Figuring out what to pack for a trip to Mexico seems easy, right? A swimsuit, pair of sandals, and ton of sunscreen is all you need, isn’t it? The problem is, most people think it’s always hot all over the country. So it makes sense that shorts and sandals are the first thing that come to mind. The reality is that packing for a trip to Mexico isn't always so cut and dry. You'll need to consider important factors like location, time of the year, and activities you’ll be doing during your time there.
Living my entire life in Mexico and taking trips all over the country with Jim has made us pretty good at traveling carry-on only. We each carry a backpack for clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. and a hard case carry on suitcase for our recording gear. This is all we’ve ever traveled with since we started Spanish and Go. Today, I’m here to make it easy for your to pack for Mexico.
Note: There are no rules about what you must wear when visiting Latin American countries. But it helps to know the culture. Some parts of Latin America are more socially conservative. People tend to dress more modestly than in the US, especially in rural areas. Big cities, like Mexico City, Lima and Bogota (just to name a few) are less conservative and people here are more fashionable just like in major US cities like LA and NY.
I'm basing the information shared here on what Mexicans wear and what Jim and I have packed for our travels throughout the country. Overall, Mexicans are very tolerant, especially towards foreigners. If you’re a woman, a lot of people will tell you “don’t wear shorts in Mexico because Mexican women rarely wear them” and that’s true. But if shorts are what makes you feel comfortable, by all means wear them.
Like in any other country, there are some situations where there is a dress code. Like at some bars, restaurants, religious events, and some celebrations.
What to Wear By Destination
Mexican Beach Town Weather
The weather in beach destinations in Mexico is very comfortable during the winter. Around the Riviera Maya, average daily high temperatures from November through February are around 83ºF. Average lows are around 68ºF during these months.
The hot season is long on the coasts. It goes from April until September. High temperatures average above 88ºF and go as low as 70ºF.
Riviera Maya Weather Averages (ºF)
Similar temperatures are experienced in places like Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos.
Wet season in the Riviera Maya goes from May until early November. September being the rainiest. Chances of hurricanes are highest during August, September and October throughout all of the country.
What to Wear at the Beach in Mexico
Some essentials for your trip to any beach destination in Mexico are:
Sandals: This is the one thing you’re going to be using the most when visiting any beach destination. A pair of comfortable walking sandals are a must. Sandals are great to wear to the beach and for short walks exploring around.
Sneakers: Because most times, long walks in flip-flops when it’s hot and humid means sore feet and blisters. When you visit a beach destination you’ll encounter humidity. Your may not be used to having sweaty feet, but it’ll happen. Of course, going to the beach in sneakers sounds very uncomfortable, but a beach vacation sometimes includes one or two excursions to some ruins, walks in the jungle, or museums. Sneakers will save your feet in those situations.
Shorts: Shorts are a must when visiting beach towns and long days of walking in hot weather. I personally don’t like wearing shorts that are too short. They ride up my legs and they’re uncomfortable when walking around in them for long periods of time. I prefer bermuda shorts made of a blend of synthetic fabrics (most common blends include polyester, spandex, nylon, and rayon). These blends are very well known for detracting moisture, so they are commonly used for athletic wear. This is what makes them perfect for long walks during hot weather. They keep you dry, they are soft and very comfortable. Jim likes wearing shorts made from cotton. He prefers a slim fitting style that you can dress up or down depending on the situation. Put on a belt and you have a more formal look or wear them with a simple t-shirt for a relaxed look.
T-shirts: These are great because you can wear them with absolutely everything. Choose the ones made from cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester or cotton and spandex for best comfort. Cotton t-shirts work great for keeping you cool in hot weather.
Long-Sleeve Shirts: Arms and shoulders tend to be exposed to the sun way more than other parts of your body. Wearing a long sleeve shirt will keep you protected when you don’t want to be applying sunscreen all the time. A long sleeve rash guard works really well for beach days. A lightweight linen long sleeve shirt is my favorite thing to protect my skin from the sun.
Cool and Loose Items: Think of a cotton dress or a pair of lightweight linen pants. These breathable materials are perfect for the hot and humid weather at the beach. You can dress them up or down depending on the situation.
Sweater, Jacket, or Pashmina: People tend to underestimate the weather in beach destinations in Mexico. It can get cold in the morning and at night in the beach! Especially around the winter months. I always make sure I have a light sweater, shirt or jacket when I know I’m going to be out late or when I’m going to a mall or any other place where there’s usually a/c. I don’t always wear it, but most times I do. Especially when going to the grocery store, the movies, and some restaurants.
UVA/UVB Protection: Sunglasses and a hat are important too. Throw in a light rain jacket if you’re visiting during the rainy season.
Central Mexico Weather
Central Mexico can get very cold during the fall and winter. Temperatures change during the day, but mornings and evenings are often between the 40s and 70s (ºF) from November to February.
During the warm season (April-June) temperatures are often around the 70s and 80s (ºF).
The wet season in Central Mexico starts at the end of May and continues through the beginning of October. Expect lots of rain in July and August in cities around Mexico City and Guanajuato.
Mexico City Weather Averages (ºF)
What to wear in Central Mexico
This is where Mexico can get a lot colder than you think. With higher altitude come colder climates. Mexico City can be very moderate in the summer, while a city like Tlaxcala can be downright cold. Here are some of the essentials for Central Mexico destinations.
Sneakers or any kind of comfortable closed toe shoe: You want the most comfortable pair of shoes to be able to walk all day in all kinds of weather. In Central Mexico temperatures vary a lot during the day. One minute you'll be comfortable walking in the sunshine at 10am and the next you'll be cold standing in the shadow of a building. If you’re like me and have cold feet, it’s better to prepare ahead of time. I always bring socks and my favorite kind of closed-toe shoes.
Jeans, pants and leggings: Mexican wear jeans on a daily basis. Even in hot weather, jeans and pants are the norm for any casual occasion. Whether it's hanging out with friends, going to the movies, shopping, or running errands. If you want to blend in with the locals pack your most comfortable jeans, pants or leggings.
Bermuda or cargo shorts: Central Mexican destinations are full of beautiful walkable towns. You can walk around for hours and see museums, galleries, colorful streets, markets, and a variety of other attractions during the day. Nothing is more comfortable than a pair of bermuda or cargo shorts made with your favorite material. During the months when Central Mexico gets warmer, a pair of shorts is all you need to keep you going.
Simple t-shirts: For the same reasons discussed before. They are comfortable, you can wear them with everything, and they look good on everyone.
Long sleeve shirts: In central Mexico sometimes it feels like the sun burns even more than when you’re at the beach. Choose the material according to the time of the year when you’re visiting. Something made of cooler materials for the warmer months and something thicker during fall and winter.
Casual dresses: For a night out or days when you are exploring around. I rarely wear them, but they are a great option during the summer months.
Sweaters, hoodies and jackets: If you’re visiting during the winter, make sure you bring one or two sweaters or hoodies and a jacket. It’s important that you dress in layers. Temperatures change drastically during the day in the winter in central Mexico. You may be very comfortable walking around at 3pm and be miserably cold by 6pm. Be prepared.
Scarf, hat, mittens: No kidding. Of course these are optional, but they don’t take up that much room but can be lifesavers if you venture out somewhere with a higher altitude.
My Top Three Tips for Smart Packing
Tip 1: Pack ONLY the essentials. You don’t want to bring anything that you’re not 100% sure you’re going to use. I’ve made the mistake of packing a couple of cute little dresses that I’ve had in my closet for months thinking that I’d want to wear them. I never do. Clothes that you don’t wear at home are not going to be worn while traveling either. They’ll just end up taking up room in your bag. Remember, less is more. If you end up needing a dress you can always buy it when you get to your destination.
Tip 2: Rolling instead of folding. I can’t stress this enough. If you are packing for longer trips then you have to get rolling. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them will leave you with more room in your bags. It can mean the difference of being able to pack one or two extra outfits. Especially if you’re rolling them tightly. If you don’t care much about a few wrinkles on your clothes, rolling is the best way to go.
Now, this shouldn’t be an excuse to pack even more clothes ‘just in case”. Remember tip 1, bring only the essentials.
Tip 3: Use packing cubes. Combine packing cubes with rolling your clothes and you’ll have the best secret for maximizing space in your luggage. It’s amazing how many clothes you can fit into one packing cube. You can also use them for packing shoes, accessories, or for separating clean from dirty clothes in your luggage.
Extras to Bring When Traveling to Mexico
Pen: You’ll need it to fill out custom forms on the plane when arriving and departing.
Reusable shopping bag: Visiting a market or tianguis in Mexico is a cultural experience. Every person visiting Mexico should do it at least once. Even if you don’t end up buying anything, having an extra bag can come in handy. Whether it's to carry left overs from a restaurant, or your wet towels from the beach. We love this kind of bag that folds into a small pouch and takes almost no room in our luggage.
Reusable water bottle: Stop wasting plastic every time you need water. Get a bottle you can fill at home and have with you everywhere you go. We travel with two of these insulated bottles and love them so much Jim even got a small one for coffee.
Day pack: Any kind of small-medium size backpack for the basics. Here you can carry your water bottle, a towel, and clothes if you’re going to the beach. Or your wallet, phone, and sunscreen if you’re exploring around. There’s no other way that can come close to the comfort of carrying your items on your back.
Coral Reef safe sunscreen: Even if you’re not visiting a beach destination, Coral Reef safe sunscreens are better for your skin and for the planet. Wear it every single day of your trip. Even if it looks cloudy outside. Jim’s worse sunburn happened during a cloudy day in Playa del Carmen. His burn was so bad his entire back was covered in blisters. This is the sunblock we use. They sell a very convenient pack of travel size products we always have with us.
Power bank battery: If you’re like us, you'll need this. Taking photos and videos with your phone of every cool place you visit is going to drain your battery. So bring an extra one so you can share a visual of the amazing food you’re having and the new friends you’re making. This is the battery charger we travel with. It has saved us so many times when the battery of our GoPro or one of our microphones has run out. We make sure it’s always with us.
Is there any other thing you always pack when visiting Latin America or other parts of the world? Let us know in the comments!
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