Headed to Mexico? This Mexico packing list covers exactly what to bring (and what to leave behind) for solo female travelers.
Packing effectively is one of the best ways to ensure your vacation goes smoothly. It will keep you comfortable and save you from wasting precious vacation time running around looking for items you forgot to pack. Packing well can also help you develop contingency plans that will keep you safe and secure during your travels.
In this Mexico packing list, I’ll cover all the essential items to bring for a safe and enjoyable trip to Mexico. I’ll also help you figure out what to leave at home and what to buy here, and of course, I’ll throw in plenty of helpful Mexico travel tips along the way!
Essential Things to Bring to Mexico
If you only follow one section of this packing guide, let it be this one. As long as you have these items you have everything you need for a successful trip!
Passport (& photocopy) – You can’t cross the border without your passport! Before your trip, ensure your Passport is current and has at least 6 months of validity past your date of return. If it doesn’t you could be denied entry into Mexico.
Additionally, you should snap a photo of your passport and save it to your Google Drive, or email it yourself so that you can reference it in the event your passport is stolen. It’s also wise to bring a photocopy of your passport to stash in your luggage in case of theft.
Passport Wallet – A passport wallet is a handy way to stay organized during your travels. You can use it to neatly stash your passport, credit card, boarding pass, and immigration forms.
When you enter Mexico you’ll be given an FMM tourist form, and you need to save the bottom piece of it to present when you leave the country. I usually stick mine inside the cover of my passport, but stashing it in a document holder helps keep it from slipping out and being tossed away with unwanted receipts, etc.
Travel Insurance Policy – Travel Insurance is essential for any trip out of the country. Policies will cover everything from trip interruption, theft, luggage delay, emergency medical expenses, and more. The real question isn’t whether you can afford travel insurance, it’s whether you can afford to travel without it. Click here to get a quote.
Flight Information – A print-out (or a screenshot, the IS the digital era) of your flight information is super handy to have for reference, especially on travel days. I recommend printing it out and stashing it in your wallet so you’re covered in the event of technology failures.
Spanish Phrase Book – If your Spanish is rusty (or non-existent) a Spanish phrasebook will definitely come in handy. Google Translate is a great tool, but a phrasebook can help you understand how the language works, give you some cultural insight, and teach you more colloquial ways to say things.
Solo travel tip: A physical phrasebook will save you from pulling your phone out every time you need translation assistance. This allows you to keep your valuables concealed and decreases the possibility of you becoming a target for thieves.
Mexico Travel Guide – There’s a plethora of travel information available on the internet these days (thanks for reading!), but sometimes a traditional guidebook comes in handy. They are packed with details on practically every destination within a country and contain tons of helpful logistical tips that are tough to find anywhere else.
Guide books also tend to offer insight into the culture and history of your destination which can help save you from embarrassing travel mistakes. With this in mind, I definitely think it’s worth purchasing a guidebook for your trip. Mexico guides tend to be pretty enormous, so if you’re worried about space or weight, opt for the Kindle version.
Naturally, this section will vary widely from person to person, but here are a few items I find super useful in my travels. I rarely leave home without these things and I’m sure you’ll find them valuable too.
Shampoo Bar – Solid shampoo is one of my favorite travel items. It doesn’t leak, and it doesn’t count toward the liquid allowance in your carry-on luggage. Plus, it doesn’t come in plastic bottles, eliminating yet another plastic bottle from your life! I’m personally obsessed with shampoo bars from LUSH. You might have to try a few of them before you find a bar that works for your hair type.
Reef Safe Sunscreen – Reef safe sunscreen is essential if you’ll be swimming in Mexico. In some places, you won’t even be permitted to use sunscreen if it isn’t reef safe. Due to the high volume of visitors in some destinations, the amount of toxins from generic sunscreen has caused lasting damage to the local ecosystems. So, do your part and pack the reef safe stuff– or pick it up when you arrive. It’s also worth packing a face stick for extra protection if you’re going to be on the water for extended periods.
Bug Repellant – Bugs are an issue in many areas of Mexico, and in some seasons, Dengue is a concern. With that in mind, be sure to pack a reliable bug repellant. I swear by this one, as it protected me all the way through the jungles of Costa Rica. It’s easy to buy Off bug spray at convenience stores throughout Mexico, but it’s not necessarily the most effective.
Anti-diarrheal medication – You hope you won’t get struck by the infamous Moctezuma’s revenge, but it’s best to be prepared in case you do. Packing a few Pepto-Bismol tablets is the perfect insurance. It’s easy to pick these up anywhere in Mexico, but it’s still good to have a few on hand when you arrive.
Wet Wipes – We touch so many dirty surfaces when we travel, it’s important to remember to wash your hands. Of course, when you’re in transit, that’s easier said than done. I like to keep wet wipes on hand so I can quickly clean my hands before eating, or wipe down surfaces like my airplane tray table, etc.
Hand Sanitizer – Public restrooms in Mexico aren’t always well-stocked. If there is running water there won’t necessarily be soap to wash your hands. I like to keep a little bottle of hand sanitizer in my purse so I’m covered when this happens. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. Don’t worry about packing too much though, as hand sanitizer can be found in most convenience stores in Mexico.
Kleenex – Again, you can’t count on public restrooms in Mexico to be stocked with the essentials. I’ve learned the hard way to always carry a packet of tissues or a small roll of toilet paper in my day bag. If you run out, this is another thing that’s easy to stock up on in convenience stores in Mexico.
Reusable toiletry bottles – Instead of purchasing a bunch of travel-sized shampoos, conditioners, etc, invest in a set of refillable toiletry bottles. This way you can pack your favorite products from home without purchasing unnecessary single-use plastics. This particular set even comes with a clear storage pouch to provide extra leak protection.
Toiletry Bag – There’s a chance you will be asked to remove your liquids from your carry-on luggage when you pass through security. Having them neatly contained in a toiletry bag helps make removing and re-packing them quick and easy. It will also protect the rest of your belongings from any leaks.
A clear pouch helps the security team examine your items without having to rifle through your things. If you already have something similar sitting around at home, don’t rush out and buy a new one. I use an old Clinique makeup bag for everything and it works nicely. A Ziploc bag is another good alternative.
Accessories For your Mexico Packing List
Shopping Bag – Whether you use it for market runs, stashing items for a day at the beach, or overflow items from your carry-on bag, a reusable shopping bag is bound to come in handy during your trip. I’m obsessed with my trusty Baggu tote. It’s light-weight, super strong, and folds into a small pouch that I can tuck into my purse when I’m out and about.
Portable Battery Pack – There’s nothing worse than finding yourself with a dead phone while in transit. A portable battery pack is great to have in case of emergencies. I really like this one because it plugs directly into the wall to charge, eliminating the need to pack yet another cord.
Solo Travel Tip: Keep a written (or printed) copy of any essential contact information, travel directions, documents, etc, that you may need to reference during your trip. This way you’re covered if your phone happens to die. Not sure what to write down? Grab your FREE travel safety checklist here.
Kindle – I know, I know, there’s nothing like a real book, but when you’re a carry-on traveler you have to make compromises. I never leave home without my Kindle, as it enables me to store plenty of reading material in a compact device. It’s also handy for storing your Mexico guide book (available on Kindle Unlimited), which is enormous in paperback.
Sun hat – A sunburn is not the type of souvenir you want to remember your Mexico trip with. A foldable sun hat will protect your skin, shield your eyes, and help keep you feeling fresh in the heat. The one I’ve linked here is foldable and crushable, meaning you don’t have to worry about it losing shape when you stuff it in your daypack. What more could you ask for?!
Lifestraw Water Bottle – Since tap water in Mexico isn’t safe to drink, bottled water is essential. If you would prefer to avoid single-use plastic bottles, a LifeStraw bottle is a perfect solution. Filtered water bottles remove bacteria and parasites from tap water, rendering it safe to drink.
Microfiber Towel – Sometimes it’s just nice to have your own towel on hand. This microfiber travel towel is soft, compact, and dries super fast. It comes in handy pouch making it easy and compact for packing. You can even use it as a mini pillow in a pinch!
Packing Cubes – Fitting everything into your suitcase can quickly become an elaborate exercise. Packing cubes help keep everything organized you don’t have to take every item out of your bag just to take one item out of your bag. Check out this packing cube review to find the right ones for you.
Safety is one of the biggest concerns travelers have about visiting Mexico. These items will help keep you and your valuables safe and sound during your travels.
Anti-theft Purse – Unfortunately, pickpocketing is a concern in Mexico, particularly in Mexico City, so it may give you peace of mind to carry an anti-theft purse. With features like slash-proof fabric, locking zippers, and RFID protection you’ll be able to relax knowing that your valuables are safe and sound while you’re out and about. I have this purse and I love it, but I’ve summarized some additional anti-theft purse options in this post.
Anti-theft Scarf – Having somewhere discreet to carry your valuables is always wise. This infinity scarf has a hidden pocket which is perfect for stashing your passport, phone, credit card, or spare cash. It also makes a handy extra layer when the sun goes down.
Doorstop alarm – Sleeping alone in an unfamiliar location can be a little anxiety-inducing. Every strange noise may have you huddling under your covers in fear someone’s about to break in. Not with this door stop alarm! This handy alarm will sound the moment anyone tries to enter your room. While this is unlikely to happen, having it in place is sure to help you rest easy.
Hidden Bra Wallet – A twist on the traditional passport holder, this bra wallet is essentially a tiny pouch where you can stash your valuables. It clips around your bra, enabling you to conceal it from any potential thieves. This is a great way to store extra cash, your ID, etc, so if your wallet is ever stolen you aren’t left high and dry.
What to Wear in Mexico
In most cases, whatever you have in your wardrobe at home will be appropriate for visiting Mexico. Of course, you’ll need to make considerations based on the climate of where you’re headed (remember, Mexico is not always hot!) as well as the activities you plan to take part in during your trip.
One thing to consider, regardless of where you travel in Mexico is that if you need laundry done you will most likely have to take it to a lavandería (laundry service) or hand wash it yourself.
If you go the lavandería route, just know that they don’t always take the best care of your delicate clothes. Most likely, everything will be dried on high, which can shrink or damage some items. With this in mind, I suggest packing your most resilient clothing and leaving anything particularly delicate at home.
Mexico beach vacation
If you’re headed to one of Mexico’s beaches, packing is pretty straight forward. Stick your typical sundresses, shorts, and tank tops and you’re sure to be comfortable.
If possible, opt for loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibers, to help keep yourself feeling fresh. Synthetics, unless they’re engineered for exercise, aren’t breathable and tend to make people sweat– no bueno!
That said, exercise clothing can come in handy in Mexico! If you’re planning to do any hiking or visit any ruins, athletic clothing is a good option. It is engineered to wick sweat and sometimes offers UV protection as well. It also tends to be quick-drying, which is handy if you’re going to be in and out of the water.
Here are a couple of additional items you may wish to consider bringing on your beach trip:
- Sarong – I never go on a beach trip without my sarong. It’s a dress, a skirt, a towel, a scarf, sometimes even a pillow! If you don’t already have one, they make great souvenirs, so pick one up when you arrive!
- Maxi Dress – If you’re headed to an all-inclusive in Mexico, be sure to check the dress codes of the restaurants on-site. Some may not permit typical beachwear. A maxi dress or a sundress that you can dress up slightly is usually acceptable.
For more tips on what to pack for a beach getaway to Mexico, check out my Riviera Maya packing list.
What to pack for Mexico’s cities
If you’re headed to one of Mexico’s cities there are a couple of packing considerations you’ll want to make.
First of all, even though the climate is often quite warm, people in Mexico tend to dress fairly conservatively. If you’re in a beach destination you can wander around in cut-offs without drawing much attention, but you are likely to attract stares in the city. I’m not saying don’t wear shorts, but keep in mind that you might receive some extra attention if you do.
Since it’s always a little safer (and more comfortable) to fly under the radar, I tend to opt for sundresses instead of shorts.
The next thing you need to pack is comfortable walking shoes. Opt for something breathable, lightweight and with plenty of support. Many of the streets in Mexico are made of cobblestones, which are charming in photos but cumbersome to walk on for extended periods.
My current shoe of choice is the Cabrillo sneaker by TOMS because they’re lightweight, stylish, and extremely comfortable.
The last thing to keep in mind when it comes to packing for Mexico’s cities is that many of them are at a high altitude. This makes for large changes in temperature between day and night, so be sure to pack accordingly. A warm, lightweight layer, such as a Patagonia Nano Puff (or something similar) is the perfect way to ensure you will never be cold, without having to pack too many heavy items.
If you’re visiting in the summer a Nano Puff will probably be overkill in most places, so maybe opt for a scarf/cardigan combo instead.
If you’re headed to Mexico City (or any of Mexico’s other major cities), check out my CDMX packing list for additional advice on what to bring.
What NOT to Bring to Mexico
If you find yourself with extra room in your bag it can be super tempting to just start tossing in items you love. As a reformed over-packer, I’ve been there.
But you know what’s worse than arriving at your destination and realizing you left your back-up beach read at home?
Lugging said book around for days on end and never opening it.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why?
I know you don’t want to be that person, so here’s what not to bring to Mexico…
Unnecessary valuables – Jewelry and accessories can really pull an outfit together, but they can also make you stand out in a bad way. As I mentioned before, theft is a concern in Mexico, and wearing flashy jewelry can make you a target. It’s much better to fly under the radar than risk having anything stolen. The same rule applies to electronics. If you don’t need it, just leave it at home.
Over-the-counter meds – There’s nothing wrong with packing some basic medications, but don’t feel that you have to bring an entire pharmacy with you. There are tons of pharmacies throughout Mexico (including in the grocery store) where you can pick up anything you might need. So, instead of lugging a huge bottle of Advil from home, just bring a few tablets and stock up when you get here.
A ton of cash – There’s no need to carry your entire vacation budget in cash with you. Many places in Mexico accept credit cards and you can easily withdraw money at ATMs throughout the country. If you happen to be headed to a small town having extra cash is wise, as ATMs do sometimes run out of funds. If you’re going to be in any reasonably sized city you’ll be able to withdraw money as needed. Always use ATMs directly inside banks, or within grocery stores as they are the most secure.
Hopefully this packing list has helped you order your thoughts around packing for Mexico.
I know how challenging it can be to anticipate the appropriate clothing and accessories for the variety of travel scenarios you are sure to find yourself in.
Ultimately, if you end up forgetting something you’ll most likely be able to pick it up in Mexico. If you’re in a larger city you’ll be able to find many of the same brands you’re used to from home along with plenty of local options as well.
It’s worth noting that clothing here is priced pretty much the same as it is in the US, so don’t arrive with an empty suitcase expecting to stock up on cheap brand name clothing.
Once you arrive in Mexico you may want to pick up a local SIM card so you have access to data during your trip for navigation, translation, etc. You can purchase a Telcel SIM card at Oxxo or any other convenience store in Mexico, then you just add credit as you go.
As you continue to prep for your trip to Mexico, make sure you read my 32 essential Mexico travel tips to help you navigate the country more smoothly.
Are there any travel items you never leave home without? Let me know in the comments!