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Are you struggling to figure out what to pack for your upcoming visit to the Riviera Maya? Worried about how you’re going to fit everything you need in your carry-on?
When you’re jetting off to somewhere for the first time it can be difficult to know what to pack. Some people solve this problem by bringing a massive suitcase and throwing everything in it.
Personally, I’d rather use the $30 (or more) checked bag fee towards my margarita (or cerveza Victoria) fund, and I’m sure you would too! That’s why I’ve put together this handy packing list for Mexico.
For those of us that are devout carry-on travelers, packing is a delicate art form, which involves carefully planning exactly which items are absolutely necessary for your trip.
The selection process can become complicated once you start anticipating all the different types of activities and locations that you intend to visit. You might begin asking yourself questions like…
“Can’t these running shorts can be dressed up with the right top?”
Trust me, I’ve been there. They cannot.
The good news is, the Riviera Maya is a pretty easy destination to pack for in a carry-on. And, because the weather is consistently warm all year round, you don’t have to accommodate for a lot of bulky outerwear!
Note: This packing list was written with the Riviera Maya in mind, because, well, I live here… but this list applies to the Mexico’s west coast beach towns also, as well as any other tropical, beach-oriented vacation you might be headed on!
Here are my best recommendations for what to pack for Mexico’s Riviera Maya!
Mexico Packing List
A comfortable pair of quick-dry athletic shorts is a must on your packing list for Mexico. These are perfect for active days, like exploring Mayan ruins, visiting an eco-park, or even just a day at the beach. Even if you have to throw them on over your wet swimsuit they’ll still be dry within an hour. Likewise, you can easily wash them in your bathroom sink and have them be good as new for the next day!
Stylish Every-Day Shorts
You’ll want to also bring a pair of every-day shorts. These will be great for evenings and days spent firmly on land when you might want to dress your look up a little bit. You know, for dreamy vacation photos and such! If you pick a pair with a material like linen, or soft cotton they’ll feel really nice against your (likely) sun and salt-starched skin. These fabrics are also super breathable, which will help keep you cool — a cerveza will help too! I like these ones by Roxy, or this pretty, floral pair by Billabong.
Putting on a wet swimsuit is literally one of the worst feelings in the world, so it’s always best to travel with two.
Pro Tip: If you’re a big sunbather, take swimsuits with different strap styles so you can avoid prominent tan lines as much as possible!
I like to take one swimsuit that is more of an athletic style, for days when I’m planning to be really active — like on snorkel trips, or cenote swimming. This helps prevent unfortunate incidents like having your top ripped off by rogue waves as you return to the beach (awkward!). Athleta has lots of options for these!
For the second swimsuit, I usually take one that’s intended for laying out. That usually means cute, and with minimal straps. This is a cute one from Billabong.
For tops I always find it best to have a variety of styles. I like to take one standard t-shirt or tank top that will go with just about anything. Then I choose an athletic type top for active days. These dry quickly and usually wick sweat from your body. Some are even smell-resistant, which is a nice bonus! I love the looks of this versatile option by Athleta; I buy a LOT of clothes from them and I’m never disappointed.
Next I recommended taking a couple of cute, light-weight tops that will create the illusion that you’ve put a lot of effort into your appearance, regardless of whether you have or not! I like this one or this one by Roxy.
A sundress is basically a no-brainer for a trip to Mexico. The best pick is one that is casual enough for daytime but can be dressed up for night-time! The easiest way to achieve this is by choosing a black one, but there are plenty of colorful options that will work as well. Choose a comfy, flattering cut that pairs well with a dressy pair of sandals (or if you’re really bold, heels), and you’re all set!
I love this red dress by RVCA. The pattern is super cute, the cut is feminine but loose hanging. Plus, rayon is super lightweight so you won’t feel too hot.
One Maxi Dress
Confession. I can’t pull off maxi dresses — or at least I haven’t found one that doesn’t make me look like I’m a kid in my mom’s clothes. However, I love them and think they’re very beautiful and flattering on everyone else! They’re also great for days when you want to keep the sun off your skin a little. Plus, how else are you going to take those majestic Instagram photos that are all the rage right now 😉. This floral maxi by Rusty is a beautiful option.
Here are a few additional options!
One Pair Leggings/Pants
This might seem like a weird addition to the list, but hear me out, okay? Sometimes it gets cold in the Riviera Maya
I was as disturbed as you are. Trust me. In February we had a day as cold as 67 degrees. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s sweatpants and hot chocolate weather. That’s why I recommend bringing a pair of sweats or leggings, just in case. Plus, planes and buses are always air conditioned, so you’ll be comfier in something warmer. You’ll never want to take these ones off.
Because planes and buses are air conditioned, it’s always a good idea to bring a sweater or jacket, just in case! Yes, even when you’re traveling somewhere as warm and blissful as the Mayan Riviera. If it’s too hot to wear you can always use it as a pillow on the plane! I like this “Get lost jacket” from Billabong, or this “Stellar Jacket” by Athleta.
No packing list for Mexico would be complete without a pair of flip flops. I don’t know about you, but wearing shoes when it’s hot out feels suffocating. I love being able to slip my flip flops on as soon as I get to the beach! These Sanuks are cute and comfy!
Sneakers are a good idea for days where you expect to do a lot of walking. Unless you’re a total flip flop veteran like me, it’s a good idea to give yourself proper arch support. However, practical sandals would work too, like these Tevas.
I’ve hiked literally 100’s of miles in my Nike Free sneakers and can’t recommend them enough.
When you’re next to the ocean the glare of the sun is only amplified. Make sure you protect your eyes! I love these cat eye sunnies by Kate Spade.
Admittedly I’m a total minimalist when it comes to toiletries. I rarely wear makeup anymore and consistently forget to moisturize. That said, the most essential toiletries to pack for Mexico are sunscreen, and your toothbrush. And, if you’re tight on space, you can skip them and buy them here!
If you do pack sunscreen make sure to get a biodegradable brand, as many of the attractions don’t permit you to wear ANY unless it’s biodegradable.
If you’re planning to any water sports you’ll want to consider bringing a waterproof camera. It’s magica to be able to snap photos and videos of all of colorful fish and turtles when you’re snorkeling! There’s a lot to see down there! I have an older GoPro Hero and a selfie-stick and it’s the best! If you don’t already have a GoPro, definitely consider one!
Beach reading is soooo much easier with a Kindle. The wind doesn’t tear the pages, it’s light and compact, so you don’t have to dread carrying it around in your purse all day, and it can fit every book you could ever want to read, so you don’t have to choose between your favorites when you’re packing! I loooove my Kindle Voyage. Plus, with average use (about an hour a day) I only have to charge it once every 2 weeks or so. If you’re on a short trip you don’t even need to pack a charger!
Waterproof Phone Pouch
This waterproof pouch is awesome for protecting your phone. You can operate the touch screen (clumsily) and take underwater photos! Or, you can just wear it as a necklace and rest easy knowing that nobody will walk off with your phone while you’re swimming! It’s a win/win!
A sarong is one of the best and most versatile items you can pack on any vacation! It can be used as a beach towel, or worn as a dress or skirt, and even as a scarf! Sarongs also make great souvenirs, so if you don’t already have one, pick one up on your trip!
And finally, the most important part of the entire list. You need luggage! If you’re looking for a carry-on approved piece of luggage, I can’t say enough of the Farpoint 40 by Osprey.
I’m in love with this pack. It expands enough to fit all of the above ^^ with ease, and it’s super light because it doesn’t have a metal frame. The straps are comfortably cushioned, so it doesn’t hurt to pack it around on your back. Though, I bought a shoulder strap for mine, because it’s easier than putting the full pack on and off all the time.
The best part about the Farpoint is that when it’s empty it squishes down into a totally reasonable size to store in your closet!
And, it comes it Caribbean blue! Do you need more convincing?
You’re All Set!
You’re now officially ready for your blissful beach vacation to the Riviera Maya (or where-ever else you may go!). If you need a little extra guidance on how to fit everything into your carry-on bag, check out my post about how to pack light!
Do you have additional must-pack items that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments!
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