Dealing with car sickness

We have been a family who travels since our first child was born in 2000. In that time we have gone to many places including national (USA) and international travel. We are always eager to get out to explore far and wide. Our trips tend to be made by car. We do this for many reasons from thrift to flexibility. Those years of going places with our children have provided us with a good amount of experience. While traveling with children can be stressful there are certain events that can make traveling very challenging. Our top challenge is facing the horrid vomit in the car disaster.

The one thing no family wants to have happen while on a road trip.

Our youngest daughter has been an avid car vomiter since, well, birth. Any time we are in the car for more than an hour we have come to expect her to throw up. It's so normal for us that I have been making and packing along a Car Sickness Clean-up Kit to leave in the car.  For three years we have been working through her motion sickness. Since she has been still too young to take any non-prescription medication we have just been hoping for the best and being prepared for the worst. In our case best is one throw-up incident and the worst being 5 or more. I know it's bad when she has gone through the 3 outfits I have in the just in case bag, and am forced to dig out the luggage for more clothing.

Pre-Travel Seat Prep

Before we go any where I set up her carseat. Actually this is how her seat is prepped every day. I begin by layering the following on the seat:

Waterproof baby pad
Large bath towel
Crib sheet

Once everything is layered on then I install her carseat. These layers offer tremendous protection for our car's upholstery. I pack an extra set of those layers when going on any long trip. The waterproof pad keeps the seat from getting soaked with icky things and has been great at catching that juice during the great juice box squeezing incident. The towel will absorb quite a bit it really helps cover most of the seat. The crib sheet fits over a standard bucket seat. (We use these over all the seats where we have carseats installed) The crib sheet will protect the top, sides, and armrests of the seat and will certainly offer you peace of mind especially if you have a child that is quite voluminous with their vomit. And the bonus is the crib sheet catches all sort of crumbs for the non-vomit days.

Then I get a large plastic cup (think Big Gulp sized) and keep it in a cup holder with me. This is for her to barf into once she starts to feel lousy. Now that she's older she has been able to tell us when her stomach feels bad. I just pass her the cup and can often catch a few of her incidents. I would even suggest having a small sand pail from the dollar store on hand to do the same. That way if you don't need it the bucket is a great toy for later.

Car Sickness Clean-up Kit

Inside a 2 gallon bag place
Vomit bags (buy them or just use quart sized plastic bags)
Garbage bags: several kitchen sized bag and medium wastebasket sized bags (I use a marker to label 2 of them with the word: LAUNDRY for all soiled clothing)
Paper towels
Hand sanitizer
Baby wipes
Travel sized Febreeze spray
Travel sized Lysol
Small spray bottle with 1 part white vinegar and 8 parts water
Baking Soda (Cornstarch)
Scrapper (plastic/cardboard)
Toothbrush/small dish brush
Widetooth Comb/hairbrush (don't ask but you'll be glad you have it for the hair issues)
Hand towels and/or small flannel baby blankets

In a quart bag:
Roll of quarters
Travel sized laundry detergent
Baggie with dryer sheets

1 Gallon Bag items:
Electrolyte fluids
Dum-Dum lollipops
extra outfit
Lavender essentail oil

Now that you have all the pieces let's get to the: What do you do when the worst happens?

Find a good spot to pull over. Depending on how bad it is you may be cleaning up for a while and you will need a safe place to do the dirty work. After assessing the damage you will know what tools to use from your clean up kit. If you have help or if you are like me traveling solo with 4 kids then the first thing to do is comfort your sick child. I usually take one of the medium wastebasket bags labeled LAUNDRY* and toss in all the soiled clothing. I use the piece of cardboard to scrape off the chunky bits. Once I have the child down to the undies/diaper I begin by wiping them down. I toss all the icky stuff in the large garbage bag. If I need the hairbrush I start with that before wiping the child down. Next get them dressed. Offer sips of water. Once they are calmed down offer a blanket or other item to comfort them. You can check in with the child periodically to see if saltines or lollipops will be desired.

Now you get on to the carseat disaster. I find that the best thing to do is take the seat out completely. This is tiresome but you want to make certain nothing slipped below the seat. If you notice that there is a puddle on the seat then fully remove the Pre-Travel Seat Prep layers. I begin by using the paper towels to get an initial absorption of the mess. If needed I use the cardboard to scrape off the carseat. If there is noticeable wetness in the carseat I pour a little bit of baking soda on the seat (or even the car's seat). This will help dry up the moisture and offer some relief from odors. Let it rest a few minutes while you work on the other parts. If the baking soda can dry completely it will reduce the stink better.  Next I get baby wipes and start wiping the straps and other parts of the carseat. The toothbrush can do wonders at getting nooks and crannies. When the baking soda is dry brush it off. With a wet washcloth/sponge I will clean the seat with the vinegar water spray bottle mixture. I gently spray the seat and wipe it down. (Do not use on leather!) I take the hand towel and try to absorb any more wetness. To further reduce interior odors use the Febreeze or Lysol. I found that the Febreeze seems to be better for our family. We keep the Febreeze available to air out the stench.

Often we are pressed for time in our travel. Which means that the carseat does not have ample time to dry. What I usually do is place a small hand towel or flannel baby blankets on the carseat bottom to offer a layer of protection for our child. When we stop for lunch at rest stops I take the carseat out and let it rest on the hood of the van for more natural sanitizing and needed drying in the sun. On rainy days we are just out of luck and have to replace the flannels.

Once we get to our destination I cheek to see about laundry facilities. If there are some then I will try to find time to wash the carseat covers and belts and basically everything else that is in need of laundering. When we go on long trips I typically have laundering supplies. But sometimes I forget to bring quarters so having this in the kit is such a help since it's not going to be buried in the luggage.

* In the past I used wet bags to stash the soiled clothing etc. I stopped doing this as it became more of an issue of fining ways to launder everything. While I prefer to be sustainable when it comes to vomit the use of plastic bags has been much better at containing the odors and wetness of the items inside.


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