We love road trips. They are, by far, our most common mode of travel. However, our son Boston is prone to car sickness. He has been ever since he was a baby. This adds an extra level of difficulty to our road trips. It’s extra challenging when you have a little one who can’t tell you that they are getting car sick until it’s too late. I can’t tell you how many times we have had to pull over to clean up the backseat because Boston got sick. Over the years, I’ve learned some tips to handle kids and car sickness.
Tip #1: Always Be Prepared
When you have a child who is proned to getting car sick, the best thing you can do is to always be prepared. When packing for your road trip, just assume your kid will get sick and pack the essential items needed to clean up the mess. Here are the things that I find are the most important:
Small garbage bags
I always carry a roll of small garbage bags in the car. I prefer the ones you can get in the baby aisle that are intended to hold dirty diapers. They are designed to neutralize odors which is key in this situation. I use these bags to store clothes and any other items that have gotten puked on. I also use one to put the paper towels or wet wipes that I use to clean up the car in them. Sometimes, we will have a mess out in the middle of nowhere where there is no place to throw these things away and I have to keep them in the car until we find a trash can. By using the bags that help with the odor, the rest of the trip is not miserable for us all.
These also work great for your child to sit on after you have wiped out their car seat and the seat is still wet. Just put one on the wet seat and then cover it with a towel, blanket, or shirt. That should keep your little one’s tush dry while the seat is still wet.
Wet wipes/Paper Towels
Moms of babies and toddlers always have wet wipes on hand. But, if your child has a tendency to get sick in the car, you should always keep a tub of them in your car, regardless of how old your children are. Wet wipes are one of the easiest things to use to clean up the mess after Boston has gotten sick in the car. They easily wipe down him, the car seat, and anything else that has come in the line of fire.
I try to keep a roll of paper towels in the car as well. Sometimes, because of the larger size, they work better at cleaning up the mess than wet wipes. They also help to dry up some of the wetness after you has scrubbed everything down.
Change of clothes
More often than not, when Boston gets sick, he gets throw up on his clothes. I’ve learned to always keep a change of clothes for him in easy reach so we can clean him up when needed. When packing this change of clothes, don’t forget extra socks! It seems that Boston is always hitting his socks when he gets sick.
Febreeze or air freshener
Everyone knows that the smell of throw up is one of the worst smells in the world. And it seems to just linger. This is not acceptable when you are on a road trip and still have hours to go in the car before reaching your destination. To combat this, keep a bottle of Febreeze or other air freshener in your car. After cleaning up the mess, spray the affected area good with the air freshener. Then continue to spray in the car as needed during the remainder of your trip. This will help ensure no one else gets sick from the smell on your trip. Another hint to help with the smell is to keep your windows rolled down as much as you can to allow the car to air out.
I also have bottled water in the car with us on every road trip. There are just so many ways it can be used in the event of car sickness. It can be used to rinse little mouths after getting sick. Wet a paper towel with some to wash your child’s face and cool them off. If it’s cold, you can stick the bottle on the back of their neck to help cool them down as well. It also works wonders along with paper towels to clean up the mess.
Tip #2: Learn and Teach
As I said before, car sickness is the worse when your child is too little to understand and communicate to you that they are about to be sick. So, to help prevent the mess before it happens, you must be able to learn what causes your child to get car sick and then be able to teach them so they can warn you before it’s too late.
Learn the causes
Car sickness can be caused by a variety of things, but usually the same type of activity or event will cause it in a particular person. For me, it’s caused by reading, especially in the back seat. My son, on the other hand, gets sick if he is either playing a video game in the car or if he gets too hot while riding in the car. Unfortunately, the only way to really learn what causes your child to get car sick is to pay attention to what they are doing right before getting sick. It might take several episodes before you are able to learn exactly what sets them off. But, it’s critical for your family’s travel happiness to unlock this mystery. Once you have learned the cause, you can prevent it, at least most of the time!
Teach your child
Once you have observed your kid and learned the causes of their car sickness, you then must teach them how to recognize it before they are throwing up all over the car. This can be difficult with very young children, but keep at it because it is an important aspect for them to learn about their bodies. Talk to your child about how they felt right before throwing up. Have them describe those feelings. Ask them what they were doing before getting sick. Talk about where they were looking (out the window, in the back, or at a screen) and what their temperature was when they started feeling bad. Explain to them what car sickness is and how they can avoid it. Also talk to them about the importance in telling you when they first start to feel bad instead of waiting until they throw up.
Tip #3: Be Proactive
This is one area where being proactive is so much better for everyone than taking a wait-and-see approach. Here are a few ways to eliminate the mess before it becomes one.
Fresh air is your friend
In my experience, I find that fresh, cool air blowing right on the face is one of the best things to stop car sickness before it causes you to throw up. So, when your child tells you they are getting sick, either roll down their window or turn up the air conditioning in the car and turn the vents towards them. This is also a great time to put a cold water bottle or wet wipe on the back of their neck and their face. I don’t know what it is, but cooling the body down is a great way to combat car sickness.
Eliminate the causes
In Tip #2, we talked about learning what causes your child’s car sickness. Once you learn these, then eliminate them from your road trips. If playing video games in the car triggers that queasy stomach, then don’t let your kid play them. If not looking out the window is the culprit, then make sure that child always has a window seat. By eliminating the cause of the sickness, you stop the problem before it even begins!
Keep barf bags at the ready
Keep some of those small garbage bags or other barf bags in your car and easily accessible at all times. If you can get one to your child before they start throwing up, you can contain the puke and minimize the mess. This will not only prevent you from having to clean up your car on the side of the road, but it will also keep your car smelling much nicer for the duration of your trip.
Tip #4: Don’t Let It Ruin Your Trip
Maybe my biggest tip of all is to not let a child’s car sickness ruin your trip. Don’t avoid road trips just because someone in the family has a tendency to get sick. It happens to the best of us! If you learn the causes, are always prepared, and can be proactive, your family can still have wonderful road trips without the messy side effects. I hope these tips will help you handle your kids and car sickness! Happy travels!