All it takes is one bad ride in the back of a minivan on a curvy mountain pass to turn even the most iron-gutted among us into a pale-faced, quivering mass. While car sickness is not always avoidable, there are methods to mitigate, minimize, and manage your next episode. Here are our best tips and tricks for fighting that queasy feeling.

What is car sickness?
Car sickness can happen to anyone, though it seems some are more susceptible than others: pregnant women, people who get migraines, and children between the ages of 2 and 12, to name a few. Put simply: car sickness is motion sickness that’s triggered by riding in a car. Motion sickness results when your brain gets contradictory information from your eyes, your inner ears, and even some of your nerves. Your inner ear, for example, may detect the herky-jerky movements of the car you’re in, while your eyes are fixed on something stable (like the book you’re reading or your phone). The result? Nausea, cold sweats, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, and even vomiting.

Can I prevent car sickness?
You can try. If avoiding car travel is impossible, there are steps you can take to limit or lessen the effects of car sickness.

What you can do

1. Drive or ride shotgun
Obviously this is only an option for those old enough to get behind the wheel, but driving or riding in the front passenger seat seems to help you feel the car’s motion less, which in turn can reduce your chances of getting car sick.

2. Find the horizon line
Focusing on a far away, distant object (like the horizon line) can help stabilize an uneasy stomach. Reading, looking at a smartphone or other screen, and staring at the floor mat are all activities likely to make your car sickness worse, so avoid those whenever possible.

3. Relax!
So long as you’re not driving, try keeping your head still (reclining your seat might help) and close your eyes. Distract yourself with calming music or the soothing scent of a lavender sachet. And crack a window if you can a little fresh air can help you feel better.

4. Eat something (but not just anything)
Food and drink that traditionally mellow a sour stomach can be helpful during a bout of car sickness. Carbonated beverages, flavored lozenges (ginger is a classic stomach stabilizer), dry saltines, and even plain, old water may help calm an upset stomach. On the flip side, try to avoid consuming heavy, greasy, or spicy foods, caffeine, and/or alcohol before or during a potentially long and curvy car ride.

5. Talk to your doctor about meds
There are both OTC and prescription options for car sickness, but some come with unwanted side effects (like sleepiness) and others aren’t indicated for everyone or every circumstance. If car sickness is a recurring problem for you or a loved one, consider talking to your doctor about available medications and determine if there’s one that makes sense for you.

In addition to taking these precautions, it helps to have a car sickness emergency cleanup pack on hand, especially if motion sickness has been a problem for you or your other passengers in the past. Tissues, wet wipes, paper towels, plastic or paper bags, air freshener, hand sanitizer, water, lozenges or breath mints, and even a change of clothes are great items have on hand in the event you need them.

Lastly, make sure your travels are as safe as can be with up-to-date coverage. Get an online auto insurance quote!

Travel hacks | Getting there


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.