Hooray! We’re going to Mexico!
I’ve finalized my packing list for Mexico only after doing an epic amount of research 🙂 I probably spent too much time making sure that I knew the most essential items to bring. What better way to make sure that I can provide the best travel guide to you?
Mexico is relatively close to home but is still a country with conditions unlike we normally experience. It’s important to make sure you’re prepared! However, you need to also make sure that you’re packing light enough so you don’t incur extra fees at the airport! Avoid costly mistakes by taking exactly what you need, and nothing else. Whether you’re going to Cancun, an all-inclusive resort in Quintana Roo, or a hotel in Tulum, these travel tips will be helpful for you!
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Packing List for Mexico – Clothing
No matter when you’re visiting, the temperatures in Mexico are usually above 70F, or 23C. Humidity may be high, depending on whether it’s rainy season (May-early October) or dry season (late October to May).
Shorts and t-shirts are great for both women and men in either season. When it’s humid, I really appreciate having moisture-wicking clothing that doesn’t get damp and stay damp all day! Athletic-style clothing (Dry-fit is an example) works well for us as it pulls sweat away from the body and then wicks it away on the outside of the clothing where it evaporates. As a bonus, it’s really quick to dry too.
I recommend t-shirts and tops that serve double-duty. If you bring collared shirts, you’ll be able to use them as both casual wear during your Mexico day-trips and resort-wear in the evenings. You won’t have to worry about being denied entry to that great bar or restaurant you’ve got your eye on!
- Swim Suits for the beach – at least 2, so 1 can dry while the other is in use
- swim suit cover-up – 1 or 2
- accessories: belt, scarves, modest jewelery
- appropriate footwear: wear your bulkiest shoes (walking shoes probably) on the plane, pack sandals, flip-flops in carry-on.
Mexico can get cool at night, so make sure to bring a warmer sweater you can layer over your t-shirts. You may also want to think about comfortable pants to wear while you’re lounging around in your room.
For women, I recommend bringing a nice sundress you can wear during the day or at night. I’ve ordered this sleeveless swing t-shirt dress in a pretty green print. I think it will be great for day or evening, and I’ll even be using it as a secondary swimsuit cover-up. It also comes in multiple colours and is super soft and comfortable.
Packing List for Mexico – Health and Beauty Essentials
The first item in my suitcase for any trip to the sun is always sunscreen and lots of it. I’m very fair and burn easily, so I’ve tried a myriad of different sunscreens over the years. The latest and greatest sunscreen for my face that I’ve been using for the last couple of years is Australian Gold Mineral Sunscreen.
It goes on easily under make-up, is reef safe and hypo-allergenic and can even be used on kids. To be honest, I use this on my body too as the price is right. I get this from my local drugstore so it should be widely available, bu you can also use my Amazon link. I’m going to use this sunscreen when we tour Chichen Itza.
My other essential is this Cera Ve moisturizer with SPF 30. As a fair-skinned person, I have to use sunscreen every day and I use this moisturizer just in case I forget to put on sunscreen or if I happen to miss a spot. This is a great, reasonably-priced product that I have used for years. There’s a travel size too but it doesn’t have the SPF in it.
- ear plugs
- razors/shaving cream
- extra glasses/contact lenses
- insect repellent
- first aid kit (bandages, stomach remedies, pain relievers, extra Rx meds)
- your favourite skincare products (I distill mine into these silicone bottles so that they can go in my carry-on)
I don’t bring shampoo, conditioner or body wash as those are always available the hotel.
Packing List for Mexico – Electronics
It’s best not to bring anything obviously expensive or flashy to Mexico, but you still need your gear! We’ll be bringing our iPhones (of course!) with several charging cables. I use my iPhone as a camera, but this results in my iPhone battery always running low at the worst possible time. Phones always need to be recharged but its not always convenient so I have a portable charger in my bag. I don’t want to miss out on incredible photo opportunities, after all!
I actually have a couple of portable chargers. This one I use at home but I don’t usually take it with me because it’s quite large and heavy. It does a great job at home because it can charge a phone about 8x and an Ipad about 4x. It’s also great insurance during a power outage. But, when I’m on the go I like to have a lighter charger with me. I’ve ordered this one from Amazon. It’s lightweight at just over 6 ounces so it won’t weigh your bag down. It has dual inputs and will charge an iPhone twice. Works for me!
One of the most important items for us was to get waterproof cases for our iPhones. We want to get some underwater shots of the amazing Mexican sea life and didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a dedicated underwater camera. There are quite a few different waterproof cases available so I did a lot of reading to see what features were available and what I should expect to pay. I settled on this one Its waterproof at 2 metres for up to an hour – not too bad!
Thomas has great recommendations on the best cameras for diving. Check it out!
Also important for me is that it’s drop proof. Strangely, I drop my phone A LOT so I’ve learned to always have a drop-proof case on it. I’ve used Otterbox cases for years and I’ve never had an iPhone break, despite dropping it on the regular ;-).
This case is a bit tricky to install correctly, so make sure you watch the accompanying video.
Pro Business traveler Jeremy has a great list of travel essentials – check it out!
Packing List for Mexico – Sunglasses
Important! Not just for the non-squinting factor but also because too much sun exposure can cause cataracts and cancer. You need good sunglasses with UV protective coating. Good sunglasses enhance colour, clarity and detail too.
I’ve had really excellent service from Maui Jim over the years. They’re very responsive to requests for repair (see previous comments about frequently dropping things…) and most of the time they’ll send a new pair to you free of charge instead of repairing them. Seriously, I’ve had this experience twice! I’ll be bringing my two favourites to Mexico for sure.
I have a long, sad history with hats. Friends and family can attest to the frustration I’ve experienced when hat shopping over the years, and being repeatedly told that my melon was too big for their beautiful hats! Seriously, who has this problem but me?
I continued on my merry hat-less way until last summer, when I stumbled into the Hat Shop on Granville Island in Vancouver. When I did my usual lament about there being no hats to fit me, the very kind sales clerk overheard me and made it her personal mission to find me a hat that I would not only love, but that would fit me. Enter the Panama Hat!
Look, it’s the Maui Jim sunglasses, too!
This hat will be on my head all the time in Mexico. It’s the perfect hat for Mexico because as a traditional Panama hat, it’s handwoven of straw and therefore quite breathable and light. There’s even a band inside the hat where I can stash a few dollars. The brim is large enough to keep off the sun, but not large enough to be obtrusive.
We’re really excited to visit Chichen Itza on our trip! It’s very hot there so a hat will come in very handy!
Packing List for Mexico – Bags
I never bring my usual handbag when I travel. It’s too big and I don’t need all of the things I normally carry. Instead, I use a bag I keep specifically for traveling that I can wear across my body with the weight more evenly distributed. This leaves my hands free for taking photos and carrying other items. It’s great for travel days and touring days too. This is the one I use and I love it. The Amazon price is A LOT lower than I paid for it locally! It has compartments for a smart phone and is designed so your earplugs don’t get tangled up. My iPad mini fits too and it’s got RFID blocking so your cards are safe. There’s even reflective strips on this on so you’re visible at night.
I’ve found it to be very comfortable to use all day. You can wear it front or back, although I’ve always worn it on the front. I like to have my items easily available to me.
Packing List for Mexico – Travel Cubes
Have you used travel cubes? I’m a travel cubes evangelist to anyone who will listen! They’re such a lifesaver for convenience, ease of use and organization. I have a set that I use every time I travel and I love them. I use them for sorting my clothing into categories for easy packing and unpacking. They are also useful for keeping clean and dirty items apart, and for storing shoes apart from clothing. Packing cubes are also the secret to saving space and using carry-on luggage only. You could use ziplock bags to almost the same effect if you can find them in variable sizes. I actually got started with packing cubes that way. But, I found that the ziplocks didn’t last long and there was always that frustration of trying to zip them closed.
Sets of packing cubes usually come in a variety of sizes from large to small. I’ve had mine about 5 years, and they’re still going strong. I got Ross his own set of packing cubes for Christmas last year ;-). Maybe now he won’t try to borrow mine! Here’s a great post on the best packing cubes to buy.
Speaking of carry-on only, are you part of the carry-on only crowd? I thank Rick Steves for my conversion to using carry-on only. He is very convincing in his argument, and I am a complete convert despite that several of my credit cards have perks that include free checked bags. Packing light saves money as more and more airlines are charging exorbitant fees to check luggage. You’ll have more mobility and freedom and won’t stick out as a tourist. If you don’t check a bag, it won’t get lost or stolen! You can skip the long line to pick up luggage and head straight to the taxi queue. My favourite reason: if you don’t check your luggage, you can take advantage of last-minute flight changes at the airport!
My new favourite carry-on bag is the one I got Ross for Christmas to go with his new packing cubes. It’s ultra-lightweight so you can maximize the contents without worrying about how much the bag weighs. I find it really well-built and it’s expandable, just in case you find something you must bring home with you ;-). It’s super-easy to roll. The handle telescopes to two lengths so both Ross and I can pull it easily. It’s 20 inches high and will definitely fit all North American carry-on limits. It also fits most international carry-on limits, although there are a few airlines that still require under 20 inches for carry-on.
I got Ross the black one, but I prefer a different colour, and luckily it comes in light blue, rose and brown too.
Do you want your own printable carry-On packing list for a 2-week vacation? Sign up for my email list on the right sidebar and I’ll send you one!
Cash and credit card usage
This was a big question in my mind when we were deciding on Mexico for our trip. My research has shown that generally, you will find it more convenient if you use Pesos rather than American dollars. You’ll stand out less as a tourist and will benefit from a better exchange rate too. We’ll be using credit cards whenever we can of course, but we’ll also bring Pesos to use when we need to. The best exchange rate I’ve found is the one from our local currency exchange, Vancouver Bullion & Currency Exchange. From what I’ve read, exchanging money in Mexico will be quite a bit more costly.
When you’re using credit cards in Mexico, make sure you use a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. The majority of credit cards in Canada (and a lot in the US) charge 2.5% for every transaction in a foreign currency. That can add up to a lot!
The two Canadian credit cards I know and trust that don’t charge foreign transaction fees are the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite and the HSBC World Elite Mastercard. The Prince of Travel has a comprehensive post about the benefits of these cards. I recommend you check it out if you’re interested in not paying foreign transaction fees.
What Not to Bring
Don’t bring your expensive electronics or jewelry. I think it’s wise to leave at home anything you’d hate to lose or damage.
Don’t bring hair styling items like blow dryers, flat irons or curling wands. Hotels will have hair dryers available. The humidity in Mexico will inevitably straighten any hair you want to curl and curl any hair you want to straighten, so don’t waste your time! Go natural and wear a hat 🙂
Don’t bring books! Download anything you want to read while you’re in Mexico onto your smart phone or tablet.
You don’t need to bring any special converters or plugs if you’re from North America! Mexico uses the same voltage and plug style as the US and Canada.
Make sure your passport is up to date and has enough time left on it! If you’re renting a car in Mexico, make sure you bring your driver’s license.
Most importantly, have fun and make memories! That’s what travel is all about!
Are you going on a trip to Mexico? What are your Mexico packing list essentials?
Not going to Mexico soon? You know you want to go so pin it for later!