Car Sickness Survival Tips

Summer is upon us and that means car trips, whether you’re driving a couple of hours or a couple of days if you or your child  is prone to motion sickness the fun can be decreased quickly – especially if you find yourself scraping vomit out of your backseat on the shoulder of the expressway in 90 degree heat.

Between my own experience being  kid losing her cookies and the parent stuck cleaning up the aftermath I have picked up a thing or two about making the best of a queasy situation.

Be aware of the triggers.  Car sickness is caused from a disconnection between what is felt and what is seen.  If you are susceptible to this type of motion sickness looking down for a long time or reading in the car is a recipe for disaster. While the eyes are telling the brain that it is inside a stationary vehicle, the inner ear is sensing the motion of the car. Ickiness follows.

Ban reading or playing below window level. It feels odd to say no to books when it comes to your kids, but the most effective way to keep from getting carsick is to look outside. Watching the world go by means that the eyes and the inner ear are on the same page.  Instead load up on audio books to pass the time.

If you have a child who is easily car sick keep the following things in the trunk for trips:

– garbage or plastic bags

– a shovel and pail (the kind children play with on the beach)

– some water (for cleaning off and drinking)

– disinfectant wipes

– spare clothing

– a couple of old towels


If the time for prevention has passed and you hear the dreaded, “I think I am going to be sick.” from the backseat, all is not lost.

Pull over as soon as you can and let them outside to walk around a bit.  Fresh air and easy movement are a good way to reconnect the parts of the brain that were disagreeing quickly.

Settle the stomach with peppermint, small sips of cold water and/or salty, plain crackers.

Move them to the front seat if they are old/large enough to safely do so.  They can then look through the windshield more easily and are less likely to allow their eyes to wander downward again.

When they feel a bit better you can continue on but give them a puke catcher  the sand pail if you have it or a plastic bag, baseball helmet or empty KFC bucket- better to have a fail safe just in case.  Also a good idea to place a towel or blanket over the child’s legs and lap, as sometimes the aim isn’t so great.

If motion sickness comes on quickly, which it is certainly capable of doing you’ll need to go into clean up mode.  Pull over in the first safe place you come to and  contain as much as possible. Pull out the garbage or plastic bags, change the kiddo out of any clothes that were soiled and put them in the bag.  Scrape out any debris (this is where a sand shovel comes in handy). Once all solid waste has been cleared use your disinfectant wipes on everything until you feel it is reasonably clean.  If the child is still in a car seat of has nowhere else to sit, fold a dry towel up to keep their seat dry and usable.

Stay calm and carry on.  Getting car sick is never intentional, so make sure to keep your voice kind and neutral.  Deal with the mess quickly and without complaining aloud (trust me your internal dialogue will not be pleasant).  Remind yourself that the vomit will be cleaned up shortly but depending on their age, your child may never forget this or your reaction to it. I felt horrible about throwing up every time it happened when I was little and I remember my parents’ patience helping me to feel less guilty about staining the floor mats.

When you arrive most hotels have coin operated laundry facilities or emergency cleaning services, just ask at the front desk. This happens all the time so don’t be shy in asking for help.

It is possible to still have a great trip even after the unexpected tossing of cookies occurs.  I should know, I was the mom cleaning puke out of my car fifteen minutes outside of our nation’s capital this weekend.


2 thoughts on “Car Sickness Survival Tips

  1. I like the shovel idea. I’ve also found it helpful to have a plastic bowl with a lid so you can contain the puke smell. And, in my new car, a CR-V, I discovered that when I remove the head rest from the front passenger seat my little guy can see out the front window. He has only been sick once in this car, compared with regularly in my old Forester.

  2. I use the plastic bags to contain but a bowl with a lid would work even better. I’ll have to check out the head rest situation in the Kia. Good tips!

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