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Dealing with Motion Sickness via Wayfaring With Wagner

Confessions of a 27-year-old travel blogger – I still get horrible motion sickness. For most of my life, I’ve always had to deal with motion sickness, although to varying degrees. It doesn’t matter the mode of transportation – plane, train, automobile, boat – I get it with any sort of movement (even during 3D movies and motion simulator rides). As a child, I would get it quite badly. Considering that my family frequently took long road trips, I learned early on how to manage it. It got much better throughout my teenage years but steadily became worse again in my 20s. I distinctly remember being on a transatlantic flight a few years ago and just running to the bathroom multiple times. I don’t think I was ever happier to land and get off the plane. Thankfully, throughout the years, I’m come up with tips for dealing with motion sickness, avoiding triggers, and planning strategically!

What is Motion Sickness?

It’s important to understand exactly what motion sickness is and how it affects your body. To be honest, I only found out this year what causes motion sickness. The easiest way to describe it is a sensory mismatch – it’s when the eyes’ perception of movement doesn’t match the inner ear’s perception of movement. Your inner ear controls your balance and posture, and is home to the vestibular and somatosensory systems (yes, I have no clue what that means). Motion sickness occurs when your eyes tell your brain that there is no movement but your inner ear tells your brain there is movement (or vice versa)! These conflicting signals ultimately cause nausea, headaches, and the other symptoms of motion sickness.

Symptoms of Motion Sickness

Most people assume that motion sickness is only nausea and vomiting. In reality, motion sickness covers a wide range of symptoms including:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headaches
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • upset stomach
  • churning feeling

To be honest, I usually experience almost all of the above symptoms when I have motion sickness. I’m lucky enough to not vomit often but I definitely get nausea, headaches, and sweating/dizziness.

Dealing with Motion Sickness via Wayfaring With Wagner

Pre-Trip Prep

In order to fight motion sickness before it even begins, I have a few pre-trip prep rules! I always dress in layers. This tip actually refers back to the symptom of sweating. To combat overheating, I tend to always try to have cool air blowing on me (especially my face). This leads to me getting cold quite easily! So I always dress in multiple layers. That way, if I do start overheating and sweating, I can easier try to curb the symptoms by removing layers.

Probably the strictest rule I have for myself is no drinking alcohol before or during any modes of transportation – not even a glass! I know a lot of people like drinking to calm their nerves or fall asleep but I avoid drinking like the plague. It just gets me nauseous and feeling absolutely horrible. I am adamant about following this rule and never budge.

Following along with no drinking alcohol, I try to be really strategic about what I eat. This means not cramming a heavy meal or fast food into me right before I have to take a mode of transportation. I also try to limit my dairy intake. Instead, I tend to munch throughout the entire ride instead of consuming one giant meal. Eating a little bit consistently can also help to combat the churning stomach feeling some experience with motion sickness!

Book Strategically

I am crazy about booking my seating strategically in order to combat motion sickness! With a little bit of planning, you can minimize or completely avoid motion sickness. Regardless of whether I’m on a plane, train, car, or boat, I have these same rules – always book a seat facing forward!!! This is absolutely critical because facing backwards totally throws off your perception of movement. I mostly encounter this during train rides (Deutsche Bahn should really get better at indicating in their online seating charts the direction of travel!). If I can’t figure out which way the train is going to go, the Prince and I will actually book seats across from each other. That way, we can always swap seats if I book the seat facing backwards (thank goodness the Prince doesn’t get motion sickness). I’m so psycho about my rule regarding not sitting backwards that I won’t even do it on the subway in Hamburg for 2 stops! If I can’t find a spot facing forward, I usually just end up standing so then I can control facing forward.

Some other booking tips I’ve picked up along the way – always book a seat in the middle of the plane (preferably over the wings) as this is the most stable area, try to sit in the front/close to the front in a car/bus, always grab a seat above deck while on a boat (if possible), and get an outside cabin on a cruise ship!

Dealing with Motion Sickness via Wayfaring With Wagner

I also always try to book or pick a seat near a window. This way, I can roll/open the window (if necessary). Regardless of where you’re sitting, I always try to get air – whether from the outside or AC. I find that this really helps combat motion sickness and the potential sweating that comes along with it.

When I went to Cuba in October 2016, my family took a cruise from Miami to Havana and around the entire island. The seasickness I experienced the first night was one of the worst experiences of my life (second place goes to the seasickness I experienced on the Queen Mary 2 during a transatlantic crossing in 2012). I was slowly sipping water, eating saltine crackers, and attempting to sleep while snapping at anyone that tried to speak to me. There’s nothing worse than getting motion sickness and knowing you can’t leave! I will admit, I have so much respect for individuals that fled Cuba for the United States on small dinghies – the waves between Miami and Cuba are no joke.

Packing Essentials

There are three essentials I always carry with me when going on anything with motion:

  • water
  • ibuprofen
  • Dramamine

These are so essential that I always have them in my backpack and/or purse! I am constantly sipping water throughout my journeys and tend to just down the entire bottle when I feel the faintest hint of motion sickness. For me, the ibuprofen not only lessens/eliminates my headaches but it also helps with sweating and the dizziness. Lastly, Dramamine is what I bring out when 1) I know I’m 100% going to get motion sickness or 2) I am having a full-fledge motion sickness attack. Dramamine is a medication specifically made to fight against motion sickness. However, it makes you extremely tired – just taking one dose can knock me out for hours. They do make a non-drowsy formula but *spoiler alert* – the non-drowsy formula is half the strength of the normal formula. Because of the severity of tiredness associated with Dramamine, I really only take it now when absolutely necessary.

These are the essentials I bring with me, or have been suggested to me, for preventative measures:

  • patches
  • barf bags
  • acupressure bands

When I went on the cruise from Miami to Cuba, I was able to get prescription patches to help motion sickness (of course, I wasn’t wearing one when I got motion sickness…oops!). This patch just sticks directly on your skin and slowly releases medication over the course of 3-5 days (so it’s a better option for long-term motion like cruises and overnight train rides). It’s important to note that this can also cause fatigue and sleepiness so I only use the patch if absolutely necessary.

I’ve personally never bought barf bags or acupressure bands but I’ve heard great things about both, especially the latter. In terms of barf bags, I always double-check that my seat pocket on planes has a barf bag (although I’m not prone to vomiting so it isn’t my number one concern). I have also heard amazing things about an acupressure band. It provides relief by using ancient Chinese medicine. The band has a plastic stud that constantly provides pressure to the Pericardium 6 or Nei Guan (P6). The Nei Guan is located three finger widths below the wrist on the inner forearm in between the two tendons. These bands can be worn for up to 48 hours and most people find relief almost immediately.

Dealing with Motion Sickness via Wayfaring WIth Wagner

Identify Triggers

It’s important to know your triggers for motion sickness so you can begin to combat motion sickness before it even begins. For me, I get motion sickness on all types of motion including planes, trains, cars, boats, 3D movies, and motion simulator rides (can Disney and Universal Studios stop replacing so many rides with motion simulator rides?!). Oddly enough, I tend to do fine on actual roller coasters!

Like I mentioned above, the location of my seat is really important. I am strategic in booking my seat and will typically pay additional money just to get a seat that will minimize or eliminate my motion sickness. To me, that’s money well spent!

Lastly, I avoid reading, using electronics, or eating a full meal. Reading and using electronics can really affect your eyes’ perception of motion, throwing you straight into motion sickness. Additionally, as talked about above, I tend to just snack a lot and drink lots of water – eating a large meal can really upset my stomach.

Overcoming Motion Sickness

Let’s be honest – there are going to be moments when you follow all the above advice and still get motion sickness. It’s inevitable and unfortunately, really sucks. There are always going to be factors you can’t control – hilly roads, bumpy rides, waves, turbulence, etc. However, these are the steps I take to deal with motion sickness once I already have it.

  • If you haven’t already taken medicine, take it the minute you start feeling motion sickness. It won’t work right away but should help lessen the symptoms in less than a half an hour.
  • Drink water or something fizzy. I like not only drinking water but also something called “Apfelschorle” (apple juice mixed with bubbly water). It sounds weird but it is super popular in Germany. I find it is not only refreshing but also helps my stomach when it starts churning.
  • I’ve heard mixed advice about whether this is good or bad for you but I always try to sleep when I get motion sickness. Here’s the ironic part – when I was a baby, I had colic and the only thing that settled me down was strapping me in the car and driving me around (just imagine my Dad driving me around downtown Washington, D.C. at all hours…haha). While I do have quite severe motion sickness, I also have the most amazing ability to sleep in anything moving (I’m able to sleep through an entire transatlantic flight – from before take-off to after landing. I consider it quite a skill!). If you can’t sleep or don’t favor this method, try to focus on the horizon or something fixed in the distance.
  • This sounds a bit intuitive but I take really deep, long breaths and try to talk myself out of motion sickness. Maybe I’m crazy or maybe it actually works?! Regardless, it has definitely helped in some situations.
  • STOP reading, looking at your phone, doing a crossword puzzle, etc. This only perpetuates the already confusing signals your brain is receiving! I usually don’t even read to begin with because I know it is a motion sickness trigger for me.
  • Drink/Eat something with peppermint and/or ginger. I haven’t actually done this but a lot of people swear it helps them with nausea, dizziness, and motion sickness!

Conclusion

To be blunt, motion sickness sucks and I feel like a little kid considering that I still suffer from it even in my mid-20s! When I’m on a crazy turbulent plane or bumpy train and look around, I feel like I’m the only suffering from it (please tell me I’m not alone?!). This is definitely something I’ll probably suffer from for the rest of my life but 40-something countries later and it hasn’t stopped me from traveling around the world. The biggest advice I have for motion sickness is to be prepared and know your triggers. Happy traveling!

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Whether traveling by train, plane, car, or boat, dealing with motion sickness is no fun! Learn how to combat motion sickness and identify motion sickness triggers in order to cope with motion sickness! #motionsickness on your next trip #traveltips #healthytravel
Whether traveling by train, plane, car, or boat, dealing with motion sickness is no fun! Learn how to combat motion sickness and identify motion sickness triggers in order to cope with motion sickness! #motionsickness on your next trip #traveltips #healthytravel
Whether traveling by train, plane, car, or boat, dealing with motion sickness is no fun! Learn how to combat motion sickness and identify motion sickness triggers in order to cope with motion sickness! #motionsickness on your next trip #traveltips #healthytravel

27 Comments

  1. Motion sickness is the worst. I get it mostly on land, but sometimes flying especially if it’s stuffy or not well ventilated. I feel bad because Leighton gets it too! Mostly in cars too but someone told us they put a paper bag on their daughters tummy (under their clothes) and it’s supposed to help. I have no idea what the science (or if there is any) but since we started doing that she hasn’t been sick once.

  2. You are not alone! I am 37 and still get motion sickness, especially in the backseats of cars and on ships. It’s not so bad that I need medication. I just definitely canNOT read in cars or buses and ginger candy definitely helps.

  3. It’s so clever of you that you KNOW yourself and that you prepare accordingly! This is such a hard thing for people to learn, I think. I don’t have as severe of motion sickness as you, but I specifically remember a harrowing bus ride in Italy where having music & headphones seriously SAVED me. I don’t know if it helped take my mind off it or what the science is there but without music, the journey would have been about fifty times worse. Do you feel that music helps you in these situations or no?

  4. Yes, me too! To all of it! I always try to sit in “Fahrtrichtung” on the Deutsche Bahn if I know what direction I’m reserving my seat in — if I do, I can usually read or doing some work (thanks to flat Northern Germany), but if I have to sit in the other direction, I usually end up sleeping or listening to a podcast — otherwise, I will definitely get motion sick. On planes, I ALWAYS take Dramamine as a prevention measure — I just don’t want to take the chance. And in every day life, I always have Dramamine in my bag for that random chance that a windy cab ride or ferry trip will make me motion sick. Glad we’ve both find ways to cope though, so that we can keep up on our travels and adventures!

  5. You are awesome for sharing this! I only recently started suffering from motion sickness when I got pregnant and it hasn’t gone away (2.5 years after giving birth) and it is terrible/frustrating/embarrassing. Like you, I also have a problem on any moving thing as well as watching certain movies/performances. Since it is so new to me, I’m still figuring out what works and what doesn’t but so far I’m all about lots of Dramamine. Have those patches helped you? I read that they could interfere with memory, so I’ve not tried them yet. I don’t find the accupressure bands helpful, FYI. I’m curious, what do you do about movies/performances? Close your eyes? Are you okay if you are driving?

  6. I suffer bad of motion sickness especially when i travel by car and sit in the back, or by boat. For me, Stugeron 15 works the best and it doesn’t make me very sleepy. I have also tried the anti motion sickness sunglasses, which surprisingly worked! The truth is, motion sickness will not stop me traveling, haha :)

    • Wow, the reviews on thus are great. I get drowsy on Dramamine but it beats the pukes. Thank you! Would you say when you take the medication you do not get motion sickness?

  7. I used to get sick too when I was a kid during road trips and boat trips. Now I only get sick on boats and it’s so bad that I usually try to avoid them, but your tips are so useful!!

  8. Ohh motion sickness is THE WORST! I’m so sorry to hear that you get it all the time :( I only get it from the sea, and the worst one I got was in the Maldives when we had like 1 more hour to get back on land. It was terrible!! For me, pills have really helped. I’ve never heard about these patches, though! I need to ask in one of the nearby pharmacies for them :)) Thank you for all the great tips!

  9. Andrea Mayfield Reply

    I have never had to deal with motion sickness but if I did this guide would come in handy!

  10. I get motion sickness sometimes too! Your comments about knowing the signs are what has helped me the most when it comes to trying to combat it!

  11. I totally relate to this! I get motion sickness all the time and many of these steps are ones I take. I pretty much swear by sleeping through the sickness! I’m also sure to keep my body cool and have a little food in my stomach (especially on early morning trips) to keep from getting sick. Dramamine usually knocks me out too much though. I take a medicine called Bonine and it works like magic!

  12. I totally feel you on this! I am SO prone to motion sickness and nausea in general from just about anything…I don’t even know when in my life it started getting so bad. I think it’s genius that you guys book opposite seats on the train! Such a smart move on your part, and so lucky the Price doesn’t get sick going backwards. I definitely couldn’t deal with that!

  13. Oh no. just this topic makes my stomach turn. i remember one time when I was a kid and we had to ride a ferry. let’s just say that it was messy until the bus ride after!

  14. Some great tips here :) I’m sorry to hear you have severe motion sickness on almost all modes of transport! I always have motion sickness in cars and small boats. Luckily I’m fine on cruise ships and planes. I never read in cars and always have to sit in the front seat so I can see the road. On boats, I always look at the horizon, which usually helps. For some reason, eating helps as well :) On my last boat trip, I tried out the acupressure bands, which didn’t help at all. A fellow passenger then gave me ginger candy, which alleviated some of the symptoms. I then took one of the motion sickness tablets, and slept the whole way.
    When I feel the nausea coming up, I blow ice cold air on me, and take jacket/sweater off. Even if it means I’m freezing :D

    I’m glad to read it hasn’t stopped you from travelling!

  15. I got the worst motion sickness in Hawaii – the crews ginger candies saved me ! It can be hard to overcome but definetly not worth stopping travel for – these are great tips!

  16. grrr… motion sickness. I seldom experience motion sickness. But when I do, it usually on land and I end up vomiting. Great post by the way! :D

  17. Ah this is a bummer that you suffer from this! At least you have figured out tips for minimizing the chance of getting sick! I agree that DeutscheBahn should really inform you of which direction the train is traveling! #WanderfulWednesday

  18. Motion sickness never used to be a problem. Now I just need to look at the backseat of a car :) Boats are usually the main problem now. And I always forget about it, until I’m about to board or see the choppy seas. Not as prepared as you :) #wanderfulwednesday

  19. I definitely struggle with motion sickness (and abstain from dramamine when I can because of the fatigue), so these are all really great tips for me! It’s so bad that I have to opt out of most bus/van tours, which sucks because sometimes there are things I really want to see! Definitely pinning this for later reference and to try!

  20. This is such a great post, Jordan – I suffer from motion sickness myself and can definitely attest that it is NOT fun, and also all your tips are spot on! I am lucky to not experience it on planes, and rarely on trains. However I almost always get it in cars. Making sure not to read/look at my phone is really important. I also need to sit in the front seat or back middle seat where I can look out straight ahead. If I have the option to drive myself, I always go with that because I never get carsick when I’m driving. The first time I ever met my boyfriend’s mom, I got carsick in her car and we had to pull over to the side of the road hahaha – super embarrassing but it’s just life! As I’m in my mid twenties too, I think it’s also something I’m going to be dealing with for a long time.

  21. Ugh this just sounds so incredibly terrible! I’m glad that you’ve found ways to cope and deal with all the morning sickness and hopefully one day it will die down for you. I never thought about the middle of the plane being the most stable but it makes sense!

  22. These are good tips, and I agree about the Dramamine. When I am on a boat, Dramamine is my go to.

  23. Aw I hate motion sickness and both me and my Brit have it (he’s worst than me in trains and I’m worst in cars) and it’s awful to travel together sometimes haha at least on planes we’re both okay, but on land we are both awful, once we both passed out from motion sickness pills lol

  24. I use the acupressure band and love them! I can now finally work or read/watch a movie on a bus which I’ve never been able to do before! For turbulences on flights and ferry journeys, I also always take those chewing gums against motion sickness (I get them in Germany and they probably contain something similar to Dramamine?!). It’s a shame that I can’t go anywhere without struggling with motion sickness but I don’t let it stop me and I always come prepared which makes a huge difference!

  25. Hi Jordan,
    thanks for sharing your story! You are certainly not alone with this!
    I´m a Divemaster and travel blogger and also suffer from motion sickness on a regular basis. It is quite an uncomfortable situation sometimes. Last year, I was working in the Philippines as a Divemaster. One day I was the tour guide and went out on the boat with 3 dive guests (2 of them were a Dutch couple both working at KLM as flight attendant and pilot). At some point, the sea got really rough and despite taking a pill, I thought I was gonna be the first one to be seasick. The pilot and FA were super relaxed of course as they´re used to turbulences and motions. In the end, we managed to reach land in time for me not to be sick, but I was still very ashamed of my motion sickness issue.
    Anyway, what has helped me a lot over the past decade are pills (antiemetics and anti-vertigo drugs) as well as a German medical chewing gum called “SuperPep”. The chewing gum is pretty expensive, though it doesn´t make you very sleepy. Plus, it helps a lot faster than the pills as it gets into your system through the oral mucosa.

    By the way, I SO feel ya regarding the Deutsche Bahn and the fact that they never indicate the direction of travel! It´s always a 50/50 chance you´re sitting backward. :/

  26. I get awful motion sickness too, plus I am a puke phobe. It is an awful combination but I caught a bad wanderlust bug so am trying to overcome it. I probably overmedicate but it keeps me puke free (dramamine, xanax, zofran). I also do 1,000 to 1,500 mg ginger, a functional medicine doc at Cleveland Clinic said the dosage of ginger needs to be pretty high. I also do some homeopathic things. One thing I swear by is my motion sickness band. It shoots electronic pulses at this point on the wrist and you can increase the intensity. It worked during moderate turbulence…

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