We found out that our toddler got carsick easily at the very beginning of a 14 hour road trip to my husband’s grandfather’s funeral. She threw up 3 times in the first two hours.
We were totally unprepared, and nearly gave up on the whole trip when we’d barely gotten started.
Thankfully, we’ve learned a lot over the past year of dealing with her carsickness. While she still gets sick, we’ve manged to not let it stop us from going on the road when we need to!
If know you have a carsick toddler, think ahead
Our biggest mistake when it comes to having a carsick toddler is that we always let it catch us off guard. We don’t go on road trips that often, so when we do, the last episode of carsickness feels like such a distant memory that we often don’t even remember to plan for it until we hear that little voice in back whining “I have to frow up!”
The biggest favor you can do for yourself is think through your trip ahead of time and gather what you need to deal with an episode of carsickness along the way.
Don’t let short trips trip you up, either. We were particularly surprised by carsickness once when we were going on a hiking trip for the day.
The drive to the trail was only about 15 minutes, so the thought of our daughter getting carsick didn’t even enter our minds!
But the roads were especially curvy, so we had a big mess to clean up when we arrived at the trail head. And of course there was no running water to even wash our hands with after we were done cleaning up.
Know Your Kid: Recognize the Signs of Carsickness
If you have a car sick toddler, they won’t necessarily be able to verbally communicate when they’re starting to feel sick. That means you’ll need to tune in and learn to recognize the signs of car sickness so that you know when to take action. The signs will be different for each child. To give you an idea, here’s some of the signs my daughter gives us:
- Starts getting really whiny and asks for a drink incessantly.
- Coughing when she doesn’t have a cold.
- Crying and holding her mouth. The throw up is imminent at this point!
Keep an eye out for similar signs in your child so you can attempt to keep them from making a mess!
Here’s some of the steps we take to try to prevent carsickness for our daughter:
Seabands can help carsick toddlers
I wasn’t familiar with Seabands until my toddler first started getting carsick.
Another mom told me that they can really help, so I picked up a pair at the store to see if they would work.
We’ve found that they aren’t foolproof – our daughter has still gotten carsick while wearing them.
I will say that the only pair available when I purchased our Seabands was an adult size. Surprisingly, they seemed to fit our toddler’s wrists because they stretch so much to fit adults. But it’s possible that we would have better results if I ordered a child-sized version for her.
It’s also difficult to make sure that young children wear them properly. In order for them to be effective, they need to be in a certain spot on the wrist where the pressure point that helps to relieve nausea is. We have trouble with our daughter sliding them up and down her arm or taking them off altogether while she’s bored in the car seat.
We’ve been trying to teach her to keep them on, but it’s an uphill battle.
So they may or may not work for your child, but Seabands are so inexpensive and there’s no risk to wearing them. It doesn’t hurt to give them a try.
Give your toddler some fresh air if she starts to feel carsick
One thing that can help nausea is getting some fresh air. So if you start to notice any of the subtle signs that your toddler is starting to get sick, it’s a good idea to at least roll down your windows.
If you can, it’s even better to stop for a few minutes altogether and let them get out of the car and walk around. Wait for the sickness to pass before you try to get going again!
Sometimes it’s not really possible to continue stopping every time your child feels a little sick, especially if you’re on a long road trip and you really need to make progress.
Which brings me to my next point:
Medicate if necessary
I hate giving my kids medicine any more than I have to. But sometimes, you do have to. If we’re going on a long trip and can’t afford to be stopping every half hour to let our daughter get out and walk around, we’re not above doing a little medicating.
Drive at night
If you want to avoid giving medicine but still be able to travel long distances without frequent stops, driving at night might be the trick for your family! Kids don’t usually get sick once they’re asleep, so if you plan your trip to leave right around their bedtime and drive through the night to your destination it might solve your carsickness problem.
If you can stay awake yourself, that is!
I would never be able to stay awake all night to drive, but my husband can go forever on a quick nap (while I drive) and an energy drink. Bless him.
Reposition your child’s seat
If you’ve tried all the tricks and your child continues to get sick constantly, it might be time to consider changing their seating situation. That means flipping them from rear to forward facing!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for safety first. I honestly prefer until my kids hit the rear-facing weight limit for their seat, which meant that my older daughter rode rear facing until she was almost 4!
But we will probably flip our second daughter much sooner due to carsickness. Safety is important, but so is sanity and quality of life. Having a throw up mess every time we get in the car just isn’t sustainable!
When eruption is imminent: Prepare your poncho
This is a last ditch effort tip if you know your kiddo is about to blow and there’s no way you’ll be able to get them out of their seat in time.
Keep a plastic poncho on hand to slip over their little head to catch the mess. The child and their car seat will stay relatively clean, and you can just toss the poncho in the trash when you stop!
So much better than trying to clean up a huge vomit mess when all you have on hand is baby wipes.
You’ll need a cleaning kit
Speaking of baby wipes, if you have a kid who gets carsick, you should never leave home without your handy emergency vomit kit!
It should include things like:
- Wipes or paper towels
- Plastic bags (LOTS)
- Extra clothes
- The aforementioned poncho
- You might even consider investing in an extra cover for your child’s car seat to have on hand in case it gets really dirty and you can’t wash it right away! There’s nothing worse than your car reeking of vomit for the duration of a 12 hour road trip.
My condolences to you if you have a carsick toddler. I hope they eventually grow out of it, but if not, I hope these tips help you manage it a little bit better!
Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.