Your plane tickets are bought. Your hotel is booked. Now all that’s left is to plan the perfect packing list for Mexico.
But here’s the thing: figuring out what to pack for Mexico is harder than it might seem at first glance! Mexico is an incredibly diverse country with many regions and climates, and so if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of figuring out what to bring to Mexico, that’s totally understandable.
Never worry though because I’m here to help! No matter what you’re planning to do in Mexico – visiting the beach, city, mountains or desert — my post contains a specific list of what to pack for Mexico tailored for your itinerary.
I recently spent over a month traveling in Mexico and learned very quickly what in my backpack was actually useful, and what was dead weight. So, to help you pack only the most useful items, this packing guide for Mexico covers exactly what to bring depending upon where in Mexico you are going.
Let’s start with some easy-to-forget essentials everyone needs to remember:
Essential Items to Take to Mexico
⚠ WARNING FOR USA TRAVELERS TO MEXICO ⚠
Covid tests are now mandatory to fly to the USA. Many travelers are testing positive and put into expensive mandated quarantine instead of flying home (it could happen even if you have the vaccine). If you do travel Mexico in 2021, be safe and MAKE A PLAN FOR QUARANTINE. DO YOU HAVE (GOOD) TRAVEL INSURANCE? While not legally required (yet), I feel personally like I’d be tempting fate without it traveling during a pandemic. Plus, it’s actually pretty cheap! World Nomads is is my personal go-to during covid times. But do your own research (pro tip: use this search engine to compare policies). Stay safe out there!
Disclosure: If you buy something through links on this page, this independent travel blog may earn a small affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting our travels so we can bring you more guides!
What’s the most popular souvenir that travelers to Mexico to take home? A bad sunburn!
Protect your skin and your sanity. The Mexican sun is HARSH.🌞 Make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen. Click here to search popular sunscreens on Amazon, and remember to book the reef safe kind if you plan to go diving!
Masks are required in many parts of Mexico, and you should wear one even where they aren’t to protect yourself and be respectful of the communities you are visiting. Remember that premium masks – like N95s or the (easier-to-find) KN95s and KF94s – offer significantly more protection for those and those around you.
You can search premium masks on Amazon here. Pro tip: We at Travel Lemming find the KF94s more comfortable because they leave space for your lips, making talking easier.
Clean, drinkable water is hard to come by in Mexico (never drink from the tap!). Bottled water is many travelers’ solution, but it’s a hassle and horrible for the environment.
Ok, I’m giving away my secret sauce here, but this one is truly the secret to becoming a travel packing master:
If you want to fit all your clothes into a small bag, use these awesome compression bags. They remove air and help you make space to bring more essentials to Mexico (really, they work like magic)!
This 32oz Nalgene bottle also did me well in Mexico, and it’s a great eco-friendly thing to bring to Mexico.
If traveling to Mexico means a long flight, then a travel pillow is a must. The Trtl Pillow is super supportive and easy to travel with.
If you need a little help deciding which travel pillow to buy, then check out our article on the best travel pillows.
Mexico has a tendency to hit you with some unexpected, yet powerful, showers. The Rain Mate Umbrella is a lightweight option that will keep you dry when the rain comes.
For more options, check out our article on the best travel umbrellas.
The Tortuga Setout backpack is perfect for travel. Not only is it affordable, it’s highly durable, weather-resistant, and comes in either 35L or 45 L options. Read our brutally honest Tortuga Setout review to learn why we love this reliable bag.
For your daily essentials, you can’t beat the Osprey Daylite Daypack. It’s been the go-to day bag for this blog for over five years!
Need a bigger bag to store your luggage too? Check out our article on the best travel backpacks on the market.
First Aid Kit
Your packing list for Mexico should definitely include a good first aid kit, including bandages, alcohol wipes, salve, and tweezers. We highly recommend the first aid kits by MyMedic – which they specifically made to keep travelers healthy on the road. Make this a priority in your bag!
I’ve been using this hanging toiletry bag for years. Remember to fill it with your toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, soap, face wash, contact solution, shampoo and conditioner, bug spray, and sunscreen.
That said, if you forget any of these things, you could easily purchase them in Mexico.
A great thing to bring no matter where you travel, a pacsafe bag will store any of your valuables and secure it to an unmovable item in your accommodations.
For any hostel stays in Mexico, remember to bring a small lock so you can securely store your stuff in the provided lockers.
Whether you’re at the beach or are just grossed out by your hostel shower, a pair of flip-flops like these is a must on every trip to Mexico.
I pack a headlamp every time I go on a trip for nighttime or caving activities. Don’t forget batteries!
Bug Spray or Mosquito-Repelling Wristbands
Even just a small charger you can carry around in your bag will ensure you always have cell phone juice.
I recommend bringing along enough clothes for 7-10 days, and then simply doing laundry if you find yourself there longer. A few pairs of t-shirts and shorts should suffice, and be sure to bring along enough underwear to last at least a week.
If you tend to sweat a lot, then I recommend that your packing list for Mexico include light and airy, but dark-colored clothing.
Packing List for Mexico – Beaches
Waterproof Phone Case
The greatest investment you might ever make. This handy universal waterproof phone case by the geniuses over at Mpow fits nearly every popular phone model. It will help protect your most prized posession, letting you relax and fearlessly enjoy the water on your vacation.
Speaking of keeping your stuff dry, packing along a dry bag is essential for any water-based activities you do. This one by Earth Pak is my personal go-to!
2-3 Swimsuits – Whether you’re staying at an all inclusive resort or a backpacker flophouse, chances are, if you go to the beach, you’ll be needing a swimsuit. Bring along two or three so you always have a dry one. These men’s trunks and this women’s suit have been tried and tested.
Quick Drying Towel
Microfiber towels are perfect for the beach and a must for any Mexico packing list. While they feel a bit weird, you’ll never have to stuff a soggy one into your bag.
Reef Safe Sunscreen
Sunscreen at the beach is a given, but in order to protect the Mexican coral reefs from toxic chemicals and potential bleaching, packing the reef-safe kind is a must.
Make sure you pack the reef safe type for swimming in cenotes too (you don’t want to damage their fragile ecosystems)!
Sunhat or Ball Cap
For the ladies out there, or for anyone feeling especially stylish, a beach coverup is a great thing to add to your packing list for Mexico for warding off a burn when not in the water.
Long-Sleeved Rash Guard
People with long hair can attest, salt-water does nothing for silky locks. This coconut leave-in conditioner is perfect for keeping your tresses healthy after a dip in the ocean.
If you’re at all prone to seasickness, then I highly recommend packing along some sea-bands.
Whether you’re walking in the ocean, taking a tour through a cave, or swimming at a cenote, water shoes are always a smart thing to pack.
The diversity of Mexico’s shores is incredible – in particular, the Yucatan features one of the largest coral reefs in the world. To capture these spectacular underwater moments, bring along an underwater action camera.
What to Pack for Mexico’s Cities
If you’re walking around larger cities with cash or other small valuables, I recommend keeping the bulk of it either back at your accommodation or on your body via a money belt.
Whether you opt for a cross-body bag or backpack, make your day bag in the city slash-proof. Chances are this will just be an extra precaution, but it’s great for peace of mind and deters pickpockets.
You never want anything to go wrong on vacation, but it does happen.
That’s why no Mexico packing list is complete without travel insurance for Mexico. You can compare different travel insurance policies (some for as little as a dollar or two a day) over at this nifty site.
Mexico Packing List for Desert Vacations
Believe it or not, your packing list for Mexico should definitely include a jacket if you’re in the mountains or cities.
As mentioned above, the Mexican desert can get chilly in the evenings. I have this light jacket from Columbia and it has never failed me.
Hat & Gloves
Sodium Replacement Powder
On the flip side, the desert in Mexico can get super hot during the day. To keep you hydrated and full of electrolytes, I recommend bringing some sodium replacement powder.
Also for the hot days on your Mexico vacation, I recommend stuffing your backpack with shorts and t-shirts. If you’re worried about getting a sunburn, then get t-shirts a little longer in the arms.
Packing List for Mexico’s Mountains
Evenings and winters in the Mexican mountains tend to get quite chilly. I recommend packing layers that you can add to or take off when the temperature calls for it.
If you’re in the mountains, chances are you’ll want to find some great views. To do this, I recommend bringing a quality pair of hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks.
In the event that it rains, this rain jacket will not only keep you dry, but it will also keep you insulated from any chills.
What Shoes to Wear for a Trip to Mexico
No packing list for Mexico would be complete without the proper shoes. But since shoes take up such a big space in your bag, let’s dive into which pairs you need to bring and which you can leave at home:
Shoes For Women
I personally love these runners from Adidas. They’re perfect for walking around in cities or taking a leisurely hike.
These Teva’s are comfortable and will last you for years. I wore them all the time in Mexico.
Shoes For Men
Whether you’re a hiker, runner, or just out for a walk, these New Balance Men’s Running Shoes are perfect for everyday activities.
If you travel to any of the hotter destinations in Mexico, you’ll be living in your sandals, making them one of the most important things to bring to Mexico. These ones have a sturdy sole and are easy on the wallet.
How to Dress for Various Mexican Activities
Mexican museums tend to be casual, so visiting them in your usual garb is just fine. Just keep in mind that they’re often air-conditioned; so if you tend to get chilly, wear a heavier shirt and long pants.
Beach / Pool
While walking around town in a bathing suit tends to be frowned upon in most areas of Mexico, you can wear your usual swimsuit from home while at the beach or pool.
The main tip for visiting markets in Mexico is to leave anything expensive or flashy back at your hotel. Markets in Mexico tend to be crowded and overwhelming, so you might be aware if a pickpocket sets their sights on you.
While not a steadfast rule in Mexico, it’s always smart to dress a little more modestly while visiting historic or religious sites in Mexico. You won’t get shunned if you don’t, but it just shows respect.
Medications to Take to Mexico
A few tablets for just in case should do.
Along with the aforementioned sea bands, some emergency Dramamine is always a good idea for any ocean-based activities.
You never know when stomach issues will strike. Some activated charcoal tablets or general stomach medicine is always smart to have on hand.
Not something to pack, but something to consider beforehand.
While not mandatory, it’s recommended to make sure you have your Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid vaccinations up to date before you travel to Mexico, but this is a conversation to have with your doctor.
What Not to Take to Mexico
Flashy Jewelry – In general, the dress code is very casual in Mexico. While, for the most part, you won’t have to worry about anyone stealing your jewelry off the street, flashing it around will only make you stand out as a tourist and subject you to some sales pitches.
Too Many Warm Clothes – Especially if you visit Mexico in the summer, bringing warm clothes will just be a burden in your backpack.
Take it from someone who brought a pair of jeans to the Yucatan in August – you won’t wear them.
What Are the Different Climates in Mexico?
Due to the Tropic of Cancer dividing Mexico into Temperate and Tropical zones, the climate of Mexico is quite varied across the board. In fact, they have seven unique climates – so your precise packing list for Mexico is definitely going to depend a bit on where in Mexico you plan to travel!
For the sake of brevity, I’ve lumped the climates into three main groups, based on the uniqueness of each.
Packing for the specific climate and season in which you visit Mexico is essential in keeping you comfortable and prepared on your trip. In fact, adjusting to the climate is one of our most important travel tips for Mexico.
So let’s break down the climate in Mexico’s three main geographic regions:
Mexico Climate #1 – Coastal Climate
Mexico has several different coastlines. In the East, you have beautiful peaceful destinations like Tulum’s beaches, plus a strip of coast along the Gulf (though fewer people travel there). The western Pacific coast is a bit more rugged.
Both have distinct dry and wet seasons, so let’s break down how to pack for Mexico for each:
Rainy Season on Mexico’s Coasts
Whether you head east or west, you can expect the Mexican coast to be hot and humid.
However, visiting between May and October means you’ll be traveling in the rainy season, during which time you can expect higher humidity and temperatures than in the winter. That can make exploring Mayan ruins in Tulum or Chichen Itza a bit of a challenge if you’re not dressed properly.
While daily rains are normal during this season, they usually only last for a short amount of time.
It’s important to remember that the rainy season also means hurricane season. While the chance of encountering a hurricane is slim, it’s still something to keep in mind if you travel to the coast in summer.
In this season, pack light clothing so that you don’t overheat.
And don’t forget your travel umbrella!
Dry Season on Mexico’s Coasts
On the opposite end of the stick to Mexico’s rainy season is the dry season. The dry season runs from November through April and generally coincides with tourism high time.
The temperatures during this season tend to still be warm, but with less humidity.
Mexico Climate #2 – Desert
Much of Northern Mexico, consisting of areas such as Baja California, Western Sonora, and Central Plateau, experience a desert climate.
This climate can further be classified into arid and semi-arid.
In this climate, there is often sweltering dry heat during the day and chilly temperatures at night. If you experience this area during the winter, you can even expect frost.
Mexico Climate #3 – Mountains
Due to the high elevation, mountainous inland regions tend to be much more temperate than their coastal and desert counterparts.
In areas such as Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende, it’s even common to experience freezing temperatures in the winter.
Do You Need Travel Insurance for Mexico?
Whether or not you need travel insurance for Mexico depends on your situation.
If you don’t already have coverage for risky activities on your agenda such as SCUBA diving and kite surfing, then it’s worth looking into but, if not, you could get by with any existing coverage.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not you need insurance, then I suggest pricing out some options over at this site.
You might be surprised that you can find travel insurance for a relatively low price!
That’s it for our ultimate packing list for Mexico!
Packing correctly for Mexico will be essential in keeping you safe and comfortable on the road.
If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below!
If you’re going to be traveling in the Yucatan, then check out these guides to Tulum, Valladolid, and beyond:
- Valladolid Mexico: The Ultimate Guide
- Celestun Mexico Travel Guide (Top Things to Do)
- How to Find Cheap International Flights (in 3 Steps)
Safe travels in Mexico!
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