What to Pack for a Carry-On Only Vacation to Mexico with Kids

We spent a week in Mexico! It was our first international trip with the kids, who had never been on an airplane. For when we want to do something similar in future, here’s my Notes to Self.


We got lots of use from these, and I highly recommend!

  1. Rolling Suitcases. There’s so much hustling from the time you’re loading up the car to the shuttle to the airport to the transportation to the hotel lobby. With connecting flights and several large international airports, it was important that our kids could roll their stuff quickly (or we could take over if our youngest got tired) as we made our way to the other side of the airport or stood in long winding lines for Immigration. It was so nice to put their sweaters and backpacks on top and wait for them outside while they went to the restroom.
  2. Rash guards. Long sleeves and dark colors with UV protection really helped with avoiding sunburn.
  3. Sunscreen. For body and face! If I could do it again, I’d fill more of my travel sized bottles with this! We love the long lasting sport kind.
  4. Hats. Wide brimmed sun hats, baseball caps, or bucket hats worked well for collapsing or packing in a backpack /suitcase, or even wearing on the flight.
  5. Variety of footwear: Water shoes for the pool, ocean, water parks, rocky places, or all-terrain hiking. I used these for the plane ride with socks in place of tennis shoes. Sandals / easy slippers for sandy beaches and while your water shoes dry. Also great for minimal rubbing if your feet get any bug bites or sustain any injury. Dressy sandals / close-toed shoes for dinners with dress code.
  6. Bandaids and Neosporin. We got scrapes, cuts, bumps, and boo boos. I was the hero with these at the ready. Tip: Cannonballs are not for shallow waters. Wear water shoes to avoid hurting your feet.

What I Wish I Brought

#1. Baby Wipes

I don’t have babies anymore, but baby wipes would have been awesome for all the messes and unexpected stuff that happens—like food poisoning, which we experienced in full force at a Water Park and on a 2.5 hour bus ride. Wipes don’t count for the liquid limit since they’re a solid, so if you’re like us and pack Carry-on Only I would make room for it next time! Thankfully we went with friends who have a baby (therefore baby wipes), and were there for us at the worst moment.

#2. Socks

You’d think a place that’s 85 degrees on average with most of your time spent in the water would translate to, “Leave your socks at home.” I brought 2 pairs of socks for everyone, and the only reason was it was snowing at home on the way to the airport and on the way back! Turns out my kids (who immediately take their socks off at home) always wanted socks for bed, for going out to eat when they wanted to wear their dry tennis shoes instead of their wet water shoes, and for walking in the hotel room on the cold tile.

Also, mosquitoes and spiders don’t bite you on your foot as often if those feet are covered with socks. Just saying. Not like that comes from experience or anything. Oh wait, it totally does… The creepy crawly biting variety love me!! Tip: Even after the bug bites to your foot, wearing socks with sandals keeps your shoe from rubbing on the bug bite and further irritating it, providing relief and a barrier from the itching or swelling.

#3. Long Pants

Again, the warm weather can be deceiving. “I won’t want to wear pants in 85 degrees!” Oh, but you might—especially if you keep getting bug bites all over your legs because they’re the only part of you that isn’t covered in insect-repellent-treated clothing! Be better than me. Bring some breathable linen trousers, cotton joggers, utility pants, or flowy lightweight bottoms perfect for resort wear.

#4. Extra Swimsuit(s)

A majority of our time was spent in the water or beach, so having multiple bathing suits / swimwear to rotate while the wet suits dry is nice and takes very little room. Everyone had an extra, except my son who was the only person with chafing. The wet fabric rubbed against his skin in one spot so often for so long that it got irritated, red, and caused him pain. I think it happened after being in his swimsuit for most of the day at the Waterpark, and might have been avoided with a change of swimsuit or changing into dry clothes more quickly more often.

Stuff I Could Have Left at Home

  1. GoPro. I had an alternative for capturing special moments, which was more convenient to pull out. My new iPhone in a waterproof bag ended up doing the trick since the GoPro was dead (useless) the majority of the time I needed it. I thought I would use the GoPro we bought for this trip a lot more than I did. Tip: “Don’t procrastinate recharging; it will die when you need it! Also don’t leave it on for an hour on accident.” —Murphy’s Law
  2. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash. Our all-inclusive resort provided these already, but I had some just in case. Next time I would pack more sunscreen instead.
  3. Denim shorts. Didn’t wear them! Instead, we reached for athletic shorts that dried faster and weren’t as heavy or thick as denim.

This was seriously the best family trip! Our kids still talk about how much they loved our time in Mexico. I hope this helps with packing and makes preparing easier.

Love, Kat

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