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Motion Sickness: Don’t Let Car Sickness Ruin Your Travel Plans!

Motion sickness, car sickness, travel sickness, sea sickness; all names for that awful affliction that strikes fear into some of us at the mere thought of taking a journey.  Those who don’t suffer from it have no idea how it feels, and those that do dread long trips, windy roads and rough seas. Even typing the words makes me feel queasy!  Having suffered from severe motion sickness since childhood, over the years I have learned various tricks and tips that help to reduce that awful feeling, and off course the vomit that comes with it.  We are all different but hopefully these will help you have the confidence to travel the world, even with motion sickness!

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motion sickness sucks
Windy, cross country roads are the worst for motion sickness sufferers

What is Motion Sickness?

According to the NHS websiteMotion sickness is a term that describes an unpleasant combination of symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting, that can occur when you’re travelling. …. Motion sickness is thought to occur when there is a conflict between what your eyes see, and what your inner ears, which help with balance, sense.”

Basically, if your eyes can see that you are moving, but your body feels like it is sitting still, this creates confusion for your body, which results in the unpleasant side effects like nausea, dizziness & vomiting.  Apparently, it is more common in women who are on their period or are pregnant, and migraine sufferers are also more susceptible.  The good news is that if your child has motion sickness, it is more common in children between the ages of 3 and 12, and most kids grow out of it in their teenage years.  However, as a long-time sufferer I can confirm that isn’t always the case!

My Motion Sickness

I am writing this from a personal perspective, and am certainly no doctor, so if you are concerned please speak to your doctor or pharmacist for suggested motion sickness treatment.  I do consider myself somewhat of an unfortunate expert in travel sickness though, as I have suffered consistently ever since I can remember. Although I have got better as I’ve got older (I used to get car sick even on straight roads), I still suffer on windy roads, as does my mum who passed down her inner-ear issue to me.  Thanks mum.  Although I did get my own back when every car journey we took involved me sitting in the back with my mum holding an old ice-cream tub and a towel as I puked into it.  Not the best way to spend your holidays, I assure you.

I suffered from serious motion sickness as a kid
I suffered from serious motion sickness as a child which made for fun family holidays!

Know Your Triggers

We all have our own triggers that set off that icky feeling, but some are universal.  For me, windy roads, poor visibility and lack of fresh air always have me feeling nauseous.  I can’t even think about reading a book while travelling, and even map reading or looking at a text message can set me off.  When I know I will be affected, I can take preventative measures, and be prepared for every eventuality!

Preventing Motion Sickness Before the Journey

Be careful what you eat & drink

I try to avoid large meals if I know the road will be particularly bad, and sometimes avoid eating altogether to stop food churning around in my stomach.  Usually a light meal a couple of hours before travelling is the best option, to give your body time to digest your food before setting off.

Avoid alcohol.  I get dizzy and sick from too much alcohol, a similar feeling I get with motion sickness so I don’t drink at all if I am going to be travelling.  Drinking the night before is also a no-no, travelling with a hangover is even worse, trust me!!  Some people find that a drink or two before a flight calms their nerves, just don’t overdo it.

travel sickness medication is not a cure but can help

Take Medication

Most over the counter medication for motion sickness works by ‘freezing’ the liquid in your inner ear to help prevent the nausea we feel if it starts to slosh around.  In the majority of countries you can buy such medication at pharmacies, but be sure to follow the instructions carefully as they can often make you drowsy and shouldn’t be taken with alcohol or if you are driving yourself.  Please ask the pharmacist or doctor for advice.  In the UK I use the brand Stugeron, which doesn’t make me drowsy, although I often take a nap on long journeys to pass the time!

More natural remedies include ginger which is supposed to settle your stomach, as is peppermint.  Another effective motion sickness treatment I use are motion sickness bands.  They are more commonly recommended for sea sickness, but I use them for car sickness too.  They keep pressure on your pulse points which apparently helps.  Honestly, I’m not sure how effective they are, but they do make me feel better, even if it just a placebo effect! I am all for a ‘more the merrier’ approach to this, I tend to use everything I can to try and make myself feel better, and why not?!

Get Prepared

Before I travel on a long bus journey, take a boat or do anything that might trigger my motion sickness, I prepare a goodie bag of essential items which help alleviate the symptoms of travel sickness, and which mean I am ready if I do feel sick.  I always take the following:

Sick bags (check for holes!)

My travel sickness bands

Extra medication for long journeys or in case I need to take two tablets instead of my usual one

Polo mints or chewing gum to keep my mind busy, and the peppermint helps to soothe upset stomachs

A bottle of water, tissues and wet wipes to clean up in case of vomit.

I have been caught unawares before and had to vomit into an empty packet of crisps, so trust me when I say failing to prepare is preparing to fail!  I also like to listen to music when I travel on long journeys, but make sure your playlist is ready to go so you don’t have to keep looking down.

Share your Concerns

If you are travelling in a group, let your friends know that you suffer from motion sickness.  They will usually help you out when they can – offering you the ‘best’ seat for you, and either talking to distract you or simply letting you get on with it.  I find moving my head to talk to people often triggers my car sickness, so it’s better to explain to people why you can’t keep turning round to talk to them instead of them thinking you’re rude!  In shuttle buses, I also usually tell the driver I get car sick so I can bagsy a front seat.  It doesn’t work every time, but no one wants a puker on their journey, so anything they can do to avoid it will benefit everyone!

 motion sickness on buses
Bus travel brings more troubles for motion sickness sufferers like me!

Preventing Motion Sickness During the Journey

Choose your Seat

When travelling I always prefer to sit by the window so I can see the scenery, and have a source of fresh air if I need it.  I also find sitting in the front seat so I have a clear view of the road helps enormously.  When booking bus tickets in advance I always ask specifically for a window seat, or arrive early if the seats aren’t allocated.  Something to bear in mind on luxury buses though is that often the front window is blocked off, so sitting further back with a window seat often worked better for me than sitting in front of a wall.

I don’t usually feel sick when I am driving, so if you are comfortable driving abroad hiring a car can be a good option, although it can be a pricey one.  On boats, it is recommended to sit in the middle of the boat which will have less movement – however, I prefer to be at a window or outside so I have the fresh air, even if that does mean a bouncier ride!

Keep your eyes on the horizon

Looking down at a book, your phone or a film will probably make your symptoms a lot worse, and even those who don’t usually suffer from car sickness often feel ill if they read on a journey.  Looking at a non-moving object like the horizon is supposed to help reduce sea sickness on boats, although in particularly choppy seas I find it makes me feel worse so I just gaze around non-committedly.  This may sound bizarre but I love horse-riding, and haven’t vomited on a horse (yet), so try and pretend I’m on a horse to cope with the rocking motion.  I promise I’m not crazy – just find something that works for you and go with it!

motion sickness on planes is a thing
Before my fateful Nazca flight. The little planes are the worst!

And finally….

If you do end up vomiting, then it isn’t the end of the world.  I know how awful it is, I feel your pain.  And remember what is at the end of your journey – hopefully something worth the trouble!  Equally, know your limits, and the consequences if you do go beyond them.  For certain things on my bucket list I have pushed the boundaries of my motion sickness, sometimes with unpleasant results.  Vomiting over the Nazca Lines for example was a major fail for me, and I have even got sea sick from snorkelling.  These things, they say, are sent to try us.  Well, try as it might, motion sickness will not stop me from travelling.  I will keep on truckin’, busin’, and boatin’, all the while keeping my eyes open for new motion sickness treatment that might help!

Happy non-vomity travels….

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Motion sickness, car sickness, travel sickness, sea sickness; all names for that awful affliction that strikes fear into those unlucky sufferers who travel. I share my stories and travel tips for how to reduce motion sickness, with motion sickness medication, natural remedies rituals and being prepared for your journey!

18 thoughts on “Motion Sickness: Don’t Let Car Sickness Ruin Your Travel Plans!

  1. chris says:

    love your guide,
    I had motion sickness for years,
    and I solve it with delthium emesis bags.
    not a cure, but they definitely helped.

    • Claire says:

      Hi Chris, thanks for reading! I’d never heard of the named bags, I used to have an empty ice-cream tub in the car!! Thanks for the tip, I might get some of those for my next trip 🙂

  2. Tami says:

    Wow! Major bummer that you still have to deal with motion sickness and didn’t grow out of it. My younger sister used to get carsick quite a lot. I remember we had to have her favorite doll’s hair re-wigged because it fell victim to her carsickness. I only get carsick when looking down or trying to read. Your tips are all good ones–thanks for an informative post.

  3. Reshma says:

    I love how you have elaborately mentioned about the tips. I have motion sickness too if driving in the mountains and I take up most of these measures before the journey! Medicine usually works for me and so are the seats that I choose! Loved your tips & how you have tackled it over years!

  4. Nathan says:

    The Nevasic app is a great solution, no drugs, no side effects and it’s on your mobile so you don’t forget it.

  5. Mei from Travel with Mei and Kerstin says:

    I also have a motion sickness, but a very slight one and only when I have to ride backwards in a train or bus. So like you also suggests in your post, I always make sure to book the right seat in advance, or if the ride is not too long I’d prefer to stand in a bus. Sometimes, I just ask people to switch seats with me, and usually people are quite nice when you explain what your problem is. Often, they even offer me the front seat in the bus, which has a perfect panorama view!

  6. Indrani says:

    Motion sickness can really upset travel experience if not tackled well ahead. I remember some of friends had popped in pills before desert safari so that they don’t throw up. Good helpful tips.


    Great post! I think motion sickness is universal! I know my trigger is bumpy roads and therefore I avoid sitting at the back seat of a car or a bus! I also avoid large meals.

  8. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    Solid advice. Both my kids are afflicted with motion sickness. They are particular about which side of the car they ride on and would both choose shotgun if possible. My youngest (19) has a weird game of motion sickness pill potluck. She puts both her drowsy and non-drowsy(ginger) pills together. She never knows when she is going to be knocked out of any given trip. Kind of weird but kids do the darnedest things.

  9. wanderlustvlog says:

    Luckily I never had this problem, but it must be very inconvenient when you do :/ I like it anyway that you share this experience, so other people can read about it! Great blog by the way, keep up the good work

  10. Penny Sadler says:

    I had motion sickness as a kid. Mainly in the car. Luckily I did grow out of it. Occasionally if I’m not feeling well I might have to forgo texting while riding in a car but for the most part I’m good. The meds really do help!

  11. Gabriela says:

    It’s weird but I never had any problems. When I was little I was traveling around 12 hours by car going to visit my grandma, around 6 times per year. I was fine! While going on school trips, I was the only kid without problems. This didn’t stop me from having also a safety kit with me in all my travels, you never know what new great adventure you might have! 😀

  12. Sabine says:

    I have suffered so much from motion sickness, especially as a child, since you don’t know what to do. Then for a while I used to take motion sickness pills but I always got so sleepy from them. Now I just look at the horizon and it helps so much. And at least you get to see something from the area while travelling 🙂

  13. Cris says:

    Guess what I found out traveling on a ferry this May? On high-speed ferries, seats in the back are best, not in the front!
    I fast on the day of travel and have some ginger pills with me all the time. Thankfully, those two combined are enough to keep me from vomiting.

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