Coping with Car Sick Children

Car sick children, they get over it quickly!

When you have a baby, dealing with their bodily fluids is part of day to day life. As time goes on, thank god, you see less of their fluids. Just when you think you’re past the worst of it, the sickness has subsided, the poo is staying in the nappies, the dribbling has slowed down to a trickle instead of a flood, the car sickness starts. We have been particularly unlucky because, while car sick children don’t normally start to suffer until they are a bit older, both of our children developed car sickness at 11 months.

For Boy Child it started when we were on holiday. His first episode was after eating strawberries so we spent quite some time convinced he had an allergy. Eventually (after picking chucks of vomit out of the car seat a few too many times) we made the connection. When Girl Child was sick after a particularly winding car journey, it didn’t take long to realise what was going on. 

While car sick children are pretty common (I was a sufferer and so was my mum) its easy to forget how stressful it is. Both of my children spent a day a week with their grandparents when they were small. It’s an hours drive away and Chris would take them on his way to work so he suffered the brunt of it. To his credit, he persevered with taking them. They loved going and I needed to work so both the kids and I, as well as the grandparents, were very grateful.

When the children were small, car sickness generally didn’t upset them very much. Boy Child was almost completely unbothered. Girl Child didn’t enjoy it but soon forgot about it (the photo below was taken just after she was sick!). Having read that the more car journeys they do, the less sick they will be, we continued to drive them places, taking a various precautions to manage the situation. Below are the tips we’ve discovered over the years to help us cope with car sick children.


Children quickly forget they’ve been sick


Decisions around Food

We’ve found that they are much less sick if they haven’t eaten before we travel. If we are going out for the day, we will often leave before breakfast then stop somewhere near to our destination and have it then. If we are leaving a bit later in the day we give them breakfast, but avoid dairy. The reason for this is twofold. The first is that we’ve found they are more likely to be sick if they’ve had it. The second is, of all the things they can throw up in your car, dairy smells the worst! I’ve read suggestions of giving them ginger biscuits. It’s never worked for us, just adds to what they have to splatter all over your car.


Timing your journey

For us, we’ve worked out the 40 is the magic number. We can generally drive for 40 minutes before anyone is likely to be sick. After the this, the risk increases exponentially. This is useful knowledge because we can try to break up our journeys so that we aren’t in the car for more than 40 minutes at a time.

We’ve also discovered that neither of them get car sick if the are asleep. When they were younger and still had naps, we made use of this by travelling at nap times. If we are out for a full day, we’ll often have dinner while we are out. If you don’t want to spend loads, I suggest supermarket cafes, they’re great for a cheap and cheerful dinner. We then put them into their PJs and they will generally fall asleep once we’re moving. There’s always a chance they’ll wake up when you get home and refuse to go back to sleep but hey, at least you didn’t have to drive home surrounded by the smell of vomit.


Planning your journey to avoid Sickness

Avoid winding roads at all costs! I’ve been known to drive significantly out of my way in order to travel by motorway because it makes a huge difference to their likelihood of being sick. While I imagine everyone tries to avoid traffic when they can, this becomes even more important when you are dealing with car sick children. Stoppping and starting is definitely a trigger.

Some people have had success with putting car seats in the middle of the car. It’s something that wasn’t practical for us but I’ve heard quite a lot of people say it works so it’s certainly worth a try. 

Another big trigger for my children is heat. Make sure they don’t have their coat on in the car (safer anyway if they are in a car seat). They can always have it on like a blanket if they are cold. Gloves, scarfs and particularly hats should be taken off. For Boy Child, heat is such a big trigger he’s been known to be sick just from overheating when he isn’t even in a car (the Christmas assembly where the children were required to wear woolly hats and scarves while crowded in the hall didn’t end well). Open windows or use air conditioning to manage the temperature. Consider a hand held fan for car sick children in the summer.


Other ideas for car sick children

Avoid letting them do anything they have to concentrate on in the car. They should be encouraged to look out of the window as this helps their brain make sense of what’s going on. We’ve found music or a game of I spy is a good distraction. I Spy also encourages looking out of the car. If they haven’t learnt their letters yet you can do it with colours. 

We have a set of travel wristbands for Girl Child which work pitting oressure on the relevant acupuncture points. I’m honestly not sure if they help or not but she feels happier wearing them so we go with it. 

We’ve recently started using travel sickness medication for our children. It definitely helps but does make them drowsy. We decide weather to use them or not depending on what we are doing. In the UK, your options are Kwells Kids which can be used  from 4 years old or medications containing  Cinnarizine which can be used from 5 years old.

It’s also important to make sure you have everything you need with you in case of an incident. The photo below is what happened on (one of) the occasions we forgot to take spare clothes for Boy Child.

Child singing while wearing over sized clothes


Planning to deal with car sick children

Sometimes all you can do with car sick children is be prepared. We have what we lovingly refer to as the sick bag. Not a bag that they are sick in, but a bag with everything they need when they’re sick. Here’s what we include:

  • A large tupperware container with a lid to use as a sick bowl (useful if you have to hang on to what they’ve produced until you find somewhere to stop)
  • Baby wipes
  • Old towels
  • Carrier bags for vomity clothes
  • Tissues
  • Spare clothes (the number of sets depends on the length of the journey)
  • Bottle of water (for them to rinse their mouth)

Everything you need for a car sick child


The other precaution we took when they were little and likely to miss the bowl, was covering their car seats. We used either thin towels or plastic or plastic for this. There are so many nooks and crannies in car seats (you really don’t realise how many until you’ve picked sick out of them) that even the washing machine struggles to get them clean. Something you can either throw away or clean easily makes a big difference.

At 6 and 8 my children are unfortunately still sick from time to time, although it has definitely improved. School trips are a problem, I imagine car sick children are a teacher’s worst nightmare on a trip.  For Boy Child, while he has been sick on coaches, he still isn’t too upset by it. However I suspect Girl Child would be mortified if it happened to her so when she had her first school trip last year I went along (6 hours surrounded by 90 excited 5 year olds, oh joy!). Luckily she wasn’t sick but I suspect I’ll be volunteering as school trip chaperone for a few years yet.

Having Car sick children is a miserable experience for everyone involved so if your child suffers you have my sympathy. If all else fails, you may have take your annual holidays at the local Premier Inn!


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Travel sick children




  1. January 24, 2019 / 11:16 am

    Great blog and so helpful for other parents ! Enjoyed reading it and love the hints and tips ! Have many friends who will benefit from this so have shared it with them

    • Jo
      January 24, 2019 / 8:27 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it. X

  2. January 24, 2019 / 8:03 pm

    We have one child who gets car sick — turns an awful shade of puke green and we usually have to pull over immediately, after dropping all the windows open. It turns out, it happens EVERY time she reads, watches a movie or plays a game on the tablet. Very unfun way to drive… poor thing. May you too see less fluids soon! #itsok xoxo

  3. Jo
    January 24, 2019 / 8:28 pm

    Down with the bodily fluids! Watching or reading are massive triggers for me even now so I can relate.

  4. January 25, 2019 / 11:31 am

    Having been woefully underprepared for the vomaggedon that occurred when my two ear old got sick in the car just yesterday, I can see the value in each and every one of these tips!! Thanks for linking up lovely xxx #itsok

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:51 pm

      “Vomaggedon” 😂😂😂

  5. January 25, 2019 / 2:41 pm

    One of my three gets terrible car sickness and once it has happened you can never remove the smell! I make sure he isn’t on his iPad and phone, if I can I also make sure he is in the front with me. I have had mixed results with ginger biscuits, however I still give them to him – it does add a nice(er) smell to proceedings after all.

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:52 pm

      Yep, I reckon ginger would be better than it’s natural eau de parfum!

  6. January 25, 2019 / 4:03 pm

    Very useful tips here. We haven’t come across this as an issue yet, but good to know what to do. #BlogCrush

  7. January 25, 2019 / 7:08 pm

    Remember hating my foster brother for throwing up all over me in the car decade ago now of course. My children have all vomited at some point in the car. Got to the point of expert parent who assumes it will happen and has all the gear. Your post will save so many new parents who are not usually so well prepared for the harsh realities. #BlogCrush

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:53 pm

      Oh god, that must have been awful!

  8. January 26, 2019 / 8:40 am

    Some great tips. My eldest often gets car sick. We had an incident with violent strawberry sick we though was blood for a scary moment. Also suffered with the smell of dairy sick too often.

    • Jo
      January 26, 2019 / 3:20 pm

      Dairy is definitely the worst, although I was very off strawberries for a while after the first incident!

  9. January 26, 2019 / 4:21 pm

    So useful, I’m always mindful of this as I suffered with it as a kid, so far mine seem to be ok. Although I still get it from time to time.

  10. January 26, 2019 / 4:39 pm

    They’re all great tips. Our son used to be great but occasionally now at 5 gets car sick. We’ve got sick bags and an emergency kit in the car now!

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:53 pm

      Got to be prepared!

  11. January 26, 2019 / 9:41 pm

    My two still use Kwells when the travel long distances. My eldest gets travel sick, it’s awful for them (and us who has to clear it up!)

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:54 pm

      Kwels do seem to help.

  12. January 27, 2019 / 8:57 pm

    Great information thankfully none of children ever suffered from it Thanks for linking to #Thatfridaylinky hope to see you next week

  13. January 31, 2019 / 9:47 am

    My girls, like me, have never actually been sick in the car but they feel very queasy and unwell, especially on the windy roads. I think your tips are great – I Spy is a particular favourite on our car journeys too #blogcrush

    • Jo
      January 31, 2019 / 3:55 pm

      I’m similar, rarely sick these days but often feel it.

  14. January 31, 2019 / 7:41 pm

    Yup, been there, done it & got the t-shirt – literally! Great tips! #ThatFridayLinky

  15. February 22, 2019 / 6:01 am

    I was terribly car sick as a child, thankfully something our kids never suffered with. i still get sick on a bus or in the back seat of a car and it has nothing to do with what I’m doing, just the motion

  16. Jo
    February 23, 2019 / 1:36 pm

    I still get a bit queasy in the back seat too!

  17. March 1, 2019 / 9:24 am

    I get car sick even now as an adult, but only if I’m in the back of a car on a bus or travelling backwards on a train. I can however read, but not on a screen. We had one child who we coulodn’t feed for an hour before a journey and another who couldn’t have drinks on long car trips or they’d both throw up

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