The essential items on a 4-year old packing list

by Marilia Di Cesare on June 1, 2011

Just a samll backpack for a weekend for both of us which could be used on a much longer term trip



Before traveling with a child for the first time, we can get really nervous about what we must bring, what we can´t forget, what is that one thing that if we do forget will bring our trip to a chaos. This is part of a series of posts written by other families on the move on their essential items to travel with. Find the other stories at the bottom of this article.

I´m sure everyone makes the mistake to over packing in their first trip, or maybe in the first ones. Now that I´m a bit experienced in this I know we can´t go very wrong. Here´s what I consider essential for my 4-year old to bring along (and here´s our full packing list):

Pajamas and night book– I guess among the night rituals, putting those cozy pajamas and having a book to read is really all the material things you need to bring along to guarantee a good night kiss. If there´s one thing we all worry about when traveling, is about our children´s sleeping and eating. Well, for eating, you have to improvise at the location and for sleeping, you can use some favorite things from home.

One or a little set of toys – We all tend to bring too many toys. Really, more than 3 is too many. My daughter plays with something she chose to bring in the beginning, but soon enough she´s over that. She brought three little stuffed animals that she still has fun with (we´re away for 4 months now) and color pencils that she uses as characters all the time.

But she´s into anything available, toy or not. The toys we brought from home serve more as a comfort object to be there than a toy that she can´t go without. Only in my last trip to Panama I was really aware of all the real necessities we have and brought a small day back pack for two days that could have served us for a week (and once you know what you need for two days or a week, I guess to become a light traveler all you have to do is keep that backpack for whatever amount of time your journeys is).

Two pair of sandals – One pair could do the job, you can always buy those anywhere too if you need, but these are light and little, so she can have this luxury (I don´t, I only bring one for myself and replace it when needed).

Some clothes – Yeah, it´s pretty obvious, the child needs to be dressed, and depending on the age we need to bring a lot of clothes for a few changes in a day. For my 4-year old, I think having 5 or 6 sets of clothes is good enough. She currently has 10 sets, but we are stationary. For a trip, I´ll take less. And I did meet a couple with two boys (3 and 4-years old) and they all had 2 or 3 sets of clothes each. They were spending a month in Costa Rica and I was really impressed at how light they could pack (only one not-big backpack for all of them and the boys carried their own clothes).

So, yeah, pretty much the essential items are also ALL the items you need to carry for a 4-year old.

Less is more when it comes to packing (or to everything). I know babies need a bit more of stuff, but not that much more either. We can always improvise where we arrive and we can always buy what´s needed, we don´t need expensive or hard to find items.

Now, check out these different insights here:

My Five Essentialuseless Items to Pack, by Around in the World in Easy Ways

5 Essential and 5 Useless Items to Pack… or Not, by Edventure Project

5 Essential and 5 Useless Items We Carry, by Livin On The Road

Five essential-useless items for travelers, by Family on Bikes

Five Essential Items For Family World Travel, by Wandermom

Useless Useful items to pack, by Snaps and Blabs

Top Most and Least Essential Mindsets for Family Travel, by Got Passport Family

Packing Essentials – Tips on What (and What Not) To Bring, by Wondering Educators


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

wandering educators June 1, 2011 at 8:46 am

great list – i totally agree with the PJs and toys. smart!


Snaps & Blabs June 1, 2011 at 9:29 am

Very true, little comforts from home can be great at that age.
We purchased a small collection of Totoro toys in a Singapore flea market and they were a big hit for awhile. That is the only toy they have, everything else they have to make themselves. Really, kids dont need a whole lot, their imagination is still wild.


Jarin May 23, 2012 at 11:46 am

One of my kids never did play with toys, my dd however, loves toys that go along with mvoies. If he likes the Disney Cars movie or Thomas the Tank etc., like my dd does, he will probably like a train table with Thomas Tank wooden train set on it. My dd also loves her Cars movie toys. Get him something that he has to build like blocks and sit down and show him different things he can build. I think some children just aren’t interested in toys. I also have a theory that the first born is less likely to like toys maybe because he doesn’t have anyone to constantly play them with him.


Amy @LivinOnTheRoad June 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm

When we were packing the RV, I kept grabbing toys off the shelves saying “The kids love this one” or “this one is so good for developing skills x and y”. My husband, of course, wouldn’t let me. We gave the kids a tub each to fill with their favourite things – the older three kids (4 – 7 at the time) filled them entirely with books. I took the farm animals and duplo for the baby, I also insisted on the lego, bikes, tennis rackets, football, and balls. Apparently, these are overkill, too, as the kids hardly ever play with toys. They play outside in the dirt, and with the mud, sticks, stones etc. They’d prefer to build a tee-pee with sticks, or sculpt mud than play with plastic.


lisa Shusterman June 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

My daughters each carried a small stuffed animal from home as we traveled around the world. It was a great comfort to each of them to have one representative for the hundreds of stuffed animals left behind. A comfort item is really important for the kids.


Marilia June 2, 2011 at 8:39 am

It´s great to confirm that kids don´t need many toys, or hardly any. It´s also clear that it´s us adults who are more attached to those toys than they are. What mother hasn´t packed an extra ¨one last little toy¨ just in case? And then it turned out to be useless.


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