Travel Tips and Dealing with Motion Sickness

“Are we there yet?”

We finally made it to the most joyous but also stressful part of the year! The holidays are approaching which means more families are traveling, to celebrate these festive times with loved ones or to go on vacation. Last year, the AAA reported that the estimated road trips were about 102.1 million people around the 2018 holiday season. While taking a road trip is a memorable family experience, it is inevitable that not everything will go according to plan when on the road. Parents should be aware that children are easily prone to experience motion sickness.

What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness occurs with, as the implies, motion.  This can be in a car, a plane, train, bus, or simply even spinning in circles.  There are delicate bones and structures in the inner ear which sense balance and coordination. In a moving car, the brain feels conflicting signals of sitting still yet the inner ear is processing movement. Sometimes with too much or prolonged motion, some individuals can feel sensitive to the conflicting signals and feel what we describe as “motion sickness.” 

What signs should I look for?

In general, motion sickness usually starts with a vague feeling of stomach upset or queasiness.  This is the feeling that precedes vomiting.  A child may not be able to describe that they are feeling queasy but may feel restless or appear pale. He or she may even lose interest in food, even their favorite foods.

As a parent, what can I do for my child to help alleviate car sickness?

I recommend some preventative measures for families with children who experience car sickness. 

  • Try a few light snacks to alleviate hunger pains but don’t add feelings of heaviness before traveling. 
  • Try to distract your child with activities like songs, stickers, or toys.  
  • Staring at a screen in a moving vehicle can actually make car sickness worse. 
  •  Looking at things outside the car further away, such as trees or cars passing by, instead of stationary books or handheld games, seems to work better. 


If none of these tactics work and your child starts to develop symptoms of motion sickness, the best thing to do is safely stop the car when you can and let your child get out and walk around for a while.  Fresh air can really help, and I’ve even had some families swear by a cool cloth on the forehead to lessen the symptoms.

As a mom, I know first hand how tough it can be to prolong a road trip, but try to be patient. Parenting isn’t easy, but these are symptoms you want to treat, not tough it out.  If you are noticing your child is having symptoms of motion sickness at times when he or she is not involved in a movement activity, consider asking your child’s pediatrician.

Lastly, I want to end this week’s post by giving some general tips that I always swear by when traveling with young children. 

Tip #1: Buy a few safe and cheap toys from the Dollar Store that you won’t mind if they got lost, fall under the seat, or get thrown into the aisle.  You can pull them out in rotation to keep your little one entertained-Don’t introduce all your tricks early on! 

Tip #2: I recommend flying early in the day because flights will only become more likely to be delayed as the day continues on.  Morning flights are sometimes less crowded as well so you may get a bonus empty seat! Speaking, of, always ask if there is a row with an empty seat to see if you can switch to it.  The extra space is helpful and if you use a FAA certified travel car seat (which I highly recommend), you can strap the seat in and have your arms and lap free! 

Tip #3: Consider comfort measures for take off and landing-nursing, pacifier, sips of water, or even gnawing on an apple (with supervision!).  Something that allows children to overcome the pressure changes without significant ear pain.

Tip #4: If your little one begins to cry, don’t worry! Remember-Babies cry.  Children cry. This is normal and expected behavior and if anyone gives your grief or looks of judgment, just think-you’ll never see them again anyway! Plus, I never understood why anyone would be rude to a parent of a crying child.  Obviously, the parent is dealing with way worse than you are as the bystanding passenger!  A few minutes of crying is no big deal! 

Tip #5: Try to stay hydrated! I’ve made the mistake of skipping out on drinking water to limit my own bathroom breaks and the only thing I got was a wicked migraine. If you need to use the restroom, feel free to ask the flight attendant to hold the baby for a minute. They’re always more than willing plus your child gets a change of environment.

Tip #6: Bring a spare change of clothes for you and the baby!  Spit ups, diaper disasters, and even vomiting can happen, and it might get on you too. I always travel with not just a spare change of clothes for my little one. but a spare pair of pants for myself!

Now you are all set to head out with your family! I hope this article eases your worries about your child who may experience car sickness on the upcoming ride. Enjoy your trip to the fullest during this festive season! 

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