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Travel Tips: Car Trip in Mexico

Updated on March 9, 2012
El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza
El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza | Source

I learned many travel tips during a vacation to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Our family’s favorite method of holiday is the classic road trip. We reside in the Pacific Northwest so it is easy to depart from home and discover a myriad of wonderful journeys and destinations. We realized that with a little extra planning, adding a flight to a road trip is only a small step.

There are many benefits of car travel, especially when one has small children. The chief advantage is flexibility. You can stop anytime, anywhere. We often stop for a scenic view, or unplanned interesting tourist sight. One can also stop for the typical variety of personal needs such as restrooms, food, in-the-car-accidents-requiring-cleaning, et cetera. Space is another bonus. There is room for drawing materials, books, and other forms of entertainment.


Traveling abroad has many added planning requirements and full preparation requires time. The first step is handling business matters. I recommend:

  • Scheduling enough time to acquire passports and any other necessary documentation.
  • Researching and scheduling the required immunizations.
  • Investigating your medical insurance benefits and coverage in case of emergency.
  • Getting refills of any medications and keep them in original pharmacy packaging with the patient name. It is required by most airlines these days; also that they are transported in the carry-on luggage.
  • Consider changing cellular packages short-term or purchase a disposable phone.
  • Acquiring travel books such as the AAA Travel Guide and the Fodor’s Guide for anywhere you will be touring. Read them for valuable information.
  • Ordering current maps for anywhere you will be touring.
  • Planning destinations and routes, leaving the details for later.
  • Reviewing the travel budget, cash and cards that will be used. Make contingencies if needed.
  • Making the airline reservations and any other reservations for known destinations and dates.

I also recommend researching the area of travel for unknown factors and etiquette. For example, I read the tour books months ahead and discovered that it is inappropriate for females to wear slacks or shorts in the evening. Dining out requires a skirt or dress. While it may seem silly in our culture, it is considered rude behavior in Mexico. I believe in being considerate of other peoples’ customs within reason, wherever I may be.

The Luggage

There are many checklists for luggage packing but as a general rule I recommend:

  • Enough clothes for two-thirds of the trip and do laundry halfway through the trip.
  • o Include at least 2 “nice outfits”.
  • o Clothing that can be folded or rolled, then worn without wrinkles.
  • o Clothing that is compact.
  • o Items easy to wear more than once, like an evening shirt or jeans.
  • Personal entertainment for the trip, such as books and travel games that are easy to carry and transport.
  • Personal care items and medications.
  • All travel books, maps, documentation, and cash.

I also recommend planning a carry-on or handbag with easy access to passports. It should also include entertainment things and personal care items in case of lost luggage, such as a toothbrush, undergarments and shirts. This is especially important when traveling with children who can easily spill on themselves or you!

Using the Travel Guides

Have an outline prepared for your road trip with hot spots to visit, a route planned, and a loose timeline scheduled for each area. Then:

  • Use the guides to find lodging. You can often save money by making a reservation, even if you are calling ahead by only hours. Ask for any discounts that may apply to you, such as AAA Membership.
  • Calculate your drive time between each destination and mark additional stops you may include along the way. In the Yucatan, there are many cenotes or swimming holes. This can be a great excuse to take a break, have a picnic, and enjoy the natural ambience.
  • Use the guides to locate restaurants. There is a rating system, so you are very likely to find excellent meals every time.

When Traveling

  • Be patient. Lots of unexpected things can and will happen. There is no sense in ruining a wonderful trip with a poor attitude.
  • Be adaptive. Have contingencies prepared for automobile trouble, sickness, changes to the schedule and anything else.
  • Use locally recommended travel tips. For example, it is recommended that tourists do not travel the remote highways at night in the Yucatan Peninsula.
  • Learn about the places you will be traveling. To truly embrace the awe of the destination, read interesting history and facts to the travel party. Share the experience.
  • Take it easy. It’s a holiday after all!
  • o Stop when needed.
  • o Add or remove destinations if it makes sense.
  • o Stay longer if everyone has found a place to have the most fun.

Many of these tips apply to travel by car anywhere. Happy traveling!


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