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5 Tips For The Travelsick Reader

A blurry photo

I’ve struggled with travel sickness all my life. I discovered it the first time I got into a car, around the age of 7, and indeed it tends to happen only in cars, especially when reading. (Incidentally the uncle whose expensive car it was is no longer my uncle, maybe there’s a connection.) It’s partly why I would prefer the train if it weren’t so expensive; I’m one of those people who isn’t happy just to sit and do nothing with my time. I like to always be doing something. And whilst I can read on a train, I can’t in the car.

Not being able to read in the car isn’t such a bad thing when you’re a child and have siblings, because your parents are likely to put some fun music on or everyone will play “I Spy”, but long car journeys take up a lot of time and as I’ve got older I’ve really become irritated at the fact that when I’m in the passenger seat, and the driver wants to concentrate on the road, I’ve nothing to do. And I think of the many, many hours I could have been reading.

Like, I expect, most of you who get travel sick, I’ve spent time trying to combat it. And I’ve found the following:

  1. Sit below the window. In other words, slouch in your seat as much as you can. This will cause backache after a while, but I’ve found that if I can’t see out of the windows, I can read for a little longer without feeling nauseous – and the backache takes longer to occur than the sickness.
  2. Don’t look outside. This may seem obvious, and it is, I suppose, but the fact is that it’s difficult not to look. The landscape flashes by in the corner of your eye, adding to the motion. If you can find some way to do it, it can help, though not as much as completely shutting the outside out as slouching does. If you can take a large hardback book with you and hide your face in it. You might look obsessed and anti-social, but it will help shield your eyes.
  3. Read in bits. Read half a page or whatever you can until you start to feel even minutely car sick, and then put the book down until you’re better. Rinse and repeat. It won’t get you far but you’ll get some reading done.
  4. Listen to your books. Audio books are aural rather than a visual focus exercise, and as it’s difficult to become travel sick simply by having a conversation, audio books work well. It also means the driver can listen to, making reading a truly social activity.
  5. Use the train whenever you can. Except if you’re in the UK, because it’s particularly expensive.

I’m loathed to admit that none of these tips will create a revolution, but the fact is that unless you want to take pills or put those weird wristbands on (have they ever worked for anyone, anyway?) there’s nothing else you can really do.

Are you able to read while travelling? Have you any tips for the travel sick reader?

A heads up for those of you who were interested in Sleeping Patterns (it made both of my 2012 best of lists) – the Kindle version is currently 99p.


Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

January 7, 2013, 12:48 pm

I can’t read at all whilst travelling. The only solution that works for me is audio books.


January 7, 2013, 1:12 pm

Isn’t it awful when you have so much time on your hands and you can’t read? I can read in the passenger’s seat but not in the back. I do think I need a constant “feel” of the outside, which works better when I’m facing the large front window.

I was also wondering whether you could try audiobooks? Either on the car stereo or your own (with ear phones).


January 7, 2013, 2:06 pm

Thank you for the tips. I’ve never got that sick from travelling but when I try to read in the car I do start to feel dizzy. I would imagine that is because like you said my eyes are seeing motion out the corner of my eye. I can read on the train for longer than in the car but will still get a bit dizzy if I did it for the whole train journey. So on the train I take breaks maybe I should try this in the car too.


January 7, 2013, 7:12 pm

Ever since I was pregnant with my daughter my carsickness has been so unbearable that I can’t even read a quick article on my phone without feeling queasy. I’ve never been able to read in the car–wish I could. EXCEPT reading aloud! Several years ago when my husband and I did a lot of roadtrips I discovered that I could read as long as it was outloud. This was before we discovered audiobooks, though… ;)

Great tips. I’ve found I can work on stitching for a little while without getting sick so I do this now to keep my hands busy.

Andrew Blackman

January 7, 2013, 9:10 pm

I also get travel sick! I find that fresh air helps, but still have given up on reading.

One more tip to add to your list – read while driving through London. The traffic is so bad that you’ll never move fast enough to get sick :-)

Maria @ A bookworm’s life

January 9, 2013, 12:26 pm

I find it impossible to read in a car or on a bus. Actually I get travel sick on a bus even if I’m sitting still with my eyes shut. But thankfully I’m ok reading on the train, which is good as I do most of my reading on my daily commute into London. Good point about not looking outside, I believe it’s the fact that your eyes see that your moving while the little bones in your ears (scientific term eludes me) that affect your balance are telling your brain that you’re sitting still that causes travel sickness.


January 9, 2013, 2:11 pm

I also get sick in cars and on buses, awful!
But, at least, I’m often the one who drives, so I don’t have much problem.
The train is also very expensive here (and do they want us to take this kind of transport? I don’t unerstand!).
I liked the “social activity” :)

Literary Feline

January 10, 2013, 12:53 am

My husband solves the problem by driving. He doesn’t tend to get motion sick when he’s the one behind the wheel, fortunately.

It’s not a problem I have every experienced myself, fortunately. I do know that sometimes I have to read while my husband drives or else I get anxious watching him and all those other cars!


January 12, 2013, 2:06 am

Wait, you can read on trains but not in cars? That is baffling and sad! Poor you! I am glad that you like audiobooks though.


January 16, 2013, 4:05 pm

Jackie: Yes, that’s the one I’ve got to try. Here it’s a case of now trying to find a book that will be interesting to a few.

Judith: Yes! Interesting, I’ve heard from a few people that there is a difference but I haven’t found it myself. Not sure about earphones, I think you’d have to have them up too loud in a car, but audiobooks is definitely one to try.

Jessica: That’s the way it is with me. I used to be sick reading or not, but nowadays it’s mainly if I read. It’s weird how it doesn’t always happen on trains. Breaks do work in the car but you have to find the right timings that work for you.

Trish: That’s interesting how it changed since pregnancy. Reading aloud… I’ll have to note that down for next time, pretty fascinating really. I think I can see why it might work, the focus being on speech, but I never would have considered it!

Andrew: Fresh air is definitely helpful. I think often that’s more important than stopping moving. Good point about London!

Maria: That is lucky you’re okay on the train and you use it for your commute. With buses there is quite a lot of shunting, more than in a car so that makes sense. Good point about ears and balance! I seem to remember it’s the loops… I’m not certain but that’s what comes to mind.

Isi: Yes, it’s weird about the driver aspect – not getting sick if you’re the driver. It makes sense as you control the car and know what’s coming but still strange. Yes, public transport and expensive doesn’t really work.

Literary Feline: When I first heard about drivers not getting sick I didn’t believe it, but then it began to make sense. You are very lucky, and I am envious! I can understand your anxiety!

Jenny: Yes, it’s a weird one. Though I’m glad lots of people are the same or I’d feel rather alone.



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