How to… Not get Travel Sick!

I was actually fine with travel for most of my life. As a kid I went on boat trips where on the way out, everyone was cheering and whooping. On the way back, everyone was puking over the side. My Mum and my sister were among them, but me and my Dad had stomachs of steel and were ok. On car journeys we would drive to the bottom of the road and my sister would be sick. I was “the normal one” (according to me anyway, don’t ask my family 😉 ).

Seattle from air

All that changed after the Nazca bus trip – a horrifying 15-hour vomit-inducing bus journey full of hair-pin bends through the Andes in Peru. I have literally never been the same since. Luckily it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything but the subsequent trips, including flying over the Nazca Lines, going Whale Watching in New Zealand, and Sailing to Ang Thong in Thailand, have been particularly difficult. I often get motion sick in more mundane places – the Pendolino train from London to the North of England makes me sick, and Buses and Cars. Basically, I’m a nightmare. I once felt sick DRIVING a car, which is pretty stupid. And now I work myself up into a frenzy before going on a boat or long journey because I know how bad it can be.

Lake mead

BUT, when we went Whale Watching in Vancouver for 7 whole hours on a boat, I managed to not be sick!! So I’m sharing some of the tips and tricks I have learnt on how not to get travel sick:

One: Fix your eyes on the horizon – looking at something stationary like distant mountains helps a lot.

Two: Be prepared – for me it helps to have mints in case I get nauseous, a sick bag/plastic bag, tissue, alcohol hand gel, and wet wipes. The full sick-preparation kit 😉 Sea sickness tablets, ginger, and travel bands are also good prep. Some people say that makes it worse as you are almost expecting it to happen, but for me it is peace of mind to know I am prepared – it would make it much worse if I was panicking about where I could be sick etc. And the times I have needed this stuff, I have found it to be a lifeline – I do not know what I would have done on the Nazca bus without it.

Three: Let Your Body Know It’s Moving.  My BF says that you get sick when your body feels it is moving but doesn’t realise why. Or something. So when I was standing on deck, everytime there was a wave, I bent my knees to absorb the impact. This let my body know that I would be moving up and down, as I was bending my knees. I have also done this in Thailand, when I did breathing exercises – every time there was a wave and the boat moved towards me, I breathed in to absorb the motion. These are my inventions and they sound silly, but I managed not to get sick both times I have tried them.

Four: Distractions. I have never managed to engineer a distraction myself, but this has worked both times an external distraction came along – in Thailand we got caught in a storm and I thought I was going to die. Not recommended, but it took my mind off the sea sickness. In Vancouver, seeing the whales was amazing and again I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t get sea sick.

Vancouver bay

Five: Don’t go in the toilet. Being in a tiny, smelly, enclosed space will cause even worse motion sickness and you will get claustrophobic and dizzy as the tiny room is moving.

Six: Seat Choices. In a car or bus, choose a seat where you can see out of the windscreen – ie. in the front of a car, and as far forward as you can in a bus, in an aisle seat.  In a train, I sit forward-facing in an aisle seat so I can see all the way along the length of the aisle. Basically, try to avoid sitting somewhere where you are facing a wall.

Seven: Fresh Air – open a window or go out on deck (depending on where you are!). This is not advisable on an aeroplane.

Eight: Don’t watch other People Vomit –  This is good general advice for life, but is especially applicable here. When others go, it’s easy for you to go too. If strangers are vomiting, it sounds heartless, but try to ignore it. If the person vomiting is your nearest and dearest you may have to help, but maybe rub their back while looking the other way?! In that case…. Good luck!

These are all preventative strategies to stop you getting motion sickness. If motion sickness takes hold, I have not yet found a way to come back from it, although I try all of the above again, to slow down the progression towards vomiting.

Have you got any other tips or tricks that you have found to work?  If so, please share them in the comments below – I need all the help I can get!! 🙂

Next post: Reflections on Vancouver, Canada

Previous post: Whale Watching, Vancouver, Canada


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