How to survive hotel germs, bedbugs, noise, & light

Ah, hotel rooms, home away from home where you can make a mess and someone else will clean up after you. But it’s late and you have to get a good night sleep for that big meeting tomorrow. Geez, hope that sea of kid’s heads in the tiny hotel pool aren’t on your floor. As I am lucky/unlucky enough to spend 120+ nights a year in hotels, here are some tips to make it through.


Hotel rooms take a lot of abuse. Hundreds of people could use the same room in a year and we don’t exactly treat hotel rooms like our own homes. Even with the best cleaning staff, rooms build up grime, dirt, and germs. I am not a germaphobe, but I do get a little squeamish about “hot spots”. TV remotes, light switches, door handles, and phone handsets. Oh, and don’t forget the glassware. I am all about being green, but I know from hotel friends that glassware sometimes doesn’t make it to the dishwasher, so I only use the paper/plastic cups provided. I don’t blame cleaning staff, it’s a tough job with a huge amount of time pressure, so when something looks clean and unused it may get skipped. I never plan to lick the TV remote, but I do take a few moments when I get to a room and wipe the hot spots with a sanitizing wet wipe. It only takes a moment and will at least give some peice of mind.

Sheets are another area of concern. If a bed does not look used, or you are staying at a less than quality hotel, check the sheets for use. Not much you can do if you suspect dirty sheets other than calling the front desk and asking for a new room.

One last note on cleanliness from a hotel friend, be wary of the in-room coffee machines. I will leave that to your imagination on how those get, um, contaminated.


This one is a bit gross. It does not matter how many starts your hotel has, bedbugs happen. They don’t carry disease, but they can cause itchy marks where they bit. Bedbugs love love love to hitchhike, so never leave your suitcase on the bed, couch, or floor. Use the luggage rack and keep your clothes off the bed too. Bedbugs like soft materials with seams they can hide in during the day. They are attracted by the carbon dioxide we exhale and move around at night. You can check for signs of bedbugs by pulling back the sheets and looking along the mattress seams for any signs of bugs, shells of bugs, or blood spots. If you suspect bedbugs most hotels will be very accommodating and get you into a new room quickly.

If you are worried about bringing a bedbug home from a room you discovered had bedbug, this is what your should do as soon as you get home.

  1. Place all the contents of your bags into the washer on the hot cycle. If you are able, also place your belonging in the dryer too. Heat kills the bugs and any eggs. Freezing bedbugs is not effective unless you can cool to below -18 Celsius for at least 96 hours.
  2. Spray a bedbug spray inside your bags and into all seems. Seal your bags in garbage bags and leave sealed for a few days.
  3. If you can’t wash your things straight away, place all your belonging into garbage bags to prevent them getting into your home.

If you think the bedbugs have got into your home, don’t be embarrassed. Call a professional exterminator immediately. This is not a DIY kinda project. You need a professional to get these bugs out fast.


Hotels keep a lot of people in a relatively close area and some noise is a reality. Plus hotels downtown or near highways have a lot more external noise to contend with. That being said, it is annoying when hotels have thin walls, or when you are on the same floor with the youth sports team hopped up on sugar, or when housekeeping starts vacuuming the room above. For flight crew, normal sleeping hours are not so normal, so here are few strategies for a quieter night. If you have control of the hotel choice, take a peek at Trip Advisor for clues of chronic noise issues. Most good hotels can accommodate requests at booking like, being put on “quiet floors”, away from elevators, and facing away from busy streets. For most people it’s a sudden noise that wakes them, like the AC unit powering up. So why not try leaving the fan mode on for white noise? Yes, it’s noise, but it’s continuous and can drown out more distracting noises, like the housekeeper having the most intense conversation of their lives right outside your door. If that is not an option, try using a free white noise app on your phone that plays continuous sounds all night. If you are really sensitive to noise it may be worth trying earplugs, just as long as you have a plan on how you are going to be woken up if you have an early wake up time.


So let’s say you are able to sleep through a rock concert next door, but the smallest amount of light will wake you up, there are some tricks. No matter how good the curtains are, if they don’t overlap and hold together they are pretty useless. Not a problem, grab a coat hanger with the pants clips and use it to hold the curtains closed. Light coming under the door? Lay a bath towel along the gap to stop the light. It may also help a bit with the noise too. Flashing fire detectors? This one I would be very careful, unless you want to explain to your fellow guests why the fire alarm went off as you stand in the parking lot in winter waiting for the fire department. Better to ask the hotel to help with this one. They could try small sticky notes that cover the lights but not the sensors.


Not a fan of dry air? Hotels can be dry, so check this post on how to keep humanity in your hotel room, Don’t be so dry.

I wish you a clean, bug free, quiet, dark night!

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash