The Best Motion Sickness Remedies According to Experts and Travelers

Ginger? Acupressure bands? The patch? A comprehensive guide on how to tame that queasy feeling.

A distorted picture of a ship on the water, with wavy text, simulating motion sickness

What’s one of the most annoying things about traveling? Motion sickness.

Photo by istock; illustration by Taylor Le

There are times, like during road trips or on cruise ships, when the process of moving from point A to point B is truly part of the adventure. But for many travelers—myself included—the simple act of being in transit can cause dizziness, cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, and even migraines. More commonly known as motion sickness, the condition is caused by a disturbance in the inner ear, the part of the body responsible for maintaining our sense of balance. And it can last long after the motion stops, no matter how many peppermints you suck on.
According to Vickie Sowards, RN, BSN, and director of nursing resources for Passport Health travel medicine clinics, whether you’re in a moving vehicle, plane, amusement park ride, ship, train, or even using a virtual reality headset, repetitive motions can disrupt one’s equilibrium by sending conflicting signals to the brain. “The eyes see one thing and the body feels another, and the inner ear does not know what is happening,” she says.

Who gets motion sickness?

Although only about one-third of people are considered highly susceptible to motion sickness, almost anybody can experience it if things get shaky enough. As seriously intrepid expeditions—think polar cruises or space flight—become more accessible and climate change renders air turbulence more frequent and more violent, even individuals who aren’t usually vulnerable may find themselves reaching for the sick bag.

Blue sea foaming water background with two smaller photos of distortion

There are natural and pharmaceutical options to help alleviate symptoms of motion sickness.

Photos by istock; illustration by Taylor Le

How can you avoid motion sickness?

There are, however, some basic things you can do to reduce your chances of getting queasy. To avoid the brain-body disconnect that causes motion sickness, Sowards recommends seeking out places where you’ll feel the least amount of movement on whatever vessel you’re riding in. It’s also helpful to find a place where you can focus on fixed points (ideally on the horizon). In whatever situation you may be in, stay hydrated, keep fresh air flowing, and avoid reading or looking down at your phone or tablet to minimize that disconnect.

  • On a ship: Avoid seasickness by booking a cabin near the ship’s center, where motion is less obvious.
  • On a plane: Choose a seat situated over the wing or near the front of the cabin.
  • In a car: Opt to sit in the front passenger seat, ideally near an air-conditioning vent, or offer to drive—being the driver can help your brain anticipate movement.
  • On a train: Pick a seat that’s facing forward, rather than in the opposite direction that the train is moving in.

What is going on when you experience motion sickness?

There are times when simply keeping your eyes on the horizon isn’t enough to keep your inner ear in balance and your stomach calm, so you may want to rely on natural remedies or pharmaceutical options. But with so many choices, such as acupressure Sea-Bands and transdermal scopolamine patches, it’s hard to guess what actually works. As a health researcher–turned–travel journalist who suffers from motion sickness, I’ve looked through the research and talked to experts to help make sense of it all. Here’s what you need to know:


A few years ago, I was boarding a whale-watching boat off the Dominican Republic’s Samaná Peninsula when the crew began passing out Sea-Bands. These elasticized wristbands relieve nausea by exerting pressure on the pericardium 6 (aka P6 or Nei-Guan) accupressure point. According to traditional Chinese medicine, adding pressure to this spot can help “harmonize” digestion.

However, clinical reports and research trials on the efficacy of acupressure bracelets for reducing nausea are mixed. Some studies have found they don’t work any better than a placebo, while others have found substantial and significant reductions in the symptoms of motion sickness.

But ever since that boat tour, Sea-Bands have become my go-to for flights and long-haul road trips—at $13 per pair, they’re affordable enough to keep on hand (not to mention, reusable). However, if the turbulence on a plane is intense or if I’m switchbacking on a bus up a mountain on the Mediterranean coast, I often find myself reaching for something stronger.

A photo of the bow of a ship with a distorted circular filter to simulate motion sickness

Antihistamines are effective at quelling motion sickness—but they can also make users very sleepy.

Photo by istock; illustration by Taylor Le

Over-the-counter meds

Several antihistamines—including dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and meclizine (Antivert, Bonine)—prevent motion sickness by blocking H1 receptors that can cause nausea. You can find over-the-counter medications and chewable tablets that last from 8 to 24 hours in most drugstores, gas stations, and even airport shops.

According to research, antihistamines are very effective at preventing motion sickness, and healthcare professionals have been recommending them for decades. However, antihistamines can also make you incredibly sleepy, which can be annoying on scenic train rides or Zodiac boat excursions—it can also be downright dangerous if you need to drive.

Prescription medications

Another well-studied pharmaceutical solution to motion sickness is the scopolamine medicine–based patch, Transderm Scop, which healthcare providers can prescribe. A growing body of research suggests that scopolamine blocks acetylcholine receptors, thus reducing “neural mismatch signals” and making it easier for the brain to reorient during times of intense motion. Simply place the patch behind an ear an hour or two before your trip, where it can remain and continue to work for a few days.

These patches are popular because there’s no pill to remember to take, they work as well as or better than over-the-counter alternatives, and they don’t cause drowsiness. However, Sowards notes, these prescription-only patches can cause “excessively dry mouth,” so you’ll want to keep water handy.


People have been consuming ginger medicinally for millennia. The root is favored by Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to treat gastrointestinal ailments, and it’s often used as a Western folk remedy to treat nausea. More recently, all those years of healing-based wisdom have been backed by clinical trials.

A natural antiemetic, ginger works by inhibiting serotonin receptors and breaking up and expelling gas in the digestive tract. It’s even been shown to outperform Dramamine medicine as a remedy for motion sickness in a number of studies and does so without marked side effects.

Beyond ginger ale—that old standard (make sure the drink contains actual ginger; some do not)—you can find ginger lozenges, supplement chews, and even gum in drugstores. And the makers of Bonine and Dramamine both have natural, ginger-based versions of their products that claim to include a clinical dose of the herb.

But what works best for motion sickness?

Ultimately, Sowards says, “There is no one cure-all that works for everyone” so it’s worth exploring multiple options to find the best option for you. Don’t like pharmaceuticals? Try the ginger or Sea-Bands. Not a fan of popping pills? Consider the Transderm Scop. Want something that’ll knock you out on that 10-hour flight? Over-the-counter antihistamines are your best friend. Whatever you choose, remember it’ll work best if you take it or put it on one to two hours before the start of your journey.

This article originally appeared online in 2019 and was updated with new information by Erika Owen in October 27, 2023.

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