When the weather gets chilly in my home country I tend to do as all Canadians do – head south. So far, one of my favourite sunny destinations has been Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Mexico has such a vibrant culture, and the Yucatán Peninsula seems to be the beating heart where all the amazing aspects of Mexican culture, from nightlife to history to food, come together.
I went to the Yucatán in mid-February with my friends and family as a sort of unofficial spring break. Since I really love to get a mix of everything when I travel to a new destination, I spent my days there doing a large assortment of activities, from relaxing on the beach with a drink in hand, to cliff diving at Xel-Há (a sweet aquatic amusement park), to wandering the grounds of Chichén Itzá. Needless to say that it was a glorious trip! Below you’ll find a list of everything I packed for a week of travelling around the Yucatán Peninsula.
Ever since my first travel disaster where over packing put a serious damper on my trip, I have become a huge advocate of travelling light and going carry-on only whenever possible. This trip was no exception! I was able to fit everything in my trusty carry-on sized suitcase and personal item. My favourites are the Samsonite Rhapsody Spinner (carry-on) and Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Daypacks (personal item). If you prefer a backpack as your carry-on and a purse as your personal item, my picks are the MEC Mistral 40 Backpack (carry-on) and Roots Large Venetian Tribe (personal item).
Even when I think I’m being minimalist with my packing, I always seem to bring too many clothes. That said, I strongly urge you not to bring more than is listed here unless absolutely necessary because chances are you really, really won’t need it. Follow this famous travel saying: bring half the stuff and twice the money!
- 3 pairs of shorts – I brought 2 linen and 1 cotton. I skipped the jean shorts, as I find they are bulky and aren’t fun to wear when it’s 40 degrees Celsius out!
- 1 pair of lightweight pants – Again, not jeans, see above comment.
- 4 tops – I brought 2 linen tanks, 1 cotton t-shirt and 1 lightweight blouse.
- 3 light summer dresses – I had 2 short dresses and 1 maxi dress.
See HPL’s recommendations for travel dresses here.
- 1 bikini cover-up –I brought a sarong which can also double as a towel if need be.
- 3 bikinis – Careful not to bring ones that will give you really bad tan lines! HPL would recommend 1-2.
- 1 sportswear outfit
- 1 nice evening outfit – Dress/pants, etc. for an evening out or a nice meal. There are so many to choose from in Playa Del Carmen!
- Underwear/socks/bras – I brought 1 nude and 1 black, as well as a sports bra (they should cover all of your needs), 7 pairs of underwear and 3 pairs of socks. These can all be washed in the hotel sink if you’re in a pinch!
Check out our list of items for hand-washing clothes on the road.
- 2 pairs of sunglasses
- 1 hat
- 1 lightweight sweater and/or scarf – I usually wear my Chrysalis Cardi as a scarf on the plane (as it can get chilly there too). It’s a great item as it also doubles as a sweater, dresses and many other things!
The weather in the Yucatán is very hot/humid so I would recommend only bringing lightweight/loose fitting clothes. Fabrics that are good to have in this kind of weather are linen, cotton and quick drying sports fabrics.
However, evenings in the Yucatán can get chilly at times, so I would recommend bringing something lightweight but warm to keep you cozy during the evening.
I didn’t bring any jewelry on this trip for fear of losing it and because it weighs a lot in a suitcase.
I did a lot of walking on my trip to the Yucatán, especially when I visited the ruins of Chichén Itzá and Tulum. So I recommend bringing comfortable walking shoes, whether that be Converse or Nike’s, just be sure they won’t give you blisters.
- 1 pair of sneakers – I brought running shoes which I wore on the plane.
- 1 pair of strappy evening sandals/wedges – Or flats if those are more your style.
- 1 pair of flip flops – I brought Birkenstocks (which I basically live in) but cheap plastic flip flops also do the trick for the beach.
Toiletries and First Aid
This is a very developed area so don’t worry about forgetting something, you’ll definitely be able to purchase it there! Also, read about how long travel toiletries last.
- Makeup – Anything that is in your usual beauty routine. I would also suggest that you make your mascara waterproof and that your lip balm has SPF in it!
- Skin – I brought travel sized bottles of: Face Cleanser, Face Moisturizer, SPF 60 Sunscreen, Body Butter, Hand Cream
- Tangle Teezer – this bad boy is able to brush out any knots that may be in your hair, which will be useful when your hair is all tangled up from that salty sea water.
- Hair ties and bobby pins
- Toothbrush and toothpaste – Be sure that it is under 100 ml as bigger tubes will get thrown out by security at the airport!
- Wipes – These are great for freshening up and wiping off your face/body around lunch time when you may be all sandy and sweaty but aren’t ready to take a shower yet.
- Bar of soap – Depending on the quality of your hotel, they may offer some complimentary soap as well. I was staying in a condo so I brought some just in case.
- Travel sized bottle of baby powder – Inner thigh sweat is a real thing (at least for me it is). Also, this stuff is great as dry shampoo and a foot soother.
- Travel sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner – I simply fill GoToob bottles with my shampoo from home. Check out HPL’s review of GoToob and other travel toiletry bottles.
- First Aid Kit – I normally make my own by packing band-aids, gauze, tape and ointment in a plastic bag, along with medication I might need such as prescriptions, Ibuprofen and yup, Immodium.
- Contact solution/glasses
- Insect repellent Check out some recommended insect repellents.
- Emergen-C – This stuff is a dream when you’re feeling dehydrated or under the weather. It boosts your immune system right back up.
- Small pack of tissues – I always carry this in my purse. You never know when you’ll be using a sketchy bathroom.
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer – See note above.
- Tampons (if required) Consider the Diva Cup instead of tampons.
Avoid bringing a razor as this will get thrown out at the security check. I simply shaved my legs the day before I left and was fine for the week. An alternative would be to simply check your bag at the airport or to use an electric razor as these are permitted aboard airplanes. Or you could just buy one there if the need arises.
Editor’s note: According to the TSA website, disposable razors are allowed in carry-on luggage. Check with the security authority in the country you’re flying from/to.
- A deck of cards – This is something I love to do on the beach and can be entertainment anywhere!
- E-reader/books/magazines – My e-reader is the best purchase I have ever made! It allows me to bring so many books and is so compact so I never need to worry about packing a ton of heavy books.
- Ipod/Iphone and earphones
- Camera and memory card Check out our list of photography gear for travel.
- Chargers for all of your devices
- Waterproof phone case – I dropped my phone in the water when I was taking pictures of myself on the beach once. It was sad.
- Selfie stick – I just bought one. It changed my life and it will change yours too (don’t hate, appreciate).
- Reusable water bottle – It’s so important to stay hydrated wherever you go! The tap water in Mexico wasn’t drinkable so I brought my trusty Vapur bottle and refilled it at restaurants or convenience stores.
- Travel insurance – You never know what can happen!
- Passport/travel documents – Make sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the date you are meant to enter the country. Also, ensure that you have a paper copy of your hotel reservations – they may ask for it at customs/at check-in.
- Spanish phrase book – Most people speak basic English but it’s always appreciated when you try to speak the local language.
- Money/Credit Cards – I would recommend bringing US dollars as opposed to Pesos. Most merchants price things in USD and may not even accept Pesos.
Additional Packing Tips
- Roll all of your clothes to save space in your suitcase and avoid wrinkles!
- Use packing cubes to compress and organize your things.
- Put all liquids in a ziplock bag to avoid leaks. Or try one of these toiletry bags as an alternative.
- Place liquids and important documents at the top of your carry-on for easy access to make going through security a breeze.
- Put all in-flight essentials in your personal item so they will be easier to access during your flight. Personal item too small? Bring a packable reusable bag to place all of your items in!
- Make sure your water bottle is empty before you go through security!
- Make sure that all clothing pieces work well together – try to stick to neutral colours, with 1-2 accent colours.
Travel in the Yucatán
I stayed in Playa Del Carmen and used this as my main base to travel everywhere else in the area. It had an amazing beach (that was only a 2 minute walk away), great nightlife and shopping and just seemed to be a main hub. Alternatively, many people also stay in resorts in Riviera Maya or Cancun.
Tours are widely available and quite inexpensive, but if you’re more of a go it alone type of traveller public transportation is easy to use and inexpensive. The main attractions in the area are:
- Tulum – Beautiful beach-side Mayan ruins.
- Chichén Itzá – More jaw-dropping Mayan ruins, these with the famous pyramid.
- Xel Há – A great aquatic amusement park where you can snorkel, cliff dive, swim and relax. The price of admission also includes unlimited food and drinks!
- Xcaret – A really fun eco theme park similar to the one mentioned above, but with more of a focus on Mayan culture.
- Cenotes – Basically these huge sinkholes you can swim in. Probably my favourite activity.
- Valladolid – A nearby city to give you a taste of how locals live!
- Cozumel – A small island near Playa Del Carmen where you can snorkel and relax.
- Isla Mujeres – Another small island, but this one closer to the coast of Cancún.
- Coco Bongo – An enormous and very famous nightclub in Playa Del Carmen where you can dance the night away and see a few shows. They have various VIP packages available so be sure to shop around beforehand.
- Beaches – There are tons in the area and they are all beautiful! Bring a chair, towel, beach ball and snacks (and sunscreen!) and spend the day there.
- Markets and shopping – There is tons of shopping in Playa Del Carmen, from market finds to high end stores, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.
- Restaurants – Om nom nom! So many delicious options. I couldn’t stop ordering tacos and mojitos!
- Vibrant Mayan culture – You can learn so much about Mayan culture here (which is fascinating so I really recommend it) and even catch traditional shows.
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to the Yucatan Peninsula
Visit parts of Tulum you wouldn’t necessarily visit as a tourist and discover the town’s growing collection of mural paintings on this tour.
Combine a visit to Tulum archaeological site with a swimming and snorkeling excursion during this three-for-one, full-day combo tour.
About the Author: Katherine is from Ottawa, Canada and is the co-founder of travel and lifestyle blog, World Abound. When she isn’t working or jetting off to a new destination, Katherine can be found getting her zen on in the yoga studio or eating tacos at the nearest Mexican restaurant. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.
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