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Packing is Preparing

When you pack your luggage for your Cancun vacation, be sure to take every eventuality into consideration

Photo credit: © wallywallywoo
Packing for Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean

Splashing through the waves of Cancun's beaches, lounging poolside with a fruity drink, and maybe even making the trek to the Mayan ruins may be all you can think about in the days leading up to your vacation in the Mexican Caribbean.  But, before you can get on the plane and head out, you'll need to pack your suit case.

If this process seems daunting, take a deep breath; there is no need to worry.  Whatever grade packing abilities you have, this guide to packing for your trip will take you through a list of everything you need to bring with you, and why.

First and Foremost

If you bring nothing else with you to your Cancun vacation, you will need a passport.  This document, valid and up-to-date, will be the only thing that will legally allow you to enter the country.  You would also be wise to make a copy of your passport (as well as any other government-issued forms of identification), and packing them in a separate location.  This will be a lifesaver if you lose or have your documents stolen.

Money is also important to keep on your person, in case you run into any airport incidentals.  The official currency in Cancun is the Mexican Nuevo Peso (or peso), but United States Dollars are widely accepted.  Often, locals will 'up' prices for vacationers paying in U.S. dollars, so you would be wise to exchange your money as soon as possible.

If you are traveling with medication, pack a note from your doctor, or the prescription slip, in case you are questioned by customs officials.  You should also keep a list of emergency contacts, as well as your printed confirmation of your hotel accommodations, rental car, and any activities you may have pre-planned and paid for.


As you are probably aware, Cancun is considered to be a party town.  Among other things, this means that dress code restrictions are pretty lax when you remain in town.  Seeing people walking around in their swim suits is not uncommon, so if you are worried about offending local sensibilities, don't be. 

What you should know about packing your clothing for Cancun is that the temperatures are hot.  Choosing light-colored, light-weight fabrics that are also comfortable and breathable (think natural fibers such as cotton) are a must.  Linen shorts, khakis, t-shirts, and tank tops are all you really need to get you through your trip – along with a pair of comfortable shoes for exploring, such as hiking boots or athletic shoes.

You will also want to ensure that you have enough undergarments, socks, and pajamas.

Formal Wear

True, casual is key, but you may run into a situation where you want to dress a little more formally – say a dinner at a fancy restaurant, or an event you are scheduled to attend.  On these occasions, think dressy casual. Collared shirts, slacks, and maybe a sports jacket for the men, and a cocktail dress, nice sun dress, or a pant suit for women. 

Swim Wear

Who could forget swim wear when discussing a vacation to Cancun?  Our tip is that you pack more than one.  This give you options, but also allows you to leave a wet suit in your room to dry, while you wear a dry one.  Don't forget to bring along a pair of sandals to slip on as you head to the beach (the sand can get pretty hot), and a cover up (such as a sarong or large t-shirt).  Other beach and pool essentials are sunglasses and a sun hat.

Toiletries and Health Care

Most resorts in Cancun will provide you with the toiletries you need to get by, but many people opt to bring the brands they are familiar with.  You can pick up travel sizes of pretty much everything you want to bring: hair care products, oral hygiene products, deodorant, and more.  You can purchase these before hand and pack them in a toiletries bag to save space. 

Mosquitoes and sand fleas can be a problem in Cancun, so arrive prepared with some insect repellent.  This should be applied every morning before you leave your hotel room, and even a few times throughout the day when you see the need.  If you do happen to get bit, hydrocordisone cream and Benadryl can be a big help in providing relief. 

What Else To Pack

In the winter, the weather can hit the mid 60s, and a sweater or wrap may be necessary at night.  Pack accordingly. You will also want to bring a rain jacket, poncho, or umbrella  with you so that you won't have to miss out on exploring the sites, even though it may be a rainy day. 

Keep yourself entertained during your down time by bringing along a book, e-reader, mp3 player, DVD player, lap top, cards, or journal.

Your camera is a must, but make sure you remember to bring along all the necessary accessories: batteries or charger, and an extra memory card.

It is also important to note that while most your appliances will plug easily into Cancun outlets, and work just fine, most locations do not have three prong outlets.  So, if you are bringing along an electronic with a three prong plug, you will need to bring an adapter. 

Packing Concerns

If you are worried about over or under-packing, here is a tip that many well-versed travelers use: make sure all of you clothes match and are interchangeable.  You can wear several different shirts with a pair of linen shorts, and layering a few different colored t-shirts and tank tops is a good way to save room in your suitcase but give you a fresh look each day of your vacation.

The likelihood of the airline losing your luggage is low, but if you are nervous about this possibility, be proactive.  In your carry-on bag, pack one full outfit and a swimsuit.  This will be enough to keep you clothed until your suitcase is located or you can get out and make a few purchases.

Check List

Important Documents Money Toiletries and Personal Items Medication
Passport, identification, and copies Credit Cards Soap Motion sickness remedies
Medical and vaccination records Travelers checks Shampoo and conditioner Allergy pills
Hotel reservation confirmation pages Cash Toothbrush and tooth paste Cold Medicines
Insurance information   Mouth wash First aid kit
E-tickets   Body lotion Nausea and diarrhea remedies
Car rental confirmation   Sun block Contraceptives
Contact information for credit cards   Contact lenses and solution Pain relievers
Birth Certificates for young children   Cosmetics Vitamins
    Glasses (both prescription and sun) Prescription medications
    Razors and shaving cream Insect repellent
    Lip balm with SPF  
    Hand sanitizer  
    Toiletries bag  
Gadgets Clothing Family Items Miscellaneous 
Camera Bathing suits Diapers and wipes Guide books
Camera charger Cover up Baby foot and utensils Calling cards
Flim/memory card Dresses Bottles Umbrella
Batteries Shirts Bibs Flashlight
Cell phone and charger Pants Activities for children Book light
Lap top and accessories Shorts Portable playpen Address book
Portable DVD player and DVDs Formal dress Stroller Corkscrew
MP3 player or CD player and CDs Dress shoes Sun hat Pen and paper
Radio Walking shoes Waterproof sheets Sewing kit
PDA Beach/pool shoes Changing pads Tote bag
Adapters Hiking boots Snacks  
  Socks Infant carrier  
  Undergarments Car seat  
  Belt Pacifier  
  Watch Clothing  
  Rain jacket/poncho    

When it comes to packing for Cancun, keep it simple.  Comfortable clothing, a few bathing suits, maybe one fancy outfit, and you're good to go!


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