Mexico is a fantastic destination to explore as a family! Mexico is a huge country, we narrowed down this family-friendly itinerary to seven locations to explore over six weeks, moving west to east. We’ll start our six-week itinerary in Mexico with kids in the Pacific resort town of Puerto Vallarta, and end in Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state.
We spent the first six months of our family year out (what’s that?) exploring the United States, with a lot of road trips including one into Canada and one into Baja Norte. When we embarked on this adventure through Mexico, our girls were aged 4 and 7.
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Exploring Mexico with Kids
Puerto Vallarta is a great starting city because there are many inexpensive flights from the United States landing here. We also felt that a beach location would be a great way to ease into our travels.
This trip ends in Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state, to coincide with a WorldSchool Popup. We will join other worldschooling families for a week of educational activities and fun. We are hopeful that this will create great social experiences for our girls. As we travel, our girls often struggle to have enough social interaction with peers.
Mexico is full of family-friendly destinations. Some families traveling to Mexico are looking for a relaxing beach vacation- they tend to choose the resort areas of Cabo, Cancun, or Isla Mujeres.
While we love beautiful beaches, we were looking to combine beach towns with other cities for a more authentic Mexican experience. We wanted to expose our kids to different areas of Mexico with different traditions and different cuisine.
A Note About Pace:
The longer we travel, the slower we tend to move. We expect to be traveling internationally for at least a year, so we are slowing down to minimize costs, and avoid travel burnout.
You may find that you prefer a faster or slower pace for your family. This six-week itinerary is designed to be a guideline for you to modify to create your own trip across Mexico with kids, we’ll include alternate or additional stops of interest when we can.
Puerto Vallarta- 7 Nights
Puerto Vallarta is a popular resort town on the Pacific Ocean, halfway down the Western coast of Mexico. Known for its beautiful beaches, and charming Zona Romantico, it’s a great place to soak up some sun and also have wonderful cultural experiences.
If you are coming from the West Coast of the US, be aware that Puerto Vallarta (and most of central Mexico) is 2 hours ahead of California, putting it at the same time as Central Standard Time.
Puerto Vallarta is also a top-notch place to see Humpback whales- starting in mid-December each year thousands of Humpback whales migrate through the bay around Puerto Vallarta, making for amazing wildlife experiences.
A whale watch in Puerto Vallarta is a great opportunity to see humpback whales which are pretty easy to spot from December to March.
This whale watch includes either breakfast (yummy chilaquiles), and drinks for the morning departure or lunch for the afternoon trip. The water can be rough at times, but nothing too dramatic. The kids really enjoyed the trip, though they were tired by the long ride back and ended up taking a nap.
Book Now: Whale Watch in Puerto Vallarta
Enjoy a day at the beach on Playa Los Muertos, then head north through the Zona Romantica to Isle Rio Caule, where you can explore a famous flea market. Some of the handmade items here were beautiful, we’re trying hard not to buy things, as our bags are too heavy already!
Stroll over the Rio Cuale bridge to the downtown area. Just north of here is the Malecon (boardwalk) where you’ll wander along the sea, past 15 large sculptures. There are a mix of vendors here, from art galleries to coffee shops and restaurants. The Chocomuseum is here if you want to stop for a chocolate-making workshop.
There are many great day trips from Puerto Vallarta including the smaller beach towns of Sayulita, Bucerías, and Yelapa.
Getting to Puerto Vallarta:
We flew United Airlines from San Francisco, it’s a 3 hr, 45 minutes flight. We recommend Skyscanner to find the best flights for your family.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta:
Budget Hotel: Flamingo Vallarta Hotel & Marina.
This hotel is right on the marina, north of the zona romantic, so a better deal than many of the more zona romantic hotels.
The hotel has an “all-inclusive” option and an onsite restaurant which is a buffet, at a set price without an a la carte option. There is a well-manicured garden area, and a pool with several different depths (1 foot, 5 foot, 6 inches), which makes it ideal for younger kids.
The pool and garden area are lovely, and the lobby is well decorated. The rooms are large, and although the furniture is a bit shabby, the beds are comfortable.
Book Now: Flamingo Vallarta Hotel & Marina
Hotel in the Zona Romantica: Hotel Posada de Roger. This hotel has a great location in the zona romantic. It’s walking distance to Playa de Los Muertos. There is a shared kitchen as well as a restaurant on site.
We booked this one and then reconsidered based on price, but I think we’ll actually make up the difference between eating breakfast out and paying for more taxi rides.
Book Now: Hotel Posada de Roger
Day Trip: Yelapa
From Puerto Vallarta, consider a day trip to the fishing village of Yelapa. It has a lovely, wide beach, and a village that winds through the jungle.
There are no cars on Yelapa, and it can only be reached by horse, ATV, or water taxi. Many tourists never leave the beach, but the village is where the charm is, make sure to explore the town.
Check out the details of our one day itinerary in Yelapa.
Getting to Yelapa:
Take a pangas (water taxi) from either Playa de Los Muertos Pier, or Boca de Tomatlan. The boat ride from Los Muertos, which is in the zona romantic, takes about an hour each way. Buy tickets on the street before getting in line at the Pier. You can check the schedule here.
Day Trip: Bucerías
Bucerías is about half an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. It is a smaller town, with a central square, church, and El Buzo, the diving sculpture next to the big town letters.
This town makes a lovely day trip- the beach is wide, sandy, and the waves are gentle, making it perfect for families. Grab a seat at a palapa on the beach, enjoy some homemade lemonade, and play in the sand.
When you are ready to escape the busy center of town, head south through the market full of souvenirs, to the Paseo del Beso, the alley of the kiss. Cross the river- there used to be a bridge at the end of the alley, but it was under construction when we were there.
Across the bridge stroll down Calle Làzaro Càrdenas. It’s a quiet street with shops and restaurants.
Getting to Bucieras:
Take a taxi or Uber from Puerto Vallarta, it should cost you around 250 pesos for a direct trip one way.
Alternate Stop: Artists Market in Nuevo Vallarta
On Saturday, the Tianguis Artesanal is held in Nuevo Vallarta, in between Puerto Vallarta and Bucíeras.
This is a small market, but you’ll find high-quality artists here, as well as a few food vendors. If you’re looking for jewelry, or want to snack on a hand-pressed tortilla, this makes a great stop on the way to Bucíeras.
San Miguel de Allende- 4 Nights
San Miguel de Allende is a colonial town, that in 2018 was named “Best City in the World” by Travel & Leisure Magazine for its combination of creative restaurants, and beautiful architecture.
San Miguel de Allende is known for Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, its pink gothic church, which is along one side of the central plaza, called El Jardin.
Enjoy wandering through the picturesque Centro (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site) and visiting artisanal markets, or relax in El Jardin. The Centro is all pedestrian, full of cobblestone streets, alleys, and inner courtyards.
Visit Mercado del Carmen for dinner- this open-air food market is known for its wide variety of delicious cuisine- from tacos to sushi, to curry. We passed the entrance to this several times without realizing it. Once you find the sign, proceed through the first restaurant to the back courtyard to find the Mercado.
Don’t Miss our top tips on what Not to do in San Miguel de Allende!
Getting to San Miguel de Allende:
Fly to Querétaro Intercontinental Airport (QRO) via Volaris Airlines, then take a shuttle 1 1/2 hours to San Miguel de Allende. For the shuttle, if not offered by your hotel, you can book online at Baji Go.
Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende: Posada Maria Luisa. This small hotel is an easy walk to the center of San Miguel de Allende. Decorated with carved wooden headboards, and traditional textiles, they have family rooms with a king bed, full bed, sofa bed, and balcony. Depending on your room, the traffic outside can be a bit loud, but overall it’s a lovely place.
Book Now: Posada Maria Luisa
Mexico City- 7 Nights
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and a vibrant mix of modern and historic architecture. There is so much to explore here, you could spend months wandering through just a few neighborhoods.
Don’t miss the Zocalo, with its Aztec ruins at El Templo Mayor, and the beautiful Palacio de Bellas Artes.
You may want to also include a visit to Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s home that is now a museum. While there, you’ll want to explore other parts of the Coyoacán neighborhood.
Mexico City is easy to navigate using the metro system, though you may want to avoid rush hour if possible. Please note that suitcases are not allowed on the metro, so plan to take a taxi or Uber if you need to move around with luggage. Kids under 5 ride free.
The metro can get crowded. We are used to the New York City Subway, so it didn’t bother us, but be prepared for crowded cars. We found that at times it was fairly empty, and at other times there were large crowds. We were always able to get onto the first train that arrived, but there were rarely free seats.
Getting to Mexico City:
Primera Plus bus from San Miguel de Allende to Mexico City. This bus ride is 3 hr, 50 minutes to the Northern Bus Station in Mexico City, called the Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte.
Where to Stay in Mexico City: Departamentos Amueblados la Condesa. This is a full 2 bedroom apartment in the Condesa neighborhood. This apartment is a few blocks from the Bosque de Chapultepec and an easy walk to the Chapultepec metro station. We loved this neighborhood, and this apartment is halfway between all the restaurants and parks on one side, and the metro on the other.
Book Now: Departamentos Amueblados la Condesa
Day Trip: Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan is one of the most important archeological sites in Mexico. This vast site was once a city of over 100,000 people. It’s a mystery who actually built it, after it was abandoned it was taken over by the Aztec people, who gave this site the temple names we know today.
The Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon are the main large temples that anchor the site- unfortunately, you cannot currently climb them.
There are a few informational signs around Teotihuacan, but many of them have faded to an unreadable state. You’ll need a guide, or at least a guidebook to understand what you are seeing here.
Getting to Teotihuacan:
We visited Teotihuacan on a day tour that included stops at Tlatelolco and the Basilica Guadalupe. This was a convenient way to see a few major sites without worrying about getting ourselves around, and most importantly, meant we had a guide to give us some context at Teotihuacan.
Book Now: Teotihuacan Day Tour
If you’d prefer to head to Teotihuacan on your own, to explore at your own speed, take a bus from Autobuses del Norte (you can get there on the Metro via the yellow 5 line).
Inside the bus station, you’ll find a ticket window that says “Autobuses Teotihuacan” close to Gate 8. Buses leave about every 10 minutes. The bus ride takes about an hour to get to the pyramids.
Puebla- 3 Nights
Puebla is just two hours southeast of Mexico City and is often visited as a day trip from Mexico City, but there’s a lot to see here. There are lots of ornate churches, and charming, colorful alleys to wander through.
Puebla is the site of the Battle of Puebla, where the Mexican Army defeated the French Army. This victory is celebrated annually as Cinqo de Mayo. Puebla is also where the Mexican Revolution started. A fun fact, people who live in Puebla are called poblanos.
Start with the zocalo, and Puebla Cathedral, which has a stunning alter. Talavera pottery is made in Puebla- visit Uriarte (Av. 4 Pte. 911) to learn about the process.
Be sure to try Chiles en Nogada (stuffed pepper with nogada sauce) when pomegranates are in season. All year-round, you can sample mole poblano- Puebla’s specific version of mole sauce.
Don’t miss wandering around Callejon de Los Sapos, a street filled with colorful homes and shops, on the weekend you’ll find an open-air antique market here with everything from jewelry to figurines.
Getting to Puebla:
Take the ADO bus from Mexico City (2 hours). There are departures from two terminals, Terminal de Autobuses de Pasajeros de Oriente and Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte. Check the map to see which is most convenient for you based on where you are staying in Mexico City.
Check Schedule: ADO Bus from Mexico City to Puebla
Where to Stay in Puebla: Milagro Hotel. This hotel is right in the center of Puebla. A restored colonial house, decorated with a modern twist. It has a lovely interior courtyard and an onsite restaurant.
The rooms are on the second floor, with the courtyard in the middle. Our room had two king beds, high ceilings, and a cool stained glass window set deep in the stone wall. This was one of the prettiest rooms we’ve had- there were two separate sleeping spaces with a closet in the middle and a small refrigerator.
Book Now: Milagro Hotel
Day Trip: Cholula
From Puebla, take a day trip to the town of Cholula, known for the largest (by area) pyramid in Latin America. Just 30 minutes from Puebla, Cholula is a “pueblo magico”, or “magic town” designated for its cultural value.
Getting to Cholula:
Cholula is only about a 20-minute drive from Puebla, so it’s easiest to take an Uber or call a taxi. It should cost you around 200 Pesos each way.
There was a free, (then cheap) tourist train from Puebla to Cholula which dropped you right by the pyramid. However, the tourist train stopped running on January 1, 2022.
Huatulco- 5 Nights
Huatulco is a beach town south of Oaxaca on the Pacific Ocean. It is known for its nine bays. While there are some upscale beach resorts here, a lot of the bays are actually part of a protected national park. You’ll sometimes see it on maps as Santa Cruz Huatulco.
Playa Entrega is a great, easy place to introduce kids to snorkeling- the water is calm, and changes depth gradually.
There’s a lot to see and do here- the “7 Bays Tour” comes highly recommended. You’ll see 7 different bays, many in the national park, do some snorkeling, and have lunch on the beach.
Check Prices: Huatulco 7 Bays Full Day Tour
We are also excited to visit a sea turtle sanctuary and hopefully release baby sea turtles back into the ocean. This will be a real “Moana” moment for our family! I’m excited about this one!
Also, there are tours to see a bioluminescent bay! We did something similar in Puerto Rico on our honeymoon, and it was stunning. We are hoping to arrange this at a time our kids can handle, as many of the group tours return at midnight.
There is a tour that combines the bioluminescent bay with a sea turtle sanctuary, which could make for a fantastic, memorable day. The drives are long, so you will get back late, it may be worth bringing PJs and letting the kids sleep on the way back.
Check Prices: Sea Turtles & Bioluminescent Bay Tour
Huatulco is 2 hours East of the surf town of Puerto Escondido. We considered visiting there instead, as it’s a bit more laid back, and many tours seem to head in that direction. However, since it’s a surf town, the beaches are less family-friendly, with stronger surf.
Getting to Huatulco:
From Puebla, take the ADO Bus to the Mexico City Airport, (2 hrs 15 min) then fly direct to HUX on Volaris Air (1 hr 10 min).
The ADO bus going to the Mexico City airport leaves from Paseo Destino, a mall in southern Puebla. It arrives at Terminal 1 of the airport. Our bus stopped at Terminal 2, then continued on to Terminal 1.
Check Schedule: ADO Bus from Puebla to Mexico City
Volaris Airlines has a nonstop flight, (1 hr 10 minutes) from Mexico City to Huatulco.
Getting to and from Huatulco can be a bit of a challenge. We originally were considering a geographic path of Mexico City to Oaxaca, then Oaxaca to Huatulco.
However, the bus ride from Oaxaca to Huatulco is about 9 hours, and we didn’t want to do that twice. You can fly from Huatulco to Oaxaca, but not directly, you’ll need to transit through Mexico City.
We found it made more sense to fly from Mexico City to Huatulco, then take the bus to Oaxaca. From Oaxaca, there are direct flights to our next destination, Merida.
There is no Uber in Huatulco, so you’ll need to take an official airport taxi into town after you arrive. Once you are in town, the taxi stands have posted prices for poplar locations, just confirm the price with your driver.
Where to Stay in Hualtulco: Hotel Santa Cruz Huatulco. This budget hotel has a great location close to the marina. It is an easy walk to Playa Santa Cruz and has a lovely pool with a shaded palapa area. There is also a restaurant and bar on site. We found this hotel to be clean, basic, and in a great location. They have water coolers in the hallways where you can fill your water bottle.
Book Now: Hotel Santa Cruz Huatulco
Oaxaca- 5 Nights
Oaxaca City (officially Oaxaca de Juarez) is the capital city of Oaxaca State. This state is in southern Mexico, about a 6 1/2 hour drive from Mexico City. This beautiful, colonial city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Oaxaca is considered the home of mole sauce, chocolate, and even stone soup! Oaxaca is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in Mexico- the Zapotecs and Mixtecs are the most populous, but more than 18 ethnic groups are represented.
The Centro Historico is where most tourists stay, this area around the zocalo (main square) is very walkable. Start with a free walking tour to get oriented. This tour starts at 10:00 each day, from Teatro Macedonio Alcala. Look for the yellow t-shirt or yellow umbrella.
There are lots of fun markets in Oaxaca, from the Mercado de Artisanias de Oaxaca (the artists market with art, crafts, textiles, etc), to the Mercado de Benito Juarez, with traditional shops and lots of food.
Be sure to stroll the pedestrian street of Calle de Macedonia Alcala, filled with shops and restaurants. The botanical garden is fantastic- you can only visit by guided tour, check the schedule for the English tours, and get there early to get in line as spaces are limited.
While in Oaxaca, visit El Tule, the largest tree on earth (by diameter). Located in the small town of Santa Maria del Tule, it’s about ten minutes from Oaxaca, you can get there by taxi, collectivo, or bus.
When I traveled across Mexico as a backpacker almost 20 years ago (which sounds crazy, time flies!) Oaxaca was one of my favorite regions of Mexico. I’m excited to go back as a family and see if this is still the case!
Uber is not available in Oaxaca, so you’ll need to rely on taxis or buses to move around outside the city center.
Don’t miss our full post on where to eat in Oaxaca with kids.
Getting To Oaxaca:
Take the ADO bus from Huatulco to Oaxaca, approx. 9 hours.
This was a very difficult route to book ahead of time, for some reason it wasn’t listed on many of the bus booking sites. I was finally able to book the route via Clickbus with an AMEX card only.
Where to Stay in Oaxaca: Hotel Oaxaca Real. A restored colonial mansion in the center of Oaxaca. Walking distance to the major Centro sites, it has a lovely interior courtyard with a small pool in the middle. Rooms here are small, but the kids enjoyed the morning hot chocolate in the lobby.
Book Now: Hotel Oaxaca Real
Day Trip: Monte Alban
Monte Alban is the most important archeological site in Oaxaca. This Mesoamerican site was inhabited for over 1500 years by the Olmecs, Zapotecs, and Mixtecs people.
The entrance fee to the ruins is 75 pesos. You can climb many of the structures, which makes it a great place to explore. You’ll also see an observatory and ball court.
Make sure to bring water and perhaps a hat, as there is very little shade at the site.
Getting to Monte Alban:
Monte Alban is only about 10 Km from Oaxaca City, so there are several easy ways to get there. Taxis and Ubers are the most expensive option but offer the most flexibility.
Travel agencies arrange shuttle buses from the city center. Check with agencies around the main square. You will generally have a set time to return to the shuttle, giving you a few hours to explore the site.
One of the easiest ways to get to Monte Alban is on an organized tour. You’ll get tons of information about the site, and not have to plan your own transportation.
Merida- 11 Nights
Merida is the capital city of the Yucatan state and is considered the center of Yucutan culture. Merida is very hot (even in February), so it’s best to plan activities for the morning and evening, and spend the hottest part of the afternoon indoors.
Start exploring Merida with kids on a free walking tour of the city- it leaves at 9:30 each morning from the Plaza Grande. Register with the Merida Tourist office ahead of time to join the tour, you’ll find the office on the west side of the main square.
Part of what sets Merida apart from other cities in Mexico is the wide boulevard of Paseo de Montejo. This street is flanked by grand homes from the colonial period. You can visit some that have been converted into museums, or just stroll through to admire the architecture.
There are tons of cultural experiences around Merida- check out a traditional game of Pok Ta Pok (Mayan ball game) every Wednesday at 8 pm in front of the cathedral at Plaza Grande. This performance is popular and starts with a cleansing ceremony around 7:45, so arrive early to get a seat.
We also enjoyed Noche Mexicana, which is a free performance of folk songs and dances from around Mexico. This is held every Saturday from 8 pm until midnight at the Remate de Paseo de Montejo. Seats are easier to get for this, so you don’t need to arrive much before the start time.
From Merida, you can explore several pre-Hispanic sites including Uxmal, Mayapan, and Chichen Itza.
We met up with a group of worldschoolers in Merida, which is why we choose to stay in this location for so long. If we were just visiting on our own, a week would be enough time to see the city and take a few day trips to sites around Merida.
Did you know that Chichen Itza is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World? This pyramid is worth seeing, as are the other wonders, including Christ the Redeemer which is part of our Brazil Itinerary, and of course, the Taj Mahal in India!
Getting to Merida:
Fly Volaris, they have one non-stop flight from Oaxaca (OAX) to Merida (MID), 1 hr 32 min.
This non-stop flight is less expensive and faster than the flights through Mexico City. This flight only operates on Monday and Friday mornings.
Where to Stay in Merida: Apartment via Airbnb. Since we will be in Merida for 11 nights, we chose an Airbnb in the neighborhood of García Ginerés, northwest of the Centro. We found that there were not a lot of restaurant options close to us, so we spent a lot of time taking Ubers in and out of the Centro. In the future, we would stay a bit closer into the Centro.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel María Jose. This hotel gets great reviews, is an easy walk to everything in the Centro, has a pool for those hot afternoons, and breakfast is included, all at a fantastic price.
Book Now: Hotel María Jose
Cancun- 1-5 Nights
Cancun has a reputation as a party town- and while it can be that, there are also a lot of family-friendly things to do as well. Cancun is packed with hotels, resorts, and restaurants. You will find many all-inclusive places, as well as simple downtown hotels.
Cancun has beautiful beaches (though stinky seaweed called sargassum has been a problem the past few years), Mayan ruins, water parks, pirate-themed dinner cruises, and more.
Just 15 minutes by ferry is Isla Mujeres, which has more beaches, shops, and restaurants. A golf cart is a popular way to get around the island. The north is more walkable, while the south end of the island has a more quiet, isolated feel.
Cancun is one hour later than central Mexico, putting it on US Eastern Standard Time.
Getting To Cancun:
Take the bus from Merida to Cancun. ADO buses run every half hour, approx. 4 1/2 hours.
Strangely, buses don’t run directly from Merida to the Cancun airport. Cancun is a popular transit point, so you’ll find a lot of good deals flying in and out of this airport.
You can also choose to fly out of the Merida airport, but you’ll have to transfer in Mexico City. We opted to take the bus to Cancun, then fly out the next day.
Where to Stay in Cancun:
There are several areas to choose from in Cancun, we’ll be staying downtown since we are only staying one night.
If you’re planning to stay a few days and enjoy the beach, you’ll want to either get a hotel on the northern end of the hotel zone or take the ferry out to Isla Mujeres and stay at a resort there.
Isla Mujeres allows you to have beachfront access and be able to walk to restaurants and shops, while staying on the beach in Cancun you’ll need to take a taxi into town.
Downtown Budget Hotel: Adhara Hacienda Cancun
This colorful colonial-style hotel is in the walkable downtown area. There is a pool with varying depths and a swim-up bar. They also provide a shuttle to the beach. A great choice for a quick stopover if you are flying out of Cancun.
Book Now: Adhara Hacienda Cancun
Isla Mujeres Beachfront Hotel: Hotel Paradise Suites
This peaceful hotel is steps from Norte Beach. Some rooms include a kitchenette. This beautiful hotel has the best of both worlds- walking to restaurants and shops, but easy access to the beach.
Book Now: Hotel Paradise Suites
Cancun Beachfront Hotel: Krystal Grand Cancun
This resort right on the beach on the north side of the peninsula has wonderful beach access. It also has a large two-level pool, so you swim in deeper water or relax in a lounger in the shallow area. All rooms include a balcony.
Book Now: Krystal Grand Cancun
Visas and Requirements: What Do I Need to Enter Mexico?
Americans do not need a visa to enter Mexico. You will need to fill out an FMM immigration form. If you are staying in Mexico for more than seven days, there is a fee of $30 USD. You can pay this online if traveling across the border by land, but if you are flying into Mexico, the fee is included in your airfare.
Fill out the FMM form online, print it out, and bring a paper copy with you to the border. Beware, there are many sites that will try to charge you for filing your paperwork for you, make sure you are using the free government site (linked above). If you are flying into Mexico, you can also fill this form out on the plane.
Be sure to always check changing requirements and regulations, as the situation can change quickly.
Is Mexico Safe for Families?
Mexico is generally safe for families, though, like any place, you need to take some basic precautions. Use your street smarts- do not stray too far from tourist-friendly neighborhoods unless you have knowledge of the specific area.
Avoid driving at night, and opt for Uber or official taxis from a taxi stand rather than hailing a taxi on the street.
Do not flash expensive items, or obviously carry a lot of cash.
Be sure to watch anyone swiping your credit card, they should never turn their back on you while holding your card (giving them a chance to double swipe and save your card info).
Worried about safety? We’ve compiled our best safety tips for families.
Can I Drink the Water in Mexico?
The water in Mexico is notorious for making American tourists ill. The water in Mexico has different bacteria than most US water, so most American stomachs are not accustomed to it. For the same reason, Mexicans visiting the US often get sick from drinking the water here.
It’s best to drink either bottled water or to filter or sanitize the water before you drink it. Water bottles with built-in filters like LifeStraw clean the water as you drink.
We prefer using Steripen, which purifies the water with ultraviolet light. It takes a minute to do, but Steripen is rechargeable, and we don’t have to worry about carrying around extra filters.
Check Prices: Steripen Water Purifier
Getting Around Mexico
There are lots of ways to move around Mexico, but keep in mind that the distances between cities can be vast. We originally were planning to move mostly overland but realized that we are better off taking some short, low-cost flights, rather than overnight or very long bus rides.
Flying within Mexico
We’ve booked all of our internal flights via Volaris. They have great prices and flew the routes we needed. Also, if you take several flights with them, you can save money with either v.club depending on the class far you choose.
Always check Skyscanner for the best prices on any route. One of the things I love about Skyscanner is that once you choose your flight they direct you to the airline website to actually book the flight, so you aren’t dealing with a middleman if you need to make changes.
Check Flights: Skyscanner
Booking Flights on Volaris
Like most low-cost airlines, Volaris makes most of its money with extras, from luggage to seat selection. Mandatory airport taxes also increase the cost. Make sure to click all the way through the online process to get a complete quote for your intended flight.
Volaris has several different classes of fares. When you search for your flight, you’ll see a calendar view that allows you to compare fares for different days. Initial fares can start as low as $10 USD per person if you book at least a month in advance. It’s best to set the search engine to Mexican Pesos so that you avoid their currency translator.
Volaris has Regular Prices and v.club Prices. If you will be flying several times with Volaris, you’ll need to search all the fares at once to calculate whether the v.club membership makes sense for you.
Volaris v.club Membership
The v.club membership has an annual cost of 2,000 pesos for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids. You’ll then save on each individual ticket that you purchase. Be aware that the larger quoted number is the v.club cost per month, but the full year is charged at one time.
Depending on which fare class you chose, you’ll need to fly more often to make back the cost of the v.club and save money. If you choose a v.club flight, the initial membership cost will be included in your first purchase.
Volaris Fare Classes
We booked the lowest Base fare, which includes two cabin bags with a combined weight limit of 22 pounds for each passenger, and the last priority for boarding. The Classic fare includes the same baggage, but with a weight limit of 44 pounds and is the second priority for boarding. This makes sense if you are bringing most of your luggage as a carry-on and need the extra weight.
The final fare class is Plus, which includes the same cabin bags as Classic, plus one included checked bag and priority boarding.
Volaris Extras: Luggage and Seats
As you proceed through booking you can add extra cabin weight to a specific passenger, and add checked baggage for a fee of 350 pesos per bag.
You will also have to pay an Airport Usage Fee, which is sometimes as much or more than the fare itself.
Next, you will select seats. Hover over the map of the plane to see the price of each seat. As you move to the back of the plane, the price decreases. I generally book us two window seats and two middle seats at the front of the cheapest section. Seats range from $200 pesos for premium, to 60 pesos near the rear of the plane.
You’re almost there! You’ll need to enter your personal details and payment to confirm the flight.
It’s worth noting that I got to this point in my plane ticket search several times and then was unable to complete the booking online. When that happened, I downloaded the Volaris App and was able to make a purchase easily through the app on my phone.
Taking Buses in Mexico
There are several major bus companies in Mexico- Primera Plus and ETN operate mostly in Central Mexico, ADO has extensive coverage across Central Mexico and the Yucutan.
The First Class buses are generally comfortable, with reclining seats, bathrooms, and overhead tv screens.
Many of the bus companies allow you to save money by booking seats ahead of time, but many of the direct bus company websites do not currently accept US credit cards.
Finding each route and pre-booking can be time-consuming, we’ve outlined above for each specific route where we were able to pre-book with US credit cards. In many cases, Bookaway is a great way to prebook tickets.
Check Schedules: Bookaway Bus Routes
You can also book your onward journey ahead of time at the bus station when you first arrive in town. We were more likely to use this strategy pre-kids. Now, we’d much rather have the arrangements made ahead of time than drag the kids to the bus station to stand in line to buy our next set of tickets.
Finally, you can book your ticket the day you travel, but you’ll pay a little more, and may find you have to wait for the next trip if the bus is already full.
Taking Uber and Taxis in Mexico
Uber operates throughout most of Mexico (Lyft does not). Taking an Uber is a great way to get around as they are often cheaper than taxis, and the cost is clear and upfront.
We have found that there is often a 10-20 minute wait for an Uber, but it is great for getting a price quote. Then if we opt for a taxi we know about what we should be paying.
Cabify is a similar ride-sharing app that works well in Northern and Central Mexico such as Tijuana, Guadalajara, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Puebla, as well as in Merida.
If you decide to use a taxi in Mexico, it’s best to take a taxi from a hotel or other taxi stand, rather than hailing one from the street. Restaurants can also call a taxi for you. Always check for a meter or agree on a price beforehand.
Renting a Car in Mexico
Renting a car in Mexico is a great way to get out of the center of towns and explore the region more thoroughly. If you choose to rent a car in Mexico, we recommend Discover Cars.
Discover Cars is very upfront about what is included in your car rental. They also offer free cancelation if your plans change. Many other services will quote a very low price, which will almost double once mandatory insurance is included.
Don’t miss our complete post on driving around Mexico for more safety tips and details about driving in Mexico.
Tips for Traveling in Mexico with Kids
Here are a few tips for traveling in Mexico with kids, to help you be prepared and navigate across this large country.
Mexico is largely a cash-based society. While credit cards are used in hotels and some upper-tier shops, expect to use cash at restaurants, smaller vendors, for tolls, and parking, if driving. Don’t assume a restaurant will take credit cards. Small coins are also necessary for using public bathrooms.
Be Prepared for Long Distances
Mexico is huge. If you plan to move around various regions, expect long (even overnight) bus rides, or many in-between stops. It may make sense to fly between larger cities rather than trying to go overland.
Choose to Explore Different Regions
Mexico varies in culture and cuisine as you change regions. Make sure to explore the regional specialties of more than one area of Mexico.
In Oaxaca, you’ll find seven kinds of mole sauce, and chauplines- grasshoppers that are eaten as a crunchy snack. While in the Yucatan you’ll find delicious marquesitas which are like a cross between a crepe and a waffle cone filled with cajeta (similar to dulce de leche) and queso.
These regional differences are part of what makes traveling across Mexico so much fun!
There You Have It: Exploring Mexico with Kids
Six wonderful weeks across Mexico with kids! From the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, all the way across to Merida in the Yucatan, in this itinerary, we’ve covered lots of family-friendly ways to experience some of Mexico with kids.
You may also be interested in our itinerary for Ensenada, Mexico. Headed on to South America? Check out our itineraries for Colombia, Peru, and Brazil. Don’t miss our tips for travel in South America for families.