Nothing spoils the trip more than a barfing kid (or worse, adult).
If anyone has earned her car sickness badge, it’s my daughter Estee. A few years ago we took a 3,000 mile summer road trip and she got sick every time the car hit 50 miles an hour. Every single time.
We had the opportunity to ditch the trip when, just a few minutes from home, she had her first episode. I pulled off the road quickly and she was able to target a garbage bag in the back seat, with no mess. She (and I) thought it was just a one time thing, so we kept going. 100 miles later after we stopped for gas, it happened again. Then we stopped for lunch. And it happened again.
Learning about carsickness the hard way
On the fly, we had to figure out how to not let this ruin our trip, which we had planned for months and included some great stops along the way. It was just me and my two girls on the trip, and they were in child car seats in the center row, so my ability to help was limited when car sickness was triggered.
I learned a lot of things that trip, including how to prevent carsickness and what to do when it hits. Here are my tips to keep this from ruining your road trip.
1. Prep your car:
- Store carsickness bags —ziplock bags, plastic grocery bags or doggie poop bags work well— within easy reach of every passenger; seat back pockets are great for this. Bags that have a built in tie or closure are ideal
- Keep a larger trash bag or box in the car for holding used car sickness bags until you get to a trash can
- Keep baby wipes — especially the fresh-smelling ones!— on hand
- A carsickness ‘kit’ with ginger ale or Sprite, ginger cookies or saltine crackers can help stave off an episode or soothe a sick patient
- Pack an air freshener or a fragrance kit (but avoid heavy chemicals); natural fragrances, such as peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil on a cotton ball can keep everyone else from ‘catching the wave’
2. Teach your kids:
- To recognize when they are about to be sick; the best time to do this is after they’ve become nauseous: Ask them to remember what that feels like
- To help themselves when carsickness strikes by grabbing a car sickness bag if they think they are going to barf
- To let you know in a calm manner
- To help others who are sick; hand them a bag if they didn’t get one in time, hand them a baby wipe to help clean up, let you know what is happening and be sympathetic
3. Avoid the triggers:
- Encourage carsick-prone kids to put down the books and videos and look out the window; play the license plate game or I Spy.
- Avoid heavy, spicy or greasy foods
- Don’t bring along snacks that are super fragrant or can spoil, such as yogurt, milk or tuna fish sandwiches
- Don’t eat meals in the car
4. Prevention is your best friend
- Keep kids positioned so they can see out the window
- Keep plenty of fresh air flowing in the car
- Roll down the window if someone feels sick
- Rotate seating with each stop if possible; moving kids from third row to second (or the front seat if possible) will help them to reset their internal gyroscope
- Take more frequent rest stops
- Plan enough time for carsick-prone passengers to fully recover before embarking on the next leg of your trip; we found a day or two between legs were key to making it a happy and memorable trip
If it’s an ongoing issue, investigate the cause
A kid who is prone to motion sickness can have an aversion to travel, but shouldn’t. If it’s a recurring issue, see a doctor. Chances are, she’ll outgrow it eventually.
I was concerned after our trip; Estee was sick more than a dozen times. So I took her to the doctor, who had a diagnosis: teething. It turns out she had several adult teeth coming in at the same time and that was enough to throw her off balance. And, she hasn’t been carsick since.
Have you learned tricks for preventing carsickness the hard way? Do you have other tips to share? If so please leave a comment below. And, happy summer travels!!