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Motion Sickness Tips for Travelers

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I often deal with motion sickness while traveling, and I know I’m not alone in that. If you are anything like me, your passport stamps have been accompanied by moments of extreme nausea and dizziness, possibly even dates with sickness bags, or urgent “CAN YOU PLEASE PULL OVER!?” requests.

The struggle is real.

A driver showing me the word for “carsick” in Thai. © Casie Frederick

Along with “hello” and “thank you,” the word “carsick” tends to be one of those must-know words anywhere I travel. In absence of that word, just clenching my hands over my mouth with wide eyes usually gets the message across.

With help from the motion sickness tips below, I’ve survived boat rides in Australia, long flights to Bangkok, overnight trains in Vietnam, and drives along the windy Ring Road in Iceland. Hopefully, these tips will help you, too.

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Learn Your Triggers and Best Ways to Stop Motion Sickness Symptoms

Curvy roads cause motion sickness for most people.
Just looking at this makes me dizzy, but I won’t let it stop me.

Everyone experiences motion sickness in different ways, and the remedies people swear by are countless. Chances are that if you are afflicted with motion sickness, it probably isn’t going to suddenly stop (unless you’re willing to do hypnotherapy to cure it). So, it may be in your best interest to get as acquainted with it as you can.

The more you know about your personal triggers, the better equipped you’ll be to combat them. For example, traveling on an empty stomach, especially in the morning, is a no-go for me. I always make sure to have something filling for my personal response to motion sickness, but others find that eating lighter meals, like a smoothie or fruit, works better for them.

Some prefer to close their eyes in transit, while others insist on watching the horizon through the front window. Some people are completely fine while deep-sea boating but can’t be on a crowded bus for more than a couple minutes.

What are your triggers? Perhaps you know that reading (or staring at a screen) sets you off. Maybe you know that you need to sit in a seat facing the same way that the vehicle is traveling (many trains have backwards-facing seats, be prepared for this).

As you identify your triggers, you can also identify those things that bring you relief, like getting air from a vent or open window. Do whatever you can to make yourself comfortable.

I also recommend learning about pressure points, such as your P6. This sweet spot is located on your inner forearm, and some find instant relief by applying slight pressure and massaging. You can find it by placing your three fingers from your opposite hand across your wrist; the two tendons are what you want to focus on.

Since everyone responds differently, these tips will be a little bit of trial and error. Figure out what makes the most sense to you and your situation.

Natural Motion Sickness Remedies: Ginger and Peppermint

motion sickness prevention

Ginger and peppermint have been my recent go-tos, and this is coming from someone who has taken a lot of Dramamine in her lifetime. I wish I had found out about these natural powerhouses a long time ago.

Fresh ginger has been used for a long time to treat nausea and can be used very effectively as a preventative measure for motion sickness. I bought chewable ginger tablets that deliver a dosage of 500 mg, to be taken half an hour before the activity.

Peppermint is also a great tool to combat motion sickness. I’ve experienced relief when used in essential oil form. Others swear by drinking peppermint tea before boarding a plane or a boat.

Gear That Helps Stop Motion Sickness

We triple check that we have packed our phones, passports, and wallets, but it’s easy to forget other necessities, like motion sickness aids.

It’s important to have water, as dehydration is a huge catalyst for feeling queasy while traveling. Make sure to pack a reusable water bottle to fill up and stay hydrated on your journey.

Snacks, such as crackers and granola bars, provide a good base and can settle your stomach. We have a whole list of healthy snacks that travel well.

Headphones or earplugs and a sleep mask (here are the ones we recommend) could help you take a nap while in transit. For some people, sleeping through the whole journey helps them skip the yucky feelings from all the stopping and going.

Lastly, there are tons of cool gadgets that help with motion sickness on the market now. Like, motion sickness wrist bands that engage acupressure points and motion sickness patches you wear behind your ear.

Some people use pressure point wristbands to prevent motion sickness.
Motion sickness wrist bands.
Some people use patches to prevent motion sickness.
Motion sickness patches.

Consider Your Transportation Options and Prioritize

Remember when I mentioned earlier that I successfully survived an overnight train ride in Vietnam? I may have been a little generous with that claim. The idea of taking a train ride from the Northern to Southern part of the country was ideal for me for many reasons: 1) it was cheaper, 2) I could watch the landscape pass by, and 3) it just felt like that rustic traveler vibe I was trying to embody.

In reality, I spent almost 20 hours praying to get off. I could barely see anything because I was in a compact train car with a narrow window and bunk beds. Every time I opened my eyes the room would spin. As for price? If you asked me five hours in what I would pay to be at the destination already, I probably would have auctioned off my left hand.

Now, if you ask other travelers, many of them have wonderful experiences on overnight trains. For me, it will be worth it in the future to pay more money to fly such a long distance when possible (it was definitely possible in this case, I just didn’t want to pass up the experience).

Related:

Choose the Right Kind of Transportation

Choose more comfortable transportation to avoid motion sickness.
A two-tier bus can be a comfortable alternative travel option. © Casie Frederick

To save yourself from prolonged torture, consider your travel options. Read reviews. Ask questions. As a budget traveler, I try to cut costs wherever I can, but my health and sanity is something I’ve learned to prioritize over cost.

For instance, if you’re traveling a long distance via bus or train, look at the different services offered. Usually, you can pay extra to have a more comfortable set-up, like an assigned seat in the front of the bus.

The 4-hour drive from Chiang Mai to Pai is on an infamously curvy road. So, we opted for a driver to take a small group of us in a van instead of a large bus. It was only a couple dollars more but made a huge difference in how the curves in the road felt in a smaller vehicle.

Get a Prime Seat and Fight For It If Necessary

This is probably the most important tip.

When you travel, you’ll unavoidably be taking taxis, vans, and shuttles to get from point A to point B. Don’t be afraid to say you get carsick and that it would be helpful to sit in the front.

I used to play the nice, “I don’t mind sitting in the back” card because I didn’t want to be an inconvenience. A lot of people feel uncomfortable speaking up, especially when carpooling with strangers, but it’s well worth it. Most of the time, people are extremely accommodating. If it isn’t possible to get the front passenger seat in a car or van, settling for the next row back is much better than sitting all the way in the back. So, let your voice be heard!

As for seating on other forms of transportation, I’ve found that aisle seats offer a lot more “breathing room” than feeling trapped in a window seat. Plus, you’ll have easier access to the bathroom or to go for a walk around the plane or vehicle, which can help with motion sickness, too.

Boats and ferries are more comfortable if you choose outdoor seating in the fresh air. Plus, you’ll notice less rocking. Some people claim that the middle of the boat is most stable, but I actually prefer the upper-deck because of the feeling of openness.

On two-tier buses, such as on overnight trips, I try to claim a spot on the top towards the front. This way, I can look out the front of the bus towards the horizon.

Don’t Let Motion Sickness Hold You Back!

Learn how to ease motion sickness symptoms to travel more and farther.
Ha Long Bay on a stormy day was doable despite seasickness. © Casie Frederick

Hopefully, these tips will help you travel by car, bus, plane, boat, or train more comfortably and enjoy your trips more. As incapacitating as motion sickness can be, there are ways to control it and stop it from holding you back.

You may not ever be able to read a novel in the car (Audible is a great alternative for that!), but there are ways to make it work so you don’t miss out on epic journeys and once in a lifetime experiences. The world is waiting.

How do you stop motion sickness when you travel? Tell us in the comments below.

By Casie Frederick

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