I have many happy memories of travelling as a child: long plane journeys to visit family in Southeast Asia and kids' clubs at resorts where we tried and failed to learned songs in Spanish.
When I close my eyes to picture these journeys in planes and cars, my memory conjures up one overpowering smell: the sick bag.
My mother used to pack these thin, orange plastic bags (looking back, I think they were nappy bags) for me to frequently throw up in while we drove around and for plane landings. The smell of that bag made me feel 10x more nauseous every time.
I've had motion sickness as long as I can remember and, with pregnancy making me feel hotter all the time and generally more sensitive to just about everything, I've spent the last few months refining the best ways to combat motion sickness - in my personal experience at least, as I'm sure different techniques work for different people.
(1) TRAVEL BANDS
I can't believe I only discovered these this year! I had no idea they were a form of acupressure and thought they were some sort of placebo and a waste of money. I've been using them since July and, while they didn't work at all for first-trimester nausea, they work quite well for motion sickness. Sometimes I'll feel great with these on and even be able to use my phone in the car. Sometimes they don't work so well and I have to use my other tricks alongside the bands. But I don't lose anything from packing them in my bag while travelling.
(2) COLD WATER
The colder the better. Iced water helped with pregnancy nausea and has always helped with motion sickness. If you have a big keep-cool bottle, that's ideal.
(3) SOMETHING ELSE COLD
Maybe a bottle of iced water - to place on your neck, your forehead, your upper legs... if using a bottle of water, don't use the same bottle you're drinking from because it will (a) warm the drinking water and (b) run out throughout the journey as you're sipping on it.
(4) TURN THE AC DOWN
Turn the air conditioning way down - if you hadn't noticed, keeping cool is key. Even in the winter, if I start to feel sick I prefer to have no heating or even get a bit of cold air going.
(5) OPEN THE WINDOWS
If the AC isn't working for you, fresh air and a natural breeze makes it feel less like you're in a stuffy car that you can't escape from.
(6) AVOID EXCESSIVE LIQUID INTAKE
Don't glug loads of liquid, including liquid-heavy foods, before jumping in a car or on a bus. Of course we want to stay hydrated throughout the day, but for me, downing a litre of liquid immediately before being bumped around and swayed from side to side induces h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e n-a-u-s-e-a. It's the same feeling I get when I do cardio, drink lots of water and then decide to do sit ups. I regret it by the third sit-up.
(7) CHEWING GUM
Apparently chewing gum helps your sense of balance in the ears (I could google this but I'm just repeating what I've heard right now). Ones with a really punchy, strong menthol flavour also help to take my mind off of feeling sick.
(8) SITTING IN THE FRONT SEAT
If you're a passenger, the front seat is your best option.
When I'm driving myself, I only feel sick when stuck in a lot of stop-start traffic and, as a front-seat passenger, it feels just slightly worse than being the driver. There's a good clear view in front of the passenger seat, which is optimal for avoiding motion sickness as you can focus with minimal obstruction.
(9) CHOOSE YOUR VIEW
If you're in the middle backseat, having a clear view of the front window helps, as having several different focal points can add to the feeling of nausea. For example, if there are big things hanging from the mirror and a phone screen partially blocking the windscreen, these confuse my eyes and I'll feel sick. If I enter a car and see a load of objects blocking the view, I'll make sure to not sit in the middle seat.
If you're sat on one of the other backseats and you're looking out of the side window, stick to it. Recently, I've been experimenting with keeping my gaze just on the side-window view while sat in the backseat, and it's definitely been better than switching my gaze between the front windscreen and the side window. I try to focus my eyes on stuff that's farther away in the distance if possible, as shorter-distance images whizzing by can throw me off and add to the nausea.
(10) DON'T LOOK DOWN
Avoid looking anywhere but out of the window while moving: no reading, no looking for stuff in your bag, no checking your mobile. All these things mess up the focal point and make you (or me at least) feel kind of dizzy.
(11) WEAR LIGHT LAYERS
In the winter, thick jumpers, scarves and long hair worn loose are some of the worst culprits for making me feel too warm in the car. The initial undress is freezing and horrible, but I know within 5-10 minutes I'll feel nasty if I keep thick layers on, especially if the heating is on.
(12) WEAR NATURAL FABRICS
Wear natural fabrics, such as organic cotton, and less 'sticky'-material clothing. Breathable clothes help to regulate body temperature. I get hot & bothered in anything that sticks to me and start to feel clammy, which adds to the 'blaahhh' feeling - but it's easily avoided by wearing the right clothes!
In cars with leather-style seats, I'd recommend wearing trousers/a long skirt on the legs rather than anything short. Just like the sticky-clothing feeling, legs sticking to seats adds to the feeling of "this is a gross experience and now I feel gross" 😷.
(13) BUS: STICK TO THE LOWER DECK
Sit on the bottom deck of the bus. If you sit on the top deck, because there's more side-to-side leverage the higher up you are, you'll be swaying side to side more, so you're more likely to feel sick. This happened to me on one of the first few days of high school and I stepped off the bus and threw up the Ribena I'd drunk for breakfast an hour earlier. Lesson learned.
(14) TRAIN/BUS: FACE FORWARDS
Sit facing forward on the train/bus - I don't really know why sitting forward is a better option than sitting backwards, but this is what works for me. I guess it helps because the movement is going the same way as are the images in your peripheral vision.
(15) PLANE: CHOOSE THE WINDOW SEAT
Sit at the window seat on the plane. I find it best to sit at the window unless the window is in a weird position and you have to strain to see out of it properly. In this case, a window seat makes it worse for me and I try to sit in the aisle seat so that I can focus far down into the aisle. Anything but the middle seat!
(16) EXPLAIN YOURSELF
Finally, be vocal about your motion sickness.
Telling other passengers at the start of the journey that I get travel sick and might go silent on them, or that I probably won't look at them while they're talking in order to prevent sickness coming on, puts me at ease. If I do start to feel queasy, I know I don't have to try and be polite at my own expense, and when I fall silent people don't try to make conversation.
I hope these tips help you if you suffer from motion sickness!
There's also always the motion-sickness-pill route. I've never taken these tablets as I try to only take medication when absolutely necessary, and the ones I've come across cause drowsiness/fatigue (which I don't want). If you're expecting and you're considering using them, be sure to check with your doctor that they're safe for pregnancy!
What do you do to combat motion sickness? I'd love to hear some more tips!
Thanks for reading 😊