What to pack for Mexico: 20 most important items
This is your friendly reminder: don’t forget to pack that in the bag for Mexico! I used to think packing lists were silly. I mean, I’m a grown woman. Of course I know how to pack a bag, right?
Well, yes. But somehow, every time I’m on vacation something like this happens. I’ll be rifling through my bag for my phone charger when I painfully recall I left it plugged into the wall at home. Or even better, I’ll run through security, thrown my carry-on in the overhead compartment, get settled into my seat, and that’s when it hits me that I forgot to pack my toothbrush.
Packing lists can make vacation preparation more efficient and less stressful. And knowing you’ve got everything you’ll need will make your vacation less stressful as well. That’s why I’ve prepared for you the perfect list of what to pack for Mexico.
*Also, be sure to read to the end for a free packing list and tips on how to pack your wide brimmed hat.
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What to pack for Mexico
1. Swim suit
The best advice always comes from Mom. My mother’s motto when it comes to travel is never go anywhere on vacation without a swim suit, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. And although a swim suit might seem like a no-brainer for Mexico, I’ve heard of crazier things to forget. So this is your friendly reminder to pack it!TRAVEL TIP FROM MOM: Never go anywhere on vacation without a swim suit. -20 most important items to pack for Mexico Click To Tweet
2. Caftan or cover up
If you don’t already have a cover up or caftan, you can buy these pretty much anywhere near the ocean, in shops, hotels and resorts, even right on the beach. It makes a great souvenir!
3. Travel Beach Towel
Of course, hotels and resorts will provide towels to use on the premises. But if you plan on going on any water based excursions, a travel beach towel is essential. Travel beach towels are typically lightweight and dry quickly. Plus, you can purchase travel towels that won’t hold onto the sand, perfect for using on the beach.
4. Snorkel and mask
I would encourage bringing your own snorkel just in case, even if you don’t initially have plans to snorkel. Snorkeling is pretty easy to pick up, even without any experience. And there are lots of opportunities to try it in Mexico. Although there are often places to rent these, with COVID, it’s probably safer to just bring your own. And since the snorkel and mask don’t weigh very much and won’t take up much space in your suitcase, there’s no reason not to bring them.
5. Dry bag
Of course, you could take any backpack for your excursions. But a dry bag will keep all your belongings dry if you decide to do any water sports or find yourself spending a day on a boat.
6. Waterproof phone case
A waterproof phone case is indispensable if you spend any time on or near the water. It can save you a lot of money and heartache over a ruined phone.
7. Wet bag
This will come in handy if you’re switching hotels or wanting to go swimming the morning of your return flight home. It’s convenient for packing wet swim suits without worrying about getting everything else in your bag wet.
8. Wide brimmed hat
Nothing says ”I’m on vacation” like a good wide brimmed hat. Besides looking fabulous, you’ll want this to help block the sun while you nap on the beach. Scroll to the end of this post for a video on how to pack your wide brimmed hat.
9. Cheap sunglasses
I say ”cheap” sunglasses so you won’t be too disappointed if you loose them doing water sports.
If you’re planning on seeing any sun, sand or sea, a good sundress is a must!
11. Sandals or flip flops
Two pairs of shoes should be about all you need for a vacation in Mexico. The first pair of shoes you’ll want is obvious. You’ll want some good, comfortable sandals or flip flops for the pool and the beach.
12. Close toed shoes
The second pair of shoes you’ll want to pack maybe isn’t so obvious. You’ll want to pack a pair of closed toed shoes, and here’s why. Some excursions you may choose to go on may include a short hike you didn’t expect. Of course, comfortable close toed shoes will also come in handy if you choose to go on a longer hike, or for a full day exploring in town.
I love these ”his and hers” shoes by Hey Dude because they can dress up or down, they’re comfortable, lightweight, and great for travel.
13. Coral Reef friendly Sunscreen
Yes, sunscreen is a given, but you can’t buy just any sunscreen. Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian sunscreen is the Mary Poppins of sunscreens—practically perfect in every way. It’s hands down my favorite option, because it checks all the boxes: spf 45, reef friendly, water resistant, and no hormone disruptors. Plus, I love the green tea scent!
14. Aloe vera
I always tell myself I won’t need this one, because I’m going to be responsible with my sunscreen use. But somehow, every vacation, I still get a little pink. I end up buying a bottle everywhere I go and now have more than I could use in a life time. Save the plastic and just bring what you’ve got at home to begin with.
15. Insect repellent
The mosquitos can be intense in some parts of Mexico, so be sure to pack an insect repellent. What I love about this particular option is that it’s travel size!
16. Hydrocortisone or calamine lotion
Ok, so you packed the bug spray. Check. But did you remember to actually put it on while you were in Mexico?! If you’re like me, probably not. You’ll sleep a lot more comfortably if you’re not itching those bug bites, so throw some calamine lotion in the bag too.
17. A Mini Pharmacy
While we’re on the topic of topical medications here, I’d suggest having a mini travel pharmacy ready to throw in your bag whenever you go on vacation. Especially if you’re traveling out of the country. It can be difficult trying to decipher which pain reliever or cold medicine to purchase.
And even if you’re traveling to a country where you speak the language, different countries will have different regulations and formulations for medications. When you’re not feeling 100%, you want a medication you know works well for you.
18. Pocket Spanish Phrasebook and Dictionary
If you don’t speak Spanish or maybe just aren’t as fluent as you’d like to be quiet yet, a phrasebook and dictionary can really come in handy. Two things I love about Lonely Planet’s Spanish phrasebook here are that 1). it’s pocket size, and 2). it’s specific to Mexican Spanish. Spanish, like English, may have a slightly different vocabulary depending on where in the world you’re using it. And for the more tech savvy, there are electronic translation devices available as well.
Ok, this is not exactly something you pack in your suitcase before leaving home. But be sure you get cash and exchange it for Mexican pesos at the start of your trip, ideally before you leave the airport. A lot of places in Mexico (including taxi drivers) don’t take credit cards. Some places in Mexico will accept either Mexican pesos or US dollars, but be aware that’s not universal.
20. Travel Insurance
Again, this is not a tangible item you can pack. But be sure to get travel insurance that covers medical before you travel outside the country. If you’re wondering if travel insurance is worth it or just a waste, then read my travel insurance blog post to find out what happened to a guest at our resort in Mexico!
What not to pack for Mexico
There’s a few items you might be tempted to pack for Mexico that you just don’t need. I figure the lighter you can travel, the better!
1. Outlet adaptors
If you’re visiting Mexico from the United States, you won’t need your outlet adapters. The US and Mexico use the same outlet and a very close voltage. Most devices you purchase in the US are manufactured to take this small variation in voltage into account.
2. Sand toys for the kids
Leave the sand toys for the kids at home too. You can rent them, or buy them on the beach in Mexico and pass them on to someone else before you leave. I know many of us are hyper aware of sharing germs during COVID. But since sand toys are typically easy to wipe down and disinfect, sharing germs shouldn’t be an issue.
Subscribe to download this free “What to pack for Mexico” list
This free packing list is fillable or printable. It’s available in color or black and white. Plus, I’ve included the shorter, Mexico-specific packing list, and a more complete Mexico packing list option.
How to pack your wide brimmed hat
I didn’t pack my wide brimmed hat for Mexico because I was certain it would get destroyed in my luggage. And I had no desire to carry it on the plane. We got wide brimmed hats while in Mexico, and again, I was certain they’d be trashed in my suitcase on the flight home.
But leave it to my husband to find a way. He packed them snug and tight in our suitcases, and when I unpacked them at home, they were still in perfect condition. Here’s how he did it.