Over the river and through the woods…travel highlights


Ahh the holidays…the food, the decorations, the family…the travel. Any of you ever travel with kiddos in tow? It’s Monday morning and most of you are either a.) back at work and sitting in front of your computer  “easing” in to your day reading this blog or b.) you are at home with your little one (s) enjoying a cup of coffee while old man winter barges his way through your newly wreathed door. Damn him. Did you survive the Thanksgiving holiday? Did you travel? We did. But only by car. And before I even got on the road, Ruby puked, peed, and pooped on me. All within a 5-minute span of time. It was mind-blowing.  I also flooded our upstairs bathroom in that span of 5 minutes. After cleaning the child and myself up, I fled our house, two children in tow, and called my husband at work, “see you Wednesday, I flooded the bathroom, could you do the laundry…love you…buh bye”. Despite my inability to keep our bathroom from flooding, I like to think of myself as quite the travel expert. Especially a travel expert when it comes to traveling with a child. And folks, there are few things that I’m an expert on, so let me have this one and bask in the glory of it all. Ok I’m done. Thanks for that.

Henry was on an airplane at 10 weeks of age. We flew from where we were living (Chicago) to Albuquerque. It was a success. Since all of our family lived on the east coast, we traveled to and fro for every holiday. The kid had earned a free ticket by the time he was two. We got a lot of practice traveling with a little one. That being said, we certainly had some parent-fail moments during this time. We also had some amazing parent-win moments, but those aren’t as funny. Either way, I present to you the Polifka-Rivas-traveling-with-child(ren) highlights:

  • The hand in the PUBLIC toilet incident: I was proud of myself. I was also traveling by myself with an 18-month old. I had checked all of our luggage and was only carrying a backpack for the two of us. I turned my nose up at other parents who sherpa’d bags, wheely things, and car seats. I felt good that we traveled light. After all, it afforded me the luxury of chasing my child around an empty gate while we waited to board our plane. Until he took a dump. In his diaper, thankfully (wait for it…there’s a good story coming up that involves a dump and no diaper). Anyway, Midway Airport in Chicago has these amazing family bathrooms. You can go in, close the door and it’s just you and your little family taking care of your very own bodily functions, in the privacy of a small room, with your entire family watching. We entered said room, I changed Henry’s diaper, and then proceeded to use the bathroom myself. I got up, went to wash my hands, and naturally my well-trained child wanted to wash his hands as well. After washing he dried his hands on the paper towel and I told him to throw it away. Imagine my surprise when I looked up from checking my tweets on my cell phone to see him mushing the paper towel in a well soiled PUBLIC TOILET.  Are you horrified? Rocking yourself in the fetal position? Because that is exactly what I did. Then I realized I was doing this on the floor of a PUBLIC BATHROOM and got up quickly. The rest isn’t all that funny b/c I proceeded to wash his hands for at least 5 minutes in the sink all while trying to find my happy place.
  • The feed my child junk food incident: As Henry became a toddler we realized that when traveling with a young one a certain amount of junk food was permissible if only to keep the peace. Yeah yeah yeah, we packed him trail mix, organic bunny crackers, all natural fruit chews, but nothing stops a kid from crying on an airplane like a bag of Doritos. So that became our routine. We’d get through security with only one breakdown as he watched his sacred blankie go thru the x-ray machine and proceed to our gate. We’d load up on apple juice for him, and some sort of tasty treat that he could only eat once we got on the plane. In this particular instance, it happened to be Garretts cheesy popcorn. Ever have the stuff? If not, get yourself to Chicago and buy some. Garrett’s happened to have a stand in O’Hare airport so we bought Henry a big bag. Big mistake. With the hopes of boarding our plane within the hour, we failed to notice the delays posted at our gate. Fifteen minute delays turned in to several hour delays. You can’t tell a 3-year old that he can’t eat his popcorn and apple juice after clutching it in his little fists for over two hours. We indulged him and he proceeded to eat the entire bag of cheesy popcorn and apple juice within 15 minutes. The kids face and hands were neon orange and he constantly had to pee b/c of all the juice. And if you know cheesy popcorn, you know that stuff stinks. Like feet. Dirty feet. In the end our flight was cancelled. I might add that this was a flight back to the east coast for a 90th birthday party for a dear great aunt of mine.  So it was an important event, that we missed. I cried openly in O’Hare while my child ran circles around me, hopped up on carbs and juice all while rubbing his orange stanky fingers on my clothes. It wasn’t anyone’s best moment. Did I mention that we had taken public transportation to the airport and thus had to take the subway back to our apartment smelling like dirty feet, err, popcorn.
  • The mommy I’m pooping my pants incident: We flew from Chicago to Florida for a wedding. At this point in his little life, Henry was fully potty trained. Well, sort of. When Henry was first potty trained he would forget that he had to pee and wait to the last minute to tell us that he had to go. So on most occasions he’d squirt out a little pee on his undies before making it to the bathroom. While waiting for our flight in Florida this exact thing happened. My husband took him to the bathroom and the little dude returned to the gate triumphant that he had peed in the potty. We got on the flight and Henry was asleep within minutes of the plane leaving the runway. And then, mid-flight, he wakes up, looks at me, and he has the poop face. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the poop face. The face that all little kids make when they are mid-poop. I panicked.  He looked at me, and said, “Oh no mommy, I’m pooping  in my pants.” I did what every self- respecting mom would do…I rang the flight attendant bell immediately.  Not really, but I considered it. I stroked his little head and said its ok sweetie, no big deal, we’ll go to the bathroom. Then I turned to my husband and told him that our son had pooped his pants and that he was to take him to the bathroom. They were gone for about ten minutes.  Ten minutes in airport bathroom time feels like an eternity. I start to hear giggles behind me and I turn around to look. I see passengers laughing. They are laughing at my son as he walks up the aisle wearing nothing but a t-shirt, sneakers and socks and one of those swimmy diaper-pants that kids wear in the pool. He is walking up the aisle like he is a model at fashion week in NYC. Kid has no shame. So you see, he had no clean underwear b/c he had peed on it in the Florida airport and my husband just decided to throw those away. So if you’re still paying attention, Henry had pooped in his shorts. Do you realize how dangerously close we were to having a turd just fall out of his shorts in to the aisle? For real. For. Real. Anyway, Karl also just decided to throw away his shorts as well. And since we are such travel experts we failed to pack a change of clothes for Henry. To make matters worse, when we landed in the airport Henry refused to let me carry him. He walked, shook his booty, and said hi to almost every person in the airport all while wearing this ridiculous outfit. I look back on this and laugh, but at the time I was horrified.

Like I said, there are plenty of parenting-win moments when it comes to traveling with my child. I’d like to think of the above mentioned moments as “wins” because they make for great stories.  And while I’d love to bestow some expert advice on how to travel with children, the truth of the matter is that I’m not an expert. I just figure things out as they come, learn to laugh a lot, and always know that a bag of Doritos will make my child stop crying on an airplane.


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Heather Polifka-Rivas
Heather is originally from upstate New York but her family returned to Vermont 4 years ago. They have lived in NYC and Chicago the past 10+ years and are happy to be back in Vermont. Heather's previous jobs as a starving actor in NYC, package design guru at Estee Lauder, and advisor to fortune 500 companies at Chicago’s top business school have not prepared her for her current job today: stay at home mom to Henry (7) and Ruby (3). A self proclaimed foodie, Heather spends her "many" hours of free time preparing elaborate meals, eating out, tending to her garden, canning it's bounty and willing her one tapped maple tree to weep more sap. She is also a mother runner.


  1. Love this Heather!
    When Nora was 4 months old we flew down to FL to visit family. She proceeded to have a massive blowout on the plane. I got up to change her but there were some mechanical issues (we hadn’t taken off yet) so the front bathroom with the changing table was not allowed to be used.
    By this time poop was ALL OVER and quickly spreading to my shirt so out of desperation I had to take her to the back bathroom and proceed to change her atop of the toilet while I desperately tried not to think about all the germs and how claustrophobic I felt in that bathroom with a whole bunch of poop. It took me about 15 minutes to change her, get it all cleaned up, and get a new outfit on.
    Oh the fun!

  2. Love it! Henry”s going to appreciate that last story being online for all eternity. When Aden was 3 we were flying from VT to Seattle and trapped on the Burlington runway for far too long for a tired and cranky toddler. Did I mention I was by myself? Aden had a massive meltdown because he wanted some water. Somewhere along the way I lost his water bottle, I always travel with it and of course could not find it. So i got a small cup from the stewardess. No appeasing him. He cried and screamed and I was quickly turning into THAT Mom. After about 5 minutes the lady in front of me turned around all disgusted and gave me her water bottle. And then told my child he needed to stop screaming and calm down (like I hadn’t been doing that for the last 10 minutes). i wanted to punch her. Obviously she doesn’t have any children. I have so much empathy for moms with kids. It’s not an easy job but most of the time it makes for good stories later on.

  3. Just got home from an 18 hour car ride to find our oil had run and out and we have no heat. Oh. So glad to be home! We have many travel stories. Most of them revolve around pooping incidents. 🙂


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