15 Things You Need To Know Before Traveling To Mexico With Kids

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I have a confession to make. I feel like I was completely unprepared for traveling to Mexico with kids. Sure, I had all the standard travel preparations done: we had our passports, we had lodging arranged, we had tickets booked. But in terms of mentally preparing for a trip to Mexico, I feel like I was ill-prepared.

To be honest, I had all these assumptions of what Mexico would be like, fueled by what I saw and read in the media. I assumed Mexico would be poor, that I would have to be on guard all the time, and that we would have a hard time adjusting to the culture. But when I did come to Mexico with kids, these assumptions turned out to be all wrong.

We have had such a fun time here in Mexico. I don’t even know why I was so apprehensive about traveling to Mexico with kids in the first place! I should have spent more time researching Mexican culture and history, and talking more with friends of ours who come from Mexico or who have lived there.

Walking through the botanical garden in San Miguel de Allende (November 2018)

Traveling to Mexico with kids

We’ve been in Mexico for about three months now. In that time, we’ve had a chance to come up with a few Mexico travel tips for families who are interested in visiting this country. 

I wish we would have had this list ourselves, before we came here to Mexico. It would have saved us so much apprehension and worry about being in Mexico with kids! But now that we’ve been here for some time, we feel like we have some knowledge to share, so other families won’t have to go through the worry that we did. 

If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, here are fifteen things you need to know before making the trip.

A father traveling to Mexico with kids
My husband and kids walking through San Miguel de Allende (November 2018)

#1: Mexico is safe for families

There’s a sad misconception that Mexico is too dangerous for families. It is true that Mexico has a much higher homicide rate than the United States. According to the World Bank, Mexico annually has over 19 murders per 100,000 people compared to the United States’ 5 murders. And it is also true that the drug industry in Mexico has made parts of the country quite dangerous.

But even though parts of the country may not be safe, it doesn’t mean that the whole country is unsafe. There are still many parts of Mexico that are perfectly safe for families to travel. So far, we’ve been to three Mexican states with our children, and have not once felt unsafe. Even walking through Mexico City was fine for us!

If you’re planning to spend some time in Mexico with kids, rest assured that you and your family will be safe. Research ahead of time the parts of the country that may be dangerous, and avoid them. But don’t be afraid of explore the rest of the country.

Visiting a pyramid near San Miguel de Allende (November 2018)

#2: A little Spanish goes a long way

If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, it’s helpful to know some Spanish before you go. You may be able to find a few English speakers in the cities, but in our experience so far, people will treat you much nicer if you speak to them in Spanish.

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. However, if you’re only visiting for a short time, one of my Mexico travel tips would be to download a translating tool on your phone, like Google Translate. If you’re looking for an app to teach you Spanish, Duolingo is a helpful one that even kids can use.

Posing in front of the street signs in Guanajuato (December 2018)

#3: Mexican culture is more than just tequila, sombreros, and pinatas

Mexico has a rich culture, and it is a bit sad that often in movies it’s reduced to cliches and stereotypes. Before the arrival of the Spanish, Mexico had a rich culture of indigenous groups, including the Mayans, Aztecs, Teotihuacans, and the Toltecs. These indigenous civilizations left behind temples and pyramids which many travelers to Mexico can still visit. 

In addition, some of the Mexican foods and traditions stem from the indigenous cultures that existed before the Spaniards came. Chocolate, maize, and avocado all come from the indigenous Mexican civilizations. And traditional celebrations, like the Day of the Dead, have their roots in indigenous traditions.

When the Spanish arrived, Mexico’s culture became more European-influenced, and the traditional religious beliefs were replaced by a strong belief in Catholicism. After independence, Mexico’s culture flourished even more, fueled by a sense of nationalism. These days, Mexican culture is rich and diverse, with a strong emphasis on family.

Mexican dance costumes, heavily influenced by Spanish culture (December 2018)

#4: Expect to walk around a lot

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 some comfortable shoes that you can walk around with. For our kids, we have Keens and Crocs, which work perfect for them. And for me, I have a pair of Chacos and Danskos that work great for walking through the streets of Mexico.

Most of the Mexican cities we’ve visited still have cobblestone streets, so be prepared for some uneven terrain to walk on. If your kids are still learning to walk, it might be helpful to carry a backpack carrier like ones by Kelty, or an Ergobaby if your little one is light enough. While I’ve seen families with strollers in Mexico, it may not be ideal due to the uneven sidewalks and roads. 

When walking through some of the city streets, make sure you practice road safety. Cars can drive pretty fast through the streets, so be sure your kids know to stay off the middle of the road. 

Traveling to Mexico with kids
Walking through the streets of Guanajuato (December 2018)

#5: You don’t need a special license to drive in Mexico

If you do plan to drive a car as you’re traveling to Mexico with kids, rest assured you won’t need to have a special license to drive if you’re from the United States. Mexico will honor your US driver’s license. 

For nationals of other countries, you will most likely need to have an international driver’s permit. And even if you are a United States citizen, it might be helpful to go ahead and get one as well before you go to Mexico with kids. If you’re planning on renting a car, you will also need to purchase insurance along with the rental, as it’s required by Mexican law.

My husband driving in Mexico (November 2018)

#6: 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 are able to use it while you’re in Mexico with kids. However, waiting for an Uber to pick you up can take upwards of 15 minutes. 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 some 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 costs around 50 pesos. Most hotels will have taxis waiting near the entrance, so you won’t have to go far to find one.

Buses and taxis in Mexico City (October 2018)

#7: 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 other travelers have recommended is Primera Plus.

Around Eastern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, the major bus company is Ado. All of these bus company 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.

Taking the ETN bus from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende (October 2018)

#8: Not all Mexican cities have beaches

I’m a bit 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 that tourists love to frequent, there is a LARGE part of the country that is landlocked. In fact, in our three months in Mexico, we have yet to see the beach!

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. And the two other cities we’ve been to, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato, are fun cities to explore as well, despite being far from a beach.

The Mexican landscape is vast and diverse, from canyons to rainforests, and modern cities to ancient pyramids. Set aside some days in your Mexico trip to visit cities without beaches.

The mountain town of Angangueo (November 2018)

#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. In 2017, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Mexico totaled $1.15 trillion. This is $500 million less than Canada’s GDP, but $450 million more than the GDP of countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland. 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 things like clothes, medicine, phone chargers, and pretty good wine while we’ve been here! The brand may not be the same as in the United States, but you’re better off saving space in your luggage for souvenirs anyway. 

The artisinal market in San Miguel de Allende (November 2018)

#10: There aren’t a lot of playgrounds

One of the things we’ve been missing while being we’re here in Mexico with kids is access to playgrounds. There is unfortunately a lack of playgrounds for families here in Mexico.

While we were in San Miguel de Allende, we frequented the Parque Juarez quite often. It was the only free city playground in San Miguel de Allende with slides, swings, and play structures. But here in Guanajuato, we’ve found that the city is sorely lacking in any kind of 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 some energy.

Playing at Parque Juarez in San Miguel de Allende (November 2018)

#11: Feeding a family won’t cost you a fortune

One of the things we looked forward to when traveling to Mexico with kids was the low cost of living. Since we’ve been here in Mexico, we have been thoroughly enjoying the favorable exchange rate. You truly can feed a family with very little money.

For our family, a meal at an average restaurant will cost us about 200 to 400 pesos, which is roughly $10-$20. This includes two entrees (we split our meals) and drinks for all of us. If we eat at a taco stand, we can get by with paying between 120-180 pesos (including tip). But if we eat at a fancy restaurant, we can sometimes spend around 500 to 600 pesos.

If you’re traveling on a budget, you’ll be able to get by eating at the cheap restaurants. Or better yet, hit up the local markets for some great (cheap!) produce. But if you want to enjoy yourself while you’re in Mexico, you can certainly do that too. There plenty of higher end restaurants serving cuisines from all corners of the world. 

Traveling to Mexico with kids and visiting a public market
Walking through Mecado Hidalgo in Guanajuato (December 2018)

#12: Take along 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. If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico with kids, be prepared to buy 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 use a water bottle from a company called GRAYL. These bottles have a built in water purifier and filter that takes out particles, metals, and pathogens from your water. So we feel perfectly safe drinking water from the tap, once we’ve filtered it through our GRAYL bottle. 

With all the walking and activities you’re sure to do in Mexico, having plenty of water will be absolutely important. You can buy GRAYL bottles online through Amazon or through their website.

Bringing my water bottle along to the pyramids at Canada de la Virgen (November 2018)

#13: Get used to random fireworks

From what we’ve observed during our time in Mexico, people here will find any excuse to celebrate. It’s one thing I admire about the Mexican culture.

One of the staples of Mexican celebrations are fireworks. During the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City and in San Miguel de Allende, we would hear fireworks in the night and well into the early morning. And even here in Guanajuato, we’ll hear random fireworks go off in the middle of the night.

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.

Dancers during a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City (October 2018)

#14: There are tons of dogs everywhere!

Another unusual thing about Mexico is that there are dogs everywhere! Walking down the street in Mexico with kids, it’s not rare to come across a few street dogs scavenging for food or roaming the streets. Besides the street dogs, many Mexicans also have dogs for pets. We’ll sometimes walk past a gate or a wall, and get surprised by a dog barking on the other side of it. 

In general, the dogs you’ll come across here will be fairly harmless, though they may bark at you when you pass them by. Just in case, before traveling to Mexico with kids, it’s good to review with them how to act around dogs, especially if your kids are the type to get scared by dogs.

Playing at the Ex-Hacienda San Gabriel de Barrera (December 2018)

#15: Don’t be afraid of exploring outside the standard tourist destinations

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 tourist destinations when you’re traveling to Mexico with kids. 

As I mentioned earlier, we have yet to go to a beach town while we’re here in Mexico, although we’ve been dying to take a swim in the beach. But I’m really glad we did it that way. Exploring Central Mexico has been so much fun. We’ve visited old colonial towns, ridden horses in the canyons, and  walked with butterflies in the forest. 

Aside from Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende, the places we’ve visited in Mexico have not had very many foreign tourists. We like the idea of exploring the less touristy parts of Mexico, because it’s given us a chance to really experience the country from a non-commercial perspective. 

A family riding horses while traveling to Mexico with kids
Going horseback riding in the canyons near Guanajuato (December 2018)

Why you should visit Mexico with kids

Mexico has truly captured our hearts. I am so glad we ended up traveling to Mexico with kids during this around the world trip of ours. It’s a truly beautiful destination.

In our opinion, Mexico is a great country to visit with kids. 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 where ever you go.

Have you had experience traveling to Mexico with kids? Share your Mexico travel tips in the comments below!

Fifteen Things You Need To Know Before Traveling To Mexico With Kids | The Wandering Daughter

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34 Responses

  1. Mexico is very high in my list I think I admire their culture so much so I will be happy all the time there! As you said we know only few stereotypical things and it’s such a same! Beautiful photos too (what is pipila by the way? written on a street sign) Thanks for the valuable information!

    1. Mexico’s culture is so amazing. Pipila is a local hero in Guanajuato, Mexico. During the Mexican War of Independence, he carried a torch to Guanajuato’s Spanish-controlled grain storage, and burned down the door, all while carrying a slab of rock on his back to protect himself from Spanish bullets. Quite an interesting story, actually, and there is a statue in his honor at the top of a hill in Guanajuato.

  2. I’ve not yet been to Mexico but from this post, it definitely helps to break down some of the stereotypes associated with the country. I love that your kids came along and found it as rewarding. Will check out your social media for more pictures 🙂

  3. I really love these tips, and I’m laughing at many of them since I’ve been to Mexico a couple of times. It’s so true to “get used to random fireworks”, and random local festivals and parties too when I was there! And a little Spanish DOES go a long way, many locals were so friendly when I tried to speak to them in broken Spanish. I hope that more families feel confident about visiting Mexico after reading this post 🙂

  4. This is a superb post. Thanks for giving so many details. Even though many of us will have no immediate plans to visit Mexico but still the post is helpful for any location. When travelling as a family these points will be helpful.

  5. Thanks for these tips. I don’t have kids but a lot of these tips are still very much valid for newbies to Mexico like me! You’re right, I have heard enough and more stories about how unsafe Mexico is, about the amount of crime there so it’s a relief to read a refreshing perspective. Also, I had heard that public transportation isn’t the best – the roads are good and buses are never on time. Happy to see that you’re recommended it as a preferred mode of transportation. I can’t wait to get to Mexico someday!

    1. I think between cities, taking buses would be fine. We tried riding city buses too, but I still haven’t figured out the bus schedules, so I never know what the right bus is to take!

    1. We were in Michoacan last month (also a Level 4 region) and did not have any incidents while we were there. I hear that most of the crime is centered around the drug industry, so if you stay out of those kinds of activities, I think you will be fine.

  6. Nice tips. Thanks for that. I’ve never encountered the random fireworks but I would have been pretty worried had I. LOL We used to take our girls to Mexico quite often when they were younger, we all loved the luxury resorts and the historic ruins. Then we started getting bullied from the airport to the hotel and then every time we stepped out of the hotel zone so we stopped going. I just went to Cozumel again last year and had a pretty good time. I miss the beautiful cities of Mexico. Thanks for sharing these things that many people probably do not know.

  7. Stories like this should spread out fast! Whenever I hear Mexico, I have the same thoughts that there’s nothing much to visit
    and that it is quite a bit dangerous to visit. However, you who looks like you had fun bringing your entire family is such a good news!
    I will certainly bring my kids in Mexico in the future when it’s my turn.

    1. Unfortunately, the news media thrives on negative stories. We’ve enjoyed our time in Mexico so far, and have met a lot of travelers here who feel the same way.

  8. I’m so glad you are enjoying your time in Mexico with the family. I was talking to someone recently about a planned trip to Mexico City, and they were horrified we would spend time in such a ‘dangerous place’. I hope these attitudes change with the help of your article. I’d love to visit during the Day of the Dead festival – such a beautiful celebration.

    1. I have to admit, even I was apprehensive about coming here, because of what I read about in the news. But every day life here in Mexico is quite peaceful, and the cities we’ve visited so far have been safe for families.

  9. Yea Mexico catches us all by surprise for sure! Visited there a lot this past year and can’t believe how modern some of the areas are out there. Totally agree with you that it’s a safe place to bring the family and totally worth the money!

  10. This is an epic post! An eye opener too. Mexico itself is an exotic destination for me. Not been there so more exciting. 🙂
    I always thought and been told that Mexico is a dangerous place with high crime rate . But going there with kids is something I could never imagine.

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post which will change how people think of Mexico.

  11. Excellent post on travelling with kids. There are some gems of tips out here. It is good to know that local taxis are more reliable than Uber. We are learning Spanish with a hope to visit Mexico and South America one day.

    1. Hope you guys get to visit Mexico some day. Learning Spanish has not been too bad for us. We feel we can get around pretty well.

  12. Going to Mexico is my childhood dream. Usually, we believe what mainstream media says. They all show Mexico is a dangerous place. If you watch the news you think people would murder you in the streets. I am glad you went there and had fun. I don’t have an American driving License, I should check if they accept the European ones or not. I like how Mexico is colourful

  13. That is a wonderful and thanks for compiling it down. The mountain towns are so colourful and we will love walking down among them. The colorful dance costumes ar e just wow and random fireworks. I think we are gonna love this place.

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I'm a travel-loving mom of three from Seattle. Join our adventures as we explore the Pacific Northwest and the world!

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