15 Valuable Facts About Traveling To Mexico With Kids
I have a confession to make. I was completely unprepared for traveling to Mexico with kids. Sure, I had all the standard travel preparations done: passports, lodging, tickets. But in terms of mentally preparing for Mexico travel with kids, I was a total newbie.
Our family’s first time visiting Mexico was in 2018, and to be honest, I had many assumptions of what Mexico was like. These assumptions were fueled by the media around me: Mexico is poor, Mexico is unsafe, and Mexican culture is strange. But when I did come to Mexico with kids, all these assumptions turned out to be wrong.
We loved Mexico! And I shouldn’t have been so apprehensive about traveling to Mexico with kids. Instead, I should have spent more time researching Mexican culture and history and talking with our friends who are from there or have lived there.
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico with kids, don’t make the same mistake as me! Take a look through this list of things to know about traveling to Mexico with kids to help you mentally prepare for your trip.
This article was originally published on December 21, 2018.
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Our recommended activities for Mexico with kids
Want a quick list of things to do with kids in Mexico? Check out my top recommendations:
- Take a food walking tour in San Miguel de Allende (Guanajuato state)
- Visit Mayan ruins near Progreso (Yucatan state)
- Swim with whale sharks in La Paz (Baja Sur state)
- Cruise with pirates in Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco state)
- Experience the canals of Xochimilco in Mexico City (Mexico state)
- Hike with monarch butterflies in Michoacan state
Traveling to Mexico with kids
Since 2018, we’ve spent over 14 months traveling through Mexico with kids. In that time, we've visited over 23 cities in 10 states throughout the country.
If you're curious about the best destinations for taking kids to Mexico, take a look at these 10 day Mexico itinerary ideas on my travel with kids Mexico themed blog, Mexico Family Travel.
Our time in Mexico has given our family plenty of Mexico travel tips to share with other families. Our hope is that you won't have to go through the same worries and planning that we went through.
To help you prepare for traveling to Mexico with kids, these are 15 things you need to know before making the trip.
1. Mexico is safe for families
Parents often ask, “is Mexico safe for families?” Sadly, there’s often a misconception that Mexico is too dangerous for families. While it’s true that Mexico has more homicides per capita than the United States, (according to the World Bank), it doesn't mean the whole country is unsafe. In fact, there are many safe cities in Mexico for families to visit.
In general, I will usually answer “Yes!” to the question, “is Mexico safe for family vacation?” We’ve felt safe in the majority of the places we visited in Mexico. Whether it’s riding the Mexico City subway or driving in the Yucatán peninsula, traveling through Mexico has been a positive experience for us!
That said, as in any part of the world, your family’s safety in Mexico often depends on where you go. My advice for families planning to travel to Mexico with kids is to use the same precautions as any new place you visit.
Trust your gut and avoid situations that seem unsafe. But most of all, don’t let fear keep you from experiencing all the wonderful things about Mexico.
A great way to get to know Mexico is with a tour - they help you safely experience a city with a trusted guide. Take a look at these walking tours to book for some of our favorite cities in Mexico:
Learn how you can stay healthy while traveling in Mexico.
2. Knowing Spanish is helpful for traveling to Mexico with kids
If you're planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, it's helpful to know some Spanish before you go. While there are English speakers in many parts of Mexico, in our experience, people treat you much nicer if you speak to them in Spanish.
Take a look at some of my tips to learn Spanish for travel.
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 (we did that in Playa del Carmen). Or you can take classes from a language school (when we were in La Paz, we took Spanish language classes from El Nopal Spanish Academy).
However, if you're only visiting for a short time, one of my Mexico travel tips is to download a translating tool on your phone, like Google Translate. You can also use the Duolingo app to teach you Spanish. Our kids love Duolingo!
These language resources are also great, to help you learn some useful Spanish phrases for travel:
- Pimsleur Spanish Basic Course (CD)
- Pimsleur Spanish Level 1 (Audible audiobook)
- Rosetta Stone Learn Spanish (software)
- Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Spanish All-in-One (book)
Another tool we love is Lingopie. It’s a subscription based online and mobile app that lets you learn Spanish through movies and TV.
Ready for a change? Take the first step to living a life of full time travel.
3. Mexican culture is more than tequila, sombreros, and piñatas
Mexico has such a rich culture, yet movies and media about Mexico still often resort to cliches and stereotypes. There’s more to Mexico than mariachi, tequila, tacos, sombreros, and piñatas!
Before the arrival of the Spanish, Mexico was teeming with indigenous groups, including the Mayans, Aztecs, Teotihuacans, and the Toltecs. In addition, some of the Mexican foods and traditions stem from the indigenous cultures that existed before Spanish colonization.
During a Mexican cooking class in Puerto Vallarta, we learned that chocolate, maize, and avocado all come from the indigenous Mexican civilizations. And traditional celebrations, like Day of the Dead, also have their roots in indigenous traditions.
Today, Mexican culture is a unique blend of Spanish influence and indigenous roots. You can walk through Spanish style streets and visit ancient indigenous archeological sites. Catholicism exists alongside indigenous ceremonies.
A great way to learn about Mexican culture when you’re in Mexico with kids is to take a tour or a cultural class. Here are some of our recommendations:
- Cooking class with Cookin’ Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta
- Food walking tour with Juan More Tacos in Cabo San Lucas
- Mayan village experience in the Yucatán
- Lucha libre tour in Mexico City
Learn how to incorporate worldschooling into your travels.
4. Not all Mexican cities have beaches
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but before traveling to Mexico with kids, I had this image of Mexico as being full of tropical beaches like those found in Cancun or the Riviera Maya.
While it's true that Mexico has many beaches and resorts (we especially love the Puerto Escondido beaches!), there is a LARGE part of the country that is landlocked. Most tourists who come to Mexico will overlook the interior cities in favor of coastal towns. But I think that's a shame.
Mexico City is an amazing place to explore, with its Spanish architecture and modern designs. You can easily pack two weeks in Mexico City with a handful of activities and not see everything. And cities like San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Merida are amazing too, despite being far from a beach. In fact, we had a fantastic experience horseback riding in Guanajuato when we were there in 2019!
The Mexican landscape is vast and diverse, from canyons to rainforests, and modern cities to ancient pyramids. We were amazed at how different the landscape is among Baja California, the Yucatán peninsula, and Central Mexico. Set aside some days in your Mexico trip to visit places in Mexico beyond the beach cities.
Here are some suggested experiences for families that we like doing:
Learn more about the amazing family travel resources we use for worldschooling!
5. Be prepared to walk A LOT when you’re traveling to Mexico with kids
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. Bring along comfortable shoes that you like walking in.
Here are some of the shoes we've used for our family travel Mexico city and nature experiences. Buy them for your family!
- KEEN Women's Whisper Sandal
- Chaco Women's Athletic Sandal
- Merrell Men’s Waterproof Hiking Shoe
- KEEN Unisex-Child Newport H2 Sandal
Most of the Mexican cities we've visited still have cobblestone streets, so be prepared for uneven walking terrain. If your kids are still learning to walk, it might be helpful to carry a backpack carrier. While I've seen families with strollers in Mexico, it’s not ideal due to the uneven sidewalks and roads.
Buy one of these backpack carriers for your trip to Mexico with a baby:
- Ergobaby 360 All-Position Original Baby Carrier
- Kelty Journey PerfectFIT Signature Series Child Carrier
Remember to also practice road safety when walking through some of the city streets. Cars in Mexico can drive pretty fast through the streets. Be sure your kids know to stay off the middle of the road when you’re traveling to Mexico with kids.
6. You likely won’t need an international driving permit to drive in Mexico
If you plan to drive a car as you're traveling to Mexico with kids, rest assured you won't need to get an international driving permit (IDP) if your license is in English or Spanish. Mexico will accept your home country’s driver's license. For nationals of non-English and non-Spanish speaking countries, you will most likely need to have an IDP.
Even if you won’t need an IDP in Mexico, it might be helpful to go ahead and get one before you go to Mexico with kids in case the rules change suddenly. In the United States, you can get an international driver's permit from any AAA office. They cost $20.
If you're planning on renting a car, you will also need to purchase insurance along with the rental. This is required by Mexican law.
Also if you’re planning on road tripping through Mexico, having an old fashioned map can be really helpful. National Geographic sells a pretty detailed map that shows the major roads and highways.
Read more about driving in Mexico here.
7. Uber is available in most cities, but taxis are still the more reliable option
A lot of cities in Mexico have Uber, so if you have that app on your phone, you can use it while you're in Mexico with kids. However, waiting for an Uber to pick you up can take a long time in some cities. 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. So one of our Mexico travel tips is to do research ahead of time to get the going rate for a taxi ride. Ask other travelers, or better yet, ask locals.
In our experience, distances of 1-2 kilometers usually cost around 50 pesos (roughly $2.50 USD). Most hotels will have taxis waiting near the entrance, so you won't have to go far to find one.
8. Buses are a great way to get around Mexico
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. The one we've used the most is ETN. They run between many of the major cities around North, Western, and Central Mexico. Another bus company that we’ve used 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.
Check out all the destinations you can visit on your next trip to Mexico with kids.
9. You can buy almost anything you need in Mexico
Before traveling to Mexico with kids, I thought that I would need to stock up on supplies for travel. Little did I know that you can pretty much get anything you need in Mexico.
Despite what the news media might portray, Mexico is not a poor country (though it does have a high poverty rate). In 2022, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Mexico totaled $1.47 trillion, ranking as the 14th largest economy in the world. And according to the World Bank, Mexico holds the distinction of being an upper middle income country, similar to countries like Costa Rica, Peru, and Thailand.
This is all to say that you won't need to worry about not being able to find things in Mexico. We've bought clothes, medicine, phone chargers, and wine while in Mexico! The brands may not be the same as in the United States, but you're better off saving space in your luggage for souvenirs anyway.
10. Take advantage of plazas and public squares for playing around
One downside of being in Mexico with kids is the lack of access to playgrounds. A lot of cities in Mexico unfortunately lack many playgrounds for families in Mexico.
In San Miguel de Allende, for example, we often frequented Parque Juarez, which has the city’s main playground. Other cities we’ve been to (like Oaxaca or La Paz) similarly only have a few public playgrounds.
However, you'll find that most cities will have gardens and public squares where kids can run around. So while there aren't very many playgrounds in Mexican cities, there are plenty of open public spaces where your kids can play and burn off energy.
We found this to be the case in Guanajuato, Merida, and San Cristobal. So when you find yourself in need of some outdoor downtime in Mexico with kids, park yourself at a plaza and let your kids run around.
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11. Feeding a family won't cost you a fortune if you're traveling to Mexico with kids
One of the things we look forward to when traveling to Mexico with kids is the low cost of living. Costs in Mexico are quite affordable (assuming that you’re living on a modest US budget). You truly can feed a family with very little money in Mexico.
For our family, a meal at an average restaurant costs about 400-600 pesos, which is roughly $20-$30 USD. This includes three to four entrees (we sometimes split our meals) and drinks for all of us.
If we eat at a taco stand, we can get by with paying between 300-500 pesos ($15-$25, including tip). But if we eat at a fancy restaurant, we can sometimes spend around 900 to 1,200 pesos ($45-$60).
If you're traveling on a budget, you'll be able to afford the inexpensive restaurants. Or better yet, hit up the local markets for some great (affordable) produce. But if you want to enjoy yourself while you're in Mexico, you can certainly do that too.
For example, take a look at some of our favorite San Miguel de Allende restaurants. In some cities, you'll be able to find a wide selection of cuisines from around the world when you're visiting Mexico with kids.
Check out how much it costs to live one month in Mexico with kids.
12. Be wary of the tap water and bring a water bottle with a filter
Although some travelers will say otherwise, Mexican tap water is not really safe to drink. In San Miguel de Allende, for example, the water has very high levels of arsenic. And in San Cristobal de las Casas, both my husband and I got very sick, likely from eating fruit rinsed in tap water.
If you're planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, be prepared to buy bottled water. Most Airbnb rentals will have a 20 liter jug of water (called a garrafon) available for guests. If you’re staying in a hotel, they might provide you with bottled water.
A more environmentally friendly alternative to buying bottled water is to bring along a water bottle with a filter and purifier. For our family, we like using GRAYL bottles, which have a built-in water purifier and filter that takes out particles, metals, and pathogens. So we feel perfectly safe drinking water from the tap, once we've filtered it through our GRAYL bottle.
You can buy your own GRAYL bottle using the links below:
With all the walking and activities you're sure to do in Mexico, having plenty of water is absolutely important.
13. Holidays are a great time for traveling to Mexico with kids
From what we've observed from traveling to Mexico with kids, people in Mexico love celebrating holidays. It's one thing I admire about Mexican culture. The cities go all out with dancing, parades, and festivities.
We’ve been in Mexico for religious holidays like Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), Christmas, Semana Santa (Holy Week), and Easter, along with minor regional holidays celebrating various patron saints. And we’ve also experienced civic holidays like New Year’s Day, Constitution Day, and Revolution Day. Coming to Mexico during a holiday can be a perfect worldschooling opportunity for families, as it gives you a chance to learn about the history and culture of Mexico and then experiencing the celebrations in person.
One thing to note, some of the celebrations do involve fireworks. During the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato, we heard fireworks in the night and well into the early morning. If your kids get scared of fireworks, prepare them ahead of time before coming to Mexico. Most of the time, you will hear them but may not be able to see them.
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14. Nature in Mexico is amazing!
Another great thing about traveling to Mexico with kids is the opportunities to experience nature in Mexico. We love all the outdoor activities you can do in Mexico!
I already mentioned horseback riding through the hills of Guanajuato state, as well as seeing the monarch butterfly migration in Michoacan state. We’ve also released baby sea turtles in Puerto Escondido, swam with whale sharks in La Paz, snorkeled with wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta, and observed flamingos in Celestun.
Besides the animals, the Mexican landscape has plenty of beautiful hills, mountains, and trees that vary depending on the region. If you’re a nature loving family, you definitely don’t want to miss out on experiencing all the nature that Mexico has to offer.
Book one of these tours to have the same types of animal experiences we did when we were in Mexico:
- Baby sea turtle release in Puerto Escondido
- Bioluminescent boat tour in Puerto Escondido
- Swimming with whale sharks in La Paz
- Wild dolphin snorkeling experience in Puerto Vallarta
15. Don't be afraid to go off the beaten path when you're traveling to Mexico with kids
There are so many amazing places to explore in Mexico! If you really want to get a feel for Mexican culture, it's best to go beyond the standard family friendly resorts and destinations when you're traveling to Mexico with kids.
As I mentioned earlier, Mexico is more than just beach towns. During our times traveling to Mexico with kids, we really enjoyed walking through old colonial plazas, hiking in the forests, and driving through small towns.
There were many parts of Mexico we visited that didn’t have a lot of foreign tourists, and that really gave us a chance to experience Mexico from a non-commercial perspective. Additionally, it helps us spread our tourism dollars to destinations beyond the tourist spots.
If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, leave some space in your itinerary to go off the beaten path (beyond the tourist spots of Cancun, Tulum, Los Cabos, and other beach resorts). Take some day trips to one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos or UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Or better yet, spend a few nights in or near one of them!
Look for hotels in these Pueblos Magicos or cities with UNESCO sites that we’ve visited and enjoyed:
Learn more impactful ways you can travel responsibly with your family.
Why you should consider traveling to Mexico with kids
Mexico has truly captured our hearts. I am so glad we ended up traveling to Mexico with kids during our family gap year. It’s a place that we feel really connected to now.
In our opinion, taking children to Mexico is always a great idea. Mexico is an amazing country to visit. 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.
It's so easy 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.
Ready to experience traveling to Mexico with kids? Go book that ticket now!
Are you planning to visit Mexico as part of a long term travel adventure? Get my family gap year guide, Hey Kids, Let’s Go Travel! for resources, advice, and actionable steps for planning your trip.
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