Counting down the days until you can hightail it out of the cold winter and onto sunny beaches south of the border? Pass the time with proper planning! Use these insider tips to put together the ultimate spring break packing list for Mexico.
If you’re fortunate enough to be fending off the winter blues with a spring break adventure south of the border, the countdown is on. As you suffer through darker days and colder weather, distract yourself by anticipating the bliss of Mexico’s white sand beaches and brilliant sunsets—and by planning what you’ll take with you on the journey! Use these guidelines to help you put together the ultimate Mexico vacation packing list!
1. Lighten Your Load
One of the advantages of packing for a Mexico vacation is the weather: higher temps and days spent on the beach call for lighter clothing and fewer hair and skincare products than your average getaway. This makes it easier to get by with a just carry-on, so consider starting out with a lightweight travel bag. If you’re planning to bring home a boatload of souvenirs, try an expandable option but chances are you’ll still have room to spare amidst shorts, flip-flops and swimsuit suits.
Also, consider your destination’s accommodations when picking your suitcase. Hunkering down in a large all-inclusive resort with airport transfers and bellhops around every corner? If so, a 4-wheeled rolling case will do just fine. If, however, you’re trekking somewhere more remote, think about a backpack you can easily carry through winding jungle paths or on a motor scooter. Going for a blend of both? A rolling backpack might just be your best bet.
2. Build a 3 + 2 Daytime Wardrobe
Whether you’re aiming for an unplugged retreat far from civilization or a beach-by-day and club-by-night kind of scene, you’ll find that beach living—and, therefore, dressing—remains pretty simple. Most of your time during the day will be spent on the sand with a good book (or a cocktail) so you’ll want to be cool and comfortable in the hot sun. Up to three different bathing suits should cover you for a week’s stay (assume one will be drying on the balcony at all times); two cover-ups with a supply of 2-3 cotton tank tops, t-shirts or short-sleeve shirts should cover you—both literally and figuratively—for the entire week.
3: Go Casual and Stick to One Color Scheme
Planning on hitting the town once the sun goes down? Luckily, the dress code beachside bar-hopping tends to be throw it on and go. Ladies look perfect in easy, breezy sundresses. While summery materials like silk and gauzy crepes run the risk of wrinkling, you can preempt major creases in how you pack. Lay pieces flat in drycleaner’s plastic bags and place them in a Garment Folder, and when you arrive and pull them out, the damage will be minimal. Take advantage of coastal humidity to hang dresses and separates for a natural steam, or turn on the shower to help them out a little more.
As for shoes, a beach break is perhaps the one trip for which you don’t have to sacrifice most of your suitcase space for 100 different pairs. Stick to a pair of comfortable flip flops for the beach, a pair of sneakers for more intrepid adventures, and a versatile pair of nude wedges to take you through dressier nighttime forays. Nude pairs perfectly with bright colors, as well as white and black, working overtime to complete any outfit.
If you can swing it, take the advice of fashion editors everywhere, who maximize their travel wardrobe by sticking with one color scheme—whether you go neon brights or black and white, everything will coordinate in the end.
4: Take it down a notch with toiletries and make a sunscreen strategy
Think about paring down your makeup bag before you go, and switch to your lighter, summertime skin regimen. Between the sand and steamier temperatures, your body will undergo a natural rejuvenation without your having to lug around a huge toiletry kit.
Sun coverage, of course, is key. Inquire ahead about what might be available in your destination, and consider purchasing once you’re there. If you have to fend for yourself and you’re sticking with a carry-on, devote most of your quart-sized liquids bag to sunscreen, and transfer a large tube into a handful of 3-ounce plastic travel bottles. Pack even more in the form of a stick, which won’t have to be stashed separately. If you’re checking a bag and plan on arming yourself with full-size bottles, opt for creams over sprays.
5: Make beach bags do double-duty
Eagle Creek’s 2-in-1 Ultra-Lights are great dual purpose vacation bags! Rolled up to easily fit into a suitcase, these bright and cheery bags serve as the ideal beach bag to carry magazines and sunscreen down to the water, and then when you’re packing up to leave, they’ll happily hold damp bikinis or dirty laundry for the trip home.
6. Make Sun Protection a Priority
Protect your face from harmful UV rays using a baseball hat or a visor or compressible travel hat. If neither jives with your style, you can still get a large-brimmed hat or fedora into your bag with minimal crushing. Simply stuff the crown of the hat with non-wrinkle items like bathing suits, underwear and socks, and place the hat upside down in your bag, carving out a little hole between your packing organizers. A hat should be the top layer in your suitcase, or placed right underneath a flat item you don’t want to wrinkle.
7: Think layers when planning what to wear coming and going
They’re an instantly recognizable breed on both ends—the pale, still city-hassled new arrivals sweating in their winter wear gulping down arrival punch at the resort, and then on the flip side, the sad, sunburnt and shivering returnees nearly crying their way through the cab line at the airport. It’s possible to pull off something effortless and comfortable for an easy transition into the tropics and back out to reality, as long as you remember one word: Layers.
Be sensible about the weather—if it’s freezing where you live, then it’s OK to be a little warm on arrival, but you don’t want to get frostbite before you hop on a plane (or when you get back). Wear something as light as possible that doesn’t require suffering—white pants; ballet flats; a tank top; a thin, light-colored sweater and a light coat (or cotton blazer if possible), with a bright scarf thrown over your shoulders should do the trick. Pack a pair of flip flops in your carry-on, and once you land, you can swap out your shoes and peel off top layers accordingly. The same outfit in reverse will take you seamlessly through your trip back.
In a nutshell:
—Reduce your load mentally and physically and think fewer cares, clothes and cosmetics
—3 bathing suits + 2 cover-ups + cotton tees and tanks for the beach
—Roll silky sundresses in drycleaner’s plastic and stick to a color palette + nude shoes
—Pack a foldable / collapsible nylon bag for the beach and damp clothing
—Strategize sunscreen and purchase on-site or distribute into (clearly marked) travel bottles
—Stuff your sun hat or pack a cap
—Think layers for a transitional travel outfit
Kelly O’Reilly is a lifestyle and travel writer (and former island-hopping publicist) splitting her time between NYC and Colorado. When she’s not pounding the pavement, hitting the trails, or racking up frequent flier miles she’s looking for art and good pancakes.
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