The Motion Sickness Sufferer’s Guide To Travel

traveling with motion sickness
Traveling With Motion Sickness

You’re on a boat, the waves are coming full force, so that every time you pass over one, the boat lurches and seems to fly in the air.

You’re on a bus, careening around curves at lightning speed. Higher and higher up the mountain you climb, with no regard as to the other cars passing swiftly the other way.

To some, the above may sound like a thrilling adventure. But for those of us who suffer from motion sickness, we can already feel our stomachs churning. Even writing down the first two scenarios made me dizzy.

If you don’t get motion sickness, you likely wouldn’t even think of the extra challenges traveling with motion sickness poses. Whether you yourself can barely step on a boat or ride in a moving vehicle without feeling nauseous, or someone you love does, this article will try to solve the unique problems of traveling with motion sickness.

Your Guide To Traveling With Motion Sickness

For the longest time, I thought I had to just grin and bear it, living life as a motion sickness sufferer. But if you follow a few simple tips and tricks, you do NOT have to suffer while you travel.

On a Boat:

I remember the first time I got sick on a boat. And the second. And the third. I was eight years old on one of those “glass bottomed boats” in Florida. The rest of the boat seemed happy to stare at the fish swimming past under the sea. Me? I was vomiting over the side or else groaning with my sweaty forehead pressed against my father’s shoulder. That same scenario repeated every time I got on a boat.

Needless to say, once I got old enough to make my own decisions, I never went on a boat if I could help it!

But sometimes you just can’t help it when you travel. Whether you’re island hopping or catching a ferry, boat transportation is a necessary evil at times.

[See Also: How To go on an Inexpensive Caribbean Vacation in Panama]

snorkeling

Here are a few things I tried that worked for me:

Dramamine. At first, I relied on that old motion sickness standby, Dramamine. Yes, it knocks you out. I was not nauseous anymore, simply because I was unconscious. I don’t recommend this option for solo travelers, for obvious reasons. However, if you are taking a long boat journey and are traveling with someone else, Dramamine does the trick.

Sitting at the front of the boat, never taking your eyes off the horizon. This works as well, as long as the boat is on relatively flat water.

More drugs. My mother is a fellow motion sickness sufferer, and she chooses to take drugs to solve the problem. I have therefore tried a variety of motion sickness pills and patches. I am not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals, so I wouldn’t recommend this one except for if you are desperate and nothing else works.

In a Car/Bus:

This is arguably how you will spend most of your travel days. What’s more, for whatever reason, it seems that most of the top sights to see always require an inexplicably windy route to get there. And if you’re traveling in a developing country? Forget about a smooth ride. Potholes and narrow streets make for an unforgettably terrifying journey.

So what is the motion sickness sufferer to do? Stay at home? Never travel? Nope!

Here are some tips for surviving any car or bus journey:

Drive! If you’re going on a road trip, and you know how to drive, this is the perfect solution for motion sickness. I’ve gotten in the habit of driving myself and my friends everywhere so that they all know if we’re going on a road trip I’m the one who’s driving. I’m not entirely sure why driving usually cures my motion sickness, but it does. There have been occasions, on especially winding roads, where this doesn’t work, though.

[See Also: How To Save Money On Your Solo Road Trip & The Ultimate USA Road Trip]

Ride in the front passenger seat. If you can’t drive, the next best thing is riding in the front seat. The least amount of barriers to the open road, the better.

Keep your eyes on the horizon. I’m pretty sure the first two tricks work so well because it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be able to keep your eyes on the horizon. If you can’t see the horizon, the next best thing is keeping your eyes on the sky.

Digital Nomad

Close your eyes. If the scene outside your window is too stimulating, it works better to close your eyes. Then you can tune into your own equilibrium. And hopefully fall asleep. Being knocked out truly is the best way of traveling with motion sickness. Needless to say, this tip does NOT WORK if you are DRIVING.

Breathing techniques. For some reason, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth works best to combat motion sickness. Counting your breath, or round breathing, also works well. Here’s how to do it: Inhale through your nose on a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Exhale through your mouth (using pursed lips to make a shhhh sound) for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 4. Repeat. You can work your way up to 6 or 8 counts if you wish.

[See Also: How To Travel With Anxiety]

Chew on something. Whether this is gum or some chips, chewing usually helps me. Just make sure that your food choice isn’t something that will increase your nausea. Some of my go-to options: plain crackers, animal crackers (I may be 3 years old), potato chips, plain cereal, saltine crackers, dried fruit. In general, crunchy works best.

The Number ONE Trick To Traveling with Motion Sickness

All of the above tips work well, depending on the person and the situation. But for me, personally, they don’t work every single time. Do you know what does?

Motion Sickness Wrist Bands

Perhaps you’ve seen them at the drugstore? They used to be exclusively light blue (not the most fashionable item in your suitcase) but now come in a variety of colors. They even come specifically for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness (why they need separate pregnant woman wrist bands I have no idea..isn’t the general mechanism the same?)

Traveling With Motion Sickness
Sea Band Mama! is pink, because duh! You’re preggo!

I first discovered these magnificent miracle workers before going on a cruise at the age of 17. I took them with me to test them out, and lo and behold, I didn’t get sick once! Well, unless I took the wristbands off. Then the nausea came back. So I wore them 24/7. They clashed horribly with my “super cute” outfits (this was 2007, so probably not), but they definitely did the trick.

Traveling with Motion Sickness
Proudly puke-free with Sea Bands since 2007.

I do not leave on a trip without them.

When I left to become a digital nomad, I scrambled last minute to get to a CVS to buy this essential item. For one reason or another, one of them is always getting lost. I was happy to discover that they now come in black! Now they go with all my “super cute” outfits (if by super cute you mean as comfortable as possible without looking like the homeless lady I am).

If you have tried and failed to travel without getting motion sick, I urge you to check these babies out. Just remember the #1 rule of wearing them: Always put them on BEFORE getting in a moving vehicle/boat. They will sometimes work if you forget and put them on after, but not as well.

In combination with the above tips, these motion sickness wrist bands will ensure your vomit-free transit from one place to another.

They even work in non-travel situations! The other night, I had one of the worst migraines of my life, complete with nausea. I took some paracetamol, slapped on my wristbands, and immediately passed out.

So there you have it, all of my best tips for traveling with motion sickness. Are you a fellow motion sickness sufferer? Have any tips I didn’t cover in this guide? Leave them in the comments!

Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!

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Other Posts in the Your Guide To Travel Series:
  • The Anxious Person’s Guide To Travel
  • The Light Sleeper’s Guide To Travel
  • The Ultimate Guide To First Time Solo Travel (1)



    This post contains affiliate links. That means I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything linked in this article. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself.
    This is not a sponsored post. I buy my own Sea Bands with my own money. Though I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to being sponsored by Sea Bands. *Hint Hint*

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    8 comments

    1. This is very helpful! I always sit at the front and take Dramamine, the less drowsy kind, if I even think I might get sick. I’ve encountered a couple unexpected windy roads this summer and felt pretty sick, but thankfully didn’t actually get sick!

      1. I should try the non-drowsy Dramamine! I’ve tried the ginger pill they make before and that did NOT go down well (it didn’t go down at all lol)

    2. Sorry to hear that you suffer with motion sickness! It’s amazing how much you have traveled (especially in Central America!) while dealing with this. I am usually pretty good but if I am reading something on my phone in the car or looking down, it can turn quickly. These are great tips that I will keep in mind! Thanks 🙂

      1. It’s all down to the wrist bands, I swear! Never would have survived those chicken buses otherwise 😛 Yeah reading is a no go for me, even with the wrist bands! Sometimes I try it and it is okay for a bit and then the nausea hits hard. Glad the tips were helpful, Chantell! I hope you’re doing well!

    3. I know the feeling! Last year we had some pretty rough waves near San Diego on a whale watching cruise. Not great experience, but it was worth it all in the end, when the wales showed up 🙂 meds helped, but as you mentioned- looking at the horizon is great tip as well!

      1. Oof, I can only imagine! But glad you saw the whales! 😀 I’m almost manic about my need to look at the horizon, haha, I have been known to elbow a few people on my way to the front of the ship 😛 But it’s probably better than getting puked on! lol

    4. I remember my ocean crossing from Italy to Croatia when I got hit by a bout of motion sickness.. not fun! Every ocean sway felt like a punch to my guts. Then there was the time I had to get from Chiang Mai to Pai via a mini van up 3 hours of winding road. That was even worse than being in the boat. I eventually bought a motion sickness band similar to the one you’ve mentioned, but ironically never had to use them after I bought them!

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