You finally book your dream cruise to that tropical Eden with the sugar-sand beaches and azure waters as intoxicating as the rum-spiked drinks served at the bar.
You can see it now: You're standing tall at the bow, cocktail in hand, sultry trade winds kissing your face, and you marvel at the undulating waters.
You're the king of the world!
Too often, however, the gut-wrenching reality of motion sickness intrudes on that dream sequence.
For some 50 million Americans, motion sickness is the killjoy that threatens to turn a dream vacation into a gastrointestinal nightmare.
"You can feel a bit queasy, a little bit off, and then it can become quite severe," says Dr. Kenneth Dardick, director of Connecticut Travel Medicine. "There's a bad joke about it: At first you're afraid you're going to die, then after a while, you're afraid you're not."
Doctors aren't quite sure what causes the condition. They suspect a disconnect between the eyes and the inner ear. When you look out at a horizon the eyes see flatness -- and no motion -- but the inner ear may be experiencing motion.
Some people seem resistant to motion sickness -- people who are stone deaf, for instance, are spared that agony -- while others can become queasy watching a roller coaster snake along the tracks in a movie. Motion sickness can strike suddenly, progressing from a feeling of restlessness to cold sweats, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms usually resolve after the motion stops. As with sailors who develop "sea legs" during extended voyages, the longer you travel, the greater the chance you'll adjust to being in motion.
But why plan to adjust when you can sidestep motion sickness?
"There are many simple tips people can follow to curb the feeling of motion sickness," says Patti Blau, a vestibular therapist and assistant professor at the University of Texas.
* Before traveling, avoid alcohol and spicy or greasy foods.
* While traveling, don't read.
* Avoid stress during travel. If flying, for example, book your flight during nonpeak hours and get a seat over the wing.
* On a ship or in a car, face forward and look outside.
* If medication is necessary, it's best to take it at least an hour before leaving. On short trips, over-the-counter antihistamines are effective, but they can make you sleepy.
* For longer trips, such as cruises, scopolamine is effective. The prescription patch is worn behind the ear and provides 72 hours of protection. For most healthy people, side effects are minimal.