually be effective in preventing malaria or dengue fever, but it will help reduce the risk. Repellents like Off! Deep Woods and Cutter Backwoods are good places to start.

Get the malaria vaccination

Getting vaccinated for malaria usually involves taking oral prescription tablets before, during, and after your trip.  Common malaria prescriptions in the U.S. are:  malarone, mefloqine, chloroquine, and doxycycline. Depending upon prescription, you started 1-2 weeks prior to departure, take the pills during your trip (depending upon the brand, you will either take it daily or weekly) and then 7 days to 4 weeks after your return.  Travelers may decide that the risk of malaria is not great enough to warrant its side effects and costs. Talk to your travel doctor about what vaccinations are required and are suitable for the regions you’re traveling.

 Other repellents protect against mosquitoes but may not be effective against ticks or other bugs:

  • Picaridin
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus

Cover up

This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how it isn’t, especially when travelers are in hot or humid countries. Long sleeves shirts and pants should be worn at day and night in areas there may be mosquitoes. Tuck your shirt in your pants.  Don’t forget to cover your feet too. Sometimes, I’ve gotten bitten in odd places like between my toes, so it’s often that one place the punk doesn’t reach or you forget to spray.  Also, light colored clothes should be worn so that you can spot them easily.

Use a mosquito punk or electronic emitter

Mosquito punk or an electronic mosquito repellent emitter can be used in your room to help ward off mosquitoes. I list this lastly as they can be a hit or miss solution, although helpful in offering peace of mind.

Share ways  to  prevent bed bugs when you travel. Leave it down in the comments.

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  • Great suggestions. Just the idea of bedbugs gives me the willies. Unfortunately, if I go anywhere near Febreeze or even anyone wearing it, the chemicals trigger an instant asthma attack so I’m happy you shared some more natural ideas. 🙂

  • No Bugs On Me
    October 5, 2016 8:34 pm

    YES Frebreeze works.. it does! at least the living ones you can see…
    I tried 91% alcohol, sure it will if it doesn’t evaporate first…

    Was spraying Febreeze around just for smell goods… hit one I saw.. watched it within minutes start “rearing up” and then it was gone… actually “froze” in rear up stance lol… tried again when I caught another.. same thing, not even dousing them, just a normal spray…

    Using Febreeze “Pet Odor Eliminator” in the light blue (refill) bottle… $7.94 at WalMart. true its not the cheapest solution.. but I buy the stuff anyway, so I spray any “hot spots” I find.. while also coating the carpet after vaccum.

    This is my experience.. may not be yours.. but if you have them.. try it… not saying it will solve your problem, but it’ss get a few of them… Finding more dead ones that have come up out of the carpet as i type… Vacuum Vacuum Vacuum.

  • There is some good advice here, and isn’t it strange how bed bugs will sometimes only affect one individual and leave the other alone?
    Luckily I am usually the one who doesn’t get bitten!!
    But these products certainly seem worth getting as a safeguard

  • Hi – I love Sol-U-Mel. Contact me f you would like more information on how to purchase safer, greener products.

  • I have been looking for this kind of bed bugs solution, since I have been traveling with my work. I’m very much particular with the existence of bed bugs and mosquitoes. This products sounds to be effective, I might buy one of this before I off to my traveling destination.

  • Thanks for the tips. Sol-U-Mel sounds amazing. I’m constantly looking for multi-purpose items for my lone carry-on. 🙂 I like Dr. Bronner’s soap too, but sol-u-mel sounds a little bit more hardcore, which is needed in scary locales. 🙂

  • Great advice, thank you! Sol-U-Mel sounds perfect. I’ve been wondering if there was some sort of “all natural” bug repellent out there, because I really don’t using toxic chemicals near my skin.

  • Stupendous advice! Funny story, me and the ex shared the same bed in a Cambodian hostel, but his back was littered with bedbug bites, I was clear. Maybe there was a reason that relationship didn’t work. 🙂 I need to find this Sol-U-Mel now!

    • Sometimes you need to heed the signs, I guess… LOL. Yeah, it would be great for your RTW trip & all those beds! BTW- My ex roomie’s sister did an orphanage volunteer program in India & came home with head lice- not to scare…. but the Sol-U-Mel if you read that 101 list, supposedly does the trick too.

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