So you’re planning a trip to Cancun? How exciting! We love Yucatan, Mexico and have spent many months there so we’ve got plenty of experience on what to pack for Cancun. In fact, we believe we have created the ultimate beach vacation checklist on packing for Mexico.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that packing for Cancun vacations doesn’t require much thought. Throw a couple of swimsuits and a sundress in a bag and good to go! However, we have found that is not the case.
First of all there are numerous important documents to remember when you travel out of your home country. Then there are the health concerns that come with traveling somewhere tropical.
Plus, if you want to partake in some of the awesome stuff there is to do in Cancun and the Yucatan coast you will definitely need more than just a swimsuit. For example what do you need if you want to swim in a cenote? Maybe a party night in one of Cancun’s hot nightclubs? How about dinner in Playa del Carmen or visiting Mayan ruins? Then there are the fun and fabulous family of Xcaret Eco-Parks which require some special items.
What to Pack for Cancun and Other Mexico Beach Destinations
Documents Checklist for Traveling to Mexico
Of all the things to take to Mexico, documents and copies of personal information are without doubt the most important. Chances are your vacation will go perfectly smoothly and you will not have any need for some of the items on this Mexico vacation checklist. However, if something does go wrong you will be well prepared to deal with it having everything at your fingertips.
- A passport with at least 6 months before expiry is required to travel into Mexico and actually for travel anywhere outside your home country.
- Other government photo ID is good to have so you don’t have to pull out your passport when you need ID.
- Travel documents and itinerary including all transportation and accommodations with contact information.
- Travel insurance is essential and having the documents and contact info handy is important in case you need to use it.
- Name and address of accommodations in Mexico should be written out so you can show it to your taxi driver who may not speak English.
- It is better to bring a bank card and withdraw cash in Mexico rather than travel with a big wad of cash. Having said that it is handy to carry some $1 USD bills for tipping.
- Even if you don’t plan on charging anything it is always wise to travel with a credit card for unexpected expenses or just for deposits on rentals.
- Having the contact info for your bank and credit card on hand will make things much easier if you have any issues with your cards while away. Also, notify your bank that you will be traveling in Mexico.
- If you choose to get any immunizations before traveling to Mexico make sure you bring the card with you. It’s always a good idea to check with CDC on what immunizations they are currently recommending.
- Carrying a list of medications is a good idea in case you run out or lose them. There is an abundance of pharmacies in Mexico and you should be able to find most things easily.
- Carry physical and digital copies of all the above and also leave copies with someone at home in case you lose yours
Personal Things to Bring to Mexico
You may look at the following list of what to take to Mexico and say you can get most of them when you’re there. While this may be true we have found through experience that having these items on hand make life much easier. The last thing you want to do on your Mexican vacation is waste time looking for a pharmacy that speaks English and can recommend a good anti-diarrhea medication.
- Sunscreen is absolutely essential in Mexico at any time of year. The best sunscreen for Mexico, especially if you plan on enjoying one of the Eco parks is one that is reef safe. This is generally considered to be a lotion free from Obenzone and Octinoxate. We have tried a few different brands but so far our favorite is Sun Bum. In fact you will see us mention other Sun Bum products in this packing guide.
- Bug spray containing DEET is recommended as mosquitoes can be an issue and may carry some horrible diseases. If you want to go natural try something like Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent. There are also wrist bands and patches that we’ve had recommended but have not yet tried ourselves.
- Although we have personally never had a problem with eating Mexican food some people do experience mild to severe stomach issues. It’s a good idea to bring some Pepto Bismal or Imodium so that you have it quickly available if you need it. Some people even swear by taking one Pepto dose daily as a preventative.
- If you suffer from motion or seasickness bring some medication for that sunset or snorkel cruise. We have friends who also swear by Sea-Bands.
- Good sunglasses are a must when planning what to pack for Mexico. Protect your eyes and keep those frown wrinkles at bay by picking glasses with 100% UV protection. Also consider Polarized lenses and over-sized or wraparound frames for extra protection.
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- If you wear prescription glasses or contacts be sure to bring an extra pair and maybe even have your actually prescription in case you lose them.
- The sea and sun will dry out your skin so bring some good after sun moisturizer. My absolute favorite product is Hempz Herbal Body Moisturizer. It smells and feels better than any other lotion I’ve tried and I never travel without it, especially to sunny destinations.
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- Lip balm with SPF is something I always travel with when going on a beach vacation. There is nothing worse than burned, blistered lips! I’ve found that many of them have a horrible taste but Sun Bum tastes great and provides full protection in 15 and 30 SPF.
- Your hair will also suffer from the sea and sun so I always pack a good leave in conditioner or protection spray. There are lots of good high-end products on the market like Phytoplage Protective Sun Oil. However, I always look for a more budget friendly product and I’ve found that Sun Bum 3 in 1 Leave-in Conditioner is a winner.
What to Wear in Cancun
While it’s true that Cancun, Mexico weather is generally pretty sunny and warm there can also be some cool evenings and very wet days depending on the time of year. Definitely check the weather forecast before finalizing your Mexico vacation outfits.
You will also want to research what to do in Cancun and pack accordingly. For example, if you plan to visit one of the adventure parks you may want to pack some water shoes. If nightlife is your thing then a clubbing outfit is needed. Or maybe you’ll treat yourself to a fancy dinner where formal attire is required. Speaking of which there are some high-end, all-inclusive resorts that have a dress code in some areas so be sure to check that before you pack.
Finally, opt for 100% cotton or moisture wicking clothing when possible. Cotton allows your skin to breathe and the moisture wicking fabrics help keep your skin dry in the humidity that is part of a Cancun beach vacation.
Vacation Clothes for Mexico
- Swimsuits are a given for any beach vacation of course but be sure to pack suits that fit your expected activities. If you plan to just relax on a beach chair a cute bikini will do the trick. But if you like water-sports you will probably want something that will stay put as Mexico is generally not a clothing optional destination.
- A beach cover-up is a vital piece when you are just taking a quick beach break for lunch or feel a bit naked sitting at a beach bar in nothing but a string bikini. I like the long sarongs because they are so versatile. Use it as a skirt, a dress, a shawl or even a beach blanket.
- Take a cue from surfers and purchase a stylish rash guard. These long sleeve, lightweight tops will protect you from abrasive sand and surf boards as well as protect your skin from the sun.
- For women a couple of light sun dresses are a must as you will likely find you wear them day and night. I personally find them more cool and comfortable than shorts and tops especially during the hot and humid months.
- Men, your go to will be lightweight cotton button-up shirts. They are nice and cool un-buttoned with a pair of swimming shorts or buttoned up for a evening meal.
- Both men and women will want a couple of pairs of shorts suitable for both wet and dry activities and maybe a dressier pair for meals.
- Unless you know for certain you will only be going to casual places it’s good to have one semi-formal Mexico resort wear outfit.
- Although you may not need it much it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket, cardigan or wind breaker for the evenings and sailing. If it can double as a rain jacket that’s even better as tropical climates can get some sudden downpours. We’re big fans of Patagonia and are thinking of getting the Houdini jackets because they are so lightweight and really good quality.
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Footwear for Cancun
Choose your footwear carefully when packing for Cancun or other tropical destinations. You will need shoes and sandals that stand up to the abuse of walking on uneven surfaces and all the sand, salt water, and humidity.
- A good pair of flip flops is of course a must. I love the simplicity and quality of Havaianas because they stand up to all the abuse. I’ve made the mistake of bringing cheap flip flops before and found myself hobbling along hot rocks on one foot after one broke.
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- Sturdy, breathable sandals are also on the list of what to bring to Mexico and once again spring for a quality pair. Aching feet or a case of foot fungus can spoil your vacation fast. We really like Teva’s for Mexico because they are comfortable and tolerate the humidity and tropical showers as well as the uneven sidewalks that tend to plague the country. Birkenstocks and Keens are good options also.
- If you plan to do any ocean sports or cenote swimming then water shoes will be your best friend. They protect your feet and dry really quickly.
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- Finally a dressier pair of sandals is good to have for those fancy dinners or night clubbing. Ladies, leave your high heels at home unless you want to risk a sprained ankle from walking along the uneven sidewalks that are everywhere in Mexico.
- Keep the jewelry to a minimum and avoid expensive flashy pieces all together. Mexico is far safer than the media would have you believe but there is always a problem with theft in any touristy place and walking around wearing expensive jewelry can make you a target.
- Even if you don’t normally wear a hat it’s a really good idea to have one in the sunny Yucatan to protect you from heat stroke.
- A colorful shawl or wrap is a great accessory for the ladies. The evening ocean breeze can sometimes be a bit chilly as can air conditioned restaurants. I’ve even used mine to lay on as a blanket on the beach or in a chilly bus.
More Items on a Packing List for Mexico
- Of course you will want a camera to record your fabulous Mexican vacation. If it wasn’t for the fact that we need a whole slew of equipment for our work we would travel with just two pieces: a good cell phone and an action camera like GoPro. Both are small and easy to carry and a Go Pro can stand up to pretty much any adventure and water activity you decide to partake in.
- As you probably know, the water out of the taps in Mexico is usually not recommended to drink. Carrying a LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle will help keep you safe from Montezuma’s Revenge by purifying any water you put in it. As a bonus it will also save you money and save the planet from all those excess plastic bottles.
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- I don’t travel anywhere without some large plastic baggies. They are especially good for a beach vacation because you can put your wet swimsuits in them as well as keep other items like sunscreen, cell phones, and books dry and clean.
- Carrying a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse or beach bag is a great idea. We love eating street food or buying from beach vendors and there is rarely a place to wash your hands at a taco stand.
- A beach bag or backpack is another essential on a Mexico vacation packing list. We love our Pacsafe backpack because it double as a safe. You can lock it onto an immovable piece of furniture in your room or even on a beach lounger to help keep your belongings safe.
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- If you like snorkeling you may want to bring your own set of snorkel gear. You can rent them at some places but the cost will add up and if you go to places like
- A waterproof bag is another must have on your packing list for Mexico beach vacations. Use it to keep your phone and money safe and dry.
- Travel laundry soap packs are good to have so you can wash out your swimsuits and underwear if nothing else.
All this talk of packing for Mexico has got me wanting to plan our next trip. Maybe we’ll see you there. For now though, be sure to save this list so you don’t forget anything and have the best Mexico vacation ever!
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.