Easy queasy – 7 tips for travelling with car sick kids

kids in the car

We love a road trip! Well, we do until a bout of car sickness hitches a ride. While Raffles went through stages of suffering from spectacular bouts of car sickness, three-year old Sugarpuff seemed unaffected by that particular affliction. Until now! And let me tell you, she has embraced it in technicolour style.

Given that my dizzy daughter spends so much of her time in giddy gyratory motion, I foolishly thought that she was immune to motion sickness, but no, this summer my pre-school Pukerella has started mistaking our sedan for a porcelain bus.

You might think that this would prove an inconvenience for frequent road trippers like us but having been through it before with a ralphing Raffles…we know just what to do to ease the quease!

Here are out top 7 tips to barf-free bliss on the road…

1. Know what it is – Car sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting signals from the motion-sensing parts of the body: the inner ears and the eyes. While the inner ears detect that the car is moving, the eyes, when focused on something inside the car, don’t. The conflicting signals are sent to the brain and nausea, headache, and vomiting can be the miserable result. In a car, smaller children sitting low in the backseat of a car often can’t see outside, which increases the problem.

2. Prepare and prevent –  We prefer to take preventative methods and have discovered a number of simple tricks for avoiding car sickness. Firstly be sure that your child’s head is well-supported in the car seat to prevent the wobbles. It’s also important to make sure they have eaten well before travelling, as an empty tummy can increase the effects of motion sickness –  just try to avoid hard-to-digest food if you don’t want to see it again.  Also consider planning for long car journeys to be made during your child’s sleep time as car sickness isn’t as likely to occur during slumber.

3. Know the signs –  If your child is generally miserable in the car – beyond the whiny but expected “are we there yets” – motion sickness may be the cause. It’s a little late to do anything but clean up once the car has been redecorated with the contents of your child’s stomach, so it’s important to keep an eye out for some of the early signs some children exhibit. These can include a sudden break in chattering, pallor, and tiredness. Unfortunately for us, Sugrapuff’s motion sickness tends to arrive with ninja-like stealth and she displays none of these before turning the car into a mobile vomitorium.

4. On the road  – Plan for frequent stops to blow off pent up energy and reset the kids equilibrium. Overheating can increase the chance of car-sickness so keep the car cool and well ventilated. If your child is feeling a little nauseous open a window as a little fresh air can help, and stop as soon as possible so they can sit or walk it off. Placing a cool damp flannel on your child’s forehead can also help. Once they get back in the car take measures to avoid it re-occurring or worsening. If you can, get your child to close their eyes as this helps stop sending the confused signals to the brain.

5. Tread gingerly – Ginger can be quite helpful for easing nausea so pack a few ginger biscuits for the trip. Peppermint can also assist in easing nausea so if your kids are old enough you can also pack some chewy mints. On an extra-long trip warm ginger or peppermint tea in a thermos can also help hinder the hurl.

6. Diversions – If your child is prone to car sickness attempt to keep them preoccupied with talking, listening to music or singing songs. Try to keep your child’s attention towards the front of the car by pointing out interesting things along the horizon. Books, games and toys in the car should be avoided by children prone to motion sickness as looking down at an inanimate object will only assist in activating a hurling session.

7. The Puke Pack –  Carry an easy to reach” puke pack” for long journeys. It should include clean water, wipes, an airtight plastic container, an old towel, flannel, change of clothes and a plastic bag for storing smelly and soggy post-puke items. And be sure to carry an up-to-date family first aid kit that includes re-hydration salts that are safe for kids. And don’t forget the air freshener!

Keep them distracted with stories on tape

20 Comments on Easy queasy – 7 tips for travelling with car sick kids

  1. Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me
    January 20, 2015 at 11:35 am (9 years ago)

    So far we haven’t had anyone with queasy tummies, thanks goodness! A great resource though for future reference. LOVE your new wheels, enjoy. xx

      January 20, 2015 at 6:57 pm (9 years ago)

      Thanks Em, Let’s just hope we can keep the new wheels puke free…

  2. Louise Baker
    January 20, 2015 at 7:34 pm (9 years ago)

    We always had flat lemonade, Minties and no milk before the trip, when I grew up. My boys – Two out of three boys good, one terrible for car sickness. One has a cast iron gut and likes all the whirliest rides at Luna Park. But Mup – poor boy still has the worst travel sickness – even worse than me. I think now I would do ginger over lemon, and acupressure sometimes works for me.

    Front seat so he can look ahead for Matt, when he was little A fake steering wheel would have worked as he would have focused on the right point of travel. Drivers rarely get sick due to where their point of focus is in relation to car motion.

    Wish I had had your notes when the boys were little.

  3. Lisa
    January 20, 2015 at 8:15 pm (9 years ago)

    With all the driving we do I am so, so grateful that Millie doesn’t seem to suffer from motion sickness.

      January 23, 2015 at 9:02 pm (9 years ago)

      Lucky! x

  4. Jody at Six Little Hearts
    January 23, 2015 at 8:44 am (9 years ago)

    It’s so much easier when they get old enough to aim in a bucket! We carry a bucket in the car at all times. Have to admit, I nearly needed to use it myself the other day when Hubby was driving (yes, he can be that bad!). I tell my kids to watch the horizon and don’t look down which seems to be working well in conjunction with the bucket!

      January 23, 2015 at 3:19 pm (9 years ago)

      The bucket years are still a few years away for us. x

  5. Jess - A Little Part of the World
    January 23, 2015 at 1:03 pm (9 years ago)

    I’m filing this away for later. Great tips!! My sister and I suffered when we were children and I have a 3.5yr old and 19month old and feel our time will come. Jx

      January 23, 2015 at 3:19 pm (9 years ago)

      Good chance. I was a car sick kid too x

  6. MummaMcD
    January 23, 2015 at 2:58 pm (9 years ago)

    Great post 🙂

    My Little Miss suffers from horrendous car sickness, we had to change daycare centres to one closer to our house as she was puking every morning on the way!

    We found that diluted Rescue Remedy actually helped for some reason, as well as having an almost empty tummy (but not completely empty, because that made the nausea worse!).

    I’ve also found that getting the smell of vom out of your car is almost impossible…


      January 23, 2015 at 3:18 pm (9 years ago)

      Oh you poor things, that’s hard! We use rescue remedy but havn’t tried it in the car… duly noted! 🙂

  7. Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    January 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm (9 years ago)

    My son gets really bad air sickness but up until the other day was fine in the car. However I think the cause was playing on the iPad (which the distraction of playing helps with easing the air sickness).

      January 23, 2015 at 9:04 pm (9 years ago)

      Mine are fine on planes too but the brain gets mixed messages when the eyes are looking at an ipad when the car is moving. We don’t use an Ipad in the car for that reason.

  8. Robomum
    January 23, 2015 at 5:43 pm (9 years ago)

    Great tips! My little one is a vomitron in the car so both cars are always stocked with tissues, wet wipes and the special vomit bags. Great tips!

      January 23, 2015 at 9:04 pm (9 years ago)

      Wipes. How I love them. How did we live without them pre-kids!?

  9. Bec @ The Plumbette
    January 23, 2015 at 5:52 pm (9 years ago)

    Oh boy, puke in the car is the worst and the clean up ugh it’s making me queasy thinking about it! Good tips!

      January 23, 2015 at 9:05 pm (9 years ago)

      I know. I got a little queasy writing this one. LOL

  10. Malinda (@MBPaperPackages)
    January 23, 2015 at 9:11 pm (9 years ago)

    I had horrible car sickness when I was a child, To the point that anything more than half an hour was a mission! Nothing seemed to help and I have horrid memories of it all. Thank goodness my girls haven’t showed any signs of it (yet)

      January 24, 2015 at 10:52 am (9 years ago)

      Fingers crossed it stays that way. There’s nothing worse than watching your kids suffer. x

  11. Kirsty @ My Home Truths
    January 18, 2016 at 11:34 pm (8 years ago)

    Great tips. I was always the car sick child in my family. I rarely puked but I ALWAYS felt nauseous. Since I now pretty much always travel in the front seat I’m fine but I can’t read or look at my phone for too long. My brain then gets confused and the feeling of nausea comes again… My 11, 10 and 5 yo seem to have all dodged that particular hereditary trait – thank goodness!


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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