Practical Travel Tips

Got a Holiday & Big Family Trip Coming Up? Use the 4-Gifts Rule to Get Everyone Ready!

My dad is impossible to shop for. Finding the right gift for him is impossible. There are only two things I’m certain he likes and will use: socks hand knit by me and photos of Little A.

The irony is, now that I spend all my time wrangling Little A, I have zero time to knit Dad socks.

So he gets lots of photos, especially wallet-size ones that allow him to show off his only grandchild to all his pals at the gym.

But I can’t just give him a Costco envelope of photos for Christmas. (Well, I probably could.) My point: Christmas shopping for Dad is a challenge.

And then there’s The Husband. What’s on his Christmas list? Usually a $100 physics or econ textbook. Woo.

But this year, I have a plan for fun, useful, unexpected gifts because…

…we’re going to Disney World!

So I’m using the 4-Gifts Rule to get us ready for the trip.

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Never heard of the 4-Gifts Rule? It’s one of those great ideas that’s been going around the internet for years. The idea behind it is focusing your shopping so that you buy (or make) useful, wanted gifts and don’t succumb to panic buying lots of trinkets and doo-dads at the last minute.

I had already decided to implement this rule this Christmas after being dismayed by all the stuff Little A got last year. You know the deal: she plays with only about a quarter of it. My goal is to stem the tide of toys flooding our house.

Think Little A has enough stuffies? Special thanks to Kate the Cat for not bothering to move — I mean, posing.

Then I realized I could use the rule to shop for the five people going to Disney World: Little A, my mom, my dad, The Husband, and me. (You didn’t think I was going to leave myself out, did you?)

Right about now, you’re wanting me to get to the good stuff and reveal the 4-Gifts Rule. Well, here’s what you do: you use this little poem to buy four carefully chosen gifts for a person.

Something you want, 

Something you need, 

Something to wear, 

Something to read. 

Easy to remember, right?

Obviously, you can keep this shopping general, but if you have a big trip coming up, then you can use it to get some things that will make your experience more fun and easier.

Here’s my shopping list using the 4-Gifts Rule:

Little A



  • Wants: Pressed Pennies kit
  • Needs: personalized water bottle
  • Wears: Uncle Scrooge t-shirt
  • Reads: printout of most recent pressed pennies sites (Check out this excellent site that covers everything you need to know about pressed pennies at Disney World.

The Husband


Tip: If you’re going to Disney, BEFORE is a good time to buy t-shirts — especially if your family is like mine. We generally don’t wear t-shirts that say things. My husband, for example, will wear his Donald Duck t-shirt on the first day of our trip ONLY to make Little A happy. After the trip, I’ll be lucky if he wears it as a sleep shirt. That’s why I’m buying shirts now for $10 to $20 (not $30+ like at Disney World). Amazon, Kohl’s, Target, and Wal-Mart are good places to check.

Have you used the 4-Gifts Rule for holiday or birthday shopping? How did it go? Would you use it again?

And don’t worry: Dad (and Mom!) will still get photos of Little A!


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