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What to Pack for a Trip to Mexico: Ultimate Mexico Packing List for Cancun, Tulum, and More

Finalizing your packing list for Mexico can be daunting, as the country is diverse. Knowing what to bring to Mexico will depend on where you plan to travel, the time of year you visit, and what you’ll do. In this Mexico packing list, I’m sharing what to pack for a trip to Mexico, depending on where you’re traveling.

Mexico has seasons—if you’re visiting during the winter, you must consider this. Even the Caribbean side, where you’ll find Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, gets chilly this time of year. I organized this guide to things to bring to Mexico by location so you know what to pack for Mexico City, Chapas, Cancun, and Merida.

Feel free to use the links below to skip to the Mexico vacation packing list you need.

Pin this Mexico packing list for later:

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Mexico City ToursClick here to check out the top Mexico City tours
Best Mexico City Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Mexico City
Best Mexico City Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Mexico City

What to Wear to Mexico Resort Packing List

Adventures in Mexico | How to spend a weekend in Merida

Deciding what clothes and other things to take to Mexico is nearly impossible. I can offer some firsthand observations and Mexico resort packing list ideas for different locations throughout the country.

Generally, people dress more conservatively outside of the coastal areas of Mexico. While it can get hot, you may feel more comfortable dressing in lightweight trousers and tops than denim hotpants and a crop top. You’ll stand out a lot less doing this! In the coastal areas, wearing short shorts and a bikini top is standard.

As someone who lives in Mexico, I wouldn’t walk down the street in my shorts and a bikini top—however, it’s normal to see tourists dressed like this. They often wander the streets in a bikini and cover-up, which makes it easy to tell you’re not a local.

Deciding what to wear to Mexico depends on what you’re comfortable with. Just because I choose not to wear hotpants and a crop top in Chapas doesn’t mean you shouldn’t!

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $39. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Playa del Carmen and Cancun Packing List for Mexico Resort

Standard rules don’t apply in the Riviera Maya—you can wear almost anything you want. If you’re spending time in an all-inclusive resort, your packing list for Cancun will consist of more formal outfits. Don’t forget dresses for vacation in Mexico when packing for Cancun, as most dinners are somewhat fancy.

For everyone else, wear what you like! I mostly live in denim hotpants and cute T-shirts or crop tops. In the evenings, I generally wear dresses with shorts underneath for salsa dancing—during the winter, I wear my jeans out in the evening. 

Flip-flops are a staple when deciding things to pack for Cancun, and dressy shoes are usually just a nicer pair of flip-flops or cute sandals. If you plan on doing activities like hiking, horseback riding, and exploring Mayan ruins, pack travel sneakers.

Consider the heat when planning your Playa del Carmen and Cancun packing list. Stick with cool cotton and quick-drying fabrics, as it’s humid, and pack plenty of bikinis and cover-ups. Other essential things to pack for Cancun include long cotton trousers to protect against mosquitoes.

Outside the resorts, there’s no dress code in the Riviera Maya—anything goes on a night out. If I’m with a group of friends, we all dress differently. One person will be in denim hot pants with a tee and sneakers, one in a cute dress with makeup, and another will be wearing jeans and heels. Wear whatever you like as long as you feel good!

Don’t wander down the street wearing just your bikini if you don’t want to look like a tourist and prefer to blend in.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

What to Wear in Tulum Packing List for Mexico Resort

Tulum has slightly different rules than the rest of the Riviera Maya if you play by them. Tulum attracts a somewhat different crowd (we like to call them the “Tuluminati”) and has a more boho-chic hippy vibe. Use my favorite pieces below to plan your Tulum packing list and what to wear in Tulum.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

What to Pack for Mexico City

Mexico City is a world away from the Riviera Maya, and like any big city in America, jeans rule—don’t forget them on your Mexico City packing list! Even on sunny days, wearing short shorts here is not typical.

In Mexico City, most people wear jeans and a T-shirt in the summer and a jumper in the winter. If you’re wondering what to pack for a trip to Mexico to blend in, bring jeans, trousers, a couple of cute dresses, and a skirt. Sandals are okay in the summer, but cute sneakers are more typical throughout the year.

Winters can get cold, so add a coat and leggings to your Mexico City packing list to layer under dresses and stay warm.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

Mexico Packing List for Pueblos

Mexico is generally warm, so pack cool, lightweight clothing that travels well. Bring a mix of colors, patterns, and neutral clothing—I always wear more colors in Mexico. Denim shorts are okay, but I prefer to wear longer ones to be more conservative outside the beach towns.

In the small towns of Mexico, I wear long cotton trousers, T-shirts, and longer denim shorts. I’ll change into a pair of jeans in the evenings or when it’s cooler.

what to pack for Mexico
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

What to Pack for Mexico Beach Towns

In Mexican beach towns, you can wear the same items as in the Riviera Maya—anything goes! Some towns are more conservative than others, so play a beach cover-up when wandering around.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

Things to Pack for Mexico Adventures

You’ll need good hiking boots or quick-dry shoes to hike and explore. If you’re heading to the coast, I highly recommend a dry bag to protect your things from the water. You also need a lot of good bug spray and quick-drying clothing.

I’ve also written many guides on scuba diving in Mexico with packing for Mexico tips!

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

Mexico Packing List: Essential Things to Bring to Mexico

Adventures in Mexico | Akumal Glamping | Glamping in the Riviera Maya

Sunglasses

Does anyone leave home without sunglasses? I always travel with two pairs: one for daily use that I throw in my bag and a nicer pair for Instagram pictures. I always get my sunglasses from Blenders, Glassesshop, or Knockaround, as they’re good quality, offer UV protection, and are reasonably priced.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing listReusable Water Bottle

A good reusable water bottle is essential on any packing list for Mexico. If you’re still worried, get a water bottle with a filter for peace of mind. This water bottle is self-cleaning via UVC light, USB rechargeable, and makes any water drinkable. It’s also vacuum-insulated to keep your water cold for up to 12 hours.

Hand Sanitizer

Regarding things to take to Mexico, hand sanitizer is a necessity.

Bug Spray

I suggest getting an eco-friendly bug spray for your body and something more aggressive like this for your clothing.

Vaccines

You may need to prove you’ve received specific vaccines—some places require malaria pills, for instance. Many vaccines are strongly advised for travel, depending on your location. A few months before your trip, speak with a medical professional to establish necessary vaccines.

View my entire Mexico packing list on Amazon.

Packing for Mexico: Luggage

7 Helpful Tips for Traveling Solo in New York

You can use a backpack or suitcase when packing for Mexico. When traveling in Mexico, I usually prefer a suitcase—if you’re expecting a lot of bus travel and planning to visit small pueblos or beach towns, you might opt for a backpack instead.

For example, I’d never travel to Holbox with a suitcase as the roads are terrible and even worse when it rains. My things are much safer on my back! I suggest a 60L backpack and a small daypack that can easily be stowed to cover a lot of ground.

I highly recommend getting a Pacsafe backpack for security and peace of mind. I also wrote this blog post on the best digital nomad backpacks, and this one is about carry-on luggage. The KnackPack is excellent for digital nomads, with plenty of space for your tech and travel essentials.

If backpacks aren’t your thing, this suitcase with a 20″ laptop pocket is a great option, and coupon LEVEL8Claire10 gets you a 10% discount!

You also need packing cubes to organize your things and squeeze in extra clothing items. Don’t forget a good laundry bag, toiletry bag, and a shopping bag. Alternatively, get a backpack with built-in packing sections like this one. It hangs like a mini wardrobe, which can be helpful—it’s what I travel with nowadays.

Last but not least, this travel pillow with memory foam will be your best friend for long traveling periods.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

View my favorite luggage on Amazon.

Other Useful Things to Pack for Mexico

Through global backpacking for years, I have the packing process nailed down pat and bring some essentials you might not think of.

Laundry soap and a nail brush: Unless you want to do laundry every few days, it’s best to wash your underwater in the shower each night. I always travel with a bar of laundry soap and a nail brush to do this. These come in handy to clean marks and stains from your clothes.

Travel washing line: I love mine—it’s so handy and takes up no room.

Sewing kit: In case of clothing emergencies!

Mini first aid kit: This goes without saying! I also add in extras like activated charcoal and other useful pharmaceuticals. 

Carabiner clips: They are so helpful in attaching things to your backpack.

Head torch: Equally useful for camping, reading in bed, and finding your way home in the dark.

Earplugs: You will need these if you’re staying in hostels!

Whistle: Many people worry about safety and want to protect themselves, so I like to carry a whistle in case I need attention. It isn’t as effective as pepper spray but it is legal to fly with.

Doorstop: Worried about safety in your room at night? Use a doorstop to block the door from the inside, making it harder for someone to enter.

Silk sleeping bag liner: Another thing that doesn’t take up much room but will give you peace of mind. Sometimes, you might feel chilly or not want to sleep in the bedsheets. Hopping inside a sleeping bag liner helps you get a good night’s sleep wherever you are.

Umbrella: If you’re traveling somewhere tropical, it’s likely to rain and still be hot. Having an umbrella in your bag will keep you dry without making you collapse from heat exhaustion!

Padlock: I recommend getting one of these locks so you don’t need to worry about keys. They’re TSA-approved, so you can lock your luggage and your hostel locker when flying.

USD: I always keep an emergency $50 USD hidden somewhere, just in case. USD is the most widely accepted currency, but you must ensure the notes are clean and crisp—many places won’t accept them if marked.

Quick-dry towel: I have a large and small hand-size one that I keep clipped to my backpack.

Sarong: I never travel anywhere without at least two sarongs. I use them to replace my towel, hang over my hostel bed for privacy, wrap around my wet hair, sunbathe on… I even make a dress out of mine at the beach.

Scarf: Another multi-use item that doesn’t take up much room. Scarfs are great for covering shoulders from the sun and touring churches—they also keep you warm and look cute!

Yoga mat: I never travel without my yoga mat. I wrote a whole post about choosing the best travel yoga mat here.

Spice bag: If you plan to cook, I recommend making a spice bag so you don’t waste money on herbs and spices or eat bland food for the entire trip. I put my spices into ziplock bags and pack them in one of these clear bags

Ziplock bags: I know, I know, more plastic. But they come in handy when traveling, and you can wash and reuse them.

Coffee flask: Great for keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. It also saves you from using disposable cups when buying a takeaway coffee.

Aeropress: I love my coffee, so traveling without my Aeropress is not an option. Here’s another great portable coffeemaker/mug if you aren’t an Aeropress fan.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

View my entire packing list on Amazon.

Clothes to Add to Your Mexico Vacation Packing List

For the beach towns and cities: It’s hot and humid, so pack accordingly. Shortslightweight dressessandals, and don’t forget your swimwear!

For Mexico City: Jeans and comfy shoes. Make sure you have a rain jacket and warm layers if you travel there in the winter, as it can get chilly.

For the pueblos: You’ll need cool clothing for the summer and layers for the winter. Pack clothing suitable for hiking and horseback riding, like these leggings and this T-shirtHiking boots are great if you plan to hike, but I got by with these travel shoes (which I’m obsessed with). You’ll need a coat like this one.

If you’re ready to invest in a good quality, all-weather travel jacket, the Gamma Graphene Heated Jacket is what you’ve been waiting for. It’s a game changer as it works in warm and cold weather—if you’re allergic to the cold like me, you’ll LOVE its built-in heating system. Use code CLAIRE10 for a 10% discount!

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

If you’re scuba diving in Mexico, check out my essential diving gear pack list.

I recommend these shoes for salsa dancing as they’re lightweight, go with everything, and look cute.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

Clothes to Pack for Mexico:

Toiletries to Pack for Mexico

You can purchase many toiletries in Mexico, so I wouldn’t worry about traveling with them. Some personal care and hygiene products are harder to find and more expensive in Mexico, so I try to pack my own.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

Mexico Packing List: Toiletry Essentials

View my entire toiletry list on Amazon.

Technology: What to Bring to Mexico

If you’re stressing about taking your smartphone to Mexico, don’t. You must be careful about flashing your expensive digital gear around Mexico. Here are some digital gadgets I recommend packing for Mexico.

Smartphone: If you don’t want to take your fancy iPhone traveling, this is an excellent phone with a good camera for under $300. It’s what I used before investing in the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Kindle: Save space by investing in a Kindle and a Kindle Unlimited subscription. Most of the Lonely Planet travel guides are free with the plan. 

Lightweight laptop and external hard drive: I have a MacAir, which is perfect for traveling. After losing all my photos a few years ago, I also travel with a heavy-duty external hard drive.

Camera and tripod: I travel with this DSLR but also have this mirrorless camera, which I often take if I want something more discreet. My camera gear has grown with my blog, and my essential travel cameras now include this DJI Osmo and a mini drone. If you need a tripod, I love this one, as I can use it with all of my cameras (even my phone). Plus, it’s small and light enough to fit in my daypack.

Backup charger: I have these two and always keep one in my bag.

Travel adapter: Get a worldwide one like this to use anywhere.

Portable WiFi: I never travel without my TEP wireless device. If you can’t live without WiFi, I recommend buying or renting one. Another favorite is the GlocalMe G4 because of its versatility.

Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list
Packing List For Mexico,mexico,packing for mexico,mexico packing list

View my entire travel technology packing list on Amazon.

What to Read in Mexico

Lonely Planet Mexico (Country Guide)

Where would we be without the trusty Lonely Planet Mexico book? It’s the best all-around guide to Mexico. The only issue is the information can be outdated, but if you want to explore Mexico, get this book on your Kindle. It’s often free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico

It’s all about the food here in Mexico—especially in Oaxaca, considered the country’s culinary heart. This Mexican cookbook is the first proper introduction to Oaxacan cuisine by a native family. Each dish articulates the family’s story from Oaxaca to the streets of Los Angeles and beyond. The book showcases Mexican “soul food” with 140 authentic yet accessible recipes using some of the purest pre-Hispanic and indigenous ingredients. 

Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent Into Darkness

While I don’t want to perpetuate Mexico’s reputation as a country full of cartels, drugs, and danger, it can’t be ignored, and many people are interested in learning more. I’ve included Midnight in Mexico on my list of books to read—it’s a true crime book written by a Mexican-American journalist and migration lawyer. This book is about as close to the truth as you can get.

Being a journalist is one of the most dangerous careers in Mexico. Still, author Corchado never shies away from reporting the truth about Mexico’s government corruption, murders, and drug cartels.

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel

If you are a Frida Kahlo fan, this is the perfect fictional accompaniment to your Mexican vacation—especially if you visit Mexico City. Inspired by several of Frida’s notebooks, acclaimed Mexican novelist F.G. Haghenbeck wrote this touching fictional account of her life. The book takes you on a magical ride through this imagined life of Frida.

Like Water for Chocolate

An oldie, but a goodie—this one is for all of you lovers of romance novels! Forbidden love, family obligations, and seduction by food: what more could you ask for?

Check out my travel books:

The Solo Girl’s Guide to Traveling Without Fear

The Solo Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Digital Nomad

Mexico Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Mexico?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Mexico which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Mexico on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Mexico?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major Mexican tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Mexico?

First and foremost check out all of the amazing Mexico tours Where Sidewalks End has. They are a small local company and they have some really special experiences.

For everything else I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide

If you are traveling to Cancun you can use GoCity and save up to 55% of the initial cost of entrance tickets to various museums, tours, and attractions!

If you are traveling to Playa del Carmen then I recommend booking through my friend Vanessa at Turismo Channel. You can check out their tours by clicking here and using the following discount codes for the best prices clairecaroff (car rental), claire10off (for 10% off group tours), claireprivate (for a discount on private tours). You can also send her a WhatsApp message quoting the above codes to receive the discount.

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are Booking.comHotels.com, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Karla

Monday 16th of November 2020

Claire! I am embarrassed by the number of your selections/recommendations that I ordered off of Amazon last night, after booking my 1 way ticket for my french bulldog and myself to Playa del Carmen less than a week from now! Lol you will see me stalking your spaces and your food trucks, no doubt! :). Thank you for this detailed resource, as well as more beyond this post that I have absorbed across your site! Can't wait to get back to warm weather (after spending a year in Singapore last year!), and leave the midwest winter behind!!

Karla

Claire Summers

Saturday 21st of November 2020

OMG you're coming with a Frenchie!!! Bring him to meeeee hahaha. Let me know when you get here!