How to prevent Motion Sickness:
Basic "Dos and Don'ts"

When faced with motion sickness, you are not helpless - even things as simple as where you sit, how you breathe and what you choose to eat and drink can have a huge effect on how you feel.

Here I have gathered together some basic principles of behavior that will help you to minimize symptoms, and maybe avoid motion sickness altogether. Much of this may seem like common sense, but these 'tried and true' tips really help - either alone, or in combination with remedies and/or medications.

Once you've read through these general principles, take a look at the specific form of motion sickness that you suffer from (see navigation bar at the side under "Motion Sickness Types") for more helpful suggestions and ideas.

Before the Trip

Get a good night's sleep

If you're feeling tired you will be far more susceptible to motion sickness. Likewise, stress and anxiety can be triggers. If something's worrying you, try to sort it out before you leave on your trip. And think positive. There is a psychological aspect to motion sickness that can mean that if you expect to get sick, then you will get sick!

Get hydrated

Ideally start preparing 24-48 hours in advance of your journey by drinking a small glass of water at regular intervals. Avoid alcohol the night before the trip - a hangover simply amplifies the symptoms of motion sickness.

Eat light, but do eat!

It helps to eat a small meal before traveling, preferably something bland and easy to digest. Experts suggest eating a small portion of high protein foods, such as meat, fish, beans, eggs or a peanut butter sandwich.

Things to take with you

A small bottle of water will help you keep hydrated during the trip. Remember a jacket or wrap - feeling cold or sitting in a draft can trigger motion sickness.

Pack a zip lock bag, or a sick bag (HygiCare Sick Bags are really practical, or choose the pretty option!), and remember to take a change of clothing for you, and especially for any children you are traveling with, in case of accidents.

Morning Chickness Bags
Morning Chickness Bags - the "pretty option"

On the Trip


Worry makes you tense and more likely to be ill, so relax! Don't fight the movement and vibrations. Lie back in your seat and take long slow breaths (see Keep Busy below). Keep your head back against the head rest (if there is one), and try to move it as little as possible. If it is practical, I always try to lie down (even if it means lying on a grubby ferry carpet!). This brings me immediate relief! But others seem to find the opposite, and tell me that staying alert and active is better for them. So it's a case of experimenting and finding what works for you.

Focus on a far point

Try to sit where you have a good view outside (if you're on a boat, go out onto the deck) and keep your eyes on a distant fixed point, such as the horizon. This gives your brain a reference point from which to make sense of the movement it is experiencing. Alternatively, closing your eyes - and therefore cutting out one of your body's sources of conflicting sensory information - may help, but again this seems to vary from person to person.

Fresh air and good ventilation are really important. Any kind of fumes can be major sickness triggers, as can the smell of food or strong perfume. So open windows were possible, and direct any ventilation towards your face.

Keep busy (and control your breathing)

Keeping your mind occupied helps to prevent motion sickness. Concentrating on silently reciting the lyrics of a favorite song, or doing some mental math, will help to distract your brain from the mixed sensory messages it is receiving. Concentrating on your breathing can also be a great help when you start to feel queasy, and has the twin benefits of giving you something to do, and supplying your body with lots of fresh air. Take a long deep breath in through your nose, hold for a moment..., then give a long slow breath out through your mouth. Try to slow this process down as much as possible, but without actually holding your breath. Also try counting silently as you breathe in, and again when you breathe out. At first you may struggle to get much past the count of five, but with practice - and concentration - you'll quickly improve. Personally, I find this one of the best ways to minimize motion sickness symptoms once I start to feel ill.

It's well known that, for many people, reading in a moving vehicle will trigger motion sickness. Similarly, avoid other activities that require close vision and looking down, for example knitting, travel games and - especially - anything that needs to be untangled!

Keep well hydrated

Being well hydrated is particularly important when flying, but applies to all situations where you are likely to develop motion sickness. Take regular sips from a bottle of water - it is much kinder on the stomach than pouring down a whole glass at once. But don't over do it, the idea is not to be excessively hydrated. One liter of water (approx. four cups) taken little by little throughout the day is about right for most people.

Many people find that sipping a carbonated drink helps too. Ginger ale is a good choice (more on ginger as a remedy for motion sickness), but do make sure that it is a brand that actually contains some real ginger, rather than artificial flavoring.

Some people swear by Coca Cola (only the original, apparently) and Pepsi. I can't stand the taste of either, so I haven't tried this, but friends assure me that it works for them.

I've heard people say that you should avoid all liquids if you're prone to motion sickness, but I don't agree. Dehydration actually triggers motion sickness, so not drinking is, at best, counterproductive. And of course if you do vomit then it's particularly important to drink, as repeated vomiting can lead to you becoming dangerously dehydrated.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco

Most people agree that both alcohol and caffeine - and coffee in particular - simply exacerbate the symptoms of motion sickness (but see Alcoholic Relief below...), especially if you are foolish enough to drink on an empty stomach. Beer may seem like a quick and easy way to keep your fluid levels up, but it will actually dehydrate you over the longer term. Don't do it to yourself.

Smoking is also likely to make you - and those around you - feel much worse.

Alcoholic Relief?
Personally I think these 'cures' are anything but, however the people who told me swear that they work for them. Try at your own risk!
  • A large brandy (preferably good cognac) drunk in a single gulp
  • A Whisky Mac (Scotch whisky and ginger wine in equal parts)
  • A few drops of bitters in soda or tonic water (or just plain water)

Eat lightly and keep something in your stomach

It might seem counterintuitive, but an empty stomach is definitely not a good idea. There's evidence that motion sickness can be triggered at the point when all the food in your stomach has been digested, so regular small snacks will actually reduce the risk of sickness. But choose what you eat carefully. Steer well clear of greasy, fried or spicy foods, and anything that isn't easy on the stomach, such as dairy, and any very sweet or rich foods.

Another advantage of having food in your stomach is that if you do vomit, at least you'll have something to vomit up. Trust me, there are few things more unpleasant than experiencing repeated 'dry heaves'!

Crackers (salty or savory, not sweet) are the sailor's staple, and for good reason - they're excellent for settling the stomach without triggering nausea. I like to have a bag of pretzels with me. Similarly, dry bread, toast or dry cereals (not heavily sugared ones) are great to nibble on, and are easy to carry with you. Ginger biscuits are also great (more on ginger as a remedy for motion sickness).

Lemons are a little less portable, but are a great friend to anyone prone to motion sickness. They'll settle a queasy stomach - just suck on a lemon wedge (if you can bear to), or squeeze a little fresh juice into a glass of water. Make sure to smell the lemon too, it's great for clearing away early motion sickness symptoms.

Rice with a little lemon juice squeezed over it is what a Greek friend of mine eats before embarking on Aegean ferry crossings.

Many people swear by green apples - the pectin in them helps to neutralize the acid in your stomach. Apple juice should have the same effect. Others prefer to eat oranges or drink orange juice (although personally I find lemon works much better for me).

All these foods are best taken as preventatives before you suffer any symptoms, but they may also have a positive effect once you are feeling ill (more information on Preventing Motion Sickness with Natural, Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies).

Suck a hard candy / boiled sweet. The actions of sucking and chewing keep your saliva production going. This is a good thing as saliva works to neutralize stomach acid and therefore helps to guard against nausea and vomiting. In addition to regular snacks as mentioned above, try sucking on a peppermint candy or lemon drop, or chewing on some mint gum.

And finally...

Keep your distance from others who are feeling sick and queasy. Although motion sickness isn't 'catching' in the true sense, you're much more likely to feel ill if you're near people who feel - or worse, are actually being - sick. It may be unfriendly, but for your own sake, keep your distance from sick friends!

Now take a look at helpful suggestions and ideas for the specific form of motion sickness that you suffer from:

... or read on about other ways of preventing Motion Sickness:


Sally on June 6th 2012:
Thanks for the interesting information. I have spent ages looking for the correct way to position acu pressure bands. Having suffered from motion sickness all my life, I look forward to trying them.
Ann on November 12, 2012:
At last - someone who understands motion sickness. I have suffered BADLY all my life. People who don't get sick are so lucky. Your suggestions match perfectly with my personal remedies learned purely through experience. As a child I soon realized that if I ate mince & potatoes before traveling, the sickness wasn't so severe (aha - meat!). At secondary school I would have to get off the school bus & walk long distances home. Then randomly I ate an orange on the bus & felt much better: from then on I ate one every evening on the bus.

Last week, flying home from holiday, the pills and the wrist bands weren't working. Panic set in. Then I remembered I had another orange in my pocket. It worked. (I was worried some passengers might object to the smell but vomit is worse!).

On a plane I sit where I cannot see out at all (I would love to watch the clouds and the land below but I tried once - never again!). I agree that lying down is wonderful. I also taught a child feeling sick on a coach on a school trip, to jam their head so it couldn't move around. They were thrilled at the result.

I fly a few times a year and put a lot of effort into preparing for the journey. I love flying but the sickness, especially coming down, creates misery. I can never be a passenger in a car - I am always the driver.

I'm a primary school teacher & school trips fill me with dread. I will try a lemon next time.
Lisa on May 31, 2015:
Thanks very much for the advise, well worth reading.
Richard on August 31, 2015:
I was a sailor for many years working out of Victoria BC, Canada. I suffered from sea sickness my whole career finding the first day out the worst and after the second day was generally good. I have met and served with hundreds of sailors and found extremely few that never had any symptoms of sea sickness. Good tips for all who travel by boat or ship.
Erin on November 22, 2015:
Try taking at least 500 mg ginger at least an hour before your trip or before anything that may cause nausea/vomiting. It really helps me. I have tried Gravol (dimenhydrinate) which helps moderately but is sedating. Ginger is now my preferred remedy. I usually make my own capsules since fresh ground ginger is cheap and I make a lot of my own herbal capsules anyway. If you take ginger capsules be sure to eat something light like a spoonful of yogurt or a few crackers after you take it to wash it down and prevent burping. Gravol brand also makes ginger tablets that are more expensive but just as effective.
Lisa Lynn on February 22, 2016:
I'm 38yrs old, I've gotten motion sickness my entire life, it's like I'm a handicap person. Nobody wants to have me in their car because I always get such horrible car sickness. I can't take any medications for this because this too makes me very I'll. I've got absolutely the worst balance, and my ears are always hurting and full of wax and I get ear infections a lot... I am wondering if you have any opinions on what you think I should do to help. It is ruining my life. I'm always throwing up, I'm constantly feeling nauseous. I'm just tired of it, and want it to go away.
Rabia on April 22, 2016:
Hey I am a 20 year old and you know travelling is a must in this age. College, road trips etc. I always get motion sickness wherever I sit in the car. It's pathetic. Please suggest me a effective remedy except taking ginger, as I don't like it, that can prevent motion sickness. Thanks!
Liza Kadreez on June 27, 2016:
I have had motion sickness all my life and it's really very BAD (sorry, couldn't think of a better word than bad). I hope the lemon one works tomorrow, I'm going London and back so for me there'll be 9 hours traveling in one day.
Deep Sea Fisherman South Africa on November 9, 2016:
As I deep sea fisherman in some frantic waters off the South African Coast on very small boats I have never been sea sick and am now 60 years of age. My regime before going out and also whilst on the water is as follows:
1. Don't drink alcohol for at least 48 hours before going out.
2. Have a small fairly dry breakfast of wheat, toast and small yoghurt.
3. Hydrate with fresh water or flat pure ginger beer also 48 hours before launch.
4. On the boat stay in fresh air and focus on the horizon or any fixed point. Stand if you can and keep your legs rigid - do not bend your knees to compensate for the boats movement as this confuses the brain.
5. Talk to people around you - make jokes and have a laugh!
6. Stay away from confined spaces where there may be smoke or fumes and stay away from anyone who is sea sick as this will definitely affect your brain senses.
7. Chew gum on the boat as this assists the inner ear balance (such boiled sweets is also ok).
8. Take dry food such as granola bars or ginger biscuits and stay hydrated with small amount of water or ginger infused drinks - not fizzy
9. A cold face cloth kept in you cooler box will assist if sweating or nausea starts.
10. Lastly, have fun and enjoy the experience and catch those big fish.
Good Luck!
Best Regards,
Lizzy on May 14, 2017:
Being sea sick tastes gross and is gross. But I am going fishing out on a boat for the first time in a long time because last time I went on a boat was when I was 9 ( 3rd grade) now I am 10 and in 4th grade. I had my dad get me like 3 types of meds for tomorrow.
Cheryl Lawlor on August 3, 2020:
I've had vertigo for a long time now, but it hasn't given me motion sickness until recently, when I began to vomit once a week or more with it.

I bought Traavel Calm Ginger from the chemist plus anti acid medications.

II have noticed the Ginger is very effective if I take a ginger tablet when I first start to notice the nausea. Also if I can I sit down for awhile and steady my head. Ginger biscuits helped too, before I got onto the the Travel Calm Ginger tablets.

The Tablets are expensive at $8.00 a box , but I have come across them for $5.99 a box in woolworths supermarket.

Really appreciated this article for all the extra information it gave me, thought I would just write and confirm that I have discovered that Ginger Ginger works well for me too.
Yorick on October 19, 2022:
A lot of good advice. Brandy was always helpful for me. Dont forget the importance of fresh air. Very true about distractions. Here is a true life story from me. I used to get bad sea sickness - got a job on the Townsend Thoressen ferries clearing up mess (yes including after people had been sick) and against all expectations that pretty well cured me!! I didn't have time to think about feeling ill. If you get car sick, sitting in the front of the car not in the back seat helps enormously (less swing).
Never try to read anything including smart phone.
Finally all sufferers should be grateful to whomsoever it was who in the 1980s invented boat stabalisers which means that boats tumble about much less. Anyone using the England to France channel ferry must have noticed that.
Dutchovendave on March 18, 2024:
Best article I have read in years thank you.

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