Prevent Motion Sickness From Ruining Your Summer Road Trip: 4 Simple Tips

Preventing motion sickness helps, so does knowing what to do when it strikes. These tips will keep you and your passengers well and hopefully, your trip barf-free.

How To Prepare For, And Combat, Car Sickness.
Sitting in the middle seat helps reduce car sickness. Credit: Shannon Entin for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Nothing spoils the trip more than a barfing kid (or worse, adult).

If anyone has earned her motion sickness badge, it’s my daughter Estee. When she was little, 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.

Related: The Nasty Task of Cleaning Puke Out of Your Car: Here’s How to Do It

Emergency Preparedness For Motion Sickness.

Get your car ready for anything! Photo: Shannon Entin

Learning About Motion Sickness 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’

Get it: Medical grade leak-proof motion sickness bags

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

Get it: Wipes help to clean up the mess, and leave everyone feeling fresh

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

Get it: Motion sickness lollipops keep nausea at bay

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
  • Make sure those who are prone to carsickness are well hydrated and if possible, take Dramamine before traveling

Get it: Motion sickness patches, pills and remedies for those who are prone

Exercise Keeps Motion Sickness At Bay

All good road trips need a hiking break! Photo: Brittnie McAskill

If Motion Sickness is 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, but chances are, she’ll outgrow it eventually.

After being sick more than a dozen times on our trip, we took Estee to the doctor. He thought the cause could have been the fact that she was teething: She had several adult teeth coming in at the same time. And for a while, it seemed to go away; she was fine on our next few road trips trips.

But alas, it’s proven to be a life-long condition; she gets motion sick on long car rides, winding roads and on air planes. She’s learned to manage it, though, and has traveled around the country and around the world, never missing an adventure. 

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss