The One Food I Always Bring When Traveling With Kids

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When packing snacks for a trip, I’ve never quite managed to be the type of parent who brings along a rainbow of wholesome foods…

Goldfish? Yes. Vegetables that I’ve sliced and prepped the night before? Not gonna happen. But I have figured out a secret weapon snack that has a proven track record of abating hangriness and powering through unwelcomed TSA delays for my two kids (ages 5 and 2).

It’s…a Ziploc bag of cooked pasta.

Yes, that’s it. I boil a pound of it the night before we leave, let it cool, toss it with a tiny splash of olive oil to prevent sticking, and put over half of it in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. (I leave the remainder in a Tupperware in the fridge for when we get home, so there’s something to eat.) The bag goes into my tote…sometimes with an ice pack if it’s going to be a while.

A large bag of pasta has accompanied my family through an insanely long immigration line in Costa Rica, a six-hour car ride to North Carolina, and a three-hour-delayed flight to Dallas.

It fills my kids up and doesn’t require silverware — penne or rigatoni is important here! Easy to grab! For toddlers, it even keeps them occupied for many minutes at a time (minutes — this is a win in kid-travel time!) as they reach (with clean hands) into the giant bag to grab their penne.

What it lacks in creativity (and any sort of nuanced flavor), it makes up for in ease: there are no sticky fingers or crumbs buried in car seat crevices. Penne is easy to clean up when some inevitably drops on the floor.

Have we also used the pasta bag once we arrive at the destination? Absolutely. The bag o’ pasta can jam into a hotel mini-fridge, and it’s also great for when you haven’t bought groceries for your Airbnb and your jet-lagged kiddos are hungry at 5 a.m. but nothing is yet open for breakfast. Because pasta for breakfast — or any hour — is definitely approved when you’re traveling.

What’s your tried-and-true travel snack?

Carey Polis is an editorial consultant and strategist for food and lifestyle brands. She writes the newsletter: Cheese, Book, Restaurant, Thing.

P.S. Muffin-tin tapas and the #1 trick to enjoying family travel.

(Top photo by Simone Wave/Stocksy. Pasta photo by Jenny Rosenstrach.)

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