For many people, the feeling of excitement that comes with travel is unfortunately accompanied by a dread of motion sickness. As a full-time traveler who suffers from it, I can assure you that it’s no fun. Ranging from a slight feeling of nausea that goes away quickly to dizziness and vomiting that continues for hours, motion sickness can ruin a travel experience for you faster than you can say “I don’t feel so well.”
However, as crappy as motion sickness can feel at the time, it shouldn’t keep you from exploring this wonderful planet that we are lucky enough to call home. Here at Let’s Roam, we know how important traveling is to promote cultural awareness, education, and personal development, and we would hate to see someone pass up the journey of a lifetime because they are worried about whether or not their motion sickness is going to give them a chance to enjoy themselves.
To help put your mind at ease, we’ve come up with a great list of ways that you can try to ease the symptoms or prevent motion sickness. These have all been tested and approved by our team of expert travelers to help you feel more comfortable when you are on the road!
Sightsee on a Scavenger Hunt
If motion sickness is a problem for you or you’re still feeling a little off after a long journey to your destination, you don’t have to miss out on sightseeing—try a scavenger hunt! These app-guided, walking tours will lead you to all the best local attractions. Available in hundreds of cities in over 18 countries, each one is a fantastic way to spend a day!
What is Motion Sickness?
Most of us probably know that motion sickness can be pretty horrible but not many of us know what exactly causes it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the major causes of motion sickness is that your eyes see different movements than your vestibular system senses. The vestibular system is the part of your inner ear involved in balance, so your body begins to feel very disconnected.
While anyone can be afflicted with it, motion sickness is more prevalent in pregnant women and children. Symptoms of motion sickness can include the aforementioned nausea and dizziness. In more severe cases, you may even experience migraines and cold sweats.
How to Get Rid of Motion Sickness
Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to both ease the symptoms of motion sickness and prevent it from happening at all including both natural remedies, and medication While car sickness and seasickness arise from slightly different sensations, they can usually be treated with some of the same techniques to both prevent and alleviate motion sickness. Try to keep in mind that many of these are designed to “buy you time” until you get to your final destination rather than cure motion sickness altogether. It is important that you pay attention to your body and try to react as quickly as possible—preferably when symptoms begin to arise and before things get worse.
As with most things in life, it is a good idea to start off slowly when it comes to trying some of these remedies. A few ginger candies probably won’t be enough to help you when you are vomiting in the ship’s cabin during the crossing of the Drake Passage while on an Antarctica cruise but they may help you on the car ride to the closest national park. Likewise, you definitely don’t want to load yourself up with Dramamine if you are about to take off for an hour-long drive to hit a hiking trail.
Always remember that we as individuals know our bodies better than anyone else can so make sure that you try a few different things to see what works best for you.
1. Take the wheel and drive
People generally experience motion sickness much more frequently when they are the passenger rather than the driver. If you have decided to rent a car or are doing a road trip in your own country, try to drive as much of the journey as possible. This should help greatly decrease any feelings of motion sickness that you would normally have had and allow you to stay awake and alert for the whole journey!
2. Become a sleeping beauty.
As they always say, prevention is better than a cure and for many people (me included!), sleeping is a great way to prevent motion sickness. In fact, for me personally, drowsiness is actually one of the early stages of motion sickness and it sometimes feels like it is my body’s way of telling me to protect myself from the stomach fury that is sure to come.
After spending many, many miserable hours in cars, I have developed a strategy to just sleep whenever I begin to feel tired. While it is not great to spend a road trip or a boat ride sleeping and I know that I miss out on a lot of great sights and fun road trip moments, it is often much better than spending it feeling like you are about to throw up.
3. Eat lightly before a trip.
If you know that you are prone to motion sickness, try to eat as lightly as possible before you start the journey. A heavy meal can increase the chances of nausea and make your journey very uncomfortable, especially if you are cramped up in a tiny bus seat or in the backseat of a car. If you are worried about being hungry, stash some fruit, sliced vegetables, cookies, or crackers in your bag which can help tide you over until the motion stops while still being very gentle on your stomach. Try to avoid eating any greasy or oily food as they can actually irritate your stomach even more.
4. Snag the front seats.
If you are traveling by bus or ferry, try to grab a seat as close to the front as possible (except please don’t steal any seats with extra legroom, the tall people onboard really, really need those). They tend to be much less bumpy than sitting in the back and you will usually experience a much smoother ride. They also tend to feel less cramped so if you have a tendency to start to feel a bit panicky and claustrophobic during a trip, sitting towards the front can help a lot.
5. Focus on the horizon.
When you start feeling the tell-tale signs of motion sickness, most people will tell you to stare at the horizon since it is likely to be one of the few fixed points around you when you are on a boat or stuck in a moving vehicle bouncing along a bumpy road. This can help your body sense the difference between your movement and the movement of the car, bus, or boat and lessen the feeling of disconnect that ultimately leads to motion sickness.
6. Spend some time with your best friend ginger.
Ginger has long been a holistic health cure for motion sickness and other nausea-inducing ailments and scientific studies have shown that it really does work as a way to reduce motion sickness. According to a 2019 article on Healthline, ginger “may increase the rate at which your stomach empties its contents, alleviate cramps in your intestines, prevent indigestion and bloating, and decrease pressure in your digestive tract.” This makes it the perfect long-term solution to incorporate into your daily life if you frequently suffer from motion sickness.
For long-term benefits, ginger can easily be eaten raw or included in food as you are cooking, in tea, or in juices or smoothies. It can also be taken as vitamin supplements which can be a good option if you aren’t a fan of the strong, sometimes overpowering taste.
If you are looking for something a bit more short term, ginger ale and ginger candies can be found in many places around the world and although they have a lot of sugar and don’t have anywhere near the potency of pure ginger, they are great to consume when you are just starting to feel slight nausea and can almost be a bit like putting a bandaid on it until you are finished with the journey. If you are on a ferry or boat trip, ask the staff if they have any ginger candy handy. They sometimes have some in their first aid kit!
If you can’t get your hands on any ginger, peppermint can serve as a great alternative. Like ginger, peppermint can be drunk as a tea, taken as capsules, or eaten like candy. The smell of peppermint alone can even act as a way to reduce nausea.
7. Try CBD oil.
CBD oil as a form of holistic healthcare has risen in popularity over the past 10 years or so. While the oil itself is one of the active ingredients in cannabis, it doesn’t have the mind-altering effects of marijuana and can be safely consumed by most people. CBD oil is often used to treat anxiety and promote stress relief which makes it extremely beneficial to take when traveling if you want to find a way to relax a bit.
I personally have tried CBD a few times to overcome the triple whammy of being an extremely tall traveler in a world designed for shorter people, suffering from motion sickness, and claustrophobia caused by being in too small seats. Although it is not for everyone, CBD has helped a lot on long flights and train rides and is now easily accessible to buy throughout much of the United States.
8. Feel the pressure.
Acupressure is another holistic wellness option that focuses on alleviating systems of various ailments by pressing on the body’s acupressure points. You have different pressure points throughout your body but the ones connected to nausea are found between the two tendons on the inside of your wrist about two and a half inches down from your hand. If you push on this pressure point, also known as the pericardium, and make circular motions when you begin feeling nauseous, it may begin to ease your symptoms a bit. This is something that you can easily do on your own when symptoms begin to pop up and you can help stave off nausea for a little bit longer.
If you feel that this helps you, you can even invest in acupressure bands. These wristbands have little plastic knobs that are placed over your acupressure points to help stimulate the area and reduce nausea.
9. Get a (big) breath of fresh air.
If you are feeling nauseous, one of the best things that you can do is try to get some fresh air. While this isn’t always easy when you are on a bus, if you are in a car you may simply need to roll down a window a bit and feel the breeze blowing on your face to start feeling better. Always make sure to also get off of a bus or a train at any stops so that you can do a quick stretch (changing position sometimes helps) and take a few deep breaths through your nose which can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
While the feeling of relief may only be temporary, it helps set you up for the next section of the journey and can make the difference between staying the same or getting worse.
10. Change positions as soon as you can.
If you find yourself on a bus or in the car and your stomach is starting to feel a little squishy, try to change positions as quickly as possible. This could alleviate some of the discomfort you are feeling early on and can distract your body just long enough that you can buy yourself a little bit of time before it gets worse. Hopefully, by then, you will have arrived at your next destination!
11. Drink water regularly.
Water is one of the most important things that your body needs but sadly, people usually tend to drink much less than what they need to feel their best. While you may be hesitant to drink a lot of water before a long bus or car journey (and trust us, we don’t blame you, as rest stops or gas station bathrooms can often be the stuff of nightmares!), drinking too little water can cause dehydration that can actually make nausea worse. It is important to make sure to have small sips of water throughout your journey to make sure that you give your body the H2O it needs.
If you start to experience vomiting or diarrhea, it is really, really important to drink as much water as you can as these can speed up dehydration and keep you feeling completely wiped out as your body continues to lose the vitamins and minerals that it needs to start feeling better. If the dehydration gets too bad, you can end up getting really sick so always, always make sure you drink plenty of water.
12. Make lemonade out of lemons.
And yes, we mean this literally. Lemons have been proven to soothe your stomach and aid digestion and many people swear that drinking a glass of water with freshly squeezed lemon is one of the best ways to start your day off on the right foot! One easy way to achieve this is by simply throwing a few slices of lemon in your water bottle when you head out on your trip. This not only makes the water taste great and refreshing, but it is also great for you!
13. Avoid drinking alcohol before a big trip.
At some point in most of our lives, we will feel the ill effects of drinking too much alcohol and although it can sometimes feel tempting to have one last big night out on the town before we leave a destination, this usually doesn’t end up being worth it for a wide variety of reasons including the nasty way you feel the next day. The throbbing headaches, upset stomach, and gastrointestinal issues, and achy joints are often linked less with the alcohol itself and more with dehydration. If you decide to imbibe, make sure that you drink plenty of water in conjunction with your beer, wine, or mixed drinks and keep drinking that water throughout the next day, especially if you are heading out to your next destination. This alone will greatly alleviate the hangover symptoms and help ease any motion sickness that you may develop.
14. Try over-the-counter or prescription medication.
If you suffer from debilitating motion sickness and none of the home remedies seem to help, it may be time to try medicines that are specifically designed to treat motion sickness or that are frequently used to ease the symptoms of nausea, also known as antiemetics. It is important to remember that many of these medications can cause drowsiness so you may want to plan ahead if you decide to take one of them, especially if you are supposed to be driving at any point in the journey.
Some of the most commonly used over-the-counter medicines for nausea include Emetrol, Nauzene, Dramamine, Gravol, and of course, the old favorite—Pepto-Bismol. Other drugs used to treat motion sickness include scopolamine which is often administered via a skin patch (known as Transderm) and different antihistamines such as meclizine (Antivert or Bonine), dimenhydrinate (Benadryl), and promethazine.
Always remember that it is extremely important to talk to your doctor or healthcare professional for medical advice before taking any prescription medication, to make sure that it is the right option for you, and to discuss any future side effects that you may experience. If you have any ongoing health concerns, it is also good to check about any over-the-counter medicines as well, just to be safe.
Ready to Roam?
I hope that this article has helped you build a little arsenal of ways to combat motion sickness in the future. Travel should be the opportunity to learn more about the people and places around us rather than a time where you have to worry about whether or not you are going to be able to make it through the car ride without feeling sick so pop some ginger, hop into the driver’s seat, and get ready for an adventure!
If you have any of your own tips or tricks that you have found useful, we would love to hear your feedback! Use the comment section to discuss your motion sickness experiences and remedies.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you need to get rid of motion sickness, ginger and peppermint have been known to help. Also, if traveling by car, try to grab a front seat and roll down the window if you start feeling nauseous.
If you would like to get rid of motion sickness but would prefer to steer clear of medications, try drinking ginger or peppermint tea, take deep breaths, change your position, or try to sleep.
Many people experience motion sickness while riding through cities, due to all of the “stop-and-go.” If this is you, why not try a walking tour or an app-led scavenger hunt?