Planning a trip? If you or your family suffer from travel sickness you'll be eager to know what motion sickness treatments are available.
If you're off on a family holiday this summer then you've probably spent plenty of time researching the best car seats and brushing up on child car seat rules, and you're probably on the hunt for ways to keep travel sickness at bay too. Travel sickness – or motion sickness – can make travelling (or fairground rides, if you enjoy those) a miserable experience. It can occur when you travel by car, boat, plane or train, and as well as feeling nauseous or being sick, people may feel sweaty, dizzy, breathless or drowsy.
Dr Donald Grant, GP and Clinical Lead at online pharmacy The Independent Pharmacy, says: "Travel sickness is a common worry for many travellers but your symptoms shouldn’t stop you from having a great trip. Although anyone can experience travel sickness, some groups are more likely to have symptoms including those with a pre-existing medical condition, pregnant women, women using hormonal birth control and children between the ages of 2 and 12." With that in mind, we've asked the experts to help put together a list of travel sickness remedies suitable for all members of the family...
Dr Don Grant (MB, ChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, Dip.orth.med) is the clinical lead at The Independent Pharmacy, an online pharmacy and healthcare resource based in the UK. Dr Grant specialises in orthopaedic medicine, and has extensive experience in change and development in Primary Care.
14 of the best natural remedies for travel sickness
Dr Grant says, "The key to effectively managing travel sickness lies in proactive preparation before car rides, flights, boat excursions, or any motion-intensive activities. By addressing your symptoms ahead of time, you can minimise their onset and feel more comfortable throughout the duration of your journey."
Travel sickness is caused by a miscommunication between our eyes and brain, because our brain is expecting a certain image, yet our eyes relay a different image because of the movement. It can be triggered by all kinds of repeated movements, such as going over bumps in the road, waves in the sea, swaying on a train, or turbulence on a plane.
Consuming ginger is a tried-and-tested natural remedy for treating nausea, and is an effective natural remedy for travel sickness too.
Abbas Kanani, lead pharmacist at Chemist Click Online Pharmacy, further explains: "Scientific research has found that ginger and its compounds may increase digestive responsiveness and speed stomach emptying, which may reduce nausea," he says. "It seems to aid digestion and saliva flow, and its anti-inflammatory properties also support the release of blood-pressure-regulating hormones to calm your body and reduce nausea."
Abbas graduated as a pharmacist in 2013 and spent the first three years working for high street multiples, including a senior management role with the largest multinational pharmacy in the UK. In 2017, he qualified as an independent prescriber, spending time working in a primary care setting. He then assumed a consulting role within the NHS, providing advisory services on cost savings and clinical efficiencies. He has been within Chemist Click since the very start and continues to play an integral role within the team.
"Ginger has long been a go-to for settling the stomach and is the best-studied herb for motion sickness," adds natural health expert Dr Tim Bond, from Puressentiel. He says "It's both safe and effective for many people," - making it a great remedy for all the family.
You can consume ginger in various forms, such as ginger tea, ginger candies, or even ginger capsules.
2. Chewing gum
Chewing on gum can create a distraction that will take your mind away from travel sickness, while peppermint can help to relieve feelings of nausea. Of course, this is not a suitable remedy for young children as it is a choking hazard, but it may be an effective remedy for older members of the family - and any pregnant woman will tell you this can help with morning sickness during early signs of pregnancy.
For example, one study in the Journal of Experimental Brain Research found that chewing either ginger gum or peppermint gum during a simulated flight experience significantly reduced symptoms of travel sickness.
Abbas Kanani explains that peppermint is effective because "it contains compounds like menthol, which have a calming effect on the muscles of the stomach and can help reduce feelings of nausea and vomiting associated with travel sickness."
As well as gum, try drinking peppermint tea or sucking on peppermint sweets for a natural travel sickness remedy.
3. Acupressure bands
One of the most well-regarded natural motion sickness treatments is the use of acupressure bands. These work on the pressure points in our wrists to stop feelings of nausea and are another drug-free, non-drowsy way to treat the condition.
A small study in the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that those who wore an acupressure band on their wrist or arm experienced lessened travel sickness symptoms than those who did not wear any bands.
But you don't necessarily need to invest in acupressure bands to feel the benefit. Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy explains: "For nausea, the P6 pressure point, known as Neiguan, should be stimulated. If you turn your forearm over, this is situated around 1/6 of the way up the arm when measuring from the wrist to the elbow. It’s in the centre, between the two large tendons."
To do this, find the pressure point, then press down on it with your thumb, making steady circular movements for 2-3 minutes. This can be repeated as needed.
Having worked for many years in the NHS, mostly as Lead Clinician within an integrated Community Sexual Health Service, Dr Deborah Lee now works as a health and medical writer, with an emphasis on women's health, including medical content for Dr Fox pharmacy. She has published several books and remains passionate about all aspects of medicine and sexual health.
Certain natural scents are believed to help calm some of the symptoms of motion sickness. Peppermint and lavender are thought to be particularly effective, while inhaling these scents can also be a great distraction from being in motion.
Dr Bond explains: "Clinical research from 2020 supports the use of peppermint for both motion sickness and nausea, and lavender has many studies to show its efficacy on digestion, vomiting and travel sickness."
He recommends Puressentiel's SOS Travel Roll-On, explaining, "Each oil is selected for their anti-sickness and calming properties – exotic basil, fresh ginger, lemon, peppermint, red mandarin, sweet marjoram, and true lavender," says Dr Bond. "The roller is applied to wrists and temple pressure points."
5. Dry toast or crackers
You may not feel like eating if you know travelling makes you feel sick. But having a small, plain snack before – or while – you travel can keep nausea at bay.
Dr Lee exolains: "Eating small frequent meals can help those with nausea and vomiting. Crackers are bland but contain salt and carbohydrates – both of which can help if you feel weak and nauseated."
Chewing in itself has been found to help relieve travel sickness. A 2015 study from BioMed Research International found the process of mastication to be part of the stress relief response – and this may be why chewing gum can also help with travel sickness symptoms.
6. Stay hydrated
Dehydration can contribute to feelings of nausea, so sipping fluids is another way to prevent motion sickness. And there is a certain amount of water you should drink a day, whether you're travelling or not.
Abbas Kanani explains: "When you're dehydrated, your body's fluid balance is disrupted. This imbalance can affect the inner ear, which plays a crucial role in maintaining your sense of balance."
He adds, "Make sure to drink plenty of water before and during your journey and avoid excessive consumption of caffeinated or sugary drinks, as they can contribute to dehydration."
Room temperature water or sparkling water work best as a travel sickness remedy, but - if you can stomach it - sports drinks, coconut water, ginger ale, and light broths can also be effective, and are all preferable to caffeinated, sugary or acidic drinks.
7. Chamomile tea
Chamomile has a reputation for being a calming and relaxing herb. By helping to reduce stress and anxiety it can also settle an upset stomach.
“Chamomile is also something some people opt for to settle their stomachs, particularly if they are feeling anxious or stressed," says Dr Bond. "Chamomile is believed to soothe the stomach, reduce acids and relax stomach muscles."
Try having a cup of chamomile tea the night before your travels to relax you, then another in the morning and during your trip if possible.
8. Deep breathing
Breathing exercises are becoming an important part of wellness, as people realise that deep breathing can work as a natural anxiety remedy as well as reduce stress, panic and even physical symptoms such as nausea.
Dr Lee explains: "Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of anxiety. Travel sickness makes us feel anxious, and anxiety makes the symptoms worse. Unsurprisingly then, anti-anxiety techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing can help reduce the nausea of travel sickness."
And research backs this up, with one study in the Journal of Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance finding that breathing deeply from the belly (known as diaphragmatic breathing) was effective at reducing the sensation of motion sickness during a virtual reality experience.
In order to do diaphragmatic breathing Dr Lee says, you need to breathe in using the diaphragm - which is the sheet of muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. If you place your hand on your upper abdomen just under your ribs, then suck your tummy in as you breathe in, you will be filling your lungs using your diaphragm.
Try counting slowly when you do this, by breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 7, then breathing out slowly for 8 counts. Do 4 cycles, slowly, and then repeat. You can do this as often as needed.
9. Keep distracted
If you don't want to - or can't - take any medication for travel sickness, it's heartening to know that simply being distracted has been shown to reduce symptoms. Talking, listening to music, playing a game or even singing songs can be helpful for kids struggling with feelings of motion sickness.
This has been supported by a study in the Journal of Vestibular Research, which found that participants who were distracted from motion sickness by performing a mental arithmetic task experienced reduced symptoms.
10. Focus on the horizon
Keeping your eyes on the horizon is easier to do on a boat, but it can be done on other modes of transport, too. If you're travelling by plane, try to reserve a seat by a window, and in a car it's best to sit in the front if you suffer from motion sickness.
Abbas Kanani explains: "By focusing on a distant point, such as a horizon or a stable object in the distance, you provide your visual system with a stable reference point. This helps to synchronize the information received by your eyes and your vestibular system, reducing the sensory conflict."
Essentially, looking at the horizon is helping your brain better understand the motion and therefore reduces the likelihood of experiencing travel sickness symptoms.
11. Get some fresh air
A stuffy environment won't help symptoms of travel sickness, so opening a car window or spending time on the deck of a boat will help ease nausea. If you're travelling by plane or train it can be harder to get fresh air, but a handheld fan can work wonders at keeping you cool and calm.
12. Don't look at a screen
Not reading or watching anything is probably one of the most important drug-free motion sickness treatments, because of the way your brain perceives motion.
Dr Lee says, "Trying to fix your gaze on a moving object on a screen, when sitting inside a moving object like a car, is only going to confuse your balance and proprioception even further. Scrolling is well known to cause cybersickness, even in those not travelling."
This also applies to watching something or a screen and even texting (sorry, kids!). If you are very bored, only read or watch something for a few minutes at a time, then take a break to stare at a fixed point, or try listening to music or an audiobook instead - both of which can help calm anxiety around travel sickness too.
13. Break up the journey
Regular stops, where you have a chance to stand on solid ground, can help to break up the monotony of long journeys. A rest stop also allows you to get fresh air, stretch your legs or have a drink or a snack, while being away from the motion of travel and get distracted by other activities.
14. Try to sleep
If you're not a napper, you're not tired, or you're driving, this won't work for you. But if you're able to get to sleep early on in the journey then you may be spared from feelings of travel sickness. Simply closing your eyes can be a distraction from the motion, or check out our list of 15 ways to fall asleep fast.
For children who suffer badly from motion sickness, it may be worth travelling at night, as this may mean they sleep through most of the trip.
How do you get rid of travel sickness fast?
The quickest way to reduce symptoms of travel sickness is to reduce motion. If you're in a situation where you're able to stop - such as in a car where you can safely pull over and take a break - this will be most effective.
However, you can trick your brain into thinking the motion has stopped by looking to the horizon - or you could even try anti-motion sickness smart glasses. These unusual-looking glasses have no lenses and instead, they use a liquid inside the frame of the glasses to mimic the horizon.
What is the best food to eat for travel sickness?
Light, dry and plain food is best to have before you set off on a journey if you suffer from travel sickness. Dr Lee adds, "It's generally advisable to eat small portions of light foods at regular intervals when travelling. Dry foods such as crackers, oat biscuits, or rice cakes are good options as they have no smell, and help fill the stomach."
Abbas Kanani adds that you should avoid eating a heavy meal before travelling. He says, "Eating a heavy meal before travelling can lead to increased gastric activity and digestion. This heightened activity can make your stomach more sensitive and prone to experiencing nausea or discomfort during the motion of travel. Instead, opt for light, easily digestible meals or snacks."
Can you take travel sickness tablets when pregnant?
According to the NHS, hyoscine hydrobromide - the drug used to treat travel sickness - is not recommended during pregnancy because not enough is known about its effects.
However, they add that our doctor may offer you hyoscine hydrobromide if you have severe travel sickness that cannot be treated any other way. Meanwhile, if you're breastfeeding it's ok to take hyoscine hydrobromide if it is in occasional doses for a short amount of time.
If you are unsure whether travel sickness medication is an option for you, you should consult your GP.
Looking for more natural remedies? Check out these 14 hay fever remedies, these natural flu remedies and our natural remedies for insect bites, or try one of our expert-approved natural anxiety remedies.
Video of the Week
Parenting advice, hot topics, best buys and family finance tips delivered straight to your inbox.
Ellie is Goodto’s Feature Editor, having joined the team as a Junior Features Writer in 2022, and covers everything from wellbeing for parents to the latest TV and entertainment. Ellie has covered all the latest trends in the parenting world, including baby names, parenting hacks, and foodie tips for busy families. She has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University, and previously Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies.