By Anita Dunham-Potter Travel columnist
updated 10/16/2006 3:03:22 PM ET 2006-10-16T19:03:22

Ah, yes, that unexpected and most unwelcome “take-home gift”: bugs in your luggage.

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Hotels, cruise lines and airlines don’t like to talk about these little creatures. But no matter how well kept a hotel, cruise ship or airplane appears to be, there are always some bugs that manage to beat the extermination system. Bedbugs, especially, seem to be making a comeback, but roaches, ants, spiders, beetles — even snakes — can escape Housekeeping’s best efforts. If you travel enough you may unwittingly be carrying some little stowaways in your luggage. I have had to deal with my share of “lug bugs,” and let me tell you: They can cause more trouble than you can imagine once you get them home.

Creepy-crawly stowaways
At the peak of my traveling days as a flight attendant, I was spending about 160 nights a year in hotels. Most of the time the hotels were first-rate, and I never thought for a moment that they could harbor creatures that felt the need to travel with me. And yet on one occasion at a fine hotel in North Carolina, I watched in horror as three roaches crawled into my briefcase. On another occasion, I dealt with “Roachzilla” in New York City (fortunately, the 3-inch-long creepy-crawly didn’t make it into my luggage). On two different cruise vacations, I encountered creatures that I cannot even name.

Dealing with an uninvited houseguest
My husband and I once noticed a critter in our home that we had never seen before. My husband dealt with (splat!) the creature, then put it into a plastic bag so we could show it to the exterminator. When he examined it the next day, the exterminator had just three words: “It’s not local.”

When we told him we’d recently been on a cruise and had stayed at hotels in the Caribbean, he laughed. Anyone who does any amount of traveling, especially to warm, humid climates, may unknowingly bring bugs home in their luggage, he told us. The critters like to hide in the folds of your clothes and in the dark corners of your suitcase. The problem is that they can then infest your house when you get home. He suggested the following tips to keep these lug bugs at bay:

  • Keep your luggage off the floor and on a luggage rack.
  • Keep your luggage closed — and zipped — at all times.
  • Keep food out of your suitcase, or at least keep it in tightly sealed containers.
  • Throw away all cardboard boxes as soon as you get home. Bugs love to lay eggs in corrugated boxes.
  • If you travel for long periods, especially to warm, humid places, you may need to “debug” your luggage after you’ve unpacked. The trick is to wrap your suitcase in a plastic garbage bag and leave the bag on for two weeks. If any bugs have infested your luggage, they (and their eggs and offspring) will be extinguished from the lack of oxygen.

Right now I have three suitcases in plastic bags from recent trips to the Caribbean. I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

So, next time you are on a trip, take this advice, and maybe you won’t get stuck with the “lug bug” — and a $200 exterminator bill!

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