Planning a family trip to Mexico? Whether headed to the coast or to Central Mexico, it can be overwhelming thinking about everything to pack. While there are many things that can be left out of the suitcase, there are also many items you certainly won’t want to forget. This complete Mexico packing list will help guide you and keep the entire family comfortable during your trip.
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Complete Mexico Packing List
Packing for a family international trip is never easy. Having to be aware of the weather, proximity of conveniences and stores, and fully prepared for emergency situations can only make any traveler’s packing list longer and their suitcase even heavier.
A visit to a country like Mexico, which has several tourist destinations and a variety of climates, only makes packing even more difficult. True, there are items that can be found throughout the country (and therefore left off of the packing list). However, there are also several things that you won’t want to leave behind.
After a year and a half of living in Puerto Vallarta, as well as several other visits to and within the country, I’ve developed what I’d call the ultimate packing list for a family trip.
Whether headed off for an all-inclusive family vacation in one of Mexico’s beautiful coastal resorts, or headed inland for a bit of culture, museums, and good food, here’s a complete packing list to keep the whole family covered during a Mexico vacation:
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Lightweight Pants/Maxi Dresses
Swim and Snorkel Gear
Hat and Sunglasses
Insect Repellents and Creams
Cell Phone Charger
Carbon Monoxide Detector
1. The Essentials
Packing travel essentials and toiletries such as toothpaste, soap, contact solution, swim diapers, underwear, etc. are a must for any packing list. There’s no exception for Mexico. While there are pharmacies and small mini-shops that sell the brand name items, the location may not always be convenient. Some items may also have a higher price tag.
2. Travel Insurance
The best part about health care in Mexico is that it is only a fraction of what it costs in the United States. The catch is that everything needs to be paid in full before leaving the doctor or hospital, or you get held “hostage” until it is paid. While many things are payable out of pocket, it is always safer to carry travel insurance, just in case.
3. Comfortable Walking Shoes
If there’s anywhere that I have done some serious walking, it is in Mexico. Whether the plan is to participate in tours, visit museums/historical sites, or simply do some casual sightseeing, a pair of comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must. Not to mention the sidewalks and roads aren’t always even, so flat, cushioned soles are always great to have. Skechers shoes are always a great go-to for all family members!
4. Rain Gear
It’s easy to think of Mexico’s vacation destinations as having endless sunshine and blue skies, but during rainy season that isn’t always the case. It’s easy to get caught up in a quickly passing afternoon storm, and when it rains, it POURS. Therefore, it’s helpful to have a small umbrella or lightweight and breathable rain jacket on hand to keep dry. My personal favorite is the Columbia Switchback II Jacket, as it folds down tight enough to go in my purse. For kids, the BELLE-LILI Kids Lightweight Jacket is bright, colorful, and also easy to pack away. Both can be found on Amazon.
5. Lightweight Pants/Maxi Dresses
For Mexico’s warm and humid nights, long, yet lightweight cotton or linen pants are a must to keep bare legs protected from the mosquitoes that lurk around, waiting on their next meal. Mosquito-born illnesses continue to be a problem on Mexico’s coasts (especially in the summer). A long maxi-dress will also do the trick, as long as it keeps the legs covered. Which leads me to the next must-have item when packing for Mexico…
6. Fall/Winter Clothing
Depending on the time of year, a trip to Central Mexico will require fall and winter clothing. Believe it or not, Central Mexico can get downright COLD in the winter months! In cities such as Mexico City, Puebla, or Guadalajara, adult light jackets, kids light jackets, coats, long sleeves, long pants, hats, and gloves are a must!
7. Swim and Snorkel Gear
Mexico’s east and west coasts are marked by beautiful beaches where one could easily spend the whole day. In fact, many all-inclusive resorts are so nice, it’s easy just to stay poolside all day with a refreshing beverage. That being said, swimsuits, beach towel, beach cover ups, and flip-flops are among the first things to be packed. Both coasts also offer amazing snorkeling and diving opportunities (both via tour with a travel guide or self led), so packing goggles and snorkeling gear are helpful!
8. Water Shoes
Lightweight water shoes for both kids and adults are a must-have for the activities where flip-flops just won’t cut it, such as visiting cenotes and climbing waterfalls. They can be worn in the water and for walking around, and are small and lightweight enough to be packed in a carry-on bag.
9. Hat and Sunglasses
A hat is an absolute must if headed to Mexico’s hotter destinations, such as Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, or Tulum. In fact, any guide for a day trip to Mexico’s Mayan ruins will have a hat listed as one of the suggested items to bring. The sun can be quite powerful, and a hat and sunglasses help for protection and overall comfort from the brightness and heat.
There’s something about the Mexican sun that gives me sunburn much quicker than I ever did in the U.S.. For that reason, I make sure to keep a good, waterproof sunscreen on me at all times. Yes, it is an absolute must for your Mexico packing list. For both adults and kids, I recommend the Banana Boat Kids brand for light, yet effective sunburn protection.
11. Insect Repellents and Creams
To keep protected from bug bites, insect repellent is a key item to pack. OFF! Woods has always done a great job at keeping the mosquitoes away. For something even stronger, my travel doctor suggests Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent with 30% Deet, but I found it to be a bit too harsh for our environment. Having insect bite cream also helps to relieve the itch. I recommend Benadyrl cream or Benadryl Itch Cooling Cream for Kids.
12. Critical Medications
While most over the counter and prescription brands can be found in Mexico at a fraction of the price, there are a few that don’t exist at all. It is always safe to pack the most critical medications (assuming they are approved to be brought into Mexico). For example, my son’s Epi-Pen Auto Injector is not available in Mexico (only the epinephrine itself, requiring self-measuring and injecting). Therefore, all of our trips to and within Mexico mean packing our own auto injectors.
13. Stomach Meds
Yes, “Montezuma’s Revenge” is a real thing! My son and I learned the hard way the day after moving to Puerto Vallarta when something he ate sent him to the ER. His little tummy wasn’t quite ready for the mouthwatering street tacos, as delicious as they are! Our doctor had suggested purchasing Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder for him and Imodium AD for me. Let’s just say that it was one purchase I did NOT regret.
14. Baby Carrier
Mexico’s uneven sidewalks and roads also make it a challenge for strollers. Baby carriers such as the ErgoBaby or BABYBJORN are seen very frequently in Mexico and a must-add to the packing list of those traveling with an infant.
15. Water Bottle
Whether soaking in the heat of Mexico’s coasts or experiencing the higher altitudes of the central states, staying hydrated is a must. Having your own water bottle on hand will ensure that water is right at your fingertips. Not to mention it’s a great way to save money on a trip to Mexico! A stainless steel one is even better, since it won’t break and helps to keep the drinks cold.
16. Credit Cards
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Mexico. Credit cards are a breeze to use when there’s no ATM nearby to withdraw cash, or when figuring out the conversion rates is just too much of a headache. However, keep in mind that Mexico generally doesn’t take Discover cards.
17. Cell Phone Charger
Don’t just pack one, but pack multiples…and I’m talking both the cord AND the charging block (for Apple and Android). I like to keep one in my bedroom and an extra one in my purse. The last thing anyone wants is to be stuck somewhere unknown with a dead cell phone (trust me, it’s happened to me)!
18. Portable Battery
If there’s one thing that I make sure I pack and keep with me every day in Mexico, it’s a portable battery. It has come in handy for my cell phone as well as for my son’s tablet when we are out and about. Many times, the constant data usage and roaming can kill a cell phone battery. Outlets can be few and far between, so it helps to have something portable for a quick and easy recharge. I personally recommend the ANKER PowerCore, as it is lightweight and can hold a charge for a few days.
19. Carbon Monoxide Detector
One of the most important things to pack is a portable carbon monoxide detector, as the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors aren’t a requirement in homes in Mexico. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the extreme illness and even death of vacationers who didn’t take the proper precautions and pack their own monitors for their vacation homes prior to their trip.
I keep the Kidde Nighthawk AC Plug-In Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Digital Display in each room of our Mexican home and make sure to take it with us on every trip within Mexico where we’ll be renting an Airbnb or vacation home. Not only did it alert us to a problem in our apartment within days of moving in, but it helps give us a peace of mind when we vacation outside of the home.
20. Packing Cubes
Once everything is gathered together from the Mexico packing list, they can easily be packed away into suitcases with a set of sturdy packing cubes from Amazon. While not necessarily a “must have” on the list, packing cubes certainly help to keep everything organized and neat.
The great thing about Mexico is that almost every major packing item can be found somewhere. Between the mom-and-pops shops, pharmacies, convenience stores, and grocery stores, there’s no need to panic if something is forgotten. Just make sure to save room for souvenirs!