What helps with motion sickness for car, boat, and plane travel

boy looking at horizon from a boat

RACV Staff

Posted October 07, 2022

What can you do when travelling makes you sick to your stomach? Don't forgo your road trip, cruise, or flight; these simple remedies can help you enjoy your journey. 

Carsick, seasick, airsick. It doesn't matter how you experience it; any kind of motion sickness can make travelling a misery. 

Through no fault of their own, roughly one in three people experience motion or travel sickness. No matter whether it’s on the calm highway during a long-distance road trip or on a violent roller coaster ride, motion sickness can kick in without warning for different people. 

With symptoms ranging from mild dizzy spells to full-blown nausea, here’s some simple tips and tricks to  stay healthy when travelling and keep motion sickness symptoms at bay. 

child sitting in the backset of a car looking out of the window

Making sure kids' car seats are high enough to see out the window can help keep motion sickness at bay. Image: Getty.

How to fix travel sickness

What are the symptoms and causes of motion sickness? 

While motion sickness can affect anyone, for unknown reasons, women and children are generally more prone to it than men. You are also more likely to experience motion sickness if you have had it before, or if you already suffer from sickness that affect balance, such as vertigo, migraines, and inner-ear problems (vestibular disorders). 

Also known as kinetosis, motion sickness is a common reaction that happens to many people when the brain receives conflicting information from the body. 

For example, during a car ride, if your inner ear senses motion, but your eyes and body don’t see or feel the same movement, there’s a mismatch of brain messaging. This confusion can cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting. 

Symptoms can include a migraine or headache, feeling dizzy, excessive saliva production, burping, sweating, nausea, and a general feeling of being tired and unwell. 

Motion sickness preventions, remedies, and treatments

If you or someone you know are suspectable to motion sickness, it is best to prepare ahead.

Dr Sonny Lau, medical director at Travel Doctor-TMVC Melbourne, says there are some key remedies that can be used when feeling queasy. 

If you know you or a travel partner are prone to motion sickness, Dr Lau says it is best to plan ahead – so be organised and travel with extra clothes, wet wipes and vomit bags.

The vestibular senses in the brain need to match the inner ear balance, or what can be seen. To do this, Dr Lau says to keep eyes on the horizon – so no reading or looking at screens, especially when your journey is bumpy or windy.

You should also increase airflow whenever you can – open windows in the car and turn on your air vent on a plane.

He advises that while there are medications that can help, many can cause drowsiness, which limits their usefulness during shorter journeys, for drivers, and for younger kids. 

Natural remedies such as ginger, peppermint and acupressure-stimulating wristbands do also work for some. Dr Lau also says to avoid alcohol for 24 hours before and during the journey. 

It's best to consult with your GP or pharmacist for what works best for you. 


man feeling sick on a boat

Anyone can experience motion sickness. Image: Getty.

Car sickness

For cars, if your child is prone to getting car sick, making sure children can see out the window and open it for fresh air is vital. Dr Lau says that kids’ car seats should be high enough so they can see outside easily.

Being able to look at the horizon or on a steady platform helps in balancing out what they see with the movements they are experiencing, says Dr Lau.

Some people also find anti-static straps, or car sickness straps, useful for car sickness. These are straps that get attached to the bumper or underside of the car and are designed to ground static charges in the vehicle. 

For older passengers, sitting in the front passenger seat and being able to look out the window can help. 

Boat sickness

Most reports of sea sickness tend to happen on smaller boats such as a small dinghy or fishing boat. If you are wanting to sail the seven seas without the sickness, where possible, go for a larger mode of transport like a cruise, rather than a small fishing boat or catamaran. 

On a boat, it is best to look toward the horizon, and if possible, outside with fresh air. 

Acupressure bracelets can also be worn to assist with nausea, which are material wrist bands with beads designed to be positioned on pressure points to help with alleviating motion sickness. 

Plane sickness

Ensure you have a flowing air vent and have a sick bag ready.

If possible, choose a seat that is either closer to the front (or go first class!) of the plane, or near the wing, where it is likely to be more stable. 

If your child is prone to air sickness, ensure you have prepared to travel on a long haul flight.

Stay away from foods that are greasy or spicy, and instead, bring along some crackers and soda water to help an upset stomach. 


man getting motion sickness on a plane

Use the air vent on the plane to assist with motion sickness. Image: Getty.

When will motion sickness go away?

While unpleasant, the saving grace of motion sickness is that it is temporary, with symptoms passing in the four hours after the motion. This gives you time to go out and enjoy your holiday

Just keep your eyes on the horizon.