Theme Park Insider

Vote of the Week: Overcoming Motion Sickness at Theme Parks

May 1, 2015, 6:50 AM · I'll admit I have an iron stomach. No twist, turn or drop could move me to feel anything but pure unencumbered joy. I never realized motion sickness was a very real aliment until my husband blindly jumped on his first simulator ride at Universal Orlando. From the first jolt upwards toward the IMAX screen, his face turned white, sweat beads formed on his upper lip, and his head shot between his legs before the first drop. As his caring and concerned wife, my only thought was, "Don't you dare throw up on me!"

The Simpsons Ride
Ideally, nothing but laughs should come OUT from the clown's mouth. Or from yours.

The dirty culprit that plagues my husband at theme parks, amusements parks and carnivals alike: motion sickness. The affliction happens when the brain's equilibrium, or the inner ear, cannot make sense of the motion it is experiencing, and so it gets your entire body involved in an uprising. The result? Nausea, dizziness, clamminess, and sometimes even vomiting.

Motion sickness prevents its victim from enjoying a fun-filled day at a theme park, in other words a severe case of FOMO (fear of missing out). With area theme park prices soaring well above $100 a pop, it's in your best interest to nip it in the bud.

Hulk coaster
Do you really want to be green as the Hulk when you ride?

Pop a Pill: As you gear up for your day at the park, conventional medicine such as Dramamine (the non-drowsy kind) would be a great addition to your purse or pocket. Take the appropriate dosage one hour before your plan on hopping on a ride. Ginger can also be helpful, as well as acupressure bands.

Know Your Limits: Since our first incident with the simulator, my husband uses that as a jumping-off point. Before getting on a new ride, he will ask the attendant working at the entrance how it compares to his off-limits ride.

Pace Yourself: As you pinball from one ride to another, you may want to give yourself recovery time between high-stake thrill rides. For my husband, spinning rides and simulators are the worst, so we never do those back-to-back.

You Are What You Eat: We all know theme park food isn't the lightest fare in the world. But keep in mind that heavy, spicy, fat-rich foods may worsen your motion sickness symptoms or even induce nausea. Alcohol also plays a factor in that as well. So, that liquid courage may exacerbate the situation.

Let Me Out: Once you've committed to a ride, especially a roller coaster, there is not much you can do if motion sickness strikes. I'd recommend, sitting a few seats from the front row, which allows you to expect the motion without missing the exhilaration. If you feel motion sickness creeping in, try keeping your head from moving around, close your eyes and focus on your breathing.

Hogwarts Portrait Hall

Enjoy the Atmosphere: Don't snub an experience because you can't do a ride. For example, the lead-up to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal's Islands of Adventure (and Universal Studios Japan) is a whimsical tour through the Hogwarts Castle. Ride attendants allow visitors to do a walking tour through the castle which features animated characters, gabby portraits and the famous Sorting Hat. A lot of rides, especially the new ones, have these opportunities to enjoy the preshow and leave before the ride itself.

We use these tips so both of us can spend the entire day enjoying theme parts together. If you find nothing works, you can always call my husband who will give you the best benches for people watching around Orlando-area theme parks.


What motion sickness remedies work for you?

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Replies (32)

May 1, 2015 at 6:59 AM · I don't always get it but I know how he feels. I have always had ear problems so it happens to me. My wife and I tried to power through SFMM in one day once and I got very sick from ride after ride. Almost to the vomit point. That being said I never have gotten it at say a disney ride or anything.
May 1, 2015 at 7:24 AM · My wife has gotten motion sickness, and the worst was the Simpsons ride in Orlando. She loves the show and tried to get through it, but that was too much. She avoids them whenever possible. She's okay on your typical Disney coaster but isn't a fan of the jerkier rides.

For me, I'm mostly fine except in total spinner rides. Those got me as a kid, so I avoid them most of the time. This is especially true at a Six Flags type park, where it doesn't feel worth it. I'll still do things like Mission Space, but I have to really not overdo it.

May 1, 2015 at 7:25 AM · Cori - Your first paragraph perfectly describes my initial experience on a simulator ride. I can ride almost any coaster - no fear of heights, speed, turning, twisting or looping - but simulator rides kick my butt! Thank goodness my wife is understanding and compassionate, although she did VOICE what you THOUGHT when she saw me having a bad reaction to the ride. Since then, I've tried several methods to allow me a better riding experience but what I've found works best for me is following the quote from Clint Eastwood's "Magnum Force" - "A man's got to know his limitations".
May 1, 2015 at 7:26 AM · Great article and great advice. Also, things can change as you mature. Ten years ago we would ride the Hulk 4-5 times on no line days until we bounced off the walls all the way down the exit ramp. Our bodies aren't nearly as forgiving anymore.

While I've never found the need to take Dramamine, it's important to take it an hour or so before riding. Dramamine will do nothing for you once you're experiencing motion sickness. This is also extremely important if you are planning on doing a little ocean fishing while you visit.

May 1, 2015 at 7:27 AM · Pills, ginger, acupressure, and especially know your limits, all great advice, but be careful with closing your eyes.
Closing your eyes allows your brain to believe the poisoning hypothesis for the unstable motion it feels. (This is how the brain explains why the eye and inner ear are disagreeing.) Next stop, purging the "poison".
On a ship, go on deck, preferably close to mid-ship where the oscillation is less, so you can see the horizon. The visible and physical motion should then make sense to your brain, which can then realize it hasn't been poisoned after all, and cancel the alert to vomit up the poison.
If the motion is 100% video illusion, like in a movie, closing your eyes can work, but most rides include at least some body motion.
By all means, don't look at the projection screen, but try to look at something that might help your brain make sense of the movement it feels.
On something like Star Tours or Minions, you might look at your hands, or look around to see the motion of other seats in the theatre moving in the same way that corresponds to the jostling your body feels.
If you are in a tracked motion base vehicle with a simulator, like Spiderman or Forbidden Journey, you could look away from the screens at the structures along the path. Look for the edges of projection screens, and the ceiling. Those can be fixed reference points that help your brain explain the motion it feels.
Trying to find a visual point of reference can even help to take your mind off the uncomfortably strong stomach awareness.
Breathe and focus on the breathing.
In addition to refraining from excessive alcohol, make sure you are not dehydrated from insufficient water. It can be easy to get dehydrated in a park, especially if you don't want to be stuck needing the bathroom while queued for the Big Ride, but you're more likely to feel nausea if you are dehydrated.
May 1, 2015 at 7:29 AM · Dramamine makes me sleepy. For an upcoming cruise and trip to Universal Orlando, I got a prescription for a Transderm-Scop Transdermal patches. In the past, I've used it without any drowsiness, although it does make you thirsty.
May 1, 2015 at 8:08 AM · I find that sitting in the very middle of simulators (like Star Tours) helps reduce my motion sickness.
May 1, 2015 at 8:12 AM · It's refreshing to know that my husband isn't the only one with issues on The Simpsons. He adores the show and was giddy to get on the ride, for about 10 seconds... And I agree with the comment about age! I try to convince myself I am fine, and hope it was the beer I drank that made my head light.
May 1, 2015 at 8:16 AM · Any simulated ride is pretty much a no-go for me. Ive been on each once so that ive experienced them, but i have to do them at the end of the visit or the day would be ruined for me. Previously the worst was the Harry Potter ride at Universal at Florida, but the Ratatoulle ride at Disneyland Paris had me ill from the first second. Spent the whole ride furiously trying to focus on a areas of the wall because to even look at the 3d for a second was horrendous. Actually thought i was going to vomit..couldn't get off quickly enough.
May 1, 2015 at 8:59 AM · Sadly nearly all simulator rides or hybrids (i.e. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) are off limits for me....once I felt like I was going to die on Mission Space. The one simulator ride that I can tolerate for some reason is Star Tours and I really don't know why. Spinning rides (like Men in Black) are also totally fine. I can ride roller coasters all day long and feel nothing but some reason, when I climb in simulators my stomach just can't take it. Shutting my eyes and focusing on my breathing is a big help. I've never actually thrown-up but I've come very very close. It worries me that a lot of the new rides at Universal are simulators....I really hope that the new King Kong ride is something that I'll be able to tolerate. I can still have fun with the hulk, dueling dragons and Jurassic Park (my personal favorite), but it would be nice to be able to partake in some of the new thrill attractions.
May 1, 2015 at 9:08 AM · I made the mistake of riding Simpsons, (which only mildly made me dizzy), then Men on Black, (A little more dizzy), then The Mummy, which partially goes backwards. That's the kiss of death for me. I can't do backwards. Expedition Everest, Mummy, none of it. Can't go backwards. Screws me up for the rest of the day.
May 1, 2015 at 9:25 AM · Cori - Thank you for this great article! I'm not afraid of rides...just afraid of getting sick. It's the drops that bother me. I've always suffered from motion sickness, but I know my limits. Why ruin my vacation by feeling sick? Since so many rides are in buildings and you can't see what's going on inside, attendants are usually happy to help explain the ride. I've even had my husband ride first and tell me what it's like (although that doesn't help if the line is long). Another good tip is to research the ride and take a virtual trip online. That(and Dramamine everyday) helped me get ready for our Disney World trip last summer. I wasn't spending all that money and not going on as much as I could. I wasn't comfortable getting on Space Mountain or Tower of Terror (although I did the pre-show), but I got on Dinosaur, Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. My family was very proud of me. Thanks for covering something that affects a lot of us adults.
May 1, 2015 at 9:56 AM · One of the reasons why WDW is so good for our family IS the fact that we can enjoy the entire park. My husband doesn't like drops, corkscrews, anything upside down...so basically most roller coasters. I cannot tolerate spinning, simulations, 3-D. My husband will ride Splash Mountain (once) and never Rockin' Roller Coaster. I cannot ride Star Wars (at all) and the teacups have never been in my lineup. Universal Studios is kind of a nightmare. I cannot ride most of the rides except Hulk, Dragons and some of the water rides. My husband cannot ride the ones that I can so we spend the day sitting on benches waiting for the other one to get off of a ride. This year, we are going with our 1 year old Granddaughter and I am excited because when the others are riding, the left out person has someone to interact with! I have availed myself of the queue experience on any ride that I had never been on but it just isn't the same. BTW- I cannot even watch 3-D movies!
May 1, 2015 at 9:56 AM · One of the reasons why WDW is so good for our family IS the fact that we can enjoy the entire park. My husband doesn't like drops, corkscrews, anything upside down...so basically most roller coasters. I cannot tolerate spinning, simulations, 3-D. My husband will ride Splash Mountain (once) and never Rockin' Roller Coaster. I cannot ride Star Wars (at all) and the teacups have never been in my lineup. Universal Studios is kind of a nightmare. I cannot ride most of the rides except Hulk, Dragons and some of the water rides. My husband cannot ride the ones that I can so we spend the day sitting on benches waiting for the other one to get off of a ride. This year, we are going with our 1 year old Granddaughter and I am excited because when the others are riding, the left out person has someone to interact with! I have availed myself of the queue experience on any ride that I had never been on but it just isn't the same. BTW- I cannot even watch 3-D movies!
May 1, 2015 at 10:39 AM · Every year, I participate in a roller coaster marathon called Coasting For Kids. It takes place at Dorney park in PA. I'm not a person who gets queasy or sick on roller coasters, but like anything else, if you do it in excess, it might affect you. the first two years I participated in the event, all my riding..6+ hours..was done on Steel Force, a hyper-coaster with no inversions, extremely re-rideable, no problems at all. The third year, they divided the day among three coasters...with about 1.5-2 hours on each. The rides were Steel Force, Talon(invert), and Hydra (floorless) By the end of the day, I was getting seriously nauseated on Hydra, which I don't care for much to begin with 9I do love Talon.) So last year, I picked up some Kids Dramamine 9i'm an adult, but I had never taken it and didn't know how it would affect me or whether it would be effective.) I popped it while walking from Talon to Hydra. it worked like an absolute charm. Now I gotta see if if I can find it for this year's event, which takes place June 7.
May 1, 2015 at 10:39 AM · Every year, I participate in a roller coaster marathon called Coasting For Kids. It takes place at Dorney park in PA. I'm not a person who gets queasy or sick on roller coasters, but like anything else, if you do it in excess, it might affect you. the first two years I participated in the event, all my riding..6+ hours..was done on Steel Force, a hyper-coaster with no inversions, extremely re-rideable, no problems at all. The third year, they divided the day among three coasters...with about 1.5-2 hours on each. The rides were Steel Force, Talon(invert), and Hydra (floorless) By the end of the day, I was getting seriously nauseated on Hydra, which I don't care for much to begin with 9I do love Talon.) So last year, I picked up some Kids Dramamine 9i'm an adult, but I had never taken it and didn't know how it would affect me or whether it would be effective.) I popped it while walking from Talon to Hydra. it worked like an absolute charm. Now I gotta see if if I can find it for this year's event, which takes place June 7.
May 1, 2015 at 10:58 AM · Good article and good idea to address this issue. I never had a problem with coasters but do tend to experience motion sickness on other types of rides, such as when I let Mike Gallagher talk me into riding Houdini at Great Adventure. (It's OK, Mike; you didn't know I had this problem.) A dose of Dramamine is probably worth a try although my experience with spinning rides is such that I would be extremely hesitant to subject myself to this. It would be logical for me to cover the opening of Laff Trakk for TPI, as Hersheypark is in my neck of the woods, but I don't feel at all enthusiastic about riding it for the aforementioned reasons.
May 1, 2015 at 12:55 PM · I said no, but there have been rare occasions where I have experienced motion sickness. Certain spinning rides (usually the ones with skewed axes of rotation) can cause me to become nauseated if the cycle is long or I ride several in succession, and I've also got it from riding too many intense roller coasters on a hot day with no lines. I've found on the occasions where I do have something happen I go get some water and sit on a bench for 15-20 minutes, then I'm usually good to go.
May 1, 2015 at 1:48 PM · I would make sure to mention just how big an issue dehydration can be. Some people may work up the courage to try a ride and find themselves ill. It may just be serious dehydration. Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol and drink plenty of water and you may have a better day.
May 1, 2015 at 2:35 PM · IT's not motion sickness stops me wanting to ride some coasters but their roughness. Last time we were in Orlando there were several coasters that my wife and I rode and afterwards we looked at each other and said - 'nah'. We simply don't enjoy being shaken to bits any more.
May 1, 2015 at 3:03 PM · The older I get, the less I am able to tolerate inversions like corkscrews and Immelmans. Traditional loops are still okay. But don't even ask me to get on a spinning mouse.
May 1, 2015 at 4:32 PM · "Back to the Future" really rang my bell, but "The Simpsons" was no problem. I didn't do anything different- go figure. My worst time was on- and it's a bit embarrassing to admit- was on the Teacups at Magic Kingdom. Of course the fact that my son got the cup spinning so fast that I started to see the blue shift as we approached light speed probably didn't help much.
May 1, 2015 at 5:32 PM · I have severe allergies which means my ears usually have too much fluid in them making me susceptible to motion sickness. I love roller coasters and sim attractions though. My solution has been a device called a Relief Band. It is a battery operated device that you wear on your wrist like a watch. It is as far as I know the only FDA approved motion sickness device for pilots. It sends light electrical pulses into the nerves in your wrist at regular intervals which helps keep your stomach settled. I have been using this device for about the last 10 years and I can safely say that I can ride at least twice as many rides without feeling queasy as I could if I were not wearing the Relief Band. At $69 they are not cheap but it has been well worth it to me. I would suggest anyone who loves theme parks but suffers from motion sickness should do some research and check it out.
May 1, 2015 at 8:34 PM · you nailed it for me! The only rides to ever give me a slight nauseous feeling are The Simpsons Ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and the new Star Tours. Something about 3D motion simulators! I'll still ride them if friends are in town, or I haven't been on it in a while, but usually I'll skip it. Spinners are fine for me for now, though.
May 1, 2015 at 8:50 PM · I've never had any problem with simulators, but there's something about roller coasters I just can't handle in quick succession. I'll go on them and enjoy them, but I get whiplash and suffer from G-forces quite easily, so I'd have to take my time with them.
May 2, 2015 at 4:46 AM · Way back when on the Back to the Future ride I got super queazy the instant it started. I never rode it again and steer clear of its new incarnation. Harry Potter does a number on me too, but it's so well themed I can't resist. And now Transformers is borderline nauseating for me. This is why it's depressing for me to see Universal churn out simulator rides ad nauseam, (pun intended.) I love Universal but I hope that every future new ride isn't just a big box with a motion simulator in it, as it appears Fast and Furious will be.
May 2, 2015 at 9:46 AM · I am glad to see I am not alone with the "simulator curse"... I love them but I get sick every time in every one of them. This is my list from the worst down: Star Tours, Forbidden Journey, The Simpsons, Transformers, Mission Space, Spider Man... (I am sure I am leaving some out but these came to mind). I have never thrown up but I do get pretty dizzy, I always have to sit down in the benches right outside Star Tours or in the Child Swap area of Harry Potter right after the ride... I have no problem whatsoever with coasters, it is just the simulators that get me every time!
May 2, 2015 at 1:01 PM · I have not felt motion sickness on ANY other theme park ride except for The Simpsons. But even if you're prone to this malady, take Cori's advice and still go through the queue--hilarious!

Your husband is not alone in regard to simulators. A well written article!

May 3, 2015 at 7:01 AM · Motion sickness from simulators, spinning and going backwards on rides is a very real concern for me. After having to physically help me off the Indiana Jones ride, which was running backwards, my husband never questioned my "I can't go on that ride" again. He said it was the first time he had seen somebody look actually green. I will not get in spinning teacups and astro orbiter spun way too fast for me and I couldn't get off it fast enough. I chew on ginger sweets which help a lot but I was still green getting off Expedition Everest which made me sad because the rest of the ride was so much fun. The Simpsons oh that was a challenge but I'll share what worked best for me. Pretending I was in control of the ride, completely immersing myself in the experience and choosing to do the drops and twists. Got me through The Simpsons, Minion Mayhem and Star Tours with only very mild discomfort. The Harry Potter rides didn't bother me but I think it was because I was completely invested in them and my joy at being on them distracted me completely. And then there was the time I had to sit on the floor and look at my feet during the Canadian 360 movie in Epcot because I felt like I was going to fall over. You win some; you lose some. Coasters are beginning to have an impact the older I get. Came off Dragon's Challenge so dizzy I kept bumping into the wall while exiting.
May 3, 2015 at 3:46 PM · I've only gotten it twice (i didn't barf, but I felt like I had too)

Mexican Hat Dance, Knott's Berry Farm- A teacup ride that lasts too long
Fun Wheel, CAlifornia Adventure- Swining gondalas are scary

May 5, 2015 at 1:07 PM · I can not ride anything that goes in circles, most flat rides and teacups forget it. now coasters if they do not go backwards I love and can ride all day. have not tried Mission Space or Harry Potter to scared of getting sick. last spinning ride I rode Kissing Tower at Hershey Park I closed it form 45 minutes while they cleaned up. have not found a med that helps me
May 7, 2015 at 12:40 PM · I found out the hard way about my theme park motion sickness issues when I rode Body Wars at Epcot about 20 years ago. At first I was fine and then...whoa Nelly...get me out of here. I spent the ride with my eyes closed (that didn't help at all) and praying that I wouldn't embarrass myself by hurling everywhere.

These days I do not do rollercoasters either, I don't get sick on them but my BP goes way too high, and I mourn the days that I could ride them. The last time I rode one was the yellow Scorpion at BG Tampa about 10 years ago and I thought my head was going to explode.

These days I warn all my guests about Forbidden Journey. I have heard horror stories about that one and tell them that if anyone has any kind of motion sickness issues that they need to stop and ask themselves if the ride is worth feeling sick the rest of the day.

So unfortunately, I now go to the parks for the shows and the gentle rides like Soarin'. I don't have any problems with that one but I have had friends get nauseous and super claustrophobic on it, go figure.

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