How to Prevent and Cure Motion Sickness, According to Frequent Travelers
There’s an unpleasant sense of perpetual apprehension for those of us who are prone to motion sickness. You never know which flight is going to turn turbulent or when a snorkeling trip is going to start to get a bit too rough. And once your brain starts going down the nausea path, it’s hard to derail it.
Luckily, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate motion sickness even before you go.
Start by choosing your seat carefully. You want to keep your inner ear stable by finding the seat with the least movement possible, whether that’s over the wing on an airplane, in the front seat of a car or bus, or facing forward on the lower level of a train. On a boat, it’s near the middle of the vessel on a lower deck. A position near a window for both a breeze and sightline to the horizon is also helpful.
As boarding time approaches, make sure you’re physically in top condition. That means ideally a good night’s sleep, proper hydration, and a light, easily digested pre-trip meal low in fat. If you’re showing up to the airport hungover and stuffing a burrito in your face, even the best seat selection won’t save you.
Once you’re in motion, if you start to feel wobbly, look out at a fixed point on the horizon — not at something close-up, like a book or your phone. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, a refrain that will feel familiar if you’ve ever taken a yoga class. Put in some music or an audiobook or try to carry on a conversation with your travel buddy to distract yourself (and your ears).
If that’s not cutting it, then it might be time to enlist some extra help. Consider stocking a pouch beforehand with some preventative items so that you don’t have to take your eyes off the horizon to dig for — or to grab a plastic bag if none of this ends up working.
Here are some favorite items from both medical professionals and travelers that we spoke to. Remember that we, here at T+L, aren’t doctors, so always consult your own physician before beginning a new routine.
Natural Motion Sickness Remedies
Ginger is well-known for its anti-nausea properties, with many travelers toting ginger candies or teas in their carryons. “The Gin Gins brand is my personal favorite,” said Amina Dearmon of Perspectives Travel. “I eat one as soon as I feel turbulence, if I'm getting car sick, or on rough seas. They're also just tasty and a good alternative to grabbing candy at the airport.”
To buy: amazon.com, $12
“I always travel with ginger chews and teas that soothe the stomach, especially mint and chamomile,” said Ashley Blake, founder of Traverse Journeys. Bonus: If you bring your own travel mug, you can get hot water in the airport or on the plane to save money and plastic.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint is a frequent runner-up in the soothing category. If you prefer to smell rather than taste, try dabbing peppermint oil on your skin, particularly at pulse points, or just smelling the open bottle.
To buy: amazon.com, $7
“I swear by Dr. Singha's Travel Tonic, an Aryuvedic-based tincture that is a blend of roots and herbs that calm the nerves, sooth the heart and aid in anti-nausea,” said Blake. “I take a dropperful starting about an hour before the flight then every few hours throughout.”
To buy: amazon.com, $17
Motion Sickness Relief Bands
These squishy sweatband-style accessories are a traveler favorite (and my personal first line of defense). “I used to work onboard cruise ships where motion sickness was common, and we had a treatment plan that was guaranteed to work: acupuncture to points on the stomach channel to help nausea and vomiting,” said licensed acupuncturist Kerry Boyle.
“Sea Bands are applied at the acupressure point Nei Guan, or Pericardium 6. This point is located on the inside (or palm up) side of the forearm, in the midway point between the two tendons, just three finger breadths up from the wrist. Apply pressure for at least 60 seconds to this point, or wear Sea Bands, during travel to reduce motion sickness.”
To buy: amazon.com, $16
If you prefer plastic to fabric, Psi Bands utilize the same acupressure principals as Sea Bands in a slightly different form.
To buy: amazon.com, $13
This high-tech wristband takes the Sea Bands concept to the next level, using neuromodulation technology with targeted gentle pulses to the underside of the wrist.
To buy: amazon.com, $175
Pharmaceutical Motion Sickness Remedies
“I take Bonine 24 hours in advance of any offshore passage and typically use during the first day or two of sailing until I settle into the gentle rhythms of the sea,” said Lisa Dorenfest, who is currently circumnavigating the globe under sail with 360 degrees of longitude under her belt. “There is slight drowsiness (and some intense dreaming) during the first 24 hours of use, though far less in comparison to similar products.”
To buy: amazon.com, $13
“I love to scuba but chumming fish because of seasickness is not pleasant,” said Sheryl Hill, CEO of travel preparedness company Depart Smart. “My doctor advised me to take Benadryl the night before traveling by car/boat/plane. Best advice ever.”
To buy: amazon.com, $7
“I have sailed over 3,000 nautical-miles in the past six months, and no longer have an issue with seasickness while offshore when wearing these patches,” said Captain Mandy Rosello. “I can cook, clean, read, and most importantly work the sails and man the helm with no issues in almost any sea state. They even work if nausea has already set in.”
To buy: amazon.com, $11