So you’re coming to Cancun, and now you’re wondering:
What do I need to bring with me on my Cancun vacation?
Is there some sort of Ultimate Cancun Checklist that will have me totally prepared?
Well, thank Google, because you’re in luck. If you read this checklist before coming to Cancun, you are sure to be covered—from every angle!
This Cancun Checklist is broken down into the following sections:
- What you need to do before visiting the airport
- How to pass customs/immigration at the Cancun Airport
- How to exit the Cancun Airport
- What sort of clothing you will need in Cancun
- What you need for the beach or Cancun water activities
- What sort of electronics to bring
Ready? Let’s dive right in!
First, let’s go through some general flight advice, before digging into Cancun-specific recommendations.
A. What you need to do before the airport (+ travel essentials)
Before you head to the airport, make sure you have all of the following items in order. The last thing you want to do is buy things last minute at the airport.
1. Check if Passport is expired or will be expiring soon
Most passports are valid for 10 years. However, those 10 years can sneak up on you! If you’ve realized your passport has expired and need a new IMMEDIATELY. Don’t panic.
Check to see if you qualify for an emergency passport. Some can be delivered OVER-NIGHT.
NOTICE: This can be pricey, so only do it as a last resort.
2. Bring attire that can adjust to hot/cold temperatures
It’s inevitable. You dress for cold temperatures, but as soon as you walk-in the airport, it feels like an oven. Or, the exact opposite.
Maybe you dress light, but the airport AC is insanely cold. Same thing could happen in the airplane.
Frequent travelers know this:
Be ready for hot/cold temperatures.
If you’re wearing sandals, don’t forget to bring socks.
If you’re wearing a tank-top, don’t forget to bring a sweater in your carry-on or personal item.
Speaking of which…
3. Check to see what your airline carrier’s luggage policy is
Some airlines allow you to bring one suitcase for free.
Others don’t even allow you to bring a carry-on without charging extra!
Almost always, you get a discount if you pay your luggage fees beforehand. So do your research by checking this great resource for checking baggage fees by Trip Advisor.
4. Weigh your luggage beforehand
You see that little nifty-gadget above?
It allows you to weigh your luggage easily and accurately. Best part? It’s so small you can bring it with you AND—it’s only 8 bucks on Amazon right now!
If you only have a regular scale…
DO NOT PLACE YOUR LUGGAGE DIRECTLY ON YOUR HOME SCALE.
The weight won’t distribute properly and it will result in a false calculation.
Instead, try this clever 3-step hack.
- Weigh yourself. (Ugh, I know right?)
- Then hold your suitcase and weigh yourself again.
- Use simple arithmetic and subtract your weight from the final weight.
The last thing you want to do is pay an outrageous fee for going a few pounds over.
5. Bring your essentials
- Bring your prescription medicine. Not only that, but bring the prescription itself.
- Also, if you wear glasses, bring a spare pair.
- Take out cash beforehand, and tell your bank you will be traveling. Otherwise, your card could be blocked accidentally for fraud.
- Take a photocopy of your passport and bring it with you everywhere. Some places don’t accept foreign Driver’s licenses as an official form of ID.
- Bring a tablet or eBook for entertainment purposes (not every airline offers personalized viewing experiences).
6. Make sure you’re not bringing anything unapproved by the TSA
Most travelers know this. The TSA is strict. And if they catch you trying to bring something through security that isn’t allowed, things can become a hassle. And that’s putting it mildly.
Instead, go to their website listed below, and make sure everything is in order.
Here is the official TSA page that details all items safe to bring on the plane. Or…Send a picture of what you’re bringing and send it to this official TSA Facebook Messenger representative:
Or if you prefer, on Twitter here:
For more thorough flight-checklists, check here:
B. How to pass immigration at the Cancun Airport
You see that long form above?
That’s your Mexican Immigration form you need have FULLY filled out before passing through immigration.
Want to know the mistake EVERYONE makes with their Mexican Immigration Form?
They only fill out the top. It feels repetitive—because it is—but you have to fill out the same information TWICE.
Because you will have to keep the bottom portion of your Mexican immigration form.
DON’T LOSE THE BOTTOM PORTION OF YOUR MEXICAN IMMIGRATION FORM.
You’re going to have to trust me on this one 😉
When you’re leaving Mexico you will have to present them with this bottom portion of the form. If not, you will have to visit a different section of the airport and pay approximately 20 bucks.
It’s a hassle and it wastes time.
Also, you’re going to want to fill out this form on the plane. If not?
You’re going to let everyone on your flight walk right past you leaving you at the end of a long line.
Now that you’re through immigration…
How to pass customs at the Cancun Airport
Now there has been news that the following procedure will phase out soon. As of December, 2017, it has remained the same.
Here’s how customs in the Cancun Airport works.
- You fill out the customs form (both pages!).
- Bring your luggage and customs document through the line. Eventually, you hand your customs form to an agent.
- If everything is filled out properly (be aware there is a second page on the other side!), you have to press a button.
- If you get the green light, you’re free to advance.
- If you get the red light, you have to pass your bags through a security scan, and possibly have an agent inspect the contents of your luggage.
Yeah. That red light is a major bummer. And also, very bizarre if you’re not used to this procedure.
That said…getting the red light is EXTREMELY rare. So long as you were truthful on your customs form, you should be fine.
Have questions about what you can and can’t bring into Mexico in your luggage?
Check out this official Mexican government webpage that details this information.
And, don’t worry. The page is in English. =)
How to leave the Cancun Airport
As soon as you pass through Customs you will be tempted to exchange your American dollars for Mexican Pesos.
TIP: Don’t do it. At least not at the airport. Why?
The exchange rate is downright awful.
It’s better that you do it…basically anywhere else other than the airport. Seriously.
Basically, you have 4 transportation options leaving the Cancun Airport (CUN):
- You know someone in the Cancun area, and they owe you a big favor. 😉
- You pay about 13 bucks for the ADO bus that takes you downtown. (it has free Wi-Fi, a bathroom, and AC)
- You pay for a private taxi. (Just know that this can be around 50 USD or 1000 MXN pesos but you can haggle the price down. TIP: If you don’t like the price, don’t say anything. Just walk away and they are sure to offer a lower price)
- You pay for a shared shuttle. (usually around 20 bucks, but it may take a while since you have to stop at so many hotels)
- You pay for a private shuttle. (definitely the most comfortable option, but also the priciest).
If you want to drink beer, drive directly to your hotel in privacy, consider Canada Transfers.
What to wear in Cancun
Let’s start with the obvious.
- Bathing suits (bring 2 in case one is still wet)
- (Pro-tip: bring plastic bags from home. Think about it. Where do you want to keep your wet bathing suits and towels? Next to your smartphone or dry clothes?)
- Light-wear attire like tank-tops, t-shirts, & shorts (or active wear or casual wear.)
- Comfortable footwear (sandals, flip-flops, sneakers, water-shoes)
Here’s what you’re overlooking:
But isn’t Cancun warm and sunny? Isn’t that the whole point?!
Well, of course to both questions. However…
You’re overlooking A/C! Busses, hotels, airports, restaurants and more places can be quite frigid.
TIP: Be smart. Pack a sweater/blanket!
What you need at the beach or other Cancun water activities
Now for some fun in the sun!
Here’s what you need:
- 2 beach towels (in case one is still drying)
- Suntan lotion (make sure its biodegradable! Some activities require it)
- Aloe Vera—just in case you miss a spot!
- Waterproof case for phone or camera
- Water-shoes (especially useful in stalactite cenotes and other activities)
- Snorkel + fins (this saves you money on rentals and allows you to have gear that fits, just right)
- Beach bag to keep everything handy & organized
What sort of electronics to bring to Cancun
And now for everyone’s favorite:
- Smartphone (obviously!)
TIP: Call your cell-phone provider to find out if you can pay for cellular service in Mexico. If you have T-Mobile, you’re in luck. You should have free access in Mexico. Other services usually offer a per-day-fee. But call in advance or you could get stuck with RIDICULOUS roaming charges!
Call tour providers ahead of time to see if they allow go-pros
If there was ever a time for one, this is it.
With all the photos/videos you’ll be taking, you’re going to need it. Try this waterproof/shockproof version from Amazon for 16 bucks.
You may need it to check work emails.
TIP: Use a laptop to research and book Cancun activities online.
Why online? Because you get discounts you can’t find on the streets. Plus you get a chance to examine other reviews & find more facts.
- Tablet for planes or busses
TIP: Netflix allows you to download movies or TV shows. Take advantage. Preload your tablet so you don’t have to rely on a mobile signal.