How to Travel When You’re Afraid of Insects (Yes, Even to the Tropics!)

by Carly | Fearless Female Travels

How to Travel with a Fear of Insects (Even to the Tropics!)

I have a confession. Although I write a blog called Fearless Female Travels, I’m not 100% fearless. In fact, I am absolutely terrified of spiders and almost all other insects. Despite my fear, which borders on debilitating, I still travel solo around the world, including to deserts, jungles, beaches and other destinations known for their creepy crawlers. To me, being a fearless traveler means acknowledging my phobia, developing strategies to deal with it, and traveling everywhere anyways.  I thought it might be helpful to teach you the exact strategies I use to travel with a fear of insects (yes, even in the tropics!) while still enjoying myself and having authentic experiences.

My fear of insects is pretty significant.  It has been diagnosed by a doctor as a real phobia, and many years ago my family doctor suggested I consider a lifelong medication plan to deal with my fear.  I didn’t want to take medication for the rest of my life, so I committed to learning to live with my phobia.

Because I’m so terrified of spiders (in particular) and most other insects (with a few completely irrational and illogical exceptions) I won’t put any images of insects in this post, and I won’t mention any of the specifically large, scary or intrusive insects I’ve encountered on my travels. That wouldn’t benefit me or you.

Instead, keep reading for the strategies, habits and products that I use to enjoy traveling with a fear of insects. If you find them useful, or if you have other strategies that help you overcome your fear of bugs, scroll to the end and leave a comment letting me know!

Booking Hotels When You’re Afraid of Insects

Las Iguanas Bungalows - San Pancho, Mexico

To travel with a fear of insects, you have to start by looking at your accommodation options. Properties that have lots of lush greenery or that are close to protected natural areas (like the hotel in San Pancho, Mexico, shown above) are likely to have more insects and animals around.

(This is just anecdotal, but I’ve also found that ground-floor rooms attract more critters, while rooms that are higher up see fewer “visitors”.)

When I’m choosing a hotel room in the tropics, I typically avoid rooms with a kitchenette. Kitchens, food, drinks, crumbs, spills… they all attract hungry little (and big!) insects.

Instead, I prefer to eat in restaurants or stop for street food on my way to and from the hotel. If I do eat or drink in my hotel room I make sure that I don’t make a mess and I try to throw out any garbage (like wrappers or bottles) in a trash bin outside the room.

Keeping Your Hotel Room Insect-Free

Sitting Areas in Cocolobo Roatan Hotel Guestrooms

At check-in I let the hotel staff know I have a severe fear of spiders and ask if they will assist if I find one in the room. And then, if a bug does happen to come inside my hotel room, I take them up on their offer.

I make the bed in my room as soon as I get up each morning. I don’t want to give any insects the opportunity to crawl between the sheets (and I also think housekeeping appreciates it!). When possible, I also choose rooms with mosquito nets on the bed. Mosquito nets do double-duty: they keep the bugs out, and they keep any geckos on the ceiling from pooping on my face during the night (seriously!).

Speaking of geckos, lizards are your friends in the fight against scary insects! Lizards love eating bugs, so I don’t mind if a few are hanging out by my door or even inside my room (especially if I have a mosquito net!).

Keeping your windows and doors closed can also help keep the bugs out. While I love a fresh tropical breeze, I love an insect-free hotel room even more. I usually only open the windows if there are window screens. If there are no screens, I am conscientious about limiting time spent with windows open.

(The photo above shows Cocolobo, my favorite hotel in West End, Roatan. There are screens on the windows in the rooms and there are mosquito nets over every bed.)

Because insects can be attracted to light at night, sometimes I will only turn on the lights that are further away from my bed (for example, the light in the bathroom).

Keeping Insects Out of Your Stuff

Hotel 38 - A Cheap Hotel in Berlin Mitte
I am diligent about keeping my luggage off the floor, keep it closed unless I’m actively using it, and use packing cubes to stay organized. This makes it more difficult for bugs to crawl inside.

(The photo above was taken in Hotel 38 in Berlin… even in a big, developed city I keep my bag off the floor!)

I got in the habit of using packing cubes when I returned home to Canada in the middle of winter, after a trip to West End, Roatan, and found a cockroach in my suitcase. It’s a lot easier to lift a whole packing cube out of a suitcase and see what was underneath than to lift out crumpled items of dirty laundry one-by-one. The ones I’ve linked, from Amazon Basics, are the exact ones I use when traveling.

I typically just wear flip-flops on my tropical vacations, but if I did have closed-toes shoes with me I would keep them in a plastic bag in my suitcase when not in use and stuff them with newspapers or magazines (saved from the flight) if they needed to dry outside my bag. Before I put my feet inside I tip them over (with my foot!) and kick them to scare anything that might have crawled inside.

Using Insect Repellents When You’re Traveling

I don’t think there is such a thing as spider repellent but I do usually use organic mosquito spray, or DEET in high-risk areas.

I have used plug-in mosquito repellents in places where there is a malaria risk, but I typically just buy them locally rather than pack them in my bag (that being said, you can buy a chemical-free ultrasonic repellent on Amazon before you go).

Once, I stayed in a hotel that used aerosol bug sprays in the room. Although they ventilated the room before I returned, I still got a headache from the fumes. Now, I avoid any kind of aerosol room spray designed to repel insects.

What About Bed Bugs?

Travel with a Fear of Insects (and Avoid Bedbugs)

Personally, I’ve never encountered bed bugs when I travel. I always read the most recent reviews I can find for a property, and if there are any recent reviews mentioning bed bugs I will just book somewhere else.

When I check into a hotel room I immediately put my bag on a hard surface, then check the mattress and bed frame for any signs of bed bugs (the critters themselves, blood stains, dark spots or funny smells). If I found any evidence of bed bugs I would immediately leave the property.

When I get home, I unpack my bags in my tiled bathroom. I immediately wash any laundry and then move my suitcase or backpack to my balcony for at least forty-eight hours. The extreme hot and cold temperatures in my hometown are said to be enough to kill bedbugs; even if you’re in a more moderate climate this would give any other bugs the chance to escape outside.

Do you have a fear or phobia that impacts travel?

Do you have any tips for people who want to travel with a fear of insects (or any other fear)? 

Let me know in the comments!

Traveling to the tropics? Pin this post for later!

You can travel with a fear of insects! Don't be afraid of insects when you travel; these tips will help you overcome your phobia of insects and enjoy your trip to the tropics, desert, beach or jungle! You've got this!YES! You CAN travel with a fear of insects! Don't let your phobia of bugs keep you at home. These tips, tricks, plans and products will help you overcome your fear of insects and enjoy a trip to the jungle, beach, desert, tropics or city.


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