How to stop travel sickness before it ruins your trip

Dizziness and nausea can really put a downer on an exciting holiday. But there are a few ways to minimise travel sickness or stop it in its tracks before it strikes.

Train, plane, bus or boat – travel sickness can strike at any time.

The dizziness and nausea that are part and parcel of motion sickness can drain all the enjoyment from a trip.

Why do we get travel sickness?

Travel sickness happens because of a mismatch between what our eyes “see” and the information our brain receives from the balance mechanism in the inner part of our ear.

“If you are on a boat, your eyes may fix on something steady, but your body still senses continuous movement,” says Dr Sonny Lau, medical director at Travel Doctor in Melbourne.

“That mismatch is the root cause of motion or travel sickness.

“Children between the ages of two to mid-teens are most susceptible and women are more susceptible than men, particularly if they are pregnant.”

How to prevent travel sickness

There are some precautions you can take to try to reduce the chances of it happening in the first place.

  • Get a good night’s sleep before you travel, so you don’t start your journey feeling groggy.
  • Stay away from alcohol before you travel.
  • “If you’re on a bus or in a car, are looking at your mobile phone and start feeling mild nausea, stop looking at your phone and look out the window instead to stop feeling sick,” suggests Dr Lau. “Don’t look at your mobile phone or read while in motion.”
  • If you are travelling by boat or plane, choose a big plane or cruise ship if possible. They will be steadier than smaller options.
  • “When travelling in a car, drivers and front seat passengers rarely suffer motion sickness,” says Dr Lau. “Try to sit in the front of a car or bus.”
  • Avoid greasy, spicy foods and big meals before and during travel. While you are on the move, eat a little and often.
  • Get plenty of fresh air.
  • Look where you are going and find a fixed object to focus on – such as the horizon if you are on a boat and look out the window if you are in a car, bus or train.

Too late? Here’s how to manage travel sickness

If you do start to feel ill while you’re on the move, there are things you can do to reduce the effects.

  • Medications can ease symptoms but work most effectively if they are taken before you travel. Sonny recommends over-the-counter tablets. Your pharmacist can discuss options.
  • Some research has found that for some people, ginger can help reduce nausea caused by motion sickness. Ginger supplements may help and should be taken before and during travel.

Going somewhere? Here’s our go-to guide for your travel first aid kit, and top tips on travelling with kids.

Written by Sarah Marinos.