Family life

7 tips for travelling with Car Sick kids

My eldest, daughter Princess  Pea, hated the car from about 2 months of age. She screamed the entire time she was buckled in. I lost count of the times I pulled over in tears because I just couldn’t sit in the car anymore while she screamed. She did not fall asleep in the car… ever.

My husband gets pretty bad motion sickness so we wondered if she didn’t like the sensation of travelling and as soon as it was safe we turned her to be front facing and put her in the middle. She got much better, she didn’t love the car but the screaming stopped and she occasionally drifted off for a nap on long drives, never more than 40 minutes but a nap at least.

When she was about 2 years old we were driving through the Adelaide hills and she started crying, for about 10 minutes she cried, screamed and squirmed. We tried to settle her, we had almost arrived at our destination but still she cried. Then- she was sick. Finally we understood! We had to purchase a t-shirt at the gift shop in the smallest size – still 6 sixes too big and worried about the return drive. We learnt on this trip that she definitely experienced motion sickness (and to always have spare clothes in the car). Over the coming years her brother, Baloo started to get sick, but not until he was 4 and though never as bad. Little Hulk has been fine so far but who knows what is to come!
Unfortunately we make regular road trips to visit family interstate, which can be 5-10 hours on the road.

Car sick kids
Princess Pea in her “Small” sized T-shirt after leaving a mess on her clothes

In the coming months we tried everything, the motion sickness pressure bands that place pressure on the wrists to alleviate motion sickness, kids ginger lollies and other natural remedies, travelling at night . We learnt what roads we could and couldn’t take without a bucket and finally once old enough we tried motion sickness tablets. We got mixed results, they seemed to work some time and not others. She seemed fine on our interstate trips one season and unwell the next. It has now been 5 years and I am still searching for answers. In these searches I often find tips for entertaining kids in cars that involve activities that require concentration and car sick kids need to look out the windows so here are my top tips.

  1. Car Spotting: When leaving town (or approaching a new town) there are always more cars around so when the squabbling and “are we there yet” starts it is time for Car Spotting. “Who can see a Yellow car” I call out and they all look out for a yellow car. when they were younger I would look ahead down the road for a colour so I knew it was coming up but not in their immediate vision yet, as they get older I call out a colour that is less common (yellow and green work) and as the cars get fewer I can use the more common colours. Baloo is red green colour deficient so we had some teething problems with this one but we worked it out.
  2. Travelling tunes: Nothing beats a good sing along. We had a CD called “Travelling Tunes for Toddlers” with 30 songs on it that we pulled out every road trip, it had some great songs from my own childhood like the “Court of King Caractacus” that we all had to listen to on repeat until someone could say it all! Last road trip we introduced them to the Spice Girls, who doesn’t love a little 90’s flashback so it doesn’t have to be kids music, bring out something from the vault and make it new again.
  3. I spy with my Little Eye: An old favourite I remember playing with my Dad on the road. It can be modified for all ages starting with “colours; “I spy with my little eye, something Green to sounds; “I spy… something that starts with the sound SH” to letters; “I spy… something that starts with J”. Again with colour deficiency in mind we really struggled with colours as when he was giving the clue he would often leave us confused- this the shift to sounds 🙂
  4. Books on CD: When we realised that we could not use a portable DVD player for more than 20 minutes we had to get creative and books on CD were great. The kids have used them in the past when they didn’t want to go to sleep so we had hoped that it would settle them off for a nap, it didn’t work that way but they were just as happy to listen to a story. As kids get older you can get loads of Audio books and separate devices to listen on, while our kids are young I just listen in too, or switch the speakers to the back and enjoy an adult conversation 🙂
  5. Car Bingo: This is my modified version as the kids cannot look down. As soon as they have a list/book/picture in their hands the eyes go down and they stop looking out the window and its not long before cries of I don’t feel well start up. So I pick 3 things we are highly likely to see on the trip- speed limit signs, silos, Train Tracks, a giant olive (yes we drive past one 90 minutes into our trip), a Truck, a letter box, farm animals etc. 3 is about what they can remember without constant questions and set them off searching. They often get distracted and forget to look for their items but as they are happy looking around for a while and can often start their own games in the back seat
  6. I remember when…: Take turns thinking of something you remember from a previous holiday. This will build the excitement for the holiday to come, help them remember that they have travelled before and what fun things they did, get them involved as the more they actively think about it (rather than just being told) the more they are to get excited. If they have not had a holiday before, or are too young to remember tell them about your last holiday or all the things planned for this trip.
  7. Stop and play! This has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. Think back to your own experiences as a kid. The adults always so serious, wanting to just get there, quick stops for the bathroom and fuel and back on the road. The destination always the adventure but you can make the journey just as much fun. Does it take longer? Yes! But it is worth it for all involved. I tried skipping stops and I saw that without a regular stop, every 90 minutes or so the pale faces returned and it became harder for them to enjoy the trip and me to remain calm and focussed. Plan ahead give yourselves the time to stop regularly. On our last trip I stopped every hour and not once was there a whisper of I feel sick, there was a lot of when do we stop next but it didn’t leave me pulled over on the side of the highway with kids and buckets. And for that reason it was worth the extra hour on our trip.


I would love to hear your tips on how you travel with car sick kids. please share them, I am always after new ideas!


Mich xx




4 thoughts on “7 tips for travelling with Car Sick kids”

  1. Good tips here! My kids don’t even get car sick- I do!- but I can still use these to help myself! You’re right, looking down is the enemy. And I need to let go of the “estimated arrival time” and take more breaks.


    1. It is hard to accept on those long trips as we just want to get there! but it is so worth it. I used to feel so jealous of those who just got to drive through but I am learning to appreciate the journey more. Plus we found some Amazing playgrounds on our last trip!


  2. Worst trip ever was when we let our daughter watch finding nemo in the car. She is normally ok with the portable DVD on the headrest but not that movie. Graphics must be too intense and wobbly ocean or something. She was sick from Gladstone to Gympie and we were completely unprepared. I had to tip out all the lollies to use the lolly bucket. You have my sympathies 😉


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