Road Trip!

18 Car Sickness Hacks That Really Work

What to do when your kid starts to feel puke-y on the road.

A carsick child sitting in the back seat of a car.
Justin Paget/Getty

Family road trips are some of the best memory-builders — except for when the kids get carsick. Car sickness can come on quickly, even during short drives, and makes road trips all but unbearable. Kids under age 2 tend to not experience car sickness, and car-related queasiness peaks around age 9, according to UC Davis Health. Luckily, there are scientifically backed car sickness remedies that really work to prevent and treat car sickness. Here are 18 you need to know.

1. Get Some Fresh Air

The moment motion sickness starts to hit, roll down the windows to get some fresh air. If you’re on the highway and that’s not an option, consider whether a rest stop is possible. The reason this helps probably has something to do with cold air helping to lower your core body temperature, which can improve some car sickness symptoms. Alternatively, if that’s not possible, you can...

2. Turn On The A/C

Air conditioning helps in much the same way fresh air does, even if it’s a little bit less fresh.

3. Wear A Car Sickness Band

The scientific evidence is mixed on whether acupressure bands, worn like bracelets, help with motion sickness. Anecdotally, some people say they work wonders while others find that they have no effect. But there don’t seem to be any downsides to wearing one, so have your kid try it out.

4. Close Your Eyes

A lot of car sickness comes with the weird vestibular senses of your inner ear and the signals it sends to the brain not lining up with what your eyes are seeing (because we’re not built to be going 70 mph down a highway). If you close your eyes, that can help with the issue — because your brain and eyes can’t have a mismatch if your eyes aren’t seeing anything in the first place. Alternatively...

5. Eyes On The Horizon

Kids aren’t the only ones who get carsick. So if you’re feeling nauseous and can’t close your eyes because your driver needs you for directions, keeping your eyes on the horizon is a good option — much better than looking out your side window. Staring straight ahead into the distance reduces the mismatch between the brain and eyes, reducing your chances of motion sickness.

6. Allergy Meds (Drowsy Variety)

According to the Cleveland Clinic, antihistamines not only stop you from sneezing, but they can also prevent car sickness and ease motion sickness symptoms. (Non-drowsy varieties won’t work for your car trips though.) Based on the available evidence, you should take the antihistamines as a preventative measure — not after you start feeling woozy. They’re better studied for car sickness in adults than kids, but that doesn’t have to stop you from performing your own experiment with your children.

Dramamine is perhaps the most popular antihistamine used for car sickness. It can be used in kids age 2 and up, but talk to your pediatrician first. And beware that rather than making your kids drowsy, antihistamines can sometimes have the opposite effect of making them very active. Ask your doctor if you should give it a test run before your road trip.

7. Car Sickness Glasses

Motion sickness glasses or goggles may look silly with a total of four circular frames to the front and sides, but they could do the trick. Like acupressure bands, they don’t work for everyone. And research hasn’t investigated their effectiveness yet. But by creating an artificial horizon, they may stop you from feeling nauseous.

8. BRAT Diet Before Traveling

Follow the BRAT diet for upset tummies (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) before traveling, Other bland foods are okay too, but keep away from anything more exciting to keep your stomach calm and lessen the chances of anything going awry.

9. Eat Small Snacks

Nibbling on some bland food during your travels can help settle your stomach. Again, think BRAT and BRAT-adjacent foods, like crackers and apples.

10. Aromatherapy

The Cleveland Clinic recommends breathing in the scents of mint, ginger, lemon, or lavender to ease car sickness. Try essential oils with these smells, which research suggests can have anti-nausea effects. Ginger in particular may be a good bet because it’s been shown to ease motion sickness symptoms in particular.

11. Suck On Peppermint Or Ginger Hard Candies

If you don’t have essential oils, sucking on hard candies of the same flavors (mint, ginger, or lemon) can help.

12. Drink Water

Dehydration makes nausea worse, so make sure you’re drinking water throughout your trip.

13. Sip A Carbonated Drink

Drinking carbonated beverages like bubbly water makes some people feel better in the car. For the adults, avoid caffeine as it can make you dehydrated, making you feel even more nauseous.

14. Distract!

A bored kid has nothing to do except focus on how sick they feel. So embrace the power of distraction with games, music, podcasts, or even good old-fashioned conversation. There’s some scientific evidence that this is effective; a recent study, for example, found that listening to music reduced post-operative vomiting, so it may be able to do the same for travel-related upchucks.

15. Always Carry Puke Bags

If worst comes to worst, you don’t want puke getting inside your car, because the lingering smell would make you gag throughout every road for the rest of forever. So make sure you have a puke bag, and make sure it’s strong. You really don’t want that bag to rip.

And Only For The Car Sick Adults...

16. Recline Your Chair

Changing your position can help with car sickness. This may mean sitting straight up like a board, but usually it means reclining your chair. This pairs well with the eyes closed method. Perfect for a nap.

17. Sit In The Front Passenger Seat

The adult who is most likely to puke should drive the car, which may help with motion sickness because it allows them to better anticipate movement. But the runner-up should claim shotgun. When it comes to kids sitting in the front seat, be sure to follow child safety rules first and foremost, however. Children can start sitting in the front passenger seat when they’re 13-years-old.

18. Car Sickness Patches

A patch containing the drug scopolamine, called Transderm Scop, can be placed behind the ear to prevent nausea and vomiting from motion sickness and other causes. The patch isn’t available for kids and drivers can’t use it because it can cause drowsiness, but it’s fair game for the person riding shotgun. You’ll need a prescription to get the patch, and be sure to slap it on four hours before your drive begins.