Three humble tips to help prevent carsickness on your next road trip with kids

Day1 of the big roadtrip: 110 degrees and trying to make it to our Yosemite Mountain Sugarpine train ride in time. Surprise!

Day1 of the big roadtrip: 110 degrees and trying to make it to our Yosemite Mountain Sugarpine Railroad train ride in time. Surprise!

Greetings from Denver! We’ve made it to our farthest point east on this journey. Those of you who have been following us on Facebook during our current family road trip may have picked up on some unpleasant surprises we’ve had along the way—and thanks for all your comments of support, and questions of concern about your own impending trips! (See our road trip map on the homepage at www.travelswithbaby.com!)

One comment I especially appreciated came from Melanie, the mom of a 19-month-old, who said that just hours after reading my latest carsickness post on Facebook and thinking, “I’m so glad my child isn’t a puker,” her child threw up for the first time! No, I’m not pleased about that, but it just goes to show that carsickness can sneak up on even those you least suspect.

Case in point: My kids (all 3 of them) have traveled every stretch of the I-5 corridor between Vancouver, BC and San Diego at various times, some stretches of that many times. Not one of them ever got sick on I-5 (knock wood). My eldest daughter has been to Yosemite probably 9 times, but only got car sick once (memorably as we drove through the dark tunnel entering the valley), though she came close this last time!

What makes this trip different?

I can point to 3 things I suspect:

1) Video games and movies in the car – The two kids who got woozy Day 1 on our way to Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, with one erupting, had been playing video games in the back seat on our tablet (like an iPad, but with a detachable keyboard and less expensive). “NO MORE VIDEO GAMES IN THE CAR!” I ranted, changing Little T’s clothes, as my third child complained, “But Mommy, that’s not fair—I haven’t played yet!” And of course, she wasn’t feeling sick, either. I won’t kid you – I’m concerned about our longest stretches still ahead of us, where we’d planned on filling some drive time with movies onthe lap top for them in the back seat… uh-oh!

Tip: Think hard about when and where you’ll allow screen time during your own road trip; it may actually work against you…

2) Fatigue + odd/irregular diets – This road trip has stretched them thin without their usual diet and meal times over a far more extended time than our usual long days of travel… and then being at a destination. We have slept in five different hotels in 6 nights! Fatigue combined with an odd and irregular diet is not a good combination for a back seat traveler. This journey is in no way reflective of how I recommend pacing road trips with babies and small children (as most of you know!). But here we are. I’m glad we’ll have 3 nights in the same beds, and a chance to do some “home cooking” while we’re here, before the long drive home! 

Tip: If your travel time will be hard on your child’s sleeping routines and feeding schedules, build in good stopovers where he’ll have a chance to catch up on both…

3) Heat + dehydration – We’ve been in some pretty hot weather, especially when compared with our usual mild climate of the Bay Area. It was 110 when we had that first roadside stop shown above. We try to keep the water flowing, especially for the kids who can become dehydrated even faster than us grownups, but it’s not always easy. Dehydration can make kids feel carsick even faster. And even when they guzzle a bottle of water after hiking in and out of Bryce Canyon (what champs!), they may still need more time and more fluids to get their levels back to wear they should be.

Tip: I suddenly have a new appreciation for Gatorade and sports drinks… consider packing some along in addition to your plain water bottles if you’ll be in extreme heat and very active.

If you want more tips for preventing carsickness on your family road trip – and for surviving it in case it still strikes in spite of your best efforts, I do have several tips in the Travels with Baby guidebook. If you don’t have a copy handy, I believe you can follow the link search inside the book at Amazon for “Carsickness Survival Guide” and read some of it for free.

I’m working on a list of some more tips on this and will post as soon as I get a chance.

How about you?

What have your experiences been—or lessons learned—with carsickness? Please share your tips below (I know I, for one, would welcome them!). 😉

Previous post: Date night at Tenaya – How we conquered the lodge’s grown-up side in 4 hours flat.

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby

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2 Comments

  1. Michelle

    My daughter has gotten car sickness from a very young age and is now 4 years old and still occasionally get it. It’s awful for her and us as they don’t make car seats very easy to clean. But one thing that we’ve found that helps is sea band bracelets. They can be found at Target or pharmacies are small and easy to pack. I’ve also learned to always have a backup outfit and cleaning items in the car.

    1. Shelly Rivoli (Post author)

      Great tip on the sea band bracelet! Definitely back-up clothing… definitely… 😉

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