Mexico is fast becoming a popular vacation destination for families. But for those who have never been to Mexico, planning a trip can seem daunting if you don't have the right Mexico travel tips.
How do you get around the country? Where are the best places to stay? What time of year should you visit? These are questions that flow through a parent’s mind as they plan their Mexico vacation with kids.
Fortunately, planning a vacation to Mexico is not as hard as it seems. The country is fairly easy to fly to, and getting around the country can be relatively simple. With the following Mexico travel tips, you’ll be well-prepared to start planning your Mexico family vacation right away!
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Mexico is a wonderful family travel destination. The country is full of beaches, beautiful natural landscapes, and rich cultural history. Families can explore colonial towns, walk through ancient ruins, paddle through mangroves, and play on the beach, all in one day!
If you're curious about what to do during your Mexico family vacation, take a look at the ideas in our 10 day Mexico itinerary post.
There is so much to experience in Mexico for kids of all ages. If you’re thinking of doing a Mexico family vacation, here are a few basic Mexico travel tips you need to know to make your trip a success.
Booking your family trip Mexico ticket is the first step to making your Mexico family travel dream a reality. Here are a few basic things to know as you’re planning your trip.
The most popular way to get in and out of Mexico is by airplane. Mexico has 50 international airports. The biggest international airports are in Cancun, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta. Monterrey and Leon also receive a lot of international traffic. Many of the major international airlines fly into Mexico.
An alternative way to enter Mexico is via the land borders. Border crossings can be found across the southern United States along the Mexican border. You can also enter Mexico from Guatemala and Belize.
You can cross into Mexico by bus or by car. Visit the Banjercito website for more information on border crossings.
Cruise ships also make port of calls in various ports around Mexico. Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, and Mazatlán are popular cruise ship destinations.
Mexico travel tips #1: Don't be afraid to consider all the various options to get into Mexico - by airplane, by car, and by cruise ship.
All international travels require a passport to enter Mexico. There are 68 countries, including the U.S., Canada, and countries in Europe, where nationals of that country do not need a visa for stays of up to 180 days.
All travelers, including travelers from visa-free countries, need to fill out a form, called an FMM, before entering the country. Most inbound flights will provide this form to you before landing. Check the Mexican government website for travel restrictions.
There are also some restrictions that are COVID related. The government of Mexico issues a color-coded system to alert the COVID status of each state. Green means everything is open as usual. Red means everything is closed, and families need to stay home.
Check the color status of the state you plan to visit, as it’s on a state by state basis. The Mexican government currently requires people to wear masks in public places.
Mexico travel tips #2: Check the visa and travel requirements for entering Mexico for your country of origin before you travel.
Mexico is located in North America. The country borders the United States to the north. And it borders Belize and Guatemala to the south. The capital city is Mexico City, which is located in the central part of the country.
The western part of the country touches the Pacific Ocean, and also the Gulf of California. In the east, several states touch the Gulf of Mexico. The state of Quintana Roo also touches the Caribbean Sea.
The geography of the northern part of Mexico is mainly desert, while central Mexico has several mountain ranges. The eastern peninsula of Mexico, known as the Yucatan peninsula, has more of a tropical landscape. The coastal parts of the country have beaches, but not all of them are swimmable beaches.
Mexico travel tips #3: Don't be afraid to explore the different regions of Mexico.
The coolest time of the year in Mexico is between the months of December to April. These are the driest months in Mexico. The hottest months of the year generally fall between April to October.
High travel season in Mexico usually starts around mid-December and lasts until after Easter. If you can swing it, aim to travel during the low season, when prices can be 20-50% lower.
Mexico travel tips #4: To take advantage of lower prices during the low season, plan your Mexico family vacations for the months of May-June or September-November.
There’s a common misperception that Mexico is too dangerous for families. On the one hand, it’s true that Mexico has a much higher homicide rate than the United States. According to the World Bank, Mexico annually has over 19 murders per 100,000 people compared to the United States’ 5 murders. And it is also true that the drug industry in Mexico has made parts of the country quite dangerous.
However, even though parts of the country may not be safe, it doesn’t mean the whole country is unsafe. There are still many parts of Mexico that are perfectly safe for families to travel. Families who are planning a Mexico family vacation can refer to the Mexico Travel Advisory page on the U.S. State Department website. The site lists out states with travel advisories, but also points out destinations that are safe to visit within those states.
If you’re planning to spend some time in Mexico with kids, rest assured that you and your family will be safe. Research ahead of time the parts of the country that may be dangerous, and avoid them. But don’t be afraid to explore the rest of the country.
Mexico travel tips #5: When traveling to Mexico, take the same safety precautions as you would any other destination in the world.
If you really want to get a feel for Mexican culture, it’s best to go beyond the standard tourist destinations when you’re taking a vacation to Mexico with kids. Mexico has coastline along the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of California, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Popular beach destinations include Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Escondido.
The country also has many historical sites and cities, ranging from pre-Hispanic civilizations to colonial cities. Well-known pre-Hispanic archaeological sites to visit during a family trip Mexico include Chichen Itza, Teotihuacan, Uxmal, and Palenque.
For Spanish colonial history, visit cities like Guanajuato, Campeche, Merida, Oaxaca and Veracruz. Mexico City and Guadalajara are also worth visiting for their abundance of things to do for families.
Finally, Mexico’s natural landscape is also worth exploring. Many of the coastal areas have places for snorkeling, including the states of Baja Sur and Quintana Roo. The Yucatan peninsula also has cenotes, which are limestone sinkholes filled with fresh water. In Central Mexico, places like the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and the Sierra Madres mountain range are must-sees for families.
Mexico travel tips #6: Make your Mexico family vacation memorable by including a mix of historical destinations, beach destinations, and nature destinations.
Getting around the country is relatively easy. Mexico has airports throughout the country. And there is also a fairly extensive bus system. You can also drive around the country.
The five busiest airports are found in Mexico City, Cancun, Guadalajara, Tijuana, and Monterrey. There are over 100 airports in Mexico, which makes it fairly easy to get around the country by plane.
Major domestic airlines include Aeromar, Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris. These airlines all have websites, so you can book your flights online. Keep in mind that they may have different baggage requirements than international airlines.
Mexico travel tips #7: Use domestic Mexican airlines rather than international airlines to save money on airfare.
If you plan to drive a car during your family trip Mexico adventure, you won’t need to have a special license to drive if you’re from the United States. However, be prepared to show your U.S. driver’s license and passport if asked.
For nationals of other countries, you will most likely need an international driver’s permit. Get this before coming to Mexico. And even if you are a United States citizen, it might be helpful to get one as well before you go to Mexico with kids. You can get an international driver’s permit from any AAA office. They cost $20.
If you’re planning on renting a car, one of the Mexico travel tips is to purchase insurance along with the rental. This is required by Mexican law. For families driving into Mexico with their own car, you will need a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP). There are specific requirements for the permit, including insurance on the car and months remaining on the lease, so it’s best to do research ahead of time.
Mexico travel tips #8: If you're planning to drive in Mexico, get your international driver's permit before you travel to Mexico.
Uber is available in 57 major cities around Mexico. So if you have that app on your phone, you can use it during your family trip to Mexico with kids.
However, one of the Mexico travel tips to keep in mind is that waiting for an Uber to pick you up can take upwards of 15 minutes. In most cases, a taxi is still a more reliable option, if you’re trying to go distances within the city that are too far to walk.
Taxis in Mexico don’t use a meter. Research ahead of time to get the going rate for a taxi ride. Ask other travelers for more Mexico travel tips related to taxis, or ask locals. In general, distances of 1-2 kilometers usually cost around 50 pesos. Most hotels will have taxis waiting near the entrance, so you won’t have to go far to find one. But you may end up paying extra for the convenience.
It's helpful to know a few of the following basic Spanish phrases for travel:
Mexico travel tips #9: When using a taxi, confirm the fare with the driver at the beginning of your trip to avoid any surprise costs.
If you’re planning on traveling between cities in Mexico, consider taking a bus rather than flying on a plane. Buses are inexpensive, and a great way to take in some scenery.
There are many bus companies that run throughout Mexico. ETN is a popular bus company in Central Mexico. They run between many of the major cities around North, Western, and Central Mexico. Another bus company that frequents the region is Primera Plus.
Around Eastern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, the major bus company is Ado. All of these bus companies allow tickets to be purchased ahead of time online. Plan to arrive at the bus terminal about an hour before departure to avoid missing your bus.
Mexico travel tips #10: If you have time in your itinerary, use buses instead of planes to get around Mexico and see the scenery of the country.
Mexico uses the peso for their currency. At the time of this writing, 20 pesos is equivalent to $1 USD. Many larger businesses will accept credit card, but Mexico is still primarily a cash economy.
Several banks allow foreigners to withdraw cash at their ATMs. These include Banorte and Santander, which have the best exchange rates. As you're planning your Mexico travel budget, keep in mind how much cash you'll want to carry with you on a daily basis.
In terms of supplies, you can find many major brands in Mexico. Amazon is also available in Mexico. You can use your regular Amazon account, but you’ll need to enter a Mexican address. Mexico also has a good and supply delivery service called Rappi, which has an app that you can download.
Mexico travel tips #11: Keep some small bills or change on hand to tip parking attendants, grocery store baggers, or restaurant servers.
Feeding a family of four in Mexico is relatively affordable. Depending on the cuisine, a meal at an average restaurant costs about 300 to 500 pesos, which is roughly $15-$25. This includes three to four entrees and drinks.
Some Mexico travel tips if you’re traveling on a budget is to seek out the cheap restaurants. At a taco stand or loncheria, expect to pay between 200-300 pesos ($10-$15, including tip). Local markets are also a good source of inexpensive produce.
If eating at a fancier sit down restaurant, expect to spend around 800 to 1,000 pesos ($40-$50). In some cities, you’ll be able to find a wide selection of cuisines from around the world during your family trip Mexico experience.
Mexico travel tips #12: If eating at a taco stand or loncheria, choose one that already has a larger handful of customers eating. That way, you'll know the food is cooked fresh and hasn't been sitting around.
Despite what the news media might portray, Mexico is not a poor country. In 2017, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Mexico totaled $1.15 trillion, more than the GDP of countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland. The World Bank considers Mexico an upper middle income country, similar to countries like Costa Rica, Peru, and Thailand.
This means you won’t need to worry about not being able to find things in Mexico. Many items like clothes, medicine, diapers, phone chargers, and good wine are available in Mexico! While the brands may not be the same as in the United States, you’re better off saving space in your luggage for souvenirs anyway.
Popular grocery stores around Mexico include Soriana, Chedruai and La Comer. OXXO is a common convenience store chain found throughout the country. American store brands like Walmart and Costco are also available throughout Mexico.
Mexico travel tips #13: If you have a Costco membership, bring your card with you to Mexico as there are over 30 locations throughout the country.
Unless you’re planning on bringing a car when you’re traveling to Mexico with kids, or renting a car while you’re in Mexico, expect to walk around a lot. Bringing comfortable shoes that you can walk around with is one of the more essential Mexico travel tips. Keens are perfect for all terrain shoes for kids and adults. Chacos and Merrells for adults and kids also work great for walking through the streets of Mexico.
Buy these shoes on Amazon to prepare for your Mexico family vacation:
Many Mexican cities still have cobblestone streets, so be prepared for uneven walking terrain. If your kids are still learning to walk, it’s helpful to carry a backpack carrier like ones by Kelty, or an Ergobaby if your little one is light enough. It’s possible to bring a compact stroller for your Mexico vacation with kids, but it may not be ideal due to the uneven sidewalks and roads.
Buy one of these baby carriers or strollers for your trip:
When walking through some of the city streets, one of the most important Mexico travel tips is to make sure you practice road safety. Cars can drive pretty fast through the streets, so be sure your kids know to stay off the middle of the road.
Mexico travel tips #14: For essential travel supplies, buy good quality items before you travel to Mexico.
Mexican tap water is not really safe to drink. In San Miguel de Allende, for example, the water has very high levels of arsenic. If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, one of the Mexico travel tips is to be prepared to buy bottled water.
If you’re staying in a vacation rental during your family trip Mexico, it will likely have a 20 liter bottle of water, called a garrafon, and a dispenser. Brand new, a garrafon costs around 100 pesos. Popular brands include Epura, Cristal, and Bonafonte.
If you’re refilling a bottle, it will cost around 35 pesos. You can only refill at most convenience stores or some small grocery stores, but make sure it’s the same brand of water. Some vacation rental properties offer garrafon refill services for an extra surcharge.
Mexico travel tips #15: When booking your accommodations in Mexico, check to see if they have filtered water available in the unit.
An alternative to buying bottled water is to bring along a water bottle with a filter and purifier. Bringing bottles like the GRAYL is one of the most useful Mexico travel tips for your Mexico vacation with kids because these bottles have a built-in water purifier and filter that takes out 99% of the particles, metals, and pathogens from your water.
LifeStraw is another water bottle option with a filter and purifier. With all the walking and activities you’re sure to do during your family trip Mexico, having plenty of water will be absolutely important.
Buy the following water filters and purifiers on Amazon:
Mexico travel tips #16: Avoid filling up landfills with bottled water by bringing along a water filter and purifier with you to Mexico.
Mexican culture is a unique mix of indigenous heritage combined with Spanish influence. You can experience Mexican culture through its food, music, and cultural activities.
Each state in Mexico also has its own distinct culture. Jalisco, for example, is known for being the birthplace of Mariachi. While Chiapas is known for its strong Mayan heritage.
If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, some use Mexico travel tips are to incorporate some Spanish language learning into your family trip. Depending on where you visit, you may be able to find English speakers in the cities. But in more rural destinations or smaller towns, English speakers are rare.
If you’re staying for an extended period of time in one place in Mexico, you may be able to find a local Spanish tutor. Alternatively, sign up for language classes at Spanish language schools like Agora Language Center in Playa del Carmen, El Nopal Spanish Language Academy in La Paz, or Oasis Spanish and Surf School in Puerto Escondido.
However, if you’re only visiting for a short time, you can download a translating tool on your phone, like Google Translate. If you’re looking for an app to teach you Spanish, Duolingo is a helpful one that even kids can use.
Mexico travel tips #17: Use Facebook groups like Families in Mexico, or a group specific to your destination city, to find recommendations for Spanish language teachers.
Mexico has a rich culture, and it is sad that often in movies it’s reduced to cliches and stereotypes. Before the arrival of the Spanish, Mexico was teeming with indigenous groups, including the Mayans, Aztecs, Teotihuacans, and the Toltecs. You can learn about these indigenous civilizations through the temples and pyramids that many travelers to Mexico can still visit.
When the Spanish came, Mexico’s culture became more European-influenced. The traditional religious beliefs were restricted in favor of Catholicism. Books written in indigenous languages were burned by the Spanish, and many temples were destroyed. Some Mexican traditions, like the Day of the Dead, incorporate indigenous traditions with Catholic beliefs.
After independence, Mexico’s culture flourished even more, fueled by a sense of nationalism. In recent years, interest in preserving and reclaiming the indigenous beliefs, practices, and language has grown among Mexicans. These days, Mexican culture is rich and diverse, with a strong emphasis on family.
Mexico travel tips #18: Take some time to learn about the indigenous cultures of Mexico before going on your family vacation.
While it’s true that Mexico has over 5,000 miles of coastline, with many beaches and resorts that tourists love to frequent, there is a LARGE part of the country that is landlocked. In fact, 13 of Mexico’s 32 states don’t even have a coastline.
The Mexican landscape is vast and diverse, from canyons to rainforests, and modern cities to ancient pyramids.
When you’re planning your family trip Mexico vacation, one of the best Mexico travel tips is to set aside some days to incorporate visits to interior cities without beaches. These include metropolises like Mexico City or Guadalajara. You can also visit many historical towns like Guanajuato or San Miguel de Allende.
Mexico travel tips #19: Bring a light sweater, cardigan, or wind breaker to prepare for days when it's rainy or cold.
Many of Mexico’s food traditions stem from the indigenous cultures that existed before the Spaniards came. Chocolate, maize, and avocado all come from the indigenous Mexican civilizations. One of the simplest Mexico travel tips for learning about Mexico is by trying local dishes.
A popular Mexican dish is tacos, which are usually served on corn tortillas. However, there are many different variations of tacos, from al pastor (made with spit-grilled pork) to birria (made with slow-cooked beef or goat). In the Yucatan peninsula, cochinita pibil and relleno negro are popular dishes, made from slow cooking pork and turkey, respectively, underground.
Other common Mexican dishes include tamales, empanadas, elotes, mole, and guacamole. Chilaquiles are a popular breakfast dish. This dish is often accompanied by cafe olla, coffee with cinnamon and sugar.
Mexico travel tips #20: Take a Mexican cooking class during your Mexico vacation to learn all about Mexican cuisine.
Most cities around Mexico have at least one public square or plaza. They are often in front of churches. These squares and plazas are popular places for local families to hang out.
You’ll often see small food and craft vendors selling their items around the square. Around these plazas you will also find stores and restaurants catering to both tourists and locals.
Many coastal cities also have a boardwalk, called a malecon, that is free and open to the public. While not every Mexican city has playgrounds for kids, there are still plenty of open public spaces where kids can play and burn off some energy. Some good Mexico travel tips for families is to seek out these public spaces for down time.
Mexico is a great country to visit with kids. There are so many cultural and historical sites to see. And if your kids are into nature, you can explore the forests, beaches, and mountains throughout the country.
These Mexico travel tips make it much easier to get around Mexico. And once you have even a basic understanding of Spanish, you’ll be able to communicate with people wherever you go.
Have you taken a Mexico vacation with kids? Share your own Mexico travel tips on our Facebook page!
Ready to take the next step of your family trip Mexico planning? Take a look at our Mexico travel budget post to help you figure out what to budget for your trip.