I suffer from severe motion sickness. Car, bus, plane, boat – if I’m a passenger in a moving vehicle, chances are I’ll soon have my head in a toilet. Not pleasant! Travelling, then, provides some big challenges. Over the years, I’ve learnt what works to prevent travel sickness from taking hold, and how to recover when it does so you can get on with enjoying your trip.
Choose your flights wisely
If you have to take multiple long-haul flights to get to your destination, include a stopover. Ideally 2-3 days, but at least one night so you can rest and recharge. For example, flying between Australia or New Zealand and Europe usually necessitates a stop in either the USA or Asia. Taking two 12-hour flights in a row (plus possible additional domestic flights) can take a significant toll. Best to break the trip in half and rest so your body has a chance to recover. As a bonus, you have an extra location (or two) to explore. Nice!
Unless you have no trouble sleeping on planes, day flights are usually better for travel sickness than overnight ones. It’s much easier to stomach a long trip if you’re well rested to start with. Sleeping on planes is difficult, so if you’ve been up all day before jumping on a plane and don’t manage to sleep, it could be 48 hours before you get to your hotel bed – and if you arrive during the day you’ll be up even longer.
Use in-ear headphones and avoid reading
Our brains detect motion through signals sent via our nervous system from our eyes, inner ears and surface tissue. When these signals conflict, for instance when we’re in a plane and our eyes say we’re sitting still but our inner ears detect movement, we experience motion sickness. Listening to music or white noise through in-ear headphones (the kind that go right into the ear canal) helps to disrupt the signals from your inner ear, thereby alleviating motion sickness. Reading, on the other hand, can make motion sickness worse because your eyes are constantly adjusting focus as the book is jumping around with the vehicle’s motion.
Take medication if needed
Talk to your doctor about travel sickness pills. The only ones that have ever worked for me (and they were sadly a very recent discovery after many years of dealing with travel sickness) is Buccastem, or Prochlorperazine. It’s a tiny tablet that you place between your top lip and gums and let dissolve. You can’t really taste or feel it, but it works incredibly well. So well in fact, that when I recently broke all my rules and took back-to-back flights from New Zealand to Amsterdam, arrived early morning and couldn’t check in for about 8 hours, I didn’t feel nauseous at all and was able to spend the day exploring the city. I was exhausted, but didn’t feel the need to stick my head in a toilet – I call that a win!
Additionally, if you struggle with jet lag or find it difficult to fall asleep in a strange location, you may wish to ask your doctor for a few sleeping pills. They can sometimes be addictive, so only take as prescribed and only if absolutely necessary. Avoid taking them on planes as they can contribute to blood clots and make you feel groggy if you wake up before their effects have worn off. Save them for when you arrive to ensure you can get a good night’s sleep. You can also try melatonin or valerian root for a milder, more natural option if all you need is to relax a little, rather than being completely knocked out.
Take it easy on arrival
If you’re a budget backpacker who’s usually to be found in a hostel rather than a hotel, curb your instinct to save money and splurge on private accommodation for the first night or two. Additionally, make sure you can check in straight away so that if you’re ill you can have a lie down without too much waiting. Sometimes all that’s needed after a long stressful flight is a bit of peace and quiet. If your flight arrives in the morning, it might be worth it to pay an early check-in fee. Once you’re on your feet and ready to meet fellow travellers, you can switch to a hostel.
In that same vein, don’t plan any activities for the first couple of days. Instead, take it easy and just wander the local area when you feel up to it. You might only be able to take a couple of hours at first and that’s ok – just head back to your room to recharge and head back out when you feel better.
Hopefully with these tips you’ll be better prepared to deal with travel sickness and hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination. Happy flying!
Do you suffer from travel sickness? How do you deal with it?