When I was a kid, every time my family went on a trip that took us farther than an hour from our house, I got carsick. It was awful. My parents dreaded the car ride to our destination and usually ended up giving me something to knock me out for the duration. Once I got to the vacation spot, I either vomited, or I was fine. That is, until we got back into the car to return home. Same scenario. Give me a pill to keep me asleep until we arrived back at our house. But that was the 80s, and drugging your kids into an unconscious stupor was not quite as frowned upon then as it is nowadays.
If your carsick-prone kid does do better being asleep during a journey, then consider driving overnight to your destination. Make sure you’re awake and alert enough to travel during those tough early morning hours. Then, either wait until it’s your child’s bedtime to hit the road in the hopes that he’ll nod off quickly, or gently transfer and buckle him into his seat in the car after he’s slept for a few hours in his own bed. Also, remember to bring a blanket to cover Junior as he slumbers in the back seat. Even in the summer, a blanket will provide comfort and security for your conked-out kid and give him a better chance of staying asleep.
If driving overnight is not an option, then prepare an emergency travel kit to keep your poor kid from puking. The trick is to keep something in your child’s tummy, but not too much of something. Also, you’ll need to fill his tummy with the right things. Think about what a pregnant woman nibbles on in early pregnancy when nausea is par for the course. Crackers, applesauce, plain toast, and bananas are all nausea preventing superstars -- bland foods that aren’t too rich, sweet, or greasy. With these foods, pack a bottle of water and/or ginger ale, mints, and children’s stomach medicine. Make sure your child sips and nibbles to keep a constant, yet not overwhelming supply of mild sustenance in his tummy. Sucking on a mint containing real peppermint oil is also a tried and true way to settle an anxious stomach.
There are also some things your child can do on his part to prevent him from getting ill. For one, it’s best he doesn’t read, text, play handheld games, or watch movies while the car is in motion. Focusing on something such as a book or smart phone while there’s outside movement in his peripheral vision is a sure way to spark motion sickness. Ideally, your child should rest with his eyes closed for as long as he can stand. And yes, in doing so, hopefully he’ll nap for a good portion of the trip. If he can’t bear to keep his eyes closed, train him to look out the window to the horizon and restrict any side-to-side movement of his head and eyes.
You can also help your child by ensuring that there are ideal conditions in the car. Make sure the temperature is not too hot or too cold. Avoid eating odiferous greasy food or wearing perfume/cologne with a strong scent. Whoever is driving should do so in as calm, smooth, and controlled a manner as possible. Also, avoid playing loud, over-stimulating music. In fact, speak to your kid in soothing, reassuring tones. Often anxiety is a major culprit in a child becoming carsick. He’ll always remember and appreciate how much effort you put into reducing the chance of him getting sick on car rides. As an added bonus, you’ll probably not have to pull over and clean up vomit from your vehicle’s upholstery.
It also helps to take a lot of bathroom breaks. Even if your kid doesn’t have to “go”, it’s a great opportunity for him to stretch his legs and take in some sun and fresh air. Temporarily escaping the confines of the vehicle can be calming and relaxing to a child who doesn’t travel well. Take these opportunities to restock your emergency kit and tidy out the car. A clean, uncluttered environment can also be helpful to your carsick-prone kid. Give Junior a big hug and try to gauge how he’s doing physically and mentally. Tell him you’re proud of him for soldiering through an otherwise unpleasant activity.
If your child is feeling up to it, try to distract him from dwelling on the seemingly never ending journey ahead. One game I love to distract my daughters with is the Alphabet Game. You simply choose a topic, such as “Disney characters” and have your children close their eyes and go through the alphabet naming characters, either to themselves or out loud. Ariel, Bambie, Cinderella, Donald Duck, etc. And of course, you can always play the old road trip standbys like I Spy, the license plate game, or punch buggy. I also like to have each family member go around and announce their favorite three personality traits about each person in the car. This game usually brings tears to my eyes and makes everyone experience the warm fuzzies!
Despite your best efforts, sometimes your child getting carsick is simply inevitable. Be prepared for this possibility as well. First, it helps to put an old towel on the seat under your kid and perhaps even one on the floor under his feet. Next, have a change of clothes at hand for your child, as well as any other children who may be in close proximity to him in the backseat. If the odor isn’t too bad, have your children ride without their shoes on so they won’t get ruined if the worst case scenario does happen to occur. A fragrance-free fabric deodorizer is also prudent to pack for the trip, along with several rolls of paper towels, a tub of wet wipes, and an old waterproof container large enough to catch the…well, you know. Make sure you stop your car at a secure location before cleaning up. It’s not worth the danger involved in pulling over on the side of a busy road.
Hopefully, carsickness is something your child will someday outgrow. If anything, at some point he’ll be old enough to ride in the front seat where carsickness rarely strikes. Statistically, drivers especially have an advantage in not getting ill from a car ride. Yes, your child will even be old enough to be the driver before you know it. Then you may be the one who feels like throwing up!