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We love road trips. They are, by far, our most common mode of travel. However, our son is prone to car sickness. He has been ever since he was a baby. I can’t tell you how many times we have had to pull over to clean up the backseat after he got sick. Having a kid who gets car sick adds an extra level of difficulty to your road trips, especially when your child is too little to tell you that they are getting sick until it’s too late. But, kids and car sickness don’t have to be the end of your road tripping days. Here are some tips I’ve learned to handle kids and car sickness.
Tip #1: Always Be Prepared
When you have a child proned to getting car sick, the best thing you can do is to be prepared. When packing for your road trip, just assume your kid will get sick. Pack essential items needed to clean up the mess. I pack the following:
Small garbage bags
I always carry a roll of small garbage bags in the car. The ones you get in the baby aisle that are intended to hold dirty diapers are the best. They are designed to neutralize odors which is key. I use these bags to store clothes and anything else that has gotten puked on. Sometimes, we will have a mess out in the middle of nowhere with no place to throw these things away. So, I put the trash from the clean up in one of the bags until we find a trash can.
These bags also work great as a moisture barrier when your child needs to sit in a clean, but still wet, car seat. Just put one on the wet seat and then cover it with a towel, blanket, or shirt.
Wet wipes/Paper Towels
Wet wipes are a lifesaver when you are dealing with kids and car sickness. They are the easiest things to use to clean up the mess after your child has gotten sick in the car. They easily wipe down everything from the kid to the car seat and anything else in the line of fire.
I try to keep a roll of paper towels in the car as well. Because of their larger size, they sometimes work better at cleaning up than wet wipes. They also help to dry things off after you has scrubbed everything down.
Change of clothes
Another essential item to pack is a change of clothes for the kid prone to car sickness. Our son seems to always get throw up on his clothes. So, I’ve learned to always keep a change of clothes for him within easy reach so we can clean him up quickly. When packing this change of clothes, don’t forget extra socks! My son seems to always hit his socks when he gets sick.
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! To combat this, keep a bottle of Febreeze or other air freshener in your car. After cleaning up the mess, spray with the air freshener. Then continue to spray as needed during the remainder of your trip. This will help ensure no one else gets sick from the smell. Also try to keep your windows rolled down as much as you can to allow the car to air out.
You should always have bottled water in the car on every road trip. It can be used in so many ways in the event of car sickness. Use it to rinse little mouths. Use it with paper towels to clean up the mess. Wet a paper towel to wash your child’s face. If the bottle is cold, you can stick it on the back of your child’s neck to help cool them down.
Tip #2: Learn and Teach
Car sickness is the worse when your child is too little to communicate that they are sick. So, to help prevent the mess before it happens, learn what causes your child to get car sick and then teach them to warn you before it’s too late.
Learn the causes
Car sickness can be caused by a variety of things. I tend to get sick if I’m reading in the car. My son gets sick if he looks at a screen too long or gets too hot while riding in the car. Unfortunately, the only way to learn what causes your child to get car sick is to pay attention to what they are doing right before it happens. 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 learn the cause, you can prevent it, at least most of the time!
Teach your child
Once you have learned the causes of your child’s car sickness, you then can 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. It is important for them to learn about their bodies. Talk to your child about how they feel 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 how warm they were when they started feeling bad. Explain to them what car sickness is and how to avoid it. Also talk to them about the importance of 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 gets bad. 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 why, 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. Road trips are a terrific way to travel with your kids. It’s also a wonderful way to teach them that the journey is as important as the destination. Just because you have throw up in the backseat doesn’t mean you won’t have fun the rest of the time. So, don’t avoid the road trips. Just learn to manage the car sickness.
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! Do you have any tips for handling kids and car sickness? If so, leave it in the comments. For more tips on road trips with kids, read my tips for saving time on road trips, essential items for a successful road trip with kids, and how to pack the car like a pro. Happy travels!