Is Mexico safe for a family vacation? It’s a question we heard a lot from family and friends before and after our recent trip to Mexico. And truthfully, my husband, who tends to be a more cautious traveler, was asking this question the most! Before our family vacation in Cancun and Cozumel, we hadn’t been to Mexico in over 6 years. Quite a lot has changed in the world since then. And the negative light shed on Mexico in the US in recent years certainly hasn’t helped. That said, we put together these Mexico travel tips with the average family traveler in mind.
Ultimately, we had an amazing time and would go to Mexico again in a heartbeat. I absolutely believe Mexico is a great (and safe) option for a family vacation. That’s with some research and planning, of course! If you’re on the fence about traveling to Mexico with your family, these tips below should help you 1.) decide if and where to you should travel to Mexico and 2.) make safe decisions for your family while you’re there.
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1. Stick to the Tourist Areas of Mexico
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re already concerned (or at least interested) about safety in Mexico. That makes it pretty unlikely that you’re going to going completely off the beaten path in Mexico. It’s probably common sense, but the safest areas of Mexico are usually those with the most tourist traffic. And fortunately for those looking to vacation in Mexico, those areas usually have the nicest resorts and best activities as well.
So, which parts of Mexico get the highest tourist traffic? The Yucatan Peninsula on the eastern coast of Mexico and Baja California Sur on the western coast of Mexico tend to be the most popular places for tourists in Mexico. (That includes Cancun, Riviera Maya, Cozumel and Cabo.) Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City are also popular destinations in Mexico for families.
To date, we’ve been to Cozumel, Cancun and Riviera Maya for family vacations. While I’d recommend all three of them, Cancun and Cozumel tend to have a more authentic Mexican feel. Rivera Maya, on the other hand, is great if you want a large resort and plan to stay there. We hear very good things from family members about Cabo as well.
Not sure if the destination you want to visit in Mexico is safe?
For starters, check the Travel Advisories in Mexico before deciding on where to go. Currently, the US has Level 4 travel advisories against five states in Mexico. A Level 4 Travel Advisory is an indication that you should not travel to that location. Period. (If there’s one travel tip for Mexico that you listen to, it should be this!)
Currently, this includes Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas. Note: Acapulco was once a popular tourist destination that’s located in the state of Guerrero. At the moment, travelers are advised against visiting Acapulco, Mexico due to high crime rates.
Be sure to also read reviews before choosing a resort. We always go to TripAdvisor before deciding on a hotel or resort.
2. When in Doubt, Stay on Your Resort
It can be easy to feel like you need to do everything when visiting a new country. (And I say this as someone who wants to see everything when I’m in a new place!) One of the great things about Mexico is that it’s filled with some of the best resorts for families in the world. That often means unlimited food, drinks and activities to boot. So if you’re cautious about going off the resort in Mexico, don’t feel obligated to! Take advantage of the quality family time and relaxation.
Many resorts in Mexico are filled with activities. From the pool to the beach to non-motorized sports, there’s something for everyone. Our family friendly all inclusive resort in Cancun even had Mayan ruins onsite. How cool is that?
Still looking for a little more adventure off the resort? If you choose to leave your resort in Mexico, here are a few additional tips:
- If renting a car, stick to the main highways and avoid driving at night.
- Avoid night clubs off your resort late at night. (Usually not an issue when traveling with kids to Mexico!)
- Only use excursions booked through your resort or reputable tour companies.
Someone shared the decision tree below with me previously. While there’s some humor to it, it’s also very true. Basically, make smart decisions and you should be fine!
3. Pre-Arrange Transportation from the Airport When Visiting Mexico
I highly recommend pre-arranging transportation from the airport when traveling to Mexico. Not only does it make your travel easier the day of, but it’s also a safer option. If you book an all-inclusive vacation through a travel provider like Apple Vacations, transportation is almost always included. You can also find options for pre-arranged transportation from the Cancun airport here through Get Your Guide. (Similar companies like Viator offer prearranged transportation in Mexico as well.)
Some people still prefer to get a taxi at the airport instead of arranging transportation in advance. If you do this, be sure to only use licensed taxi companies. These can obtained from designated areas at the airport. Just look for the signs in the airport as you exit.
Note: Be sure to also ignore the sales people at the airports trying to sell timeshares and other services. They use very strong sales tactics. Plus, you don’t want to get locked into something that creates issues for you in your home country.
A Note on Car Seat Laws in Mexico
Like many areas outside of the US, car seats are not required if you’re taking a taxi in Mexico. Unless it’s a really short car ride, I tend to still use a carseat in a taxi. (The laws of gravity still apply, after all!) We use this lightweight car seat when traveling. If you have children 4 years of age or older, this compact booster seat comes highly recommended.
4. Use Caution When Drinking the Water in Mexico
Is the water safe to drink in Mexico? This is a another question I received a lot during and after our trip. The answer is, it depends. As we near 2020, many resorts in Mexico have water filtration systems throughout. Both resorts we stayed at in Cancun had filtered tap water. That said, it’s not the case everywhere in Mexico. I definitely recommend asking your resort about the water quality. Our resort in Cozumel, for example, did not have the same filtration system so we were a little more careful.
If you’re not sure about the water situation at your hotel, I recommend sticking to bottled water. Most resorts in Mexico include bottles of water in the rooms, regardless of whether or not they have a filtration system. You can also use bottled water to brush your teeth. (This was something we always did prior to the filtration systems being common!) Additionally, avoid drinks with a lot of ice as another precaution. This is especially important to keep in mind for younger kids with less developed systems.
5. Stay Up to Date on the Zika Virus in Mexico
Fortunately, Zika is no longer the worldwide epidemic that it was in 2015. Zika hasn’t disappeared completely, however. There were still a handful of reported cases of Zika in Mexico in 2019. For that reason, Zika is definitely something to be mindful of if you’re traveling to Mexico while pregnant or trying to conceive.
Many countries are considered “at risk” for Zika if they had Zika cases in the past. (Ironically, that includes the United States as well as Mexico.) If you’re going to an area that’s at risk for Zika, the CDC encourages you to talk to your doctor if you’re planning to conceive within 3 months. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision if you want to take the chance.
6. Be Mindful of Hurricane Season in Mexico
Hurricane season takes place between July and October in Mexico. That said, it’s also the least expensive time to travel to Mexico. If you choose to travel during hurricane season, I highly recommend some form of travel insurance. Travel insurance can protect you both during your trip and in case of change of plans due to weather.
If you don’t want the cost of traditional insurance, look for a credit card that offers good travel benefits. We love the Chase Sapphire Preferred for the travel insurance benefits and ability to earn extra points for travel. If you’re interested, sign up using my referral link here to get 60,000 bonus points.
Fun Fact: My husband and I got stuck in St. Lucia when Hurricane Tomas hit in 2010. So we definitely have some experience with this!
7. Check on the Sargassum Seaweed Situation if You’re Visiting a Beach in Mexico
Sargassum Seaweed became a recent issue in the beaches of Mexico in 2019. It’s a large brown seaweed that’s known to emit harsh fumes while it decays. Not only that, but it creates a huge blemish on Mexico’s otherwise beautiful beaches.
Fortunately, Cancun and Riviera Maya have been doing a lot to clean up the sargassum on its beaches. During our trip in November 2019, we did not see any sargassum seaweed in Cancun or Cozumel. I found this website to be helpful with sargassum updates.
8. Additional Mexico Travel Tips
Below are a few additional safety tips for a family vacation in Mexico. (These all apply any time you travel internationally.)
- Make sure you have at least one working cell phone in your family in case of emergency. Most US providers now include Mexico in the standard coverage.
- Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in the event of an emergency. Note: This only applies to those traveling from the US to a foreign country.
- Travel with your insurance card and check coverage before traveling.
- Take a backup credit card. I always recommend traveling with a credit card that has travel insurance benefits.
- Keep some cash on hand just in case. In our experience, US dollars are accepted in Mexico just as easily as pesos. (Especially if you’re visiting a more touristy area.)
Have you been to Mexico recently? What other safety tips for traveling to Mexico would you offer?
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