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Traveling with Motion Sickness – 3 Strategies for Dealing With It

Traveling with motion sickness is terrible but it should never stop you.

Traveling with motion sickness sucks, there are no two ways about it and I’m not gonna try to sugarcoat it. I didn’t realize how bad my motion sickness was until I was on a 6-hour winding bus ride from Oaxaca City, Mexico to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.

I lost track of how many times I puked on that bus ride but after about the 10th time I felt complete depleted and defeated – stretched out across the aisle blocking the bathroom for other passengers – traveling alone to a beach town I’d never been to without anybody to help me at all.

The featured image is a picture of me holding a plastic bag, laying on my back, trying not to puke again – on a 45-minute cruise ship from Utila, Honduras to La Ceiba, Honduras. The 45-minute boat ride into the island wasn’t so bad and I thought I’d be able to make it back the same way but the ocean has other plans for me.

After years of suffering while traveling with motion sickness, I’ve finally found something that works for me but now the problem is how do I reliably get it since it requires a prescription that is not cheap and I’ve only been able to find it in the U.S. For that reason, I’ve made a list of different methods and strategies that I’ve used to battle motion sickness in the past and which ones are the most effective.

#1 Scopolamine Transdermal Patch

Hyoscine, also known as scopolamine, is a transdermal patch that you apply behind your ear about one hour before you want it to take effect.

The Scopolamine Transdermal Patch is reportedly used by NASA astronauts when they go into space and it is used by doctors before surgery so it's safe to say that it's powerful, which is why you need a prescription for it.

It is certainly the most powerful so I don't recommend using the transdermal patch unless you have exhausted all other options. If you feel like you've exhausted all other options and you're skeptical that anything will help, then I encourage you to try the transdermal patch.

How it works

1. Wash your hands before and after touching the transdermal patch.
2. Place the transdermal patch behind your ear one hour before you need it to take effect.
3. The Scopolamine patch will last up to three days so if for instance, you have two boat rides two days in a row you can take it off after the first day, place it back on the original piece of plastic, and use it again the next day.

Side effects

As with all motion sickness medications, Scopolamine makes you feel drowsy even the day after taking it off so I wouldn't recommend keeping it on for any longer than you have to. Another side effect is that it may become tougher than normal to swallow.

Of course, everyone is affected differently and I'm not claiming to know how you will be affected but rather just letting you know how it has affected me time and time again. Fortunately, you will need to consult your doctor in order to receive the prescription so it is ultimately their decision.

How to get it

Even with a prescription, you may end up paying $20 per patch and even then, you'll be in luck if it's in stock and available. My advice is trying to get it at least one month before you plan on using it because there's no telling how long it may take.

#2 Over-The-Counter (OTC) Motion Sickness Medications

We all know about Dramamine in its many forms (P.S. kids chewable ones may come in handy at the airport if you have no water to swallow a pill), the tales of ginger pills, the seas sickness wrist bands, and the many more.

These may be perfectly fine for you depending on how severe your motion sickness is and they're the simplest forms of medication to get. 

If you're backpacking and you have motion sickness at all, I recommend always having some of these handy. You never know if you'll be able to find it in the country that you're in or when you're going to get on a boat or a winding bus ride. 

Also, since it's so tough to have a steady supply of the transdermal patch if you're traveling, it's always good to have some of these handy. Even if they don't help with real big waves or rollercoasters, they may help on boat rides on calm waters.

#3 The 1000-Yard Stare

derek coleman motion sickness

This is, of course, the last resort when you find yourself in some shit that you never expected to find yourself in and you have no motion sickness medication whatsoever, nobody who can lend you some, and no way to buy some in time. 

This is a simple tried and true technique that works for small bumpy roads and obstacles but of course not full blown wavy boat rides. 

You find a spot on the wall or on whatever is front of you and you don't take your eyes off it until the ride is over. You don't turn your head even slightly when someone calls your name. You don't look at the Great White Shark that just ate a passenger who fell overboard. You just look at that same spot until everything stops, because if you turn slightly, it's all over. Blowing chunks.

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Written by Derek

Derek, our editor in chief, is an avid reader and lifelong backpacker who has traveled to more than 30 countries and 30+ U.S states. He is a digital marketing specialist with over 10 years of experience growing companies using innovative growth strategies.

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