Don't let the bedbugs bite

We are travelling to Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, Vancouver and Montreal next month, staying in more than a dozen locations and I'm concerned about reports of bedbugs. We will also be staying with relatives and do not want to transfer any "extras". I know how to check for signs but what is the best way to protect our belongings and ourselves from attack? Is there a spray we can make up, carry with us and use? Various sites have suggested spraying bedding with "rubbing alcohol" — what is this? Or tea tree oil and citronella but what ratio?

- S.Frank, Baulkham Hills.

The only sure way of eliminating bedbugs is to burn your mattress.

However hoteliers take a dim view of this, not to mention the inconvenience of sleeping on charred bedsprings. Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate.

Various websites suggest scrupulous cleaning and the services of a pest control expert but this is expensive and likely to incur the displeasure of your hotel's housekeeping department.

Rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol. It's poison even for bedbugs but expert opinion suggests that you would need to douse a mattress liberally and hit the bugs directly to achieve a bedbug-free environment.

You can find an article on this topic if you Google "MSNBC Dini M. Miller". If you take the threat of bedbug attack seriously, you will spend many hours of your holiday on detection alone. On the other hand, you could simply do what millions of guests do in hotel rooms all over the world every night - go to bed and dream happy dreams. While people's reactions differ, from my own experience with bedbug bites, it's really not that bad.