Travel Sickness Prevention: Tips to smooth the journey

by Feb 3, 2016Health

Girl Travel Sickness Illustration

For many, traveling by car, airplane, train or boat can cause motion sickness or travel sickness. The body’s sensory organs — inner ears, eyes, and nerves in the joints and muscles — are sending mixed messages to the brain which leads to dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue or nausea and vomiting. Read on for tips to help prevent travel sickness. 

Anyone can get travel sick, even if you “never” do. The good news is there is a tried-and-true playbook for travel sickness prevention. The bad news is there is no cure for travel sickness.

Also known as motion sickness, car sickness, sea sickness, and air sickness, the malady can come on quickly and move from an unsettled feeling of general discomfort to one that includes cold sweats and chills, dizziness and even vomiting. Yeah, really fun stuff on your holiday or adventure.

Therese can sit below deck in a rolling and heaving boat happily writing on a computer and never get an inkling of discomfort. I, however, need to take precautions or I can be down for the count, as I was as a crew member on an ocean crossing from Fiji to New Zealand. Although I had felt fine for several days, not drinking or eating properly led to chills, sweats and dizziness. The only solution was to lie down and recover.

Experiment first to figure out what is your best travel sickness prevention

What works for one person, may not work for another, so experimentation is necessary. Still, there are some basics that hold true for most everyone to help prevent the onset of travel sickness:

  • If you are on a cruise, book a cabin in the front or middle of the ship near the water level – less motion.
  • On a plane, ask for a seat located by the front edge of the wing since there is less motion there from turbulence.
  • Once onboard a plane, move the vent above you to blow across your face.
  • On a train, always face forward and sit next to the window. In a car, sit in the front seat and keep your eyes forward.
  • No matter what your mode of transport, keep your eyes on the horizon or on a distant — and stationary — object. No navigating for you!
  • Do not attempt to read or otherwise look down.
  • Do not smoke or sit near smokers.
  • Avoid eating fatty, rich foods. Avoid drinking alcohol. Do drink water.

Medications may help to prevent travel sickness

I have found what helps is taking a Dramamine (and, for me, only the brand Dramamine, which contains “dimenhydrinate”) a couple of hours before getting on a boat when the seas may be rough. Also, I know of several friends, very susceptible to travel sickness, who keep several air sickness bags with them whenever they travel. Next time you fly just nab one from the seatback pocket and tuck it into your carryon – unless, that is, you need it during the flight!

Finally, one hard-and-fast-rule: Never take any medication designed for travel sickness prevention, even an over-the-counter remedy, without first consulting with your doctor.


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