The less a frequent traveler thinks about hotel rooms, probably the better. But let's indulge for a moment.
All the comings and goings mean hotel rooms are prime candidates to host the tiny creature that has been getting plenty of press lately: the bedbug. All it takes is a traveler with bedbugs at home to bring the tick-sized creatures in, most likely in their luggage.
"I don't point the finger at the hotel industry, but it's a problem they need to address," said Jeffrey White, research entomologist for resource site BedBug Central, based in Lawrenceville, N.J. "The responsibility is on people who have infestations at home and are bringing them into hotels."
The bad news is most hotels have grappled with the bugs at some point, White said. He has found bedbugs in hotels two times in the last 18 months.
The good news is that he's not too concerned. "The percentage of rooms with an issue is very low," he said. "I just don't want to stay in a room that's overly infested."
So how does the road warrior guard against an infestation and, even more important, avoid bringing them home? White said he begins by placing his bag strategically in the room.
For starters, that means not dumping it on the bed first thing. Some experts suggest using the luggage rack, others say leave your luggage in the car, if possible. White leaves his bag on his hotel room floor, away from furniture.
"The biggest concern is the suitcase itself -- that's how they hitchhike," White said.
Next, White looks on and behind the headboard for evidence of -- "disgusting as it is," he admits -- bedbug fecal matter, which looks like small black spots. Then he gets on a knee to look for bugs on the bottom of the box spring. They particularly like the seam on the staples on the box spring's underside, he said.
Should you make it that far without evidence of the critters, you're probably fine. But BedBug Central also has a specific recommended routine for returning home: Because the critters can't survive above 120 degrees, wash your clothes in hot water and run on a hot dryer cycle when you get home before reintroducing them to the rest of your wardrobe.
Other options include treating suitcases with a device that heats the bag or with pesticides.
The hotel industry knows it has a challenge on its hands and has responded, said Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
"When this started being an issue, all the major hotels looked at protocol for housekeeping and told maids, 'Instead of just making the bed, look in crevices and around headboards to be sure there are no telltale signs,' " McInerney said. "It isn't a major problem, but it is a problem when it happens to someone."
He also noted that the issue extends beyond beds and hotels; bedbugs have been found at a movie theater and at a Niketown store in Manhattan.
"I wish we could change the name on it like we did with H1NI and swine flu," McInerney said. "It's really a bigger issue than just beds."