It’s not just children who suffer from car sickness and sea sickness, although it’s most common between the ages of 3 and 12. Adults suffer too, and pregnant women and migraine sufferers can be particularly prone. Whether you're off on a long car drive, catching a ferry, or jumping on a plane, it's best to be prepared. Here are our tips on preventing travel sickness.
How to stop travel sickness
- Open a window – fresh air really helps
- Use motorways as much as possible; plan your route to minimise winding or bumpy roads
- Use satnav instead of map reading, especially if you're on a long drive
- Place a cold compress (eg a wet flannel) on your forehead
- Try to relax. Recline if at all possible and close your eyes – even better, nap
- If you really can’t close your eyes, watch the horizon – this works for all types of motion sickness so will help in a car or on a ferry
- Sit in a front seat or rear middle seat (to see the horizon); avoid sitting in a rear-facing seat
- Acupressure bands, or Sea Bands, work for many people
- Don’t read (books or screens) or play video games – focus on the surroundings outside instead
- Breathe through your mouth, not your nose – odours can make you feel more nauseous
- Plan regular stops at parks and outdoor picnic areas rather than busy service stations
- Sip fizzy drinks – these can help with nausea, especially if your stomach is empty
- Nibble ginger biscuits or suck sugar-free mints – both help reduce motion sickness for some people
- Avoid fatty foods and too much dairy when travelling, as these can be harder to digest
- Try medication – there are several over-the-counter motion sickness tablets to choose from, some specifically for kids
- Make sure you have sick bags handy, if all else fails
What to pack
- Sick bags and/or a plastic sick bowl
- Sugar-free mints
- Ginger biscuits or other dry snacks
- Fizzy drinks (ideally with a screw top)
- Wet wipes
- Antibac wipes
- Kitchen roll
- Wet flannels in ziplock bags, or ice packs
- Spare clothing
- Carpet/upholstery stain spray
- Fabric freshener spray (eg Febreze)
What causes travel sickness?
Put simply, motion or travel sickness is caused by a mismatch between the signals being sent to your brain by your inner ear, and what your eyes are seeing.
Your internal system senses movement but your eyes see the fixed interior of the car, or the ferry. This is why you’re more likely to experience travel sickness when sitting in the rear of the car rather than the front, and why the best advice is to try to focus on the horizon.
Why don’t drivers get car sick?
The driver's far less likely to suffer from travel sickness as she or he is fully focused on where the car is heading. So there’s no mismatch between the inner ear sensation of movement and the driver’s sight of that movement.
Ferry travel – how to stop sea sickness
- Stay outside in the fresh air (wrap up as it can be very breezy on deck)
- Breathe through your mouth
- Focus on the horizon
- Stay as far away from the ship’s exhaust fumes as possible
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before travelling
- Try ginger biscuits and carbonated drinks
- Take travel sickness medication before you set off
- Wear acupressure wristbands
- Avoid others who are being sick as this will make you feel worse
- Plan ferry travel for spring or summer, rather than winter when the sea tends to be rougher
- Travel overnight in a cabin, if possible, so you can sleep through the journey
If you are sick…
Nibble light, plain snacks such as dry biscuits. Keep hydrated with fizzy, sugary drinks – avoid milky drinks or water until you’ve stopped travelling.
Dogs get travel sick too
If you’re taking your furry friend on holiday with you or going on a long drive to Europe with him or her, be aware that dogs can also suffer from motion sickness. Many of the tips for stopping travel sickness in humans apply to dogs, too. Keep the windows open, plan frequent exercise stops, and try to avoid feeding your dog before you set off (although keep him or her hydrated). There’s also medication available if your dog is particularly prone to travel sickness – speak to your vet.
Dogs on ferries
You can take your dog with you on a ferry holiday to France, Spain or the Netherlands, as long as you have certain documents and fulfil certain criteria. See individual operators for the requirements: Brittany Ferries, DFDS Seaways, P&O Ferries and Condor Ferries.