Ask Fodor's: How to Avoid Seasickness

Posted by Elissa Garay on May 12, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM EDT | Post a Comment

What's the best way to avoid seasickness? [I'm] planning a sailing excursion as part of an upcoming trip to Croatia.

Though my first cruises were marked by unpleasant bouts of queasiness and dizziness, I am happy to report that now, some 20 trips later, my time on the high seas is a relative breeze. However, after digging through research and testing different remedies, I've learned what works and what doesn't.

Indeed, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Seasickness arises as a physiological, disorienting reaction to motion—in short, a form of motion sickness at sea. You'll be less susceptible to its onset if you're well-rested before you set sail, stay hydrated throughout, avoid positioning yourself to sit or stand backwards while sailing, and steer clear of reading onboard (or doing other tasks that require a strong visual focus).

Book a midship cabin on a lower deck, where the sway of the ship is less evident, with porthole or balcony access allowing you to readily set your gaze on the fixed horizon—doing so can help reset your equilibrium and counteract the disorienting effects of being at sea.

Choose your cruise itinerary and ship wisely; avoid sailing around typically choppy seas and book newer, larger vessels equipped with the latest stabilization systems. If you're prone to seasickness, sailing a modern ship through the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, will prove a far smoother and more enjoyable ride than setting out on an expedition to the Antarctic. It's also a good idea to sign up for a port-intensive itinerary, which will minimize your time at sea.

Consider taking over-the-counter medications like Bonine and Dramamine to prevent or treat motion sickness. Just be sure to ask your doctor which meds are best for you; for more severe sufferers, stronger prescription options are also available in pill or patch form. I've avoided this route because the pills can cause unpleasant side effects such as drowsiness and dry mouth, and they don't mix well with alcohol (what's a cruise vacation without a frothy, umbrella-capped drink, after all?). Instead, I rely on homeopathic methods: wearing an acupressure wristband (perhaps not the most stylish accessory, but they've proven quite effective for me) and taking ginger pills, which alleviate nausea. 

Be sure to spend lots of time on deck, where you can get fresh air and look toward the horizon. If you feel seasickness coming on, grab a light bite to eat. Known stomach soothers include saltine crackers, green apples, ginger ale, and peppermint tea. Of course, you'll want to avoid greasy, spicy, or acidic (e.g. coffee or citrus) food and drink that might trigger or aggravate nausea, and don't overdo it at the buffet or drink too much alcohol.

Keep in mind that everybody is different, so you may need to do a little self-experimentation to find a remedy that works best for you. As unpleasant as it may be, seasickness is a common ailment that will eventually pass. From my experience, mind over matter helps considerably. Take deep breaths to avoid getting too anxious about the idea of getting seasick, keep your mind occupied with other activities onboard, and know that from my experience, the joy of a cruise vacation far outweighs the risk of a little seasickness. Here's to smooth sailing! —Elissa Richard, Fodors.com Contributor

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Photo Credit: © Maksym Kozachuk | Dreamstime.com (ship at sea); © Pavel Losevsky | Dreamstime.com (cruise ship horizon)

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