Preventing Travel Sickness In Toddlers

In a couple of weeks we are heading off to France on holiday. We’re driving down to Seignosse near Biarritz, which I couldn’t be more excited about. Except for one tiny thing…

Over the last few months, Elle has really struggled with travel sickness. We’ve done long journeys with her since she was a teeny tiny newborn, for those of you who don’t know, we live in Cornwall and regularly drive up to see family, friends or for work commitments in the Midlands and London. Until this point, she’s happily snoozed for the entire way (we tend to do the majority of driving after 7pm).

But of late, she’s really struggled with feeling sick. And not just feeling sick, but being sick too. If you’ve ever had to wash a sicky car seat, in the dark, in a layby just using baby wipes, then you’ll know this is a GAME CHANGER when it comes to travelling. You just don’t want to go anywhere anymore. I dread long car journeys and have taken to sitting in the back with Elle, armed with sick bags and old towels – just in case.

We seem to have found a solution by which we don’t let Elle eat or drink anything for a few hours before the journey and so far, this has worked. But this time around, it’s such a long drive and there’s a ferry involved too, that I don’t think I can legitimately starve her for an entire day. And the poor thing will need to drink something too.

So, while we will attempt to prevent her from eating anything too rich, or guzzling juice like only toddlers can, we’re looking for ideas to hopefully prevent the sickness in the first place. Here’s what Dr Google has told me so far…

  • Keep the car well ventillated
  • Distract child using music/singing
  • Pack spare clothes & lots of towels
  • Play games that involve looking out of the window, rather than focussing inside the car
  • Avoid strong smells in the car
  • Has anyone had any success with these travel bands? Has anyone found any amazing natural remedies? Should I try travel medication? Really hoping some of you lovely reader can help me out…

    Header image of the insanely cute espadrilles from the Heidi Klein kids collection

    mm

    Fern lives by the sea with her baby girl Elle, her partner Matt and their little dog Drake. They spend most of their time at the beach, and if you see one of them, usually the other three aren’t far behind.

    22 Comments. Leave new

    Oh this takes me back. I was the sicky toddler!

    My Mum was told it was a balance issue with your inner ear, so your eyes are telling you something different to what your ears are telling you.

    The ONLY thing that has ever helped me is to look forward and see what’s ahead. Putting my head down is a total no-no when I’m travelling, it’s all about keeping your head up and keeping that balance right. Keep her head up and it will help, I promise.

    Probably not ideal when it comes to a car seat but if she’s forward facing, that will make a big difference. If she can see through the windscreen, even better.

    Although ipads weren’t around in the early 80s I’m wondering if having one on the passenger headrest will be enough to keep her head up and focussed for much of the time? I’m sure she’ll be grateful for 10 hours of solid Peppa Pig regardless of whether she’s sick or not.

    That’s the best advice I can give and I hope it helps. I really feel for her… and you. It’s completely miserable for everyone trapped in the car! x

    Reply

    Her car seat is one of those swivel ones, so I think maybe for daytime we might let her forward face, although Matt is not keen on this, we may have to make some sort of compromise on this trip! I still get travel sick now and can’t do anything in the car apart from look forward so it makes sense that Elle would need to too. Will let you know how it goes!! Xxx

    Reply

    Yes I agree with Karen…I used to get travel sick and sometimes still do if I’m in the back of the car but making sure there is a flow of fresh air and sitting in the middle, looking forward helps. I had the travel bands and used to take ‘Joy Rides’ too, but just think I grew out of it and grew up, which meant I got to sit in the front!!

    Reply

    I think sitting in the front helps massively! And hopefully she will grow out of it, this time though I’m definitely trying the bands – even if they do nothing it’s worth a try! Xxx

    Reply

    I’m afraid I don’t have any advice for the travel sickness (sounds awful you poor things) but I’m hoping after your trip you come back with lots of survival tips for trans-Europe car journeys with toddlers. In a moment of madness we’ve decided to road trip to Austria next year and I’m excited and petrified in equal measure….

    Reply

    We’re so used to doing it without a toddler in tow, I think this time we need to remember lots of stops and smooth driving 😂 will keep you posted! Roadtrip to Austria sounds fun xxx

    Reply

    I don’t know how to prevent the sickness but to ease the mess you can get removable car seat covers. The plastic ones can get a bit sweaty but you can also get multipack fabric ones. That way if she is sick you can quickly change her, remove the cover and put it all into a bag to be washed when you get to your destination. No more babywipe cleaning and no more lingering sick smell in the car.

    Reply

    Kat this is amazing! I didn’t even know these existed – off to order a load now….

    THANK YOU xxx

    Reply

    Depending on how old your daughter is you could put her in a long sleeve bib. We did this for my daughter until she learnt how to use a bowl. Also used the sea band’s from about 3/4 and they seem to help. Keep car cool. Dont over dress them. Always have a sick bag to hand with everything you might need in it for emergency motorway clean ups. You could try ginger biscuits but didn’t work for my daughter. I’ve heard crusty bread is a good food option.

    Reply

    Thanks Julia, these are really sensible tips. And hopefully access to nice crusty bread shouldn’t be a problem in France 🇫🇷🥖

    Reply

    Our daughter is now 7 and has always struggled. We tend to do the following. No screens (ipod etc). Music, silly Mommy dancing encouraged (I am a passenger!) Look through the front window, playing i-spy beginning with a letter or a specific colour if too young for doing by letters. Regular breaks. Regular, small snacks of very plain food mainly rich tea biccies, Cheddars. No talk of ‘how are you feeling?’. Sick bowl to hand for me but out of sight for her. Cool car. Light clothes. Have a cardi as an extra layer. She puts it on backwards, so doesn’t have to unstrap and can wear or remove the layer with ease. This last one has been brilliant and it’s one she came up with herself years ago! Hope some of these help.

    Reply

    Keeping a close eye on this for recommendations. My little girl is nearly 3 and has been travel sick ever since we started to wean her. It’s such a massive frustration trying to go anywhere because she will sometimes be sick even in a 15 minute car journey. Like you the only thing that works for us is not feeding her which means if we’re ever travelling a long distance we try and do it really easy in the morning before breakfast. The other option is to travel when we know she will fall asleep in the car, so late afternoon if she’s not napped. She’s so sensitive to motion – if she falls asleep and then hit traffic it’s game over! She’s generally always rear facing and when we tried forward facing it didn’t make much of a difference. If we need to travel after she has eaten then I always sit in the back with her to try and catch the sick! She now travels in an IKEA painting bid which pretty much covers her and I keep a cleaning kit in each car – change of clothes, hand towel, bottle of water, baby shampoo, detail wipes and Method all purpose cleaner (game changer in masking a sick smell!). Finally one thing we have recently noticed is that recently her travel sickness has got worse and this has coincided with us changing out car from an automatic to a manual, so much so is the impact we think we might switch cars back! Our GP has been a bit useless and don’t think he really understands the impact this has on everyday activities – will try again as I would definitely use mediation on longer journeys.

    Reply

    Ah Harjit at least we’re in the sick catching boat together 😘 an IKEA bib sounds perfect, another thing to add to my shopping list. Also we use the Method cleaner in the house and I’ve never thought to use it on the car seat – so thank you! I really hope your little one grows out of it, I’d be tempted to swap the car back too. You’re so right on it affecting everyday activities, let’s hope it doesn’t last too much longer xxxxx

    Reply

    We are dealing with exactly the same scenario, we are driving down to Cornwall at the beginning of September and so worried about the journey! So far we’ve worked out forward facing, windows open, no food or drink, and no traffic works, as soon as we hit traffic and the stop starts happen I start to get the fear!
    She will be about two weeks from her second birthday and all the medication says from two, I’m wondering if they really work and if it’s worth giving her some (maybe a smaller dose or something)

    Reply

    We have just come back from France, flew both ways, and my daughter was sick (for the first time) both ways just as we were landing (and all over me as she was sitting on me, lovely). I feel your pain Fern… I have no idea what to do about it so I will eagerly read all comments. Going out I thought perhaps she had eaten too much and been having too much fun as she had made friends with the little girl in front who was sharing her gingerbread biscuits. But on the return she only had a plain bread roll (not eating is not an option really, if only for the ears etc), and sat pretty calmly for the whole flight, but the same thing still happened. Aargh!! We fly quite a lot and this is the first time it has happened so I’m really really hoping it is a one off but I’m fearful that it isn’t. Any tips and tricks very very gratefully received!

    Reply

    Oh no Annie 😱 it’s terrible in the car but at least it’s your space and there’s not lots of people around you! I think the bands might work well for flying as pressure seems to be good for lots of flying related issues. Hopefully some of the tricks above could be transferred to different methods of transport. Keeping my fingers crossed for you that it was a one off (twice 🙄) xxxx

    Reply

    Oh no – I’ve never htought about htis before but sounds like an absolute nightmare! I’m so lucky, from being tiny I’ve never suffered, and I love to read an entire journey! Last week I got 6 hours of reading my magazine app on my iPad from York to Somerset! Boyfriend can barely look down at his phone without having to look up complaining he feels queasy! Let’s hope our future bubbas take after me!

    Reply

    Honestly Bunny even the thought of reading while driving makes me feel queasy 😷😷😷 and yes fingers crossed any future babes take after you!!! Cleaning up sick is hideous!

    Reply

    I get awful car sickness, always have and prefer to be the driver than the passenger. I remember as a kid my mum putting one of those rubber strips that dangled off the back bumper to stop my sickness. I have no idea what it did and still don’t!! It seems Alice takes after me which is no fun although we have linked the few occasions she has properly thrown up to her looking down at a book/film on the iPad on long journeys. We’ve eliminated those and so far so good. It does mean long journeys get a bit tricky without the iPad but maybe we should try fixing it to the back of the seat as you say as at least then she will be looking up. I’ve not tried any medication yet with her so that might be worth a shot too. xxx

    Reply

    But did the rubber strip work Lottie??? If so, I’ll give it a try!!! The French people will think we’re crackers…

    Reply

    My sister and I always struggled with car sickness, we were always pulling over to throw up on a grass verge somewhere! No screens/books and when old enough to sit in the middle (or lean into the middle to look out of the front windscreen) worked for us. Also no one has mentioned as fewer windy roads as possible?! (My dad once test drove a car by taking us across to Manchester on the snake pass!)

    Reply

    I suffered from travel sickness until my early twenties. I found eating stodgy food before a journey (little brioch rolls, croissants etc.) helped. A wet flannel in tubberware is great for making you feel refreshed if you’ve been sick.

    The main thing that helped is not making a big deal about. It really wound my Mum up and she would get annoyed with me. This led me to start getting anxious before I got in the car and make everything a million times worse.

    Reply

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *