Tuesday Tips: Coping with Car Sickness

We often talk about our love for travel on Babyccino, which I share whole heartedly, but there is one aspect I find difficult about travelling with children, and that is car sickness. Our daughter, Beatrice, suffers from the worst car sickness, and it is both heart breaking and debilitating. For us it’s specifically cars — sometimes black cabs, but never buses, boats, trains or planes. (Yet, hopefully!)

I also suffered with car sickness for years of my childhood, so when Beatrice is unsettled in the car, I am transported to that horrible feeling. As a child it affected my love of road trips for years of my life. I worry it will be the same for my daughter.

In our case, it has affected how we travel. I can no longer drive with the kids alone. Beatrice is sometimes sick within 5 minutes of being in the car, and I usually sit in the back seat to act as a nurse and to comfort her. On our recent trip to Granada, poor Beatrice spent every car journey sick. On what should have been a picturesque and enjoyable road trip with the snow covered Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance and cherry blossoms and orange trees in the foreground, the poor girl felt sick for three hours straight (and got sick 4 times!).

While we’ve discovered some ways to travel better over the last four years, unfortunately it hasn’t gotten any easier, and I still haven’t found the ‘cure.’  But, I have lots of helpful tips, as does Esther, who’s son Pim also has car sickness. So we thought we’d share our tips here and encourage others to share what works for them.

Here are our car sickness tips, and please by all means, share yours!

  • Sit up straight and look at the road ahead. If possible have the child safely sit in the middle of the back seat. (Rules vary from place to place and for different ages of course).
  • Bigger, higher up cars if renting / hiring a car. They seem sturdier, and you don’t feel the road as much. Also cars with big / low windows do toddlers can see as much as possible.
  • Open windows — fresh air is so very helpful
  • Never read or look down. Pim enjoys audio books.
  • Mints — Esther had car sickness as a child and her mother gave her Mentos, mints with a soft inside which are chewable, to make her feel better. Unfortunately the mints had the opposite effect and made her feel worse! Until today she can’t eat them! Mints are a common cure but in Esther, and Beatrice’s case, they make them feel worse. So tricky!
  • Avoid driving in or behind Diesel cars and trucks. If you do use the inside air circulation and not outside vents.
  • Buy cars or carseats with leather or fake leather upholstery. (Esther said it took her awhile to learn this but it’s key!)
  • Car seats with removeable covers. Again, essential!
  • Travel with extra blankets and/or plastic lined cotton sheet. This doubles up as a blanket (when it’s cool if windows are open). We never leave home without ours.
  • Collect sick bags on flights to use in travel. We always have one on hand if not three or four. Also bring some extra ‘rubbish’ bags to put things in.
  • Put a cool / damp handkerchief or bandana around a child’s neck if it is hot outside, my husband swears by this trick to cool them down (while the windows are open).  You can see the wet bandana in the first photo!
  • No food, snacks, or even water before or during car journeys. We ‘fast’ at least 3 hours before getting in the car. I do it with Beatrice so she doesn’t feel left out if others are eating. This is the only thing that works for us. Some people say crackers or oatcakes, or mints, but she simply can’t have anything. Her treat, when we get to our destination (whether she’s been sick or not, just because she’s being a good sport) is to choose the meal of her liking!
  • Extra change of clothes
  • Breathing slowly thru the nausea
  • Lots of car games (I Spy, Rhyming Games, etc) to encourage looking out of the window. And singing seems to act as a good distraction too.
  • Travel during nap or bed times — if they are tired and go right to sleep that seems to help.
  • Frequent stops work for some families but seem to make little difference for us.
  • We haven’t found motion sickness wrist bands effective but some people swear by them!
  • Straight roads, not windy ones, when possible of course.
  • Overall supportive and positive attitudes. Even though it’s simply not fun!

Hopefully this is something that Pim and Beatrice will soon grow out of. I know both Esther and I did by our early teen years.

Please share your tips!
Thanks in advance,

Lara x

P.S. Both my husband and I, and both of our mothers all had car sickness for numerous years of our childhood. However none of our siblings had it. Strange, right?  Is it genetic?


Comments (38)

June 5, 2018

One thing I would point out, having done A LOT of sailing, when sailing it’s primordial in my experience to have a FULL stomach… weird but oh so true…Hahaha it varies so much from child to child, but I felt this exception for boats should be pointed out.
P.S. we only sail, not motor boats, and those types of boats don’t have the same way of riding waves or rocking, so it may be different…

June 5, 2018

As a kid I also suffered a lot from the worst car sickness, I remember the feeling of being sick even for hours after the journey ended and it was horrible! My mum used to give me a medicine specific for car sickness for kids, “Biodramina”. (It was in Spain, I don´t know if it has the same name in other countries). It helped a lot and made me feel so much better, at least we could drive for two hours without getting sick 5 times…maybe just one 😉

June 5, 2018

Strangely, our son only seems to get travel sick on aeroplanes or just after we get off aeroplanes. He now refuses to eat on flights (he thinks he gets sick because of the aeroplane food!) which can be tricky if it’s long haul. He is fine in cars. I need to remember some of these tips for our next flight (especially the spare set of clothes). Somehow I manage to forget he gets travel sick on flights and it can be fairly inconvenient landing with a child covered in vomit!

Lara in London
June 5, 2018

Poor boy! It is such a difficult thing not to eat for long haul flights. I hope you find the cure that works for him, and / or that he soon grows out of it. It has such an impact on holidays I am sure!

June 5, 2018

Hi, have you considered hypnotherapy. I think you can get scripts for it. It may help. Good luck!

June 5, 2018

Hi, if it’s possible let your child travel on the front seat. It’s far better! I had a car sickness as a child and I thought I grew out of it, but I recently found out I don’t feel good when I travel on the back seat…

June 5, 2018

My daughter suffers from car sickness as well and it’s really heartbreaking. Her specialty is vomiting 30 seconds before arrival though just when you think you’ve made it.
When she was a toddler I used to put a clean diaper around her neck, like a bib. Her neck where one leg would usually go,the other side open. This way the absorbing part would be just in the right place in case of emergency and caught a lot!

June 5, 2018

My sister and I both had motion sickness as children (my sister’s was probably worse than mine) and I can still get a sick feeling and can never text, read or look down at all while riding in a car or on the bus. My three kids seem to be fine so far but my niece gets terribly sick pretty much every time they travel by car. I’m passing these tips on to my sister and hoping something will help!

June 5, 2018

Wow! This sounded exactly like me when I was a kid. Even as an adult I still can get car sick. Leather seats in cars do rather it a rental or a taxi when I am sitting in the back seat do it to me each time. Our cars have the fake leather so that helps. My oldest daughter also gets car sick but my younger two do not. My middle can read with no problem. Everything you mentioned I did as a kid. Looking forward or even socking my face out the window. Even if it was freezing out that helped. Reading was a big no. I did figure out I had to read my book with it straight ahead rather than down. I can now eat but not too much and can also drink.

June 5, 2018

I can totally sympathise! As a child and now an adult I suffer from travel sickness-its at its worst in the car. I CAN NOT sit in the back seat everrrrr, looking out the window to the side is a no no. I have to be looking straight ahead, at the horizon to be specific 🙂 – so yes to audiobooks!! Also, I definitely feel more nauseous on an empty stomach. Salt and Vinegar crisps (salty stuff) help if the nausea starts before I can eat (because dry crackers are…dry- eew) oh. And I can’t eat (a meal) in the car, because then I’m taking my eyes off the horizon … I’m a whole lotta fun to travel with 😉

June 5, 2018

We saw another mum on holiday putting a piece of plaster vertical over the belly button of her son. She explained it helped against car sickness. We are now doing the same and havent had any car sickness since we know this trick! In the mountains they still feel a little sick, but nothing happens anymore and on all other roads they are ok!

June 5, 2018

Ginger often helps me with motion sickness. I know not all kids would eat a ginger chew or drink ginger tea ( mine won’t) but if so, it might help.

June 5, 2018

Hi, my son is always sick when we take the car for more than half an hour. It is essential to avoid eating before leaving, including milk or juice in the morning. The best is to leave early in the morning and give them just water and basic food (crackers or dry cookies) or to leave late in the evening, so that they fall asleep..

June 5, 2018

I had motion sickness when I was a kid, fortunately my kids seems to avoid this burden. My parents tried everything, the doctors prescibed some kind of medicine against nausea that made me fall asleep after 30 minutes. When I was 8 years old, we moved to little town near the bigger city where my school was and every day in the morning and the afternoon I had to spend 20 minutes in the car commuting. After a month my motion sickness disappeared. I thought that somehow I got over it beacuse of a regular short drive each day what I really enjoyed to spend with my parents talking about our day..

June 5, 2018

My 3 year old often gets car sick and our Doctor told us to never ket him drive ob an empty stomach. It must be solid food, not liquid (like a bottke of milk, learned this the hard way). It’s counterintuitive, but it’s working for us so far. Thanks for the tips!

June 5, 2018

We recently did a trip from Portsmouth to Dover then about to Calais then a 9ish hour journey to our ski resort. My son has horrendous travel sickness. I spoke to our pharmacist and he said to try Stugeron tablets (5yr and over) they worked brilliantly. On once was he sick nor did he feel sick.

June 5, 2018

I have had this problem my entire life! Thankfully, my daughter has not been afflicted, but I am so sorry your little one has to deal. Definitely echoing never reading or looking down at anything really. It will obviously help when she can take the front seat. Nausea wristbands and ginger chews help me on boats, but not in the car. The only absolute guarantee is taking Dramamine. I remember taking this frequently on long car trips- especially summer camp bus rides and mountain roads.

June 5, 2018

Oh! I also agree with what another reader said that although it is counterintuitive, I have found that I do MUCH better on flights and car rides when I have a full stomach.

Eftychia Georgilis
June 5, 2018

This post is very close to my heart. I have suffered terribly as a kid and all three of my girls have car sickness too. After I gave birth to my twins my car sickness came back. Apparently something to do with my balance centre. I feel so sorry for my husband living with four women that hate car trips when he lives them. We’ve tried all those tips but what I found helps is growing up and driving the car. I never get sick if I am driving, and plastic bags. Good luck !!!

June 5, 2018

As a child I suffered exactly as Beatrice did and I really sympathise as it’s awful and really affects holidays. My grandparents lived 2.5 hours away and I dreaded visiting them because I knew I’d be ill all the way there and all the way back! I really found higher/bigger cars helped, as did some fresh air.

Nowadays I’ve got a really easy solution – over the counter travel sickness medication! I’m a doctor and don’t like to encourage children to take medication unless absolutely necessary but honestly they’ve been a game changer and I’d really recommend them.

You can easily pop to your local pharmacist and try out a few to see which works best but it will transform your car journeys as a family – I even enjoy boat rides now!

June 5, 2018

I’d agree with the front seat…I think a lot of people think they have grown out of travel sickness when it may just be that they sit in the front seat more as a teenager/adult. I think it’s something to do with an uninterrupted view of the horizon.
It’s such a horrid feeling, I really hope she does grows out of it! I also have the same negative association with mints and listening to cricket on the radio (long summer drives to Scotland) very random!!

June 5, 2018

If our car journeys are longer than 45 mins or any boat/aeroplane travel our kids are sick. We flew just yesterday and I almost burst into tears as my 5 year old sobbed into her sick bag, that she hates being sick. Aside from all the usual advice my only other advice is that plane sick bags are really good – we always leave the plane with a handful and keep them in the car for longer journeys. Also, we got caught entering Japan once, as they assumed she had some sort of virus so we were quarantined for 5 hours – so always be clear with onboard staff that it’s travel sickness. Also when flying – we let the staff know as soon as we board, and they’re always extremely accommodating and helpful

June 5, 2018

I had motion sickness when I was a kid. The worst kind. And I hated to travel. I remember that even a trip short as 30 minutes made me cringe. Awful. And I was sure my children will have it too! But a friend of mine from Denmark told me that if you play with your baby/child by holding her upside down a lot (for short periods of course) it supposedly prevents motion sickness. Something to do with “shaking” the balance center in the inner ear this ear and in a way making it less sensitive. I hope this makes ant sense at all.
I listened to her advise, was hanging all three of my kids dry 🙂 a loooot and none of them have ever had car sickness plus we all had lots of fun doing it! And they are all “rear-facers”…

Here are some examples of how to do it:
with babies 0-2 years: https://www.femina.dk/sites/femina.dk/files/styles/full_height_8grid/public/files/pics/mama-dot-dk/228/11660/original-129480-oevelse1.jpg

babies/children from 6 months on:
the most important things is that you hold them at their tights not ankles! Hope this helps.

June 5, 2018

Ginger essential oil on a hankerchief helps to ease the nausea sometimes.

June 5, 2018

My daughter of 3 also has car sickness.
When we drive ( we use the car a lot for long drives for our work) I always put pressure wrist bands on. I also gave her oils for car sickness on her wrist and behind her ears. It was something with citron.

June 6, 2018

Yes, motion sickness does appear to be largely genetic — in children, 70% of the risk of suffering from motion sickness is due to differences in genes. The genes seem to be related to “balance, and eye, ear and cranial development”.

But note that being ‘genetic’ doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it… having poor eyesight is also mostly genetic, but you can wear glasses!

As a child, I found that putting my fingers out of the car window, and letting them get cold (and preferably wet), was refreshing, took my mind off the nausea, and made me feel much better.


June 6, 2018

Btw, car sickness is one of symptoms of sensory integration disorder, precisely overreacting vestibular system. If your child has a severe car sickness, you may consider SI therapy. My older son attends SI therapy (due to other than car sickness issues) and it has helped him with car sickness as well.
For more info google “car sickness sensory integration disorder”.

June 6, 2018

what you said about Sensory Integration Disorder is entirely true. My eldest daughter is Dyspraxic with SID and has been having Occupational therapy for over 2 years now. She is so much better now in car trips. I never linked her condition with car sickness before. Thank you so much I will talk to her therapist if there are any helpful exercises for her sisters to do.

July 10, 2018

I just saw this video about glasses that help with motion sickness and thought about your post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=104&v=rjqv8A5mFBA
Maybe worth a try, even if it looks funny.

July 10, 2018

Thank you so much for posting this. I will definitely try them. I would do anything to combat motion sickness. The glasses do look funny but my kids will love them and people might think I am going to a festival or something 🤩

February 23, 2019

I have had problems with carsickness my entire life, and a magical little thing that was worked wonders for me are “Seaband Nausea Relief Wristbands”. Up until recently I would take medication to avoid feeling sick, but my doctor recommended these, and now I am medicine free. I would highly recommend checking them out!

March 26, 2019

My daughter struggles so much with this- thankyou for your tips I will try them out!

June 11, 2019

I suffered through car sickness in my childhood so are now both of our daughters. My mom used to, and now i do too for my daughters – pick up perfume samples at the departments stores (soft, flowery scents) and make little pouches for them for when we are on a road trips. As soon as they feel sick they would open the little samples bottles and start smelling them to calm them down. It works for us. I just have to remember to always prepare them. Our older daughter (8) seems to have outgrown them (last two trips she was fine)….fingers crossed.

June 11, 2019

Our little one is motion sick in cars or coaches
So we usually travel by airplanes and trains.
However our homeopathic doctor did prescribed homeopathic remedy , it did not helped us fully, but it is hard to really know for sure since my daughter was 8 month old when I last time tried. She did not vomit but I know she did not felt well and we stopped every 15 min. So you may want to talk with some homeopathy specialist.
Also my daughter is 2y old and still has a naps. We try to use car while she sleeps , and then she is not sick.

June 13, 2019

One thing we use for our daughter is the big empty yogurt containers. We wash them out and keep the lid. It’s a great vomit bucket and the lid makes it air tight so no smells after if they get sick.

August 23, 2019

Oh men this sounds so familiar! My youngest threw up 8 times last car ride to the Austrian Alpes…. What works for her (and for me on planes) is Dramamine. I bring it with me when I visit the US, they don’t sell it in NL. In NL they mainly sell tablets (primatour) which makes you sick by just the smell of it. This Dramamine has no flavour, so we give it to her in yoghurt at least 30min before the ride and she hasn’t been sick since! Note; we really limit eating in the car as well and let enough fresh air in (or us outside the car ;-))

March 2, 2020

I personally suffer from travel and more often car sickness and can relate to all that you said so
very well. I keep car windows open and cover my nose with a Muslin or any breathable cotton cloth. I try chewing on to something like ( fennel seeds, clove( as an adult I can), squeezing few drops of fresh lime to water helps/ fresh orange ( fruit). At times, a pinch of sea salt/ any thing thats dry( not liquid) but tangy has done wonders( like natural fruit leathers, lemon pickle) . I prefer sitting in the front seat. I dislike the smell of car refreshers( preferably avoid hiring cabs), I like (very) few mild essential oils that sometimes calm me. I know it’s not a pleasant feeling to travel( the thought of travel also makes me feel sick), I take motion sickness drugs sold over the counter. Planning travelling time well helps as I dislike the car speeding up, but I’m fine at almost same speed. Hope some tips from my own personal experiences is helpful. Cheers!

Gabrielle Kyemba
April 12, 2022

Diffusing peppermint Young Living essential oil in our car, or citrus oils is life-giving for us who suffer miserably with travel sickness. Also Tummygize blend is great for rubbing on little tummies when embarking on a long time in a car.

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