I absolutely love to travel. But sometimes my body absolutely does not love to travel. That’s because I’m prone to that evil thing called motion sickness.
Motion sickness can leave you feeling nauseated, hot, tired, and generally just yucky. It can be debilitating.
But I love traveling too much to let motion sickness stop me from booking that ticket and getting on that plane, train, boat, or bus.
Over the years, I’ve developed tricks that help me manage my motion sickness. I hope these tips help you tame the motion sickness beast and get out there and explore the world.
1. Body direction is important
When it comes to motion sickness, the direction your body is facing is important. If at all possible, you want to be facing forward in the direction you’re moving.
Many trains or subway cars have seats facing backward or even sideways to the motion. Avoid these at all costs.
I’ve learned that if there’s not a seat facing forward, it’s better for me to stand than take a seat facing backward or sideways. I can get motion sickness almost immediately if my body faces a different direction than the direction I’m moving.
2. Location, location, location
Your location in the moving object is also important. Regardless of the mode of transportation, you want to be in the location that has the least movement.
In general, that location is in the front of the moving object. There is usually less movement and more stability at the front of most modes of transportation.
If traveling in a car, being the driver is your best bet. If that isn’t an option, head for the front passenger seat. (I have automatic dibs on riding shotgun with my family and friends!).
3. Heat is the enemy
Even if you’re perfectly situated at the front of the moving object with your body facing forward, motion sickness can catch you quickly if you’re feeling overheated.
When I travel, I like to wear layers so that I can easily shed some top layers if I starting getting hot. I generally wear loose, long pants (I don’t like my legs touching the seat) and a light, long-sleeved shirt as my base layer. Then I bring along a jacket and a scarf that can double as a blanket to add or remove as the temperature changes.
You can check out my favorite travel clothing in the “Travel Picks” section below.
4. Airflow is your friend
If possible, have some airflow directed towards you. The airflow can work magic at keeping motion sickness away. It provides air circulation and generally helps to keep you cooler (remember, heat is the enemy!).
In cars and planes, I have the vents directed just below my chin. That way I get some air circulation without the recirculated air going directly towards my face.
5. Read or watch movies with caution
I love to make good use of my time. That means when I’m in a plane or train without a good view, I want to be reading or watching an entertaining show.
But if I’m not careful, reading or a watching a screen can throw me into a motion sickness spiral.
When I’m reading or watching a movie while in motion, I lean back against the seat with my chin angled up and the reading material or movie placed slightly above my line of vision.
I’ve found that angling my neck or eyes downward is a sure way for me to get motion sickness.
6. Have backup entertainment
If motion sickness does hit, you won’t be able to read or watch a movie and you might not even feel well enough to sleep.
That can be really frustrating if you still have several hours of your trip ahead of you.
At those times, I like to have podcasts or audiobooks available to listen to as backup entertainment. See my favorites in the “Travel Picks” section below!
7. Watch what you eat & drink
When traveling, I need to be extra careful about what I eat and drink to avoid motion sickness.
I aim to drink more water than usual. I also avoid foods that are high in salt or sugar. These foods tend to mess with my equilibrium anyway and can be even more problematic when traveling.
I’m also very cautious about having any alcohol when traveling. Alcohol can sometimes make you feel hot or a little dizzy. These are not good things when you’re trying to avoid motion sickness.
8. Take extra precautions during extreme motion
What’s “extreme” motion, you ask? For me, extreme motion is when the moving object is especially bumpy, fast, or tilted.
In flying, extreme motion is during takeoff, landing, and turbulence. When driving, it’s when you’re in stop and go traffic, going around a sharp bend in the road, or going over very bumpy pavement. Similar situations exist with trains, buses, and boats.
These are the times when you’re especially prone to get motion sickness.
During these times, rest your head on the seat, angle your chin up, and close your eyes. Take off any extra layers that may make you hot and try to get airflow moving in your direction.
9. Consider motion sickness medicine
I try to avoid taking medication for motion sickness, but I know that I’ll sometimes still get motion sickness no matter how many precautions I take.
If there’s something coming up that I need to be at my best, like an important meeting or a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience, I’ll take motion sickness medicine.
Motion sickness medicine isn’t a miracle drug for me. I still need to perform all the precautions above to keep the motion sickness beast away.
Know yourself and consult with a medical professional before taking motion sickness medicine. I don’t like medication in general so I only take it as a last resort for myself.
These are my top travel picks that allow me to travel in comfort and tame the motion sickness beast.
- Loose, long pants: Tight pants can feel restrictive and hot while traveling. I like longer pants (so my legs don’t touch the seat) that are comfortably loose.
- Light, long-sleeved shirt: I aim to wear a long-sleeved shirt that is warm enough to shield from any cool air, but also light enough that I won’t get overheated.
- Scarf: If I do start to get cold, I’ll pull out a scarf that can double as a blanket.
- Audiobooks: Is there a book you’ve been wanting to read, but haven’t found the time? Listen to the audiobook on your next trip! Some of my favorites:
- Switch: Tips to implement change in your personal life, workplace, or community. One of my favorite books of all time. After you read it, let’s discuss!
- Harry Potter: I love me some Harry Potter. If you’re not in the fan club yet, join me and listen to the Harry Potter audiobooks.
- Year of Yes: Shonda Rhimes is laugh-out-loud funny, so prepare for weird looks from your travel companions when listening to this audiobook.
- Podcasts: If you’re looking for something shorter in length than audiobooks, check out podcasts. Here are some of my favorites:
- How I Built This: Learn how your favorite entrepreneurs built their world-famous brands.
- Serial: If you haven’t listened to Season 1 yet, how is your chance. The narrator is a very engaging story-teller.
- Freakonomics: The weird (and interesting!) nuances behind human behavior and why we do the things we do.
Gadgets & Accessories
- Noise-cancellation headphones: I used to jack up the volume on regular headphones to hear audiobooks and podcasts when traveling. Not great. My brother James introduced me to the wonderful world of noise-cancellation headphones and I’ll never go back!
- Inflatable neck pillow: With an inflatable neck pillow, you can adjust its size so that you can angle your chin up to help fight motion sickness. Bonus: It deflates to take up almost no room in your carry-on!
Motion sickness can be a difficult foe to fight, but I hope these tips help you to slay the motion sickness beast so that you can live your best travel life. Happy travels!