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How to Combat Seasickness on Your Travels

The San Blas Islands of Panama are a collection of remote islands with sandy white beaches and swaying palm trees – the ultimate tropical getaway.

Unfortunately, when I first set foot on these pristine sands I was feeling a little shaky. I had just spent 30 hours in a sailboat on the choppy open ocean – vomiting, sweating profusely and staring listlessly at the horizon.

Seasickness is not fun. Your stomach is in constant roller-coaster-drop-mode as the boat moves and sways under you. Trying to walk, move or focus on anything triggers your gag reflex and even when you close your eyes your head is still spinning.

Even though I felt pretty rough, I don't regret sailing to these gorgeous islands!
Even though I felt pretty rough, I don’t regret sailing to these gorgeous islands!

I’ve unfortunately experienced seasickness several times on my travels – on a catamaran on the Algarve coast in Portugal, on a speed boat in the islands of Thailand, on a ferry between Hong Kong and Macau. In all of these situations Lee was completely fine – proving that motion sickness affects everyone differently.

However, although tossing your lunch overboard really sucks I would never encourage anyone to avoid traveling by boat. There are so many amazing adventures in the world to enjoy that involve boat travel, from cruises to sailing tours to ferries to speedboat journeys and much more. Travelling by boat will take you to some of the most gorgeous ocean, lake and river landscapes in the world and give you a glimpse at scenery that you would never see any other way. The travel experiences that I have had on boats have been so awesome that I don’t mind a little bit of queasiness.

So, rather than avoid boat travel the key is to figure out how to avoid seasickness and deal with it when it does strike. There are a number of things that you can do to lessen your discomfort so that your boat journey will be a lot more fun.

Don’t Eat a Big Meal before Your Boat Trip

portugalsteak

The big mistake that I made when I went on the catamaran cruise in Portugal was eating this big steak for lunch beforehand. It is a good idea to avoid heavy foods and alcohol before your boat journey as this can worsen motion sickness.

Look Up at the Horizon

Seasickness is caused by a mismatch of your senses. When the boat is rolling on the water your balance sensors in your inner ear are getting a different message than your eyes, which confuses the brain and makes you feel queasy. You aren’t really ill, just feeling so off balance that your body doesn’t know how to cope.

This was my view for most of the Portugal catamaran trip as I was lying on my back and trying not to move.
This was my view for most of the Portugal catamaran trip as I was lying on my back and trying not to move.

This is why it helps to look out at the horizon. You will see the steady point and your eyes will register the ocean swells in your peripheral vision – which will help your brain to make sense of the sensations.

Don’t even think about concentrating on a fixed point in front of you like trying to read or look at your phone – that’s a recipe for instant nausea.

When I managed to sit up and look at the Algarve coast in Portugal, this is what I saw. Totally worth it.
When I managed to sit up and look at the Algarve coast in Portugal, this is what I saw. Totally worth it.

Seek Fresh Air

Seasickness is always worse when you are inside the cabin of a boat, so get out on the deck and breathe the fresh air. You’ll feel better right away.

panama5

The Bigger the Boat, the Better

If you find that you are prone to seasickness, consider taking a cruise on a large ship rather than traveling on a small boat. The larger the ship the less it will move around and some of the enormous cruise ships are so stable you can even forget you are on the ocean.

photo credit: El trasatlantico Azura en Las Palmas de Gran Canaria via photopin (license)
photo credit: El trasatlantico Azura en Las Palmas de Gran Canaria via photopin (license)

Take Seasickness Meds

There are quite a few options for seasickness medication and it can be a very effective preventative measure. Ask your doctor before you go on the trip which medication would be best for you, such as Scopolamine or Dramamine. There are also patches that you can apply that will deliver the medication through your skin. These medications can cause drowsiness, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as it can help you to relax and sleep through the choppiest parts of your boat journey.

panama1

Just Ride it Out

If you have done all of the above and you still feel seasick on your cruise or boat journey, just be patient and ride it out. It won’t last forever and most people get used to the swaying motion of the boat relatively quickly. Your body will adjust and you will be able to feel better and enjoy your adventure on the high seas.

Feeling a lot better after I got used to the rocking of the boat!
Feeling a lot better after I got used to the rocking of the boat!

Have you ever been seasick before? What are your strategies for coping? Let us know in the comments!

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About Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

One comment

  1. Hey Kelly,

    Thanks for this post.

    I am going on a cruise across the atlantic to New York and I am bad when it comes to being at sea for a long period of time.

    Found these tips useful

    Cheers,
    Carl!

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