How to Fend Off Seasickness without Drugs: A Five Step Plan

There are a lot of highlights to cruising, but seasickness isn’t one of them. I learned this the hard way during my first Aegean Sea adventure, now decades back in my aft mirror.

I set sail from Athens to Santorini — a short but extremely rough trip due to choppy late autumn seas. Closing myself in my room, I clutched my stomach and refused to eat or drink, trying not to look out the window. I can now tell you that every part of that approach was dead wrong.

Today, I’m able to set sail without feeling ill, while also avoiding seasickness medications that make me too drowsy to enjoy my time at sea. Over the course of decades of travel, I’ve picked up a number of tricks to ensure comfortable sailing. They even worked on my recent polar cruise, where the ship rocked and rolled and the other passengers went green around the gills while I sipped fish soup without a care. In fact, I’m now such a comfortable cruiser that I was married on a yacht!

On every cruise, I rely on these five remedies to help me navigate the choppy waters of seasickness and make sure that I enjoy every minute instead of staying stuck in my cabin in dry dock.

1. I move to the middle.

When nausea comes on strong, I move to the middle of the ship, which is the most stable part of a boat and rocks the least. And I try to stay outside if I can; the fresh air helps alleviate my queasiness. I’ve also discovered that it’s best to simply stay still and gaze at the horizon until the feeling passes; trying to read or peek at electronics means looking down, which distorts my equilibrium and brings on the queasies.

2. I use acupressure points.

Over the years, I had heard from a number of holistic practitioners that there is a pressure point inside the wrist that counters nausea. Rather than spending a whole cruise holding my own hand to see if this is true, I picked up sea wristbands at a local drugstore. These stretchy, lightweight, snug-fitting bracelets had small plastic disks — about the size of a thumbtack — that applied pressure to my wrist at the acupuncture points. (Bonus: each pair is less than $10, and reusable, too.) I strapped on my first pair for my polar cruise; I truly believe it was what kept me from getting felled by the swells for the entire week we traversed choppy February waters off the coast of Norway.

Quick Tip:

Don’t forget to stay hydrated and use sunscreen; too much sun and not enough water can often to lead to feeling ill.

3. I stock up on ginger.

Ginger is my personal favorite way to fight gastric distress. It’s a stomach-soother and a natural nausea reliever. I bring candied ginger for a sweet, portable treat that settles my flipping stomach, or — when I’m in the Caribbean — I sip on ginger beer, a nonalcoholic quencher infused with fresh ginger. (However, I avoid commercial ginger ale, which is mostly just sugar water.)

4. I suck on a lemon.

Then there’s my go-to home remedy: suck on a lemon. The tannins in lemons dry out the excessive saliva that often precedes seasickness. I can always find sliced lemons near the drink and water stations, for an easy grab-and-go fix.

5. I eat something.

Although it may seem like an empty stomach can keep you from getting sick, it’s actually better to eat something light to settle stomach acid. I always try to keep crackers or a green apple on hand in my cabin, both of which are filling but not greasy or heavy. (I don’t experiment with cheesy pizza from the buffet at moments like this; I’ll save that for the next day when I’m feeling better!).

Quick Tip:

While these methods help me, they may not necessarily cure or prevent your seasickness, so you may have to experiment with these and other possible fix-its!

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Melissa K. is a writer living in New Jersey.