These 9 Tips and Tricks Prevent Motion Sickness on a Plane

Updated 06/29/18
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Motion sickness is a horrible feeling that can quite literally put a damper on your trip before it ever really begins. I've had my fair share of it in cars and on buses, but apparently one in every three individuals experiences motion sickness in the car, which has similar symptoms to motion sickness on a plane. Perhaps the simplest way to explain the cause of any form of this condition is that it occurs when your senses have "mixed signals." Your brain gets confused, and that's when you begin to feel nauseated, have chills, experience dizziness, or sometimes even vomit.

This sensory overload is not comfortable, which is why it's good news that there are simple hacks—like where to sit in flight or what to focus on—that will prevent or alleviate the condition. And surprisingly enough, sitting in first class is not necessarily where you want to be to avoid turbulence. If you've ever experienced motion sickness on a plane (or know someone who has), keep reading to see the preventative tips and tricks resident jet-setters follow and use.

motion sickness on a plane


Try a fear-reducing exercise

In case you didn't already guess this, your preparation should begin before the morning of your flight. In fact, it's better to get ready a few days in advance if at all possible. If you experience motion sickness on a plane, there's like some fear associated with your trip (even if it's just the fear that you'll get sick). Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger suggests taking some time out as the passenger in a car to notice how bumpy the ride is. "When you do that and become sensitized to what we've all become desensitized to, you realize that most car trips are much bumpier than your average plane ride," she says.

This little exercise can help calm your nerves a few days ahead of time.


Eat something light and bland

You don't want to upset your stomach, so according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, it's best if you have a light meal the night before. Also worth considering: ditching salty food to prevent dehydration in flight and avoiding greasy foods that can cause a digestive flare-up. (Rule of thumb: If a meal normally bothers your stomach, avoid it for a few days before your flight just to be safe.)

Check in and choose the right seat

This may mean ditching first class, but you want to sit above the wings around rows 10 to 30. Why? These spots are more stable, which means this position will reduce the feelings of turbulence says Quay Snyder, MD, MSPH, the president of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service. Even though the front of the plane (aka first class) is normally not too bumpy, you can experience motion sickness if the front wheels hit first when you land. Also go for a window seat since it's advised that watching the horizon helps get your senses aligned by showing your body the motion it's going through.

motion sickness in flight


Crank the air

When you're already feeling nauseated and sick, the last thing you want is to feel uncomfortably hot, too. By turning up your personal fan and pointing it at yourself, you're improving the direct airflow. Be sure to also dress in layers so you can easily take them on or off as your body adjusts to the in-flight temperature.

Sip a ginger ale

When beverage service starts, ask for ginger ale and sip on it slowly so you don't get too much fizz all at once. Research has shown that ginger actually helps to prevent motion sickness (so it's better if the soda has real ginger in it—some do). Whatever you do, this is not the time for cocktails or wine since alcohol is a diuretic (it dehydrates you), which can make your body have a harder time fighting off motion sickness.

Avoid reading

Ditch your book club catch-up reading until you touch down. Reading is basically the exact opposite of looking out on the horizon, and it throws your body off more. It's adding more movement since your eyes are going from word to word, which can further confuse your senses.

Other things to consider:

Discuss taking an over-the-counter drug for motion sickness with your doctor like Dramamine or Bonine. Remember that these pills can make you extremely drowsy, so it's best not to take them for the first time while you are traveling alone. Another option that doesn't involve medication is using a digital therapeutic device which is basically like a watch that sends currents to your body to stop the sickness. If you go that route, choose one like this model that has a replaceable battery.

Now that you'll be able to kick motion sickness on a plane to the curb, learn about what to do in Capri (and then book your flight).

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