A Family Trip to Washington, D.C., Part 6: Preventing Motion Sickness

In case you missed the first few posts in this series, we will be chronicling our family trip to Washington D.C. over the course of the next couple months. The first post in the series is here. You can find the rest under the travel menu on our main page. Last week’s post discussed life in the car when roadtripping with kids.

Two weeks ago, our family suffered through a motion sickness situation on the way home after Christmas.  It was an event that most of our friends and family members found hilarious.  With the passage of time, we also have found humor in our car trip gone wrong.


Usually, we try to prevent that kind of chaos in the vehicle.  No one likes cleaning up when kids get carsick–especially when it is cold outside or you are far away from home.  It is a particularly miserable way pass time.  On our trip two weeks ago, we failed to plan ahead and it was a disaster.

Over the years, we have spent multiple evenings washing child car restraints in hotel laundry facilities.  At various times, our kids have had to change out of gross clothes in parking lots, alongside highways, and in the bathroom of a seedy bar.  It was embarrassing for them, but what else does a mom do in the moment?

When Todd and I decided to load everyone in the car and head for D.C., we were determined to have a sickness-free road trip.  We never made a list of all the things that could possibly go wrong while traveling, but if we had, I am fairly certain motion sickness would have landed somewhere near the top.  It was a very real concern.

I mentioned in my last post about our D.C. trip that in all our travel time to and from our nation’s capital, we only had one “incident” with motion sickness.  During those two weeks away from home, we drove over 3200 miles in the car and rode the D.C. public transportation system for seven days.  We tested our stamina and we succeeded.  It was an enormous accomplishment for us.

So, what did we do that made the difference that time?  It was pretty simple, actually.  The following are our seven favorite ways to ward off motion sickness:

1. We avoid OTC drugs.

Dramamine has its place, but we really did not want anyone in the family to spend two weeks in sleepy-mode.  Who wants to go on a major family vacation and be drowsy or asleep through the whole thing?  That seemed unfair as far as we were concerned.  For some people, maybe Dramamine is their only successful option.  We resolved, though, that it would be an absolute last resort purchased only in the case of a dire emergency.

2. We buy Sea-Bands.


Sea-Bands are little bracelets with plastic pieces that push on pressure points in your wrists.  Normally, I am a bit skeptical of alternative approaches to health.  I figured this was a risk worth taking, though, as the bracelets are inexpensive and wearing them was harmless.  Worst case scenario, I figured, was that they maybe turned out to be useless.

While I cannot prove the bands effective, we wore them through the Allegheny mountains and the jerky stop-and-go motion of the D.C. Metro system with just that one situation.  And as we learned two weeks ago, they are machine washable.

3. We consume ginger.

Ginger has been known to reduce feelings of nausea for a long, long time.  We bought some ginger tea prior to departure and forgot about it.  That was a fail.

We did remember to utilize ginger one time on the trip, though, in the form of gingersnap cookies.  I know, using junk food as a remedy for sickness seems counter-intuitive, but it worked.  Our one motion sickness event happened in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania on the way home from D.C.  We dove off at a truck stop a few miles later down the road and bought the cookies.  As it turned out, the sick child did feel better after having a couple of them.  The rest of us liked the cookies, too.

4. We keep the car temperature slightly below comfortable.

Todd is convinced (and I think he is right) that overheated kids are sick kids.  If anyone in the car starts complaining about not feeling well, Todd insists that jackets and hats come off.  Then, the car’s temperature drops a few degrees.  On several occasions, he avoided disaster with this trick.

5. We do not use screens and books in the car.

Once upon a time, we owned two different minivans.  Both of them had factory installed DVD players.  We discovered two unfortunate side effects from those players.  First, our kids insisted upon movies when we drove anywhere, regardless of the amount of time in the car.  Second, motion sickness incidents spiked.

When we bought our latest vehicles, we intentionally avoided visual media.  For the D.C. trip, that meant lots of books on CD from the library, an extensive collection of Adventures in Odyssey stories borrowed from friends, and a whole lot of I Spy.



6. Everyone has properly fitting sunglasses.

Bright sunlight, especially the kind that flickers between trees while barreling down a highway, induces motion sickness very quickly in our family.  Sunglasses help reduce the glare.  Plus, we looked stylish on our road trip.

7.  Frequent stops = fresh air.

We made pit-stops in the middle of each travel day.  Each stop was at least an hour long and meant for two primary purposes.  First, everyone needed to burn off a little steam.  Second, fresh air reduced the effects of motion sickness significantly.

Our family noticed that the 10 minute walk from the Metro station to our VRBO apartment every day was also great for alleviating the effects of any motion sickness from the train.  By the time we walked in the door of our apartment, everyone was feeling well, regardless of how ill they may have been just a few minutes earlier.

How do you prevent motion sickness in the car?  Send me an email or comment below!

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